Whether you want to lose weight for health or aesthetic reasons, it’s important to set realistic goals and make sustainable changes. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Eat a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. Limit processed and sugary foods. Track your food and exercise using a health app or journal.
Set Realistic Goals
Setting realistic, measurable and attainable goals will help you stay motivated and on track for a healthy weight loss journey. It’s important to discuss your goals with your health care provider, especially if you have other health issues.
Goals can focus on outcomes or the process. Outcome goals are specific, such as “I want to lose a certain amount of weight.” Process goals include measuring and tracking what you eat, exercise and sleep.
It’s also helpful to talk to your doctor about what a healthy body weight would be for you, based on your age and physical activity level. This may require a DEXA scan, skinfold test or other body composition measurements.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Eating a balanced diet, sometimes called a healthy eating pattern, helps the body get the nutrients it needs to grow and stay strong, fight disease, build immunity, and manage weight. It also helps prevent chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
It is important to prioritize nutrient-rich foods most of the time. It is okay to have less healthy foods every now and then, but it’s best to limit how often and how much you eat of those foods.
A balanced diet includes the right proportions of nutrients, including carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, vitamins, and water intake. It also includes anti-inflammatory foods and antioxidants to prevent oxidation and promote health. This can be done by eating more fresh vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Get Enough Sleep
You probably already know that getting enough sleep is important for your health, but you might not realize it can also help you maintain a healthy weight. Studies show that sleep deprivation can affect the levels of hormones that regulate hunger and satiety, leading to overeating and higher calorie consumption.
Sleep also helps your body burn calories. A 150-pound person burns about 440 calories per night during a seven-hour period of rest.
Researchers found that dieters who got more sleep lost more fat than those who got less sleep. The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, showed that sleep duration influenced the distribution of body weight loss, with those who slept more losing more from their muscles than from their fat stores.
Getting plenty of physical activity is important for most people, even those who do not need to lose weight. Exercise can improve mental health, strengthen bones and muscles, reduce stress and lower risk of many common diseases.
Unlike other healthy habits, exercise does not directly contribute to weight loss by creating a negative energy balance, or caloric deficit. However, it does help by burning calories and increasing your metabolism.
Whether you like to take long walks, lift weights or play sports, be sure to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. In addition, try to add strength-training exercises such as yoga, tai chi or Pilates. This will help keep your muscle mass intact, which is especially important as you lose weight.
Track Your Eating
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just want to become more aware of what you’re eating, food tracking is a great tool. It’s easy to forget all the little bits of food that you eat throughout the day—a handful of nuts here, a few bites of a coworker’s candy stash there—that can add up to a significant number of calories.
Tracking can also show you if you’re undereating—which can cause symptoms such as fatigue, low energy and hormonal imbalances. Using a free or paid app like Noom, you can log all the foods you consume, including portion sizes (a tablespoon, cup or fluid ounces) and nutrients. Then you can compare your daily totals over time.