How to Achieve Long-Lasting Weight Loss

Despite what fad diets would have us believe, quick weight loss is rarely healthy and can lead to yo-yo dieting. A sustainable weight loss plan involves long-lasting lifestyle changes like a balanced diet, exercise and stress management.

Eat plenty of nutrient-rich whole foods, get enough sleep, exercise regularly and manage your stress. This will boost your energy and help you feel more resilient to life’s challenges.

1. Eat a Balanced Diet

Eating a balanced diet is important for both weight loss and overall health. A balanced diet includes a variety of foods from each food group: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and fats. The diet should be low in salt, sugar and saturated fat and contain adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals.

A healthy diet emphasizes natural unprocessed foods over pre-packaged meals and snacks. It also includes healthy fats such as those found in fish, olive oil and nuts. It avoids excessive carbohydrates, processed sugar and sodium and includes a high intake of fiber.

When making meal choices, fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables and fruits. The other half should be made up of lean proteins (such as beans, eggs, poultry and fish) and whole grains (like brown rice, quinoa and whole-wheat bread). The remaining quarter should include low-fat dairy products and healthy fats.

2. Exercise Regularly

Whether you’re looking to lose weight or maintain your current weight, exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise burns calories and increases metabolism, both of which can help you achieve your goals.

Studies show that consistent exercise – 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week – is linked to successful weight loss and maintenance efforts. Getting more exercise can also boost your mood, help you fall asleep faster, and improve your quality of life.

Many people associate exercise with losing weight, but it’s important to note that the most effective way to lose weight is through a combination of a balanced diet, varied exercise and behavioural change. Changing your diet, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly all play an important role in long-term weight management.

3. Eat Plenty of Water

Water is a zero-calorie beverage that quenches thirst and has plenty of other health benefits. It also can support weight loss by increasing satiety and reducing excess calorie consumption.

For example, drinking a glass of water before a meal may help people eat less, according to a small study published in Clinical Nutrition Research. It is also possible that many people mistake hunger for thirst, and that proper hydration can make it easier to connect with hunger cues.

In addition to drinking more water, try including foods in your diet that are high in water content, such as watermelon and spinach. For a flavor boost, try adding citrus juice or slices of cucumber to your water. You can even spruce up plain water by adding some herbs or spices.

4. Get Enough Sleep

Many people focus solely on diet and exercise when trying to lose weight, but getting enough sleep is just as important. Research has shown that a lack of sleep can sabotage weight loss efforts.

One reason for this is that it causes the hormones that regulate hunger to become disrupted. Sleep deprivation decreases levels of leptin, which suppresses appetite, and increases levels of ghrelin, which stimulates hunger.

Additionally, sleep deprivation can cause the brain’s reward centers to become active, which often results in cravings for unhealthy foods. To combat this, try to go to bed and wake up at the same times each night and morning, and avoid using your bedroom as an office or lounge area. Sleeping well also helps improve mental/emotional health and mood, which in turn can affect food and exercise choices.

5. Manage Stress

Stress can make you crave foods high in sugar, fat and salt – known as comfort food. This can lead to belly fat accumulation and increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Stress-related weight gain may also be the result of higher cortisol levels that increase appetite and promote storage of excess body fat in the abdominal region (visceral obesity). Studies have shown that mindfulness based stress reduction can decrease the secretion of cortisol and normalize metabolic function for those experiencing chronic stress.

If you are struggling with stress and want to lose weight, try incorporating simple stress-relief techniques such as yoga, deep breathing and meditation into your daily routine. If these are not helping, consider speaking with a mental health professional to learn more about treatment options for untreated anxiety and depression.