The best way to lose weight is with long-term lifestyle changes that include healthy eating and physical activity. Changing these habits takes time and can be difficult, especially if you’re trying to do it alone.
Recruit friends, family or even a dietitian for support. You can also use apps or pen-and-paper food diaries to help you track your progress and avoid mindless eating.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
A person looking to lose weight needs to examine their current eating habits. Understanding a balance of ‘energy in’ (diet) and ‘energy out’ (activity) will be helpful.
Skipping meals sends the body a signal that food is scarce and leads it to store up fat as a survival mechanism. Eating three regular, healthy meals per day will help you manage hunger and energy levels.
Choose vegetables and fruits (3 to 6 servings a day), whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein sources such as skinless chicken, beans, nuts, seeds and soy. Limit unhealthy fats and replace them with unsaturated fats found in olive oil, vegetable oils and spreads and avocados. Avoid empty calories in the form of sugar-sweetened drinks, such as sodas and juices.
2. Exercise Regularly
One of the best ways to lose weight is to exercise regularly. This helps you burn extra calories, and when combined with a healthy diet it can be more effective than just limiting calories alone.
The key is to find a type of exercise that you enjoy. This makes it easier to stick with your routine. Walking, hiking, playing basketball, swimming, dancing and even house chores can all be great forms of physical activity.
It is also important to include strength training in your workouts 2 to 4 times a week. This builds muscle, which burns more calories than fat at rest. Don’t focus on the scale, however; instead, pay attention to how your clothes fit and how much energy you feel throughout the day.
3. Get Enough Sleep
If you’re not getting enough sleep, your weight loss efforts may be in trouble. Inadequate sleep affects hormones that regulate hunger, which can lead you to reach for the cookies and doughnuts in the break room at work or skip a workout in favor of curling up on the couch with a movie and takeout.
Experts recommend seven to nine hours of sleep each night, but getting more zzz’s isn’t always possible. However, a few simple changes in your sleeping habits can help you lose weight. For example, try to turn off your TV and computers at least an hour before bed. This will help you relax and make it easier to fall asleep. Getting too little sleep also triggers a cortisol spike, which can make you feel hungry even when you’re not (24). The key is to avoid eating late at night and going to bed on an empty stomach (25).)..
4. Stay Hydrated
Drinking water can serve as a natural appetite suppressant and help you consume fewer calories. In fact, one study found that people who drank two glasses of water prior to meals ate about 75 fewer calories at those meals.
Hydration is also crucial for weight loss during exercise. A lack of fluids can cause your blood vessels to constrict and reduce the amount of oxygen they deliver to your muscles, resulting in fatigue and possibly even cramping.
Water can help you avoid bloating by keeping waste moving through your digestive system, and can ease constipation by softening or loosening hardened stools. Additionally, it can decrease cravings by making you feel full. Aim to drink eight to 10 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
5. Stay Motivated
It’s important to find motivation to stick with your weight loss plan, but many people struggle to do so. You can start by clearly identifying your reasons for wanting to lose weight and writing them down. Then, keep this list somewhere you can see it every day to help remind you of your goals and to keep you motivated.
It can also help to find a support system or buddy. It will be much easier to stay on track when you have someone to hold you accountable or to celebrate your wins with.
Finally, it is important to develop healthy coping skills so that you don’t turn to food as a comfort. This will help you avoid giving into temptation and regaining the weight you’ve lost.