For twenty years, I have taught nutrition and lifestyle counseling, developed employee health programs, and provided webinars to help people lose weight and keep it off. At one point in my early twenties, I myself was overweight. I created healthy rules to live by and have managed to keep the weight off since. Here is a combination of the strategies I’ve used to help clients experience successful weight loss, some of which I follow as well.
Get in touch with your hunger cues.
This is a rule to live by! Knowing when you’re truly hungry is so important. Sometimes you’ll break down and eat when you’re not hungry (especially in social settings), but for the most part, try to only eat when you’re hungry. And be thoughtful with your food choices. Next time you want a snack, ask yourself if an orange sounds appealing or if potato chips are the only thing that you want. If you find yourself only wanting chips, you probably just have an appetite for something and are not truly hungry. Figure out what’s really going on –boredom, tiredness, stress, etc. can influence your cravings. Ride out your appetite – if it’s a craving, it will pass. Have a glass of water and wait for your next meal.
Don’t eat after dinner.
Unless you have a medical reason or ate a light dinner because you don’t hit the gym until late evening, avoid snacking in the evening. It’s a sure way to keep the pounds on, because late-night snacking usually goes hand-in-hand with poor quality food choices.
Are cravings a regular and unwanted guest?
If you crave sweet foods often, then read these articles: Surviving the Midafternoon Slump Without Sugar and More Ways to Outsmart Sugar Cravings. But you do need to learn to ride out the craving wave! If you’re struggling, check out the articles mentioned above. They’ll help you get a handle on your cravings and help you explore the best techniques to overcome them!
Brush your teeth after you eat breakfast and dinner.
In the morning, doing so just gives you a nice, clean feeling. At night, it’s one more obstacle between you and the temptation of late-night snacking. You already brushed your teeth, so it’s a natural deterrent because your food will taste minty and you don’t want to have to brush them again.
Don’t eat with the TV on!
This is a fast and hard rule that has helped with weight loss success for many of my clients. If you have to make an exception, limit it to once a month. Mindless eating during TV-viewing is extremely common, and it isn’t even an effective way to unwind! Eat your snack in the kitchen if you really need one and then make it a habit to stretch or have a cup of tea while watching your favorite show. If you live alone and feel like TV is company, try listening to an audio book instead. You can join through your library or become a member of Audible. Not a fan of audiobooks? Try the radio, a podcast, or even your favorite music. Doing this, you can learn something new while still eating. Some people may argue that it’s not true mindful eating, but it’s definitely better than watching TV! You won’t have the visual stimulation and distraction of a TV so can actually look at your food. If you stick with this for a month, I’d be really surprised if you don’t lose weight! For examples on how to create new habits, see these visuals: stuck in bad habits and how to break the chain.
Evaluate your workouts.
Make resistance training a top priority! I do legs and arm weights at least twice a week. Turn on that burning furnace and build your muscle mass! Once you’re in a routine, switch it up a bit so you don’t start to subconsciously cheat with your form (finding ways to make it easier) or plateau. Try some moves on a Bosu ball. The more muscle mass you create, the better your metabolism will be. And don’t get discouraged if the results don’t show the way you want them to. Every body is different – some are just more muscular. My sister has baseball biceps without doing any weights, while my arms just look healthy—you can’t tell I lift religiously! But that’s not the point—whether you see it or not, the muscle is still there and increasing your metabolism. Plus, muscle mass becomes critically important as you age! You can also try doing your cardio workout fasting – first thing in the morning, before breakfast, twice a week. Keep your intensity at a level where you are working hard enough that you can’t sing but can engage in a brief chat. On other days, up the intensity with some high-intensity interval training! Another benefit to regular exercise is it can increase your libido. And regular sex can improve your immune system, lower heart attack risk, and can help improve general health.
Don’t cut out carbs!
Even though going low-carb may show you quick results, some new research shows your metabolism will suffer in the long run on lower carb diets. Plus, research shows that, over time, there is no significant difference in weight loss between people eating low-carb and those eating a standard amount. Plus, sustainability matters – would you want to follow a diet like that for life? The right carbohydrates are packed with important nutrients that will help prevent almost all of the major chronic disease conditions (including heart disease—for instance, oatmeal is extremely high in soluble fiber!). Just make it a habit to choose the right carbohydrates. Cut back significantly on white flour, sugar, and snack foods and get most of your carbs from fresh or frozen fruits, veggies, or Greek yogurt (which is also a good source of protein). Choose whole grains, ancient grains, seeds and beans, too—just be mindful of portion sizes.
Choose a healthy diet that will work for you for life.
You don’t want to have good days and bad days—you want to have overall balance and develop eating habits you’ll keep around forever. Life is about balance, not extremes. We’ve lost touch with what truly defines moderation as a society. It’s challenging when so much is offered in excess! You’re not alone in finding balance. This is why adjusting your environment really helps to set you up for success. Start by honestly evaluating your kitchen staples. Having a plan before you go to a party or out to dinner and not stocking tempting foods like potato chips or ice-cream in your kitchen truly helps! If you really want a treat, make them an occasional indulgence that you go out for in a single-size portion! Meal plan ahead of time, so you’re not leaving healthy eating to chance.
Obtaining what you consider your ideal weight does not necessarily equate to good health. You have to be at a weight you can maintain for life. Make sure you find things you LOVE about your body! Focus on gaining strength and shifting the focus away from an ideal look. One of my biggest motivations for me is healthy aging with good posture. I want to be able to fully and passionately enjoy life as I age and be capable of hiking, gardening, cooking and caring for my family and still take on home improvement projects. I want to be able to help my daughter when she’s grown and has her own kids – the way my parents helped me. I want to travel even at an old, ripe age—like my 80-year-old aunt does—and do the exercise bike at 95+ years old, like my grand-mom! And, yes, I also want to be able to keep my same wardrobe. I love my clothes and really enjoy dressing up! It’s just not economical to have to go up a size. So, these are big motivating factors for me. What are yours?
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