Along with spring’s nice weather comes the inevitability of wearing lighter and fewer clothes. This brings about frantic attempts to lose weight.
There is only one way of dropping extra pounds – burning more calories than you consume – but how you go about achieving this goal is not exactly rocket science; the approach depends on your goals.
Healthy rates of losing weight vary. Shedding 10 pounds a week can be a great shock to the body, unless you are obese. But the speed at which you make inches disappear from your waistline depends on the structure of your diet, Ali Miller, RD, LD, CDE registered dietitian and author of Naturally Nourished: Food-as-Medicine Solutions for Optimal Health Cookbook.
“As an advocate of the ketogenic diet which is very low in carbohydrates and transitions the metabolism to using fat as fuel, healthy loss of 5-7 pounds in the first week can be seen,” Miller says. “However, 2-3 of these pounds is water loss from the body in the transition out of using carbohydrates, which hold water weight, as primary fuel,” she adds. The biggest focus is where you are losing the weight from.
“Here at the Institute of Eating Management, we don't focus so much on losing pounds but more percentage body fat,” Heather Blanchette, registered and certified dietitian-nutritionist at IEM,” says. “We usually look for a 1-2 percent drop in body fat every 1-2 weeks.”
People are different and they struggle with various obstacles to lose weight – personal habits, genetics or work. “The key is to set a goal and stick to it by making it part of your lifestyle,” Blanchette says. Miller adds finding something you enjoy. The following list contains several suggestions.
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“If you cut too many calories, you will significantly decrease your metabolic rate,” Blanchette says. “Your body needs energy to function, and when it experiences a shortage of food, your body slows the metabolic rate down so you will not starve.” Decreasing calories and eating infrequently can trigger a famine period, slowing your metabolic rate down and diminishing your ability to lose fat and maintain muscle.
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One of the most important aspects of healthy eating, weight loss and management is cooking your own meals, Miller adds. So make time for it. “Eat whatever you want but make it from scratch,” she adds. “This really hinders intake of processed foods or fried foods. When eating a whole foods based diet you are supported with more nutritional density, which also leads to more satiety or satisfaction at meals.”
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“Focus on healthy fats and meeting your protein goals,” Miller says. “Aim for at least 50-60 percent of your body weight in pounds in grams of protein.” For example: Someone who weighs 150 pounds should get at least 75g/day. “This ensures you maintain healthy muscle mass which keeps metabolism elevated.” Fill up on non-starchy veggies which provide volume, antioxidants and fiber without carbs overload.
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“The secret to eating out is to plan ahead,” Blanchette says. “Choose a place that you know offers healthy choices. Look for meals that contain a small amount of fat. Select baked, grilled or broiled entrees.” Don't be afraid to ask how meals are prepared, she adds, and avoid red meat, gravy and stuffing. Ask for sauces and dressings on the side.
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“Most of the sodium we consume is when we are dining out or eating more processed foods,” Blanchette says. “Choose fresh meats, rather than cured or processed meats and be mindful for packaging of meats that are sitting in ‘sodium solutions,’” she adds. Go for more fresh fruits and vegetables. If buying canned vegetables or broths, choose those with "No Salt Added" on their label. Pick condiments that say “Reduced Sodium” or try flavoring food with citrus juices, vinegars and different herbs and spices, Blanchette says.
If there is one thing that people should not do while trying to lose weight, it's drink alcohol, according to Blanchette. “Alcohol raises triglyceride levels within the blood stream, and contributes to plaque formation and hardening of the arteries,” she says. “It is also a depressant and decreases your motivation,” she adds. Lastly, alcohol is an appetite inducer.
“To lose weight while still drinking alcohol occasionally, begin by making a 'Better Bad Choice,'” Blanchette says. “Consider reducing the frequency that you drink, or cut back on the amount you normally would drink.” If you normally have a glass of wine every night with dinner, consider only having a glass on the weekends. “Let's say you normally have two glasses of wine every night,” she adds. “After one week, that would be a total of 1,700 calories, causing about one pound of body fat to be added every two weeks.”
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“Workout can be passive movement and doesn't have to be stressful or torture,” Miller says. You can get in shape by walking. “[It] is a great way to slowly increase your cardiac function and is gentle on the joints while supporting relaxation. As we know, stress hormones can also drive stubborn metabolism and fat gain,” she adds.
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“Portion control is only difficult when you are depriving yourself,” Blanchette says. “When people try and lose body fat, they tend to remove all their favorite foods form their daily meal plan in order to follow the ‘perfect diet.’” Eating perfect isn't normal and these restrictions only lead to intense cravings, she adds. “These cravings will intensify over time until you can no longer resist the urge to eat, resulting in a binge episode.”
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“Keeping a journal is always helpful in keeping yourself focused and acting as a daily reminder of the goal that you have set to achieve,” Blanchette says. “It is always helpful to go back and review your journal to be able to identify any areas where you can make changes to allow yourself to become successful in reaching your goal.” Journals are also helpful in revealing any areas that may cause eating triggers.
There is no way around this – reaching your goal is entirely up to you and keeping yourself accountable is a big help. “Track your intake, stay accountable with a trainer, dietitian, or a friend to maintain consistency,” Miller says. “I like to run body composition scans on my clients to track specifically where loss occurs, i.e. body fat, muscle, etc. to tailor and tweak their program as needed,” she adds.
Drinking water – hot or cold, plain or infused with lemon – can help keep you hydrate and is important part of digesting, absorbing and transporting nutrients throughout your body,” Blanchette says. “If you are replacing a higher calorie/ higher sugar drink (fruit juice, coffee with cream/sugar) with water- infused or plain, it can help with weight loss.”
“I love green smoothies as a way to meet your goal of 2-3 cups leafy greens,” Miller says. “I add collagen or grass-fed whey and fats from nut butters and/or coconut milk to keep it balanced.” Use greens over grains as a base to your dishes and remove the bread. “Bread is dead and not nourishing,” she adds. All lunches should have a side of veggies in a salad or crudité form such as a dip with hummus, Miller suggests. Dinners should include a side of roasted, stir-fried, or sautéed veggies.
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This is a key factor that influences the metabolic rate. “Eating once every three hours is crucial because it allows your body to utilize and expend calories in an efficient manner,” Miller says. “If you are calorie counting, you are focusing more on the number of calories and not on how your body breaks down and utilizes the food at each serving.”
“Once you focus on a scale number, this whole lifestyle change becomes negative and you will then begin to view this whole process or journey as being negative,” Miller warns. So, try and focus on how your clothes are feeling or how you are feeling about yourself in general – do you have more energy; are you becoming stronger in the gym, are you hitting new personal records, etc.