Last updated: 09/14/2018
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 13 minutes
Maintaining a healthy weight is a common problem for thousands of people and losing weight tends to be far more difficult than it is to put the weight on. In a culture that is prone to maintaining an image that includes being thin and toned, weight loss becomes an inevitable fact of life for those who fall victim to the over sized portions and fast food style dining that plague America. For many, following the latest trends in dieting and weight loss becomes a routine just like waking up in the morning and brushing our teeth.
If you have ever tried to lose weight through a fad diet or some other manner and have not had a successful experience than chances are you’ve already given up hope. However, there are many weight loss methods that can and will work for you if you just stick to a routine, learn healthy eating habits and take part in an exercise regimen that pushes you to achieve long term goals. The key to successful weight loss, and to keeping weight off, is to find a plan that works for you and to stick to it.
Losing Weight and Keeping it Off
Weight loss can be scientifically broken down into a mathematical equation that is actually quite simple. Every pound of fat is the equivalent of about 3,500 calories. Therefore, if you want to lose one pound you will need to a) reduce your caloric intake by 3,500 calories, or b) burn 3,500 calories. The best way to lose weight therefore is to eliminate calories in two ways– by exercising and burning the calories off and by consuming fewer calories.
Unfortunately, weight loss, though it does break down simply into a mathematical equation, is not that simple. Millions of people struggle in an effort to lose weight and realize that weight loss takes more than mere calorie counting. It can be difficult to cut calories out of a diet that is already plagued by a rush to consume food in between meetings, eat on the go and dine on the menu items that are seemingly most satisfying to our cravings. Fad diets don’t work and often leave us feeling sluggish, irritable and hungry, but healthy choices in meals and when it comes to exercise can really pay off big in the world of weight loss.
According to the CDC, losing weight in a healthful manner is the best bet for anyone who has already tried other methods of dieting and had little success. Healthy weight loss is the result of making small changes that add up to huge weight loss success over time. Slow and steady is the key to weight loss success.
Consider these tips for losing weight in a healthy manner:
- Social Support for Weight Loss Success. Social support groups for weight loss can be found online, in your community, through your doctors office and even in some cases at work or school. Having a social support group is a healthy option when it comes to losing weight and can be very beneficial especially for those who tend to have weight issues as a result of binge eating or emotional eating. Your family and friends may also provide you with the support you need when you’re trying to lose weight.
- The key to weight loss is to lose weight slowly. Sure, fad diets can boast the ability for you to lose 5 pounds or more per week but this doesn’t mean that you will keep the weight off! The key to healthy weight loss is to take a slow and steady approach aiming to lose no more than 2 pounds per week. This will give you a greater chance of keeping the weight off for long-term.
- Set realistic goals that are healthy too. Weight loss is all about you and the goals that you set for yourself. Setting an unrealistic goal, such as a goal to lose more than 2 pounds per week can lead to failure and may result in a loss of hope when you don’t achieve your goal. Instead, set realistic, achievable goals that make sense and are healthy. For instance, you might set a long term goal of losing 2 pounds per week for until your reach your ideal weight (this should not be the weight that you were as a teenager but rather the weight that you esteem to be based on healthy BMI guidelines and weight indexes).
- Small lifestyle changes can make for big weight loss results. You don’t have to stop eating everything you love in order to lose weight and you don’t have to make all of your lifestyle changes upfront. Small changes in lifestyle, such as a commitment to exercise for 30 minutes three days per week or to eat one less snack per day can really add up to big weight loss changes over time. You can experience long term, lasting weight loss results from small lifestyle changes and by making these small changes, you’ll be more likely to continue to stick with your plans for life rather than become overburdened and give up.
- Tracking your weight loss goals and success. Many different tools are now available to help you track your weight loss goals and the successes that you have along the way. Apps for phones and hand-held devices provide instant access to calorie counting tools, support groups, weight loss trackers and a range of other tools that can help you track your weight loss success.
- Healthy weight loss is different for everyone. What works for your best friend or a family member may not be the most ideal method of weight loss for you. No two people are alike and therefore, you may find that your method of losing weight and keeping it off is much different than what works for someone else.
Healthy Foods for Weight Loss
Have you ever tried a fad diet and been simply starving for food? Healthy weight loss is not the result of some fad diet that leaves you malnourished and starving. The key here to success is to eat foods that will leave you satisfied, feeling full and healthy. Fresh fruits and vegetables as well as high fiber foods such as whole grain breads and pastas or beans can help you to stay full without adding a significant number of calories to your daily intake.
