How To Lose Weight If Needed

How To Lose Weight If Needed

A healthy weight loss programme involves moving to a better diet and increasing your exercise levels. This article will focus on the dietry measures you can try in order to lose weight if needed. Please see our other article on this website entitled “exercise for longterm health” for specific healthy exercise tips.

STARTING A WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAM — Different approaches and plans work for different people, so it’s important to try not to get discouraged and to keep trying until you find something that works for you. Be careful about misinformation online and weight loss clinics with questionable ethics. Nothing out there is magic. Losing weight takes hard work, and keeping it off requires a plan that is sustainable long term.

SETTING A WEIGHT LOSS GOAL — It is important to set a realistic weight loss goal. Your first goal should be to avoid gaining more weight. If you are overweight or obese, losing 5 percent of your body weight should be considered a success. In the longer term, losing more than 15 percent of your body weight and staying at this weight is an extremely good result. However, keep in mind that even losing 5 percent of your body weight leads to important health benefits, so try not to get discouraged if you’re not able to lose more than this.

This approach to weight loss can be broken down into four parts:

  • The triggers that make you want to eat
  • Eating
  • What happens after you eat
  • Integrating less sedentary (inactive) time and more active time into your day

Triggers to eat — It is important to determine what triggers you to eat and  involves figuring out what foods you eat and where and when you eat them. To figure out what triggers you to eat, keep a record for a few days of everything you eat, the places where you eat, how often you eat, and the emotions you were feeling when you eat.

For some people, the trigger is related to a certain time of day or night. For others, the trigger is related to a certain place, like sitting at a desk working or driving past a favourite fast-food outlet.

Eating — You can change your eating habits by breaking the chain of events between the trigger for eating and the act of eating. There are many ways to do this. For instance, you can:

  • Use a smaller plate for meals
  • Make a conscious effort to eat more slowly
  • Add more colourful (non-white) foods to your meals
  • Keep healthy snacks (like chopped raw vegetables, fruits, and nuts) around in case you get hungry between meals

The types of foods we eat on a regular basis are related to whether we gain or lose weight over time. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and yogurt are associated with maintaining a lower weight, while foods like french fried potatoes or chips, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red or processed meats are associated with weight gain. High fructose-containing beverages, trans fats, and highly processed foods are particularly harmful for health and maintaining a healthy weight.

What happens after you eat — Rewarding yourself for good eating behaviours can help you to develop better habits. The idea is not to reward weight loss, but to reward yourself for changing unhealthy behaviours to healthy ones.

Do not use food as a reward. Some people find monetary rewards (eg, buying a new piece of clothing), personal care (eg, a haircut, manicure, or massage), or leisure activities (eg, watching a favouirite TV show or playing a game) to work well. Giving yourself small rewards each time you make better eating choices helps reinforce the value of the good behaviour.

Set clear behaviour goals as well as a time frame for reaching your goals. For example, you might set a goal to avoid snacking after a certain time every day for a week, with a longer-term goal to lose 5 percent of your weight by a certain date, and 10 or 15 percent by a later date. Reward small changes along the way to your final goal.

Other factors that contribute to successful weight loss — Changing your behaviour also involves finding people around you to support your weight loss, reducing stress, and learning to resist temptations.

  • Establish a “buddy” system – Having a friend or family member available to provide support and reinforce good behaviour is very helpful. The support person needs to understand your goals.
  • Learn to resist temptations – Learning to be strong when tempted by food is an important part of losing weight. As an example, you will need to learn how to say “no” and continue to say no when urged to eat at parties and social gatherings. Develop strategies for events before you go, such as eating before you go or taking low-calorie snacks and calorie-free drinks with you.
  • Positive thinking – People often have conversations with themselves in their head; these conversations can be positive or negative. If you eat a piece of cake that was not planned, you may respond by thinking, “Well, it’s all over now, you’ve blown your diet!” and as a result, you may eat more cake. A positive thought for the same event could be, “Well, I ate cake when it was not on my plan. Now I should do something to get back on track.” A positive approach is much more likely to be successful than a negative one.
  • Reduce stress – Although stress is a part of everyday life, it can trigger unhealthy eating habits in some people. It is important to find a way to get through these difficult times without eating or by choosing low-calorie food instead, like raw vegetables. It may be helpful to imagine a relaxing place that allows you to temporarily escape from stress. With deep breaths and closed eyes, you can imagine this relaxing place for a few minutes.
  • Weight loss programs – Organized programs like Weight Watchers etc work for some people. As with all weight loss programs, you care most likely to be successful with these plans if you make long-term changes in how you eat.

