In today’s world where everyone is focused on looking good and feeling good, we often neglect something paramount- our health and well-being.
Nowadays, weight loss is more about being trendy and fashionable, rather than being healthy. I don’t disagree with the fact that losing weight indeed makes you look and feel good, but we often resort to utterly unhealthy ways to achieve our target weight. Yes, I am talking about “fad diets”. Readers, you might have heard of them. Basically, these are the diets wherein entire food groups are eliminated to cut down on calories or restricting you to eat only certain kinds of food.
However appealing it may sound, eliminating entire food groups is only detrimental to your health. Fad diets tend to have lots of very restrictive or complex rules, which give the impression that they are scientific in nature, when, in reality, the reason they often work (at least in the short term) is that they simply eliminate entire food groups, so you automatically reduce your calorie intake. Moreover, when food intake is severely restricted, the body begins to adapt to this state of poor nutrition by reducing its metabolic rate, potentially making it even more difficult to lose weight. This also happens when dieters engage in fasting or skipping meals. It is also possible to experience hunger pangs, bouts of hypoglycemia (glucose deficiency in the bloodstream), headaches, and mood changes from overly stringent dieting. These health symptoms can result in binge eating and weight gain. Since a highly restrictive diet is almost impossible to maintain for a long time, people who attempt to starve themselves thin often start to gain weight again when they stop dieting and resume their former eating habits.
Remembering the following simple healthy eating guidelines and putting them into practice can lead to weight reduction without the aid of any special diet plans, weight loss programs, fitness books, or medications.
- Start with a healthy diet
That means a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes and low in refined grains, sugary foods, and saturated and trans fats. You can include fish, poultry, and other lean meats, and dairy foods (low-fat or non-fat sources are preferable to save calories). Aim for 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day from plant foods, since fiber helps fill you up and slows the absorption of carbohydrates.
- Keep an eye on portions
You can eat plenty of vegetables, but for higher-calorie foods, portion control is the key. Check serving sizes on food labels—some relatively small packages contain more than one serving, so you end up consuming more calories, fats, and sugars than intended if you plan to eat the whole thing. Popular “100-calorie” food packages do the portion controlling for you (though they won’t help much if you eat several packages at once).
3. Eat slowly, chew well.
This allows more time for satiety signals to reach the brain (it takes about 20 minutes), so slow eaters tend to feel more full and eat less. The process of chewing itself may also stimulate satiety signals. In addition, eating slowly makes you more aware of the smell, taste, and texture of the foods, which can lead to greater satisfaction with fewer calories. Keep in mind also that the most pleasure often comes from the first few bites of a food.
4. Identify emotional triggers that may be making you overeat.
For example, you may eat more when you are stressed, depressed, upset, angry, lonely, or even happy and excited. To distinguish between real hunger and emotional eating, rate your hunger/fullness levels before, during, and after eating on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “beyond hungry” or “starving” (with associated headaches, lightheadedness, and weakness) and 10 being “beyond full” (as in after loads of white butter and parathas-stuffed). Ideally, you should eat when you are at level 3 (hungry but not yet uncomfortable) and stop at level 7 (full and satisfied). If you often eat for reasons other than hunger, find pleasurable non-food-related activities that you can do instead, such as going for a brisk walk or run.
5. Get adequate protein (and include some with all meals).
There’s evidence that protein increases satiety more than carbohydrates do. Protein also helps limit muscle loss during weight loss. Look for sources of lean protein (such as beans and other legumes, white-meat poultry, and low-fat or non-fat dairy) or those also rich in healthy fats (such as fish, nuts, and soy foods). Some research suggests that distributing your protein throughout the day also helps in weight loss, rather than eating the bulk of it at, say, dinnertime. However, people with or at high risk for kidney disease—and that includes many older people—should be careful not to consume excessive amounts of protein.
6.Exercise, exercise and exercise.
Combining exercise with a healthy diet is a more effective way to lose weight than depending on calorie restriction alone. Exercise can prevent or even reverse the effects of certain diseases. Exercise lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, which may prevent a heart attack.
In addition, if you exercise, you lower your risk of developing certain types of cancers such as colon and breast cancer. Exercise is also known to help contribute to a sense of confidence and well-being, thus possibly lowering rates of anxiety and depression.
- Get enough sleep.
An often overlooked factor in body weight may be your sleep habits. Though the optimal amount of sleep varies from person to person, too little sleep (fewer than six hours a night in one study) has been linked to weight gain because it may affect appetite hormones and lead to increased hunger and food intake, decreased calorie burning and increased fat storage.
- Cook at home often.
That allows you to eat more whole foods and control how much oil, sugar, and other high-calorie ingredients you use. Studies have shown that people tend to eat more when they eat out—though you must still be careful to limit portion sizes at home. If cooking from recipes, look for healthy lower-calorie ones that include nutrition analyses, and stick to the serving sizes. Be aware also that just as restaurant portions have ballooned in recent years, recipe serving sizes have also been on the increase.
- When eating out, follow these simple rules.
Take advantage of calorie listings on menus (or online beforehand) to find lower-calorie options, don’t order anything that’s been super-sized, and consider sharing entrées (or asking for half to be wrapped to take home before you start eating). Or have an appetizer or salad as your main dish. Reading over the whole menu before you order and asking questions of your server or the chef can help steer you toward more healthful, lower-calorie options. Request that dishes be prepared with no or minimal butter, oil, or other high-fat ingredients, and ask for salad dressings on the side so you can control how much you use. And be aware of the menu “tricks” that restaurants use to boost sales—often of cheaper and less-healthy foods.
- Allow for (controlled) indulgences.
Most people find foods high in fat and sugar pleasurable, since they activate the body’s “reward system” (which releases chemicals in the nervous system relating to pleasure). Overly restricting such foods (or any other types of food you crave) can be counterproductive since it can increase your desire for them and lead to bingeing. An occasional treat is fine, as long as it doesn’t tip the scale with calories. You might, for instance, have a small daily treat or save up for some treats on weekends. On the other hand, some people can’t eat just a little and may be better off avoiding hard-to-resist foods altogether.
- Set realistic goals and have a realistic body image.
This is the most important point.
Just as weight tends to creep up over time, shedding excess kilos takes time. Don’t expect to be able to lose 5 kilograms a week. Small and steady losses—about 3-4 kilograms a month usually win the race in the long term. For most people, losing just 5 to 10 percent of body weight will provide health benefits. Also keep in mind that, depending on your body type and genetics, you may never be able to get back to your high school or college weight. And if you and your family members tend to have a certain body shape (like a pear, for example), weight loss will result in overall slimming but won’t reshape your body.
The main goal of weight loss is not to become as thin as a matchstick, but to achieve and maintain a healthy body, mind, and soul.