The Best Strategies for Losing Weight This Year
Well, the holidays are over and you may have decided enough is enough. Many people are in the same boat, and you don’t have to navigate it alone. You are probably already aware of the multitude of reasons on why it’s important to lose weight and maintain healthy body composition; but getting there is invariably the hardest part.
It starts with the right knowledge and equipping yourself with the proper tools to stay steady on your weight loss journey and meet all of your essential goals.
Here, we’ll look at some tried and true ways of avoiding unhealthy habits and the best strategies for losing weight this year.
Everyone has heard of how bad carbs can be. And the truth is…they’re not lying. Cutting carbs can yield dramatic weight loss results like nothing else.
Research from the Harvard School of Public Health found that cutting carbs, and not necessarily calories, was the secret to long-term weight loss. In a recent study of nearly 200 overweight individuals, those who cut carbs and replaced them with fat increased their metabolism and were able to burn more calories daily, compared to people who ate a high-carb, low-fat diet.
Most carbohydrates are heavily processed and highly refined. This removes the majority of natural fiber and nutrients from the food, leaving the final product a shadow of what it originally was. This is not healthy for humans. In fact, processed carbs have been linked to:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Mood disorders
Processed foods and carbs can cause spikes in glucose levels, appetite, and overeating. These types of behavioral patterns will consistently stand in your way of losing weight and will pack the pounds on even more.
There is such a thing as good carbs, however. Instead of white bread, rice, or pasta, consider substituting with brown rice, quinoa, barley, and other whole grains.
Sleep and weight loss go hand-in-hand. If you are not getting enough sleep at night, it’s going to be an uphill battle. Getting enough good sleep that’s of quality, will have a significant impact on your ability to lose weight.
In a study of 245 women enrolled in a 6-month weight-loss program, better subjective sleep quality increased the chances of successful weight loss by 33%, as did sleeping more than 7 hours per night.
Less than 7 hours of good quality sleep each night will stimulate the hormone Ghrelin and suppress another hormone called Leptin. Ghrelin is a hormone that makes you feel hungry. It causes humans to want to go out and seek food. Leptin is responsible for feelings of fullness and satisfaction. They are polar opposites, and the release of these hormones is all incumbent upon whether or not you get enough sleep.
You don’t want hormones working against you, so it’s best to get in bed at a reasonable hour. This also means putting the phone down and shutting the TV off. Any type of distraction can profoundly affect the quality of your sleep and the stages you slip into.
America has a portion problem. A recent survey by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) found that 45% of Americans are aware portion sizes have increased in restaurants, and 52% realize portion sizes have increased at home. Only 25% of Americans say the portions they eat at restaurants have gotten smaller since 2003, and just 37% say they have cut back on portions at home.
People with more food in front of them tend to eat more. These are facts. At no other period in history have humans faced the issue of having too much food instead of too little. Thus, self-control is of utmost importance, and that starts with smaller portions.
Want to take action? Use smaller plates and cups. You don’t need a biggie gulp or a buffet tray to do the job. In a study on portion control, researchers gave people (men and women) different-sized submarine sandwiches (6, 8, 10, or 12 inches) once a week for four weeks. On the days when they were given 12-inch subs, participants ate more calories than when they were served smaller subs.
Fiber is what feeds your friendly gut bacteria. An estimated 100 trillion bacteria live inside your gut (primarily in the large intestine). Different species and types of bacteria play significant roles in aspects of your health, including:
- Blood sugar control
- Weight management
- Brain function
Increasing fiber in your diet is a common weight loss strategy as it slows down how quickly your stomach digests food. It’s an essential nutrient that is often overlooked. Fiber refers to carbohydrates that your gut cannot digest. This sensation helps people feel fuller longer and staves off overeating or eating out of boredom, rather than hunger.
Even if you make no other changes in your diet, eating enough fiber daily has been shown to reduce overall caloric intake.
Something as simple as eating 25-30 grams of fiber each day can help lower your blood pressure, spur weight loss, and improve your body’s response to insulin.
Where can you get all this fiber every day? It’s easier than you think. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are all excellent sources of fiber.
Everyone wants to reach for the stars, but that has to start with the treetops. In other words, small goals can add up faster than large ones that seem unobtainable. Instead of announcing you want to lose 50 pounds! Start with 10 pounds first.
Make your goals more specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based if you want to meet them more frequently. This method is called SMART goals and helps to define the parameters that pertain to your goals.
Setting a time frame around what you want to achieve will make it more reachable. Some people need a fire under their feet to finally put in the work. If that’s you, then your goals must have a start and an end, so you don’t procrastinate. Thus, saying you want to lose 10 pounds in the next three months is a more realistic goal. It all equates to accountability.
Start by creating a plan for how you want to achieve your weight loss goals. However, setting a goal alone will not make it happen. In your plan, you also want to plot out what changes you plan to make, like eating habits, exercise, and personal healthcare.
According to research, 94% of Americans snack at some point during the day. So, it’s an inevitable behavior that’s ingrained into our society. But, rather than avoiding snacks and severely limiting yourself, it’s time to snack smarter. We all know deprivation can lead to poor decision-making.
Choose healthy foods high in protein and fiber to sustain you between meals. These types of snacks will help you feel fuller longer and keep you from eating an entire meal, in between the actual ones.
What are some great healthy snack ideas?
- Edamame with sea salt
- Trail mix
- Apple with peanut butter
- Hummus and celery
- Natural yogurt and fruit
If you feel like someone that impulsively reaches for a snack when hungry, consider carrying some around in your purse or bag. That way, you can snack throughout the day without the guilt of eating sugary or processed foods on the go.
Easier said than done, right? But in order to manage healthy weight loss, you have to keep your mind at ease. Countless studies indicate that high levels of stress can impact your weight loss, such as:
- Impact of Stress Management on Weight Loss
- Psychological Stress and Changes in Weight
- How Stress Can Cause Weight Gain
Stress contributes to raised levels of the hormone cortisol. High concentrations of cortisol will stimulate the reward centers in your brain that are usually turned on by food. It will make you also want to eat high-carb and high-calorie foods that will be the most rewarding, like chocolate, pizza, and cheese.
Consider activities that help to eliminate stress. For example, go for a walk, take up knitting, or read a book. Things that do not eliminate stress? Watching TV, staring at your phone, or surfing social media.
You may need to socialize. In this case, joining a yoga class or the local gym are great ways to relieve stress and get some exercise.
You don’t have to constantly exercise to lose weight. Simply changing your routine can make a big difference. For example, if someone works at a computer every day, one change might be to get up and take a walk every two hours. This keeps the blood flowing and your metabolism active.
One way to remind yourself to get up on your feet is the use of technology. Smartwatches like Apple and Fitbit can track everything from how many steps you take in a day to heart rate, sleeping patterns, weight gain, and many more critical health metrics.
Non-exercise-related activity can account for up to 50% of the calories you burn, so sometimes effective weight loss is simply about paying attention. If you find it hard to get to the gym, merely setting a goal of 8,000-10,000 steps daily will ensure you burn enough calories to lose fat.
How can you achieve this? Simple activities like:
- Parking farther away from the store
- Doing yard work
- Playing with your kids
- Walking the dog
- Cooking dinner for the family
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
Small choices like this can make a world of difference.
There’s no one secret to a successful weight loss journey, but there is a common denominator. Most people succeed at weight loss when they have the right tools and knowledge at their disposal. Top strategies include:
- Cutting carbs
- Good sleep
- Portion control
- Eating fiber
- Obtainable goals
- Smarter snacks
- Less stress
- More activity
Even implementing one of these changes today, sets realistic weight loss goals for tomorrow.