New Year, New You
Eight steps to make your resolutions a reality
If you've made a New Year's resolution to lose weight, you're not alone. Every year millions of Americans promise themselves that they're going to drop extra weight. But exactly how can you lose weight and keep it off? You may often hear that it's a matter of "diet and exercise" or that it's necessary to burn more calories than you eat, but experts agree that the more specific your goals and actions are, the more likely you'll be to stick to them. Here are eight ways to get started.
1. Go to the pros
Before starting your weight-loss journey, talk to your doctor and dietitian. Changing your eating habits and increasing your physical activity may affect how much diabetes medication or insulin you require.
2. Adjust your focus
Many people set big goals for weight loss, like "lose 50 pounds." Experts at the multisite Mayo Clinic say it's better to concentrate on process instead of outcome and suggest that you set small, specific goals to help you on your journey. An example of such a goal would be to walk for 30 minutes five times a week.
3. Take a hike
Speaking of walking, the vast majority of participants in the National Weight Loss Registry (NWLR), which tracks more than 5,000 people who have lost at least 30 pounds and have kept them off for a year or longer, attribute at least part of their success to frequent, moderate exercise. At last tally, 94 percent said they increased their physical activity levels when they wanted to lose weight. Their most common form of exercise? Walking.
4. Eat breakfast
The majority of successful "losers" in the NWLR eat breakfast, with 78 percent reporting that they eat breakfast every day.
5. Don't forget the fiber
Fruit, vegetables, and whole-grain foods such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and whole-grain cereal have all been shown to aid weight loss. The common denominator among them is fiber. Fiber takes longer for your body to digest, which in turn makes you feel fuller longer.
6. Go for high volume, low density
The Mayo Clinic recommends that you focus on foods that pack a low caloric punch for a lot of quantity. The winners, hands down, are fruits and vegetables. For about 100 calories, you can have a cup of grapes, a medium banana, or two cups of carrots.
7. Don't drink your calories
Harvard researchers who analyzed data from the Nurses Health Study II, which tracks well over 100,000 nurses, found that women who increased their consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks from one or fewer per week to one or more per day gained almost 18 pounds over an 8-year period. Long story short: Soda and other sweetened drinks contain plenty of calories but don't satisfy hunger.
8. Take it slowly
Experts agree that the healthiest way to lose weight is slowly, at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week. Making small changes one at a time until you're comfortable with them will ensure that they become habits that last a lifetime.
Terri D'Arrigo is a freelance writer in Babylon, New York.