A healthy weight is achieved with a balance of ‘energy in’ (diet) and ‘energy out’ (movement). It takes time to lose a sustainable amount of weight.
The best way to lose weight is to make small changes that you can stick with over the long term. For example, you can eat more nutrient-dense vegetables.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating right is a key component of any weight loss plan. You don’t need to go vegan or gluten-free, but you do need to avoid empty calories like added sugars, sodium and saturated fat.
It’s also important to eat plenty of vegetables, whole grains and lean protein — the foundation of any healthy diet. Try to fill half your plate with veggies, a quarter with whole grains and the final quarter with lean protein.
You can add a lot of flavor to these foods with herbs and spices, and with low-calorie dressings or dips. And make sure to eat plenty of water and other non-calorie beverages. Drinking water can help you feel full and can stop you from reaching for those extra calories that could slow your weight loss.
2. Exercise Regularly
Being physically active on a regular basis helps to burn extra calories. This is sometimes referred to as creating an energy deficit and can help you lose weight. Some people require more physical activity than others to achieve this, but a healthy starting point is 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, like brisk walking. In addition to formal exercise, try to incorporate other forms of physical activity throughout the day, such as taking the stairs instead of an elevator, playing tag with your kids or dog or parking at the far end of the lot when shopping.
Find an activity that you enjoy so it becomes easier to make it a part of your routine. You can also get accountability from a friend or even hire a fitness trainer to keep you motivated.
4. Manage Stress
Stress affects your body’s internal functioning, including how much fat your body stores. It also causes strong cravings for high-fat, high-calorie foods. Eventually, this can lead to weight gain and abdominal (visceral) fat deposition that increases your risk for heart disease.
Chronic stress also slows digestion, which can cause you to eat less and lose weight. However, this is usually short-lived and the weight loss may return to normal once the stressor has passed.
To combat this, add stress-reduction activities to your daily routine. These include yoga, deep breathing, reading, or talking to a friend. In addition, eat a balanced diet that includes OJ or a large glass of water for vitamin C, strawberries for potassium, whole grains and peanut butter for B vitamins, and low-fat yogurt for calcium and magnesium.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial for weight loss. Aim for between seven and nine hours of shuteye each night, and you may find your diet efforts have a little extra help. Not getting enough sleep affects hormones that regulate hunger, and can make it difficult for even the most determined dieters to resist those Cookie Monster urges. It also messes with your metabolism, slowing it down and causing you to gain weight (22, 23). To improve your chances of getting enough sleep, keep your bedroom dark, use an alarm clock to set a reasonable bedtime, turn off all the screens in your room at least an hour before sleeping, and try to get on a regular schedule, including on weekends. (24)
This article has been revised.