Although the primary goal of this website is to post healthy recipes that taste great, I also wanted to pass along some information about the weight loss techniques that I have found to be the most effective. If I could choose only three things to do to lose weight, I would keep a food diary, work out at least 5 days a week for 45 minutes to an hour each day, and weigh myself each and every week. For me, these techniques are vital to weight loss and weight maintenance.
KEEPING A FOOD DIARY
There are a few lucky people out there who seem to instinctively know how much they can eat without gaining any weight. I am not one of those people. I love food and because of this love, I eat more than I should when I am not keeping track of what I am eating. I learned about keeping a food diary many years ago, but I didn’t use this strategy effectively until I signed up for WeightWatchers a few years back. In a nutshell, WeightWatchers assigns a point value to foods. You add up the points that you consume each day and try to keep your total under your points target. This number is based on your height, current weight, sex and age. If you workout, you are allowed more points each day. WeightWatchers also provides online tools that you can use to track your points from your computer or mobile phone.
There are other sites out there that you can use to track your calorie intake as well. Recently, I learned of a site called The Daily Plate which allows you to track the calories that you consume each day and those that you burn during exercise. Like WeightWatchers, The Daily Plate has a large database of foods that you can select and add to your own online record to track what you eat each day. It also allows you to track the calories that you burn through exercise. The Daily Plate is free, while WeightWatchers has a monthly fee, although the WeightWatchers plan does include other useful features such as face-to-face meetings.
Of course, you can also use a pen and paper or a dry erase board to track your calorie information. I used to use a magnetic dry erase board that I attached to my refrigerator, which was handy in the kitchen. If you decide to use this method, you will have to manually do the math to track your calorie intake and calories burned through exercise. You will also need to find a formula to manually calculate your target calorie intake. Just be sure to be honest with yourself about how much you exercise when calculating your calorie target. Formulas for calculating this number are readily available on the internet. I currently track my WeightWatchers information on my laptop, which lives in my kitchen these days.
Whether you use online tools provided by a website, or a pen and paper, keeping track of the food that you eat can be an essential component of your weight-loss strategy. I believe that this strategy is most effective when you plan all of your meals in the morning. This ensures that you know what you will consume ahead of time and allows you to check that the nutritional values conform to your daily points/calorie allotment.
WEIGH YOURSELF EVERY WEEK
In addition to tracking the calories that you consume, I also believe that it is extremely important to weigh yourself each week. This is another strategy that I learned from WeightWatchers and it really works for me. For the first time, I have been able to successfully keep off the weight that I lost while dieting and I have kept it off for 3 years. When I weigh myself each week, I am able to track any small weight gain that occurs and adjust my diet to go back to my goal weight. A weekly weigh-in can be an important strategy in your diet.
GET YOUR EXERCISE
Exercise is a crucial component in any weight loss or weight maintenance plan and it is good for your overall health. The American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend that you do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, five days a week or at least 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, three days a week. These same organizations also recommend doing strength training exercises twice a week.
I personally work out 5 to 7 days a week and I usually perform workouts that combine aerobics with strength training exercise that utilizes weights. If I take a break from exercise, I try to only skip it for one day. When two days lapse between workouts, your metabolism slows down and your muscles will begin to atrophy. I also try not to skip my workout on days when I know I will potentially break my diet.
It is also important to remember that that our bodies will become used to the exercises that we perform if we continually follow the same routine. When this happens, the exercise will become less effective. Because of this, it is important to vary the workouts that you perform. Finally, you will need to work out for at least 30 minutes for your body to begin burning stored fat. I personally try to work out for 45 minutes to an hour each day because I enjoy the positive effects. In addition to the obvious benefits for weight management, exercise boosts your mood and helps you to let go of everyday stress.
WEIGHT TRAINING GUIDELINES
Weight training builds muscle and muscle burns more fat while you are at rest. Your resting metabolic rate increases by 50 calories per day for each pound of muscle that you build.
When performing weight training exercises, follow these guidelines:
- When performing strength training exercises, make sure that you pick the right weight for you. Choose a weight that you can lift 10 to 15 times while maintaining proper form. If you can easily do more than 15 repetitions then the weight isn’t heavy enough. Increase the weight by 5 or 10 percent.
- Be sure not to rush through an exercise. Go slowly and really feel each repetition.
- Take care to protect your back when picking up weights. Always squat and lift the weight with your legs. Do not lean forward and lift with your lower back.
- When performing squats and lunges, be sure to keep your knees in line with your ankles. Your knees should never stick out over your toes.
- Be sure to breath properly. Always exhale on the hardest part of an exercise. For instance, when lifting weights, always exhale as you lift the weight against gravity. When performing crunches, exhale as you lift up.