Feeling full without the calories
Fiber will help you to feel full for a longer time than any food that is not a rich source of fiber. High fiber foods such as beans, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables are typically in calories and high on the satisfaction level. The fiber makes the food take significantly longer to digest and therefore you will feel satisfied and full for hours after you eat your meal which means you will be less likely to crave empty calories from other foods.
Examples of high-fiber foods:
- Dark, leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, cabbage and coniferous vegetables
- Black beans
- Lentils and legumes
- Whole grain breads
- Brown rice
- Whole-wheat pastas and breads
Small Lifestyle Changes for Weight Loss Success
The changes that you make now and commit to for a lifetime can add up to big successes in weight loss. Consider making any one of these small changes to your daily routine if you are trying to kick start your weight loss:
- Start eating a healthy breakfast followed by small, healthy meals and snacks the rest of the day. Breakfast is the most important meal you will eat all day. It kick starts your morning and will be the main provider of energy throughout the rest of the day so it’s important to eat a healthy breakfast. Make a commitment to take the time each morning to eat a healthy breakfast and then choose healthy snacks and smaller meals for the remainder of the day.
- Try to eat dinner two hours earlier each night. If you tend to be a late night diner, there’s a good chance that you’re packing on the pounds or at least having trouble losing the pounds simply because you are eating too late. Make a commitment to eat dinner earlier and then to fast for 15 hours before your next meal. No more late night snacks or meals at bedtime that are high in fat and calories.
- Eat out less. You don’t have to stop eating out completely but you should know that most restaurant meals tend to be very high in calories, portion sizes are extreme, and fat and sodium content is greatly exaggerated. If you normally eat out 5 nights a week, make a commitment to eat in two of those nights. You can gradually increase the number of meals that you cook for yourself as you go but you don’t have to make the commitment all at once. Small changes add up!
- Plan healthy meals and snacks in advance. Studies show that when you take the time to plan your meals and snacks you are less likely to binge or to eat meals that are high in fat and calories. Make a plan for your meals and then stick to the plan to achieve the greatest successes in weight loss.
- Take a smaller plate. Psychologically, we feel like we are getting more from our meal if it is served on a smaller plate. Instead of making a large plate and filling it up, take a smaller plate and you will put less food on the plate yet still feel like you ate an entire plate of food. It’s a great way to trick your mind into feeling full and you’ll cut more calories while you’re at it.
- Pay attention to your shopping list. Make a list when you go grocery shopping and adhere to the list. If you don’t have an abundance of snacks and high calorie foods in the kitchen, the chance of you eating these foods will be greatly reduced. Part of planning your meals is to plan your shopping list and to stick to the healthy menu options. Pay attention to when you shop and when you eat. Just like eating late at night can cause adverse effects on your ability to lose weight, shopping when you are hungry will often yield indulgent groceries that are not on your healthy menu list.
How Emotional Eating Affects Weight Loss
Emotional eating is a common problem for many people. Rather than listening to the clues that the body gives to hunger, emotional eaters will eat when they are stressed, sad, happy or anxious. Emotional eating tends to result in binging, overeating, eating the wrong foods and consuming many more calories than one should consume in a single meal. This very unhealthy cycle can lead an individual being upset with themselves, unhappy with their weight and stuck in a rut.
Don’t Fall Victim to Emotional Eating
Emotional eating has nothing to do with hunger. One factor that plays into a successful weight loss routine is to have a healthy relationship with food and not to eat emotionally. Here’s how you can tell if you are actually hungry or if your emotions are playing a role in your feelings of hunger:
- If you just ate and now you are all of a sudden craving a candy bar, mashed potatoes, pizza or cake then you are probably not hungry and these are your emotions talking.
- Physical hunger is felt in your belly. If your stomach isn’t growling but you just can’t seem to stop thinking about food then there’s a good chance that your emotions are playing into this hunger feeling.
- Physical hunger will be satisfied when you are full. If your emotions are playing into the hunger then you will still “feel” hungry until you get the satisfaction you are craving. This may mean getting the sweet food that you are after or the pizza that you just can’t stop thinking about.
