Achieving a long-term goal typically requires careful planning. Weight loss is no different. While there are numerous "quickie" diets that promise fast results, they do not prove to be healthy, realistic or sustainable. In order to lose weight, a new lifestyle must be formed to keep the weight off and live healthfully. Changing a lifetime of habits takes time, effort and dedication. Here are some tips to help you plan your way to successful weight loss:
Eat Breakfast Everyday - Research suggests that skipping breakfast leads to increased fat intake during the day, impulsive snacking and eating larger portions at the end of the day.
Stay Hydrated - Be sure to drink plenty of water. Thirst cues are often mistaken for hunger cues.
Eat on a Regular Schedule - Aim to eat every 4-5 hours. Eat your regular meals, but if going more than 4-5 hours in between a meal have a snack, this will keep your blood sugar steady and metabolism revved. Waiting too long between meals can lead to extreme hunger and poor food choices.
Exercise - Exercise should be part of your daily routine. If you do not have time to go for routine exercise, break it up during the day or find a creative way to get your heart rate up: park far away, take the stairs to use the bathroom on another floor, jump rope or do jumping jacks during commercials on TV. If motivation is difficult, invest in a trainer or a DVD or find a workout buddy.
Eat Enough Calories - The body is constantly working to do various tasks like making new cells, breathing, maintaining body temperature, breaking down food, etc. All of these things require energy. If you do not eat enough, these processes slow down to conserve energy and the body uses muscle instead of fat to fuel the body.
Eat Fruits and Vegetables - If you cannot fit fruits or vegetables into breakfast or snacks, be sure to include them in both lunch and dinner every day. Fruits and vegetables are full of nutrition, antioxidants and fiber.
Be Ready for Tomorrow- Pack your lunch and snacks the night before. You do not have to do extra work, it can be as easy as making extra food at dinner to take the next day or putting together a low fat frozen meal, yogurt and fruit. Put a note on the door to remind you to take them if needed.
Get Adequate Sleep -Sleep is a powerful regulator of appetite, energy use and weight control. Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Research shows that the less people sleep, the more likely they are to be overweight or obese and prefer eating higher calorie foods.
Set Goals - Make 1-2 goals for the week. They should be simple like eating fruit at snacks daily, increasing your workout by 5 minutes or reducing the amount of salad dressing you use.
Map Out Your Meals - Before going to the grocery store, figure out what you will eat for the week - breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Be detailed. This will not only help you better plan your week, but it will save you money by reducing waste.
For tips on meal planning and meal ideas, check out Meal Planning Made Simple. Prep Your Foods - If you are short on time during the week, spend a little time on Sunday making a large batch of something like vegetable soup or low-fat lasagna, portion it out and freeze it.
Address Roadblocks - If you foresee any issues coming up in the week ahead (travel, hectic schedule, etc), plan for it in advance. If you think you may forget to eat meals or snacks, set up reminders on your phone or email. If you think you'll have less time to exercise, try waking up 10 minutes early to do some vigorous activity before the day begins.
Mandy Seay is a bilingual registered and licensed dietitian who holds both a bachelor's degree in nutrition and in journalism. After gaining 30 pounds while living abroad, Mandy worked to lose the weight and regain her health. It was here that she discovered her passion for nutrition and went on to pursue a career as a dietitian. Mandy currently works as a nutrition consultant and freelance writer in Austin, Texas, where she specializes in diabetes, weight management and general and preventive nutrition. She recently published her first book, Your Best Health, a personalized program to losing weight and gaining a healthy lifestyle. Please visit Mandy's website at Nutritionistics.com.