- Be sure to breath regularly. Don’t hold your breath.
GUIDELINES FOR CARDIOVASULAR EXERCISE
When performing cardiovascular exercise:
- Remember that you need to work out for at least 30 minutes to begin burning fat. Work out for 45 minutes to an hour for more dramatic results.
- Work moderately when performing cardiovascular exercise. Moderate exercise burns fat. You should be working hard enough so that it is at least somewhat difficult to sing. If you can easily sing a verse, then you are not working hard enough and you will not effectively burn fat. If you need a breath after every couple of words, then you are working too hard and running out of breath. Your body needs a steady supply of oxygen to burn fat.
- If you have trouble finding the time to exercise, you may benefit from doing it first thing in the morning, before the rest of your day gets in the way. If you really don’t feel like working out, try to get in a shorter workout rather than skipping it all together.
OTHER TIPS FOR EATING WISELY TO MANAGE YOUR WEIGHT
- Skipping breakfast or other meals will slow down your metabolism. The act of skipping a meal tricks your body into thinking that it is entering a famine state. This makes it become more efficient at storing fat.
- Try breaking 2 or 3 larger meals into 4 or 5 smaller ones. The process of eating actually boosts your metabolism, since your body burns energy during the process of digesting food and absorbing nutrients. Just make sure that you do not increase the amount of food that you consume each day when you break up your meals if increasing your consumption will put you over your daily calorie/point allotment.
- You should feel hungry 3 or 4 hours after eating your last meal. If you are still full after this time lapses, then you probably ate too much. Try smaller portions in the future.
- People often confuse the signals for hunger and thirst. If you feel hungry, try drinking a glass of water and see if you still feel hungry afterward.
- Plan and make a healthy lunch and bring it to work rather than eating out, since restaurant food tends to be more fattening and portions tend to be larger than you really need. If you need to get out of the office, go for a walk, run some errands or go shopping.
- If you do decide to eat out, look at the restaurant’s menu online before you go. Nutritional information is available online for many larger restaurant chains. If it is not available on the restaurant chain’s website, try the Daily Plate which contains nutritional information for many restaurants. You can also try searching the internet using the restaurant’s name with the search terms “nutritional information” or “calorie information.”
- Pack healthful snacks to eat while you are at work to avoid eating from vending machines.
- Use small plates. A reasonable portion of food looks smaller on a large plate but it looks like plenty when you use a small one.
- Don’t let yourself get ravenous. You are more likely to over-eat when you allow yourself to become very hungry. You are also more likely to give in to cravings for foods that are not kind to your waistline.
- Pre-portion your food. Rather than eating pre-packaged foods straight out of the bag, take out a small portion and put it on a plate. Then, put the bag away. When you eat straight out of the bag, you are more likely to over-eat.
- Another great trick that I love is getting a to-go box at the start of your meal when eating out at a restaurant. Then put half of your meal into the box so that it is out of sight. Restaurant portions tend to be way more than you need and getting some of the food off your plate makes it less likely that you will eat it all in one sitting.
- At each meal, try to fill at least half of your plate with vegetables. They are extremely low calorie and they really fill you up. They are also full of vitamins and nutrients that are good for your health.
- Try chewing gum when you are cooking and any other time of the day when you feel like snacking. When you have gum in your mouth, you can’t put anything else in it. In addition, research has shown that the flavor of mint works well as an appetite suppressant.
- Although no food will cause you to become fat unless you overeat it, high fat foods are easier for your body to store because they are already in their storage form. Other foods require the body to work to convert them to fat. Less fatty foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains also have many other health benefits.
- In order to lose weight and keep it off, keep your fat intake below 20 percent of the calories that you consume.
- It takes some time for your brain to register how full you are, so you may overeat if you eat your food too quickly. It is a useful diet strategy to slow down and really enjoy your food. Most of us spend too much time going through life in a rush anyway. Take a break and enjoy your meal.
- When purchasing pre-packaged foods, be sure to read labels for nutritional content. Avoid purchasing foods that are high calorie and high fat, as well as foods that contain too much sodium.
- When baking, pureed fruit such as applesauce or nonfat plain yogurt can be substituted for up to half of the fat that the recipe calls for.
- American Heart Association. “Exercise and Fitness”. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1200013
- American College of Sports Medicine. “Physical Activity and Public Health Guidelines.” http://www.acsm.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home_Page&TEMPLATE=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&CONTENTID=7764
- Jay Williams and Debra Fulghum Bruce. 2002. The 24 Hour Turnaround. Regan Books.
- Debra Waterhouse. 1993. Outsmarting the Female Fat Cell. Warner Books, Inc.
- Yeager, Selene. June, 1998. “From Fat to Firm.” Prevention.
Photo by K?vanç Ni?