CHOOSING A DIET OR NEW EATING PLAN — A calorie is a unit of energy found in food. Your body needs calories to function. The goal of any diet is to burn up more calories than you eat.

How many calories do I need? — The number of calories you need per day depends on your current (or target) weight, gender, and activity level.  In general, it is best to choose foods that contain enough protein, carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, and vitamins.

Try to avoid alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverages (sodas and fruit drinks), and sweets (including cakes, biscuits), since they have calories but generally lack important nutrients.

Portion-controlled diets — One simple way to diet is to buy pre-packaged foods, like frozen low-calorie meals or meal-replacement canned drinks or bars. A typical meal plan for one day may include:

  • A meal-replacement drink or breakfast bar for breakfast
  • Meal-replacement drink or a frozen low-calorie (250 to 350 calories) meal for lunch
  • A frozen low-calorie meal or other prepackaged, calorie-controlled meal, along with extra vegetables for dinner

This would give you 1000 to 1500 calories per day.

Low-fat diet — To reduce the amount of fat in your diet, you can:

  • Eat low-fat foods. Low-fat foods are those that contain less than 30 percent of calories from fat. Fat is listed on the food facts label.
  • Count fat grams. For a 1500-calorie diet, this would mean about 45 g or fewer of fat per day.

If you try a low-fat diet, you should increase the amount of healthy carbohydrates in your diet (eg, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables).

Low-carbohydrate diet — Low- and very-low-carbohydrate diets (eg, Atkins diet, South Beach diet, or “ketogenic” diet) have become popular ways to lose weight quickly.

  • With a very-low-carbohydrate diet, you eat between 0 and 60 grams of carbohydrates per day (a standard diet contains 200 to 300 grams of carbohydrates).
  • With a low-carbohydrate diet, you eat between 60 and 130 grams of carbohydrates per day.

Carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, grains (including breads, rice, pasta, and cereal), alcoholic beverages, and dairy products. Meat and fish contain very few carbohydrates. If you try a low-carbohydrate diet, it’s important to make healthy choices for fat and protein (eg, fish, nuts, beans); eating a lot of saturated fats (found in butter and red meat) can increase your cholesterol level and raise your risk of heart disease.

Side effects of very-low-carbohydrate diets can include constipation, headache, bad breath, muscle cramps, diarrhoea, and weakness.

Mediterranean diet — The term “Mediterranean diet” refers to a way of eating that is common in olive-growing regions around the Mediterranean Sea. Although there is some variation in Mediterranean diets, there are some similarities. Most Mediterranean diets include:

  • A high level of monounsaturated fats (from olive or canola oil, walnuts, pecans, almonds) and a low level of saturated fats (from butter).
  • A high amount of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and grains (7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day).
  • A moderate amount of milk and dairy products, mostly in the form of cheese. Use low-fat dairy products (skim milk, fat-free yogurt, low-fat cheese).
  • A relatively low amount of red meat and meat products. Substitute fish or poultry for red meat.
  • For those who drink alcohol, a modest amount (mainly as red wine) may help to protect against cardiovascular disease. A modest amount is up to one (4 ounce) glass per day for women and up to two glasses per day for men.

Which diet is best? — No study comparing different diets have not found a single “best” diet for losing weight. Any diet will help you to lose weight if you are able to stick with it. Following a very restrictive diet may help you lose weight quickly, but it’s easy to gain the weight back as soon as you stop following the diet. Therefore, it is important to choose a diet or meal plan that includes foods you like.

Fad diets — “Fad” diets often promise quick weight loss and may claim that you do not need to exercise or give up your favourite foods. Fad diets generally lack any scientific evidence that they are safe and effective, instead relying on “before” and “after” photos or testimonials.