People can lose weight and maintain this loss by taking several achievable steps. These include the following:
1. Eat varied, colorful, nutritionally dense foods
Healthful meals and snacks should form the foundation of the human diet. A simple way to create a meal plan is to make sure that each meal consists of 50 percent fruit and vegetables, 25 percent whole grains, and 25 percent protein. Total fiber intake should be 25–30 grams (g) daily.
Eliminate trans fats from the diet, and minimize the intake of saturated fats, which has a strong link with the incidence of coronary heart disease.
Instead, people can consume monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) or polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which are types of unsaturated fat.
The following foods are healthful and often rich in nutrients:
- fresh fruits and vegetables
- whole grains, such as brown rice and oatmeal
Foods to avoid eating include:
- foods with added oils, butter, and sugar
- fatty red or processed meats
- baked goods
- white bread
- processed foods
In some cases, removing certain foods from the diet might cause a person to become deficient in some necessary vitamins and minerals. A nutritionist, dietitian, or another healthcare professional can advise a person how to get enough nutrients while they are following a weight loss program.
2. Keep a food and weight diary
Self-monitoring is a critical factor in successfully losing weight. People can use a paper diary, mobile app, or dedicated website to record every item of food that they consume each day. They can also measure their progress by recording their weight on a weekly basis.
Those who can track their success in small increments and identify physical changes are much more likely to stick to a weight loss regimen.
People can also keep track of their body mass index (BMI) using a BMI calculator.
3. Engage in regular physical activity and exercise
Regular exercise is vital for both physical and mental health. Increasing the frequency of physical activity in a disciplined and purposeful way is often crucial for successful weight loss.
One hour of moderate-intensity activity per day, such as brisk walking, is ideal. If one hour per day is not possible, the Mayo Clinic suggests that a person should aim for a minimum of 150 minutes every week.
People who are not usually physically active should slowly increase the amount of exercise that they do and gradually increase its intensity. This approach is the most sustainable way to ensure that regular exercise becomes a part of their lifestyle.
In the same way that recording meals can psychologically help with weight loss, people may also benefit from keeping track of their physical activity. Many free mobile apps are available that track a person's calorie balance after they log their food intake and exercise.
If the thought of a full workout seems intimidating to someone who is new to exercise, they can begin by doing the following activities to increase their exercise levels:
- taking the stairs
- raking leaves
- walking a dog
- playing outdoor games
- parking farther away from a building entrance
Individuals who have a low risk of coronary heart disease are unlikely to require medical assessment ahead of starting an exercise regimen.
However, prior medical evaluation may be advisable for some people, including those with diabetes. Anyone who is unsure about safe levels of exercise should speak to a healthcare professional.
4. Eliminate liquid calories
It is possible to consume hundreds of calories a day by drinking sugar-sweetened soda, tea, juice, or alcohol. These are known as "empty calories" because they provide extra energy content without offering any nutritional benefits.
Unless a person is consuming a smoothie to replace a meal, they should aim to stick to water or unsweetened tea and coffee. Adding a splash of fresh lemon or orange to water can provide flavor.
Avoid mistaking dehydration for hunger. An individual can often satisfy feelings of hunger between scheduled meal times with a drink of water.
5. Measure servings and control portions
Eating too much of any food, even low-calorie vegetables, can result in weight gain.
Therefore, people should avoid estimating a serving size or eating food directly from the packet. It is better to use measuring cups and serving size guides. Guessing leads to overestimating and the likelihood of eating a larger-than-necessary portion.
The following size comparisons can be useful for monitoring food intake when dining out:
- three-fourths of a cup is a golf ball
- one-half of a cup is a tennis ball
- 1 cup is a baseball
- 1 ounce (oz) of nuts is a loose handful
- 1 teaspoon is 1 playing die
- 1 tablespoon is a thumb tip
- 3 oz of meat is a deck of cards
- 1 slice is a DVD
These sizes are not exact, but they can help a person moderate their food intake when the correct tools are not available.
6. Eat mindfully
Many people benefit from mindful eating, which involves being fully aware of why, how, when, where, and what they eat.
Making more healthful food choices is a direct outcome of becoming more in tune with the body.
People who practice mindful eating also try to eat more slowly and savor their food, concentrating on the taste. Making a meal last for 20 minutes allows the body to register all of the signals for satiety.
It is important to focus on being satisfied after a meal rather than full and to bear in mind that many "all natural" or low-fat foods are not necessarily a healthful choice.
People can also consider the following questions regarding their meal choice:
- Is it good "value" for the calorie cost?
- Will it provide satiety?
- Are the ingredients healthful?
- If it has a label, how much fat and sodium does it contain?
7. Stimulus and cue control
Many social and environmental cues might encourage unnecessary eating. For example, some people are more likely to overeat while watching television. Others have trouble passing a bowl of candy to someone else without taking a piece.
By being aware of what may trigger the desire to snack on empty calories, people can think of ways to adjust their routine to limit these triggers.
8. Plan ahead
Stocking a kitchen with diet-friendly foods and creating structured meal plans will result in more significant weight loss.
People looking to lose weight or keep it off should clear their kitchen of processed or junk foods and ensure that they have the ingredients on hand to make simple, healthful meals. Doing this can prevent quick, unplanned, and careless eating.
Planning food choices before getting to social events or restaurants might also make the process easier.
9. Seek social support
Embracing the support of loved ones is an integral part of a successful weight loss journey.
Some people may wish to invite friends or family members to join them, while others might prefer to use social media to share their progress.
Other avenues of support may include:
- a positive social network
- group or individual counseling
- exercise clubs or partners
- employee-assistance programs at work
10. Stay positive
Weight loss is a gradual process, and a person may feel discouraged if the pounds do not drop off at quite the rate that they had anticipated.
Some days will be harder than others when sticking to a weight loss or maintenance program. A successful weight-loss program requires the individual to persevere and not give up when self-change seems too difficult.
Some people might need to reset their goals, potentially by adjusting the total number of calories they are aiming to eat or changing their exercise patterns.
The important thing is to keep a positive outlook and be persistent in working toward overcoming the barriers to successful weight loss.