Understanding the causes of emotional eating can help to reduce your risk of consuming foods when you are not hungry and therefore kick start your weight loss success. The most common causes of emotional eating include stress, depression, social involvement, anxiety, and boredom.
Here’s how you can tell if any of these factors are the cause of your poor eating habits:
- Stress – Do you eat when you are stressed out? Do you crave salty foods, high fat foods, starchy foods or other unhealthy foods when you are stressed out? Stress is often the cause of emotional eating which results when increased cortisol levels result in the cravings for foods that are unhealthy.
- Social eating – If you tend to eat more when you are with friends or family members you may be a victim of emotional eating. Around the world, eating socially is a means of calming nerves, being part of a group and getting along with others. Unfortunately, this can also lead to eating too much or consuming the wrong foods that will not do you any good when it comes to weight loss.
- Boredom – Can’t figure out what to do? If you head to the pantry every time you are bored then you are a victim of emotional eating and you are not eating just because you are hungry. Try to find something besides food to calm your boredom such as exercise, playing a game or reading a book instead of reaching into the pantry for a bag of chips.
The Role of Exercise in Weight Loss
Once you’ve taken control of your eating habits, the next step to losing weight is to exercise. There are literally hundreds of ways that you can incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Small changes in exercise can lead to big results in your weight loss efforts over time. You don’t have to become overly zealous in the beginning. Your exercise routine should be ever changing and can evolve as you do and as your weight loss success is seen.
Benefits of Exercise in Weight Loss
Did you know that exercise can actually boost your metabolism which means that once you start to exercise regularly you will begin to burn more calories during your resting periods as well? There are many benefits to exercise and these benefits can go to great lengths in helping you to feel better during your weight loss efforts.
The benefits of exercise include:
- Reduced stress – making all these lifestyle changes and commitments can lead to stress and stress leads to emotional eating. Exercise can help you to reduce stress and burn calories which means that you will lose more weight, reduce your chances of emotional eating and feel better along the way.
- Positive energy – exercise makes you more positive and therefore you have more energy. Studies show that just small changes and additions of exercise in a routine can add up to huge improvements in energy. Additionally, you’ll feel good about yourself each time you take the time out to exercise.
- Mental sharpness – Exercise increases your ability to focus and concentrate. This means that you will be more focused on your diet, more focused on your health and you’ll be able to concentrate with greater ease.
- Increased goal achievement – Exercise will help you to reach your weight loss goals much more quickly than if you were to just diet alone. Achieving weight loss will result in your increased self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.
Myths and Facts about Weight Loss
MYTH: Weight loss is all about fad diets.
FACT: Most fad diets are ineffective and result in increased weight gain when the weight loss routine is stopped.
MYTH: Low fat foods are the key to weight loss.
FACT: Moderation is the key to weight loss. Even foods that have the low-fat or fat-free label can have significant levels of sugar and even fat which means that they will hinder your weight loss goals if you eat too much.
MYTH: Weight loss is the result of high cost diets and gyms.
FACT: Weight loss does not come from a high cost diet or attending a high cost gym. Sometimes these methods can work but most importantly, weight loss is the result of making a commitment and sticking to exercise and health eating goals.
Things to Avoid when Trying to Lose Weight
If you’re trying to lose weight, you efforts will be greatly improved by avoiding certain foods, certain actions and certain pitfalls. There is no quick fix solution to losing weight.
Avoid these potential actions that could lead to failure when you are trying to lose weight:
- Depriving yourself of the foods you love. If you diet and constantly feel like you are starved, not getting the food you love or otherwise deprived than your diet will fail. You will overindulge and you will then feel guilty all over again.
- Your diet always ends in a gain in weight. Diets often fail simply because people do not make the appropriate commitment to complete lifestyle changes that result in long-term weight loss and weight management. If you feel like every time you diet the diet ends in an increase in weight it is likely because you did not make the appropriate lifestyle change in order to achieve the long term success.
- You relapse and then feel like you’ve lost hope. If you relapse and start taking part in overindulgent eating again it’s important not to lose hope. If you slip off your diet, do your best to pick up where you left off as soon as you can. There’s no reason to lose hope.
- You feel like you’ll never be like the people on television. Diet pills, fad diets, gyms and other weight loss programs often over exaggerate the amount of weight that individuals who take part in these programs actually lose. It is unrealistic to lose more than 2 pounds per week so you should not focus on the weight loss success of others but spend more time focused on what’s healthy and right for you.