Want to lose 10 pounds before summer?
You can. By just making a few small lifestyle changes, you can shed unwanted pounds and keep them off.
Think “lifestyle change” instead of “diet”. Diets are temporary until we reach the magic number on the scale. Lifestyle changes are permanent and have long-lasting effects.
Weight loss starts in the brain. Negative self-talk like, “I’m fat,” “I’m out of shape,” or “I’m hopeless” give us an excuse to stay where we are. Replace negative thoughts with more positive statements, “I’m working toward being fit,” “I’m taking steps to lose weight,” “I feel better when I’m active.” You will encourage and motivate yourself to take the next step in your weight-loss or fitness program.
Here are some small changes that you can make that will help you lose those unwanted pounds. Start with just one or two and add more as you can. It will change the way you feel … and look.
- Eat breakfast. A breakfast high in protein or whole grains boosts your body’s metabolism for the day. Protein and whole grains burn slowly and keep blood sugars at a constant level. Try to consume most of your calories for the day before noon.
- Cut your sugar consumption in half … at least to start. Sugar burns quickly. After it is gone, your body craves more. As you start to wean yourself from sugar, you will notice that you don’t crave it as much. Look at food labels; avoid foods that list sugar, fructose, or corn syrup among the first four ingredients.
Remember, fat-free doesn’t mean calorie free – nor does sugar-free mean fat-free. There has to be some ingredient in these types of food to make them taste good. Yet, one more reason to read labels carefully.
- Cut out the soda or fancy coffees. One small change that you can make is cutting out soda or fancy coffee drinks. Drinking just one can of regular soda a day can add up to 60,225 calories each year – that translates to a 17-pound weight gain over the course of a year.
- Water. Water. Water. Drink at least 64 to 80 ounces of liquid every day – for the most impact make the majority of the liquid water. Water helps your kidneys flush toxins (all that metabolized fat) out of your body. If your body doesn’t have enough water, your liver works harder to help the kidneys and doesn’t metabolize as much fat. Not drinking enough water can actually cause your fat deposits to increase.
The Oklahoma State County Extension recommends drinking one quart of cold water within in a 10-minute period in the morning, at noon and in the evening before six o’clock to promote weight loss.
- It’s basic math. Addition is always easier than subtraction. Instead of focusing on what you can’t have, add more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet. The most colorful fruits and vegetables have the highest nutritional content. Whole grain foods help you feel full longer without spiking your blood sugar. The nutrition-rich foods will also help you fight the cravings for the sugar-laden, calorie-rich foods.
- Spice it up. Use spices to flavor your food instead of butter or cream-laden sauces. Hot spices also have the added benefit of turning up your body heat, causing you to burn a few more calories.
- Eat more yogurt. According to a 12-week study conducted by Dr. Michael Zemel, the nutrition professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, increasing calcium intake signals the body’s fat cells to stop storing fat and start burning it. The results of the study published in 2003 show that cutting 500 calories per day and adding 1,100 milligrams of calcium each day (the amount found in three servings of light yogurt) caused obese people to lose more body fat than those who just cut calories.
- Eat more often to eat less. When we wait until we are ravenously hungry, we tend to eat more. Eat five or six small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals. Eating smaller, protein-packed portions more often helps the body regulate insulin in the blood stream, which in turn helps control hunger.
- Go nuts for snacks. When you need a quick pick me up during the day, don’t reach for the candy bar; reach for a handful of nuts. Since 2004, the Food and Drug Administration has recognized that almonds, walnuts, and other nuts contribute healthy fats, fiber, and protein to a diet. Snacking on a handful (about an ounce and a half) will help you feel satisfied, provide crunch, and help you stay on track.
- Don’t deprive yourself … just lighten up. Eat whatever you want, just eat it in smaller amounts. Instead of eating a whole piece of double-chocolate fudge cake, just take three bites – but thoroughly enjoy those three bites. Push the rest away or share it with a friend. You can also choose lighter versions of your favorite foods; instead of ice-cream, why not try low-fat frozen yogurt or substitute chips and nacho cheese with chips with a little cheese and a lot of salsa.
- Serve it restaurant style. When serving dinner, keep the food in the pot on the stove and dish up each plate as a restaurant would. Family-style meals make it easier to take second or even third helpings. Take this one-step further and use smaller plates; you will find yourself eating less food. We tend to mindlessly eat what is in front of us. Serve yourself less and you'll eat less.
- Eat slowly. It has been a long held belief that it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that you are full. According a 2006 study conducted at the University of Rhode Island, people who eat slowly eat 10 percent fewer calories and feel full longer. An easy way to slow eating is to make mealtime a conversational event where you talk about pleasant topics.
- Don’t eat after dinner. Late night eating or snacking can add unwanted pounds since the body doesn’t have time to burn off the excess energy. After the last dish is washed, shut the kitchen for the night.
- Limit your alcohol. While drinking moderate amounts of some alcoholic beverages, like red wine, may improve some aspects of your health, drinking too much not only adds unnecessary calories, but may also have an effect on your commitment to watch what you eat.
- Change your dining-out habits. Portions at American restaurants are usually larger than a single serving. When you order a meal ask to have it served with a “to-go box”. Box half your meal before you start eating and then settle down and enjoy the rest. Or better yet, dine with a friend and share an entrée, appetizers, dessert and friendship.
- Plan for parties. When you get together with friends, ask if you can bring a vegetable platter or other low-fat snack that you enjoy.
- Remember, food really doesn’t make you feel better. Our culture uses food to feel good or as a reward: going out to dinner to celebrate, family gatherings or even getting together with friends often involve food. Emotional eaters try to recreate feelings of well-being by eating. We need to disassociate food with feeling good – it’s not the food we eat that makes us feel better, it is the people that we are with. Instead of grabbing a cookie the next time you are feeling down, why not phone a friend or write a letter. Your enjoyment will last longer and your relationships will be stronger.
- Get active. Find an activity that you enjoy and get moving. Biking, hiking, dancing, walking with a friend, or any other activity that you enjoy becomes something to look forward to doing – then “working out” doesn’t seem like so much work.
- Build muscle and automatically burn fat. Between the ages of 20 and 70, we can lose up to 30 percent of our muscle, while we gain fat (the average woman gains 21 percent, the average man gains 20 percent). Since the body uses more energy to maintain a pound of muscle than it does to maintain a pound of fat, the leaner you are, the more energy your body will use. This translates into weight loss.
- Measure progress in inches not pounds. A word of caution … if you start a strength-training program don’t judge your progress by the numbers on the scale. If you must have a measurement to track your progress, start by taking initial measurements of your hips, legs, arms, chest, etc., and the periodically re-measure to see how many inches you have lost. Muscle tissue is denser than fat, and though your clothes may be looser, the scale may stay the same or even increase as you turn more flabby fat into lean dense muscle.
- Walk for at least 45 minutes a day. Studies have shown that walking three miles an hour for 30 minutes will help you maintain your current weight, but for every minute over 30 your body starts to burn its stored fat. This combined with a healthy, low-fat diet can help you shed pounds quickly.
- Find a partner. Accountability can help us stay on track. Finding a friend to walk with is an easy way to stay motivated. Left to ourselves, it is sometimes easy to decide not to walk or be active. When you know someone is waiting for you, it is easier to show up.
You can become a “successful loser” with these realistic and sensible guidelines, and you CAN lose 10 pounds before summer-short season.