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How to Lose Weight and Keep It Off

What’s the best diet for healthy weight loss?

Pick up any diet book and it’ll claim to hold all the answers to successfully losing all of the weight you need –and keeping it off.  Some claim the key is to eat less and exercise more, others that low fat is the only thing to do, while others prescribe cutting out carbs.  So, what should you believe?

The truth is that there is no”one size fits all” solution to permanent healthy weight loss.  What works for one person may not work for you, since our bodies respond differently to different foods, depending on genetics and other health factors.  To find the system of weight loss that is right for you will likely take time and require patience, dedication, and some experimentation with various foods and diets.

While some people respond well to counting calories or similar restrictive procedures, others respond better to having more freedom in planning their weight loss programs. Being free to simply avoid fried foods or cut back on refined carbs can set them up for success.  Therefore, don’t get too discouraged if a diet that worked for somebody else doesn’t work for you.  And don’t beat yourself up if a diet proves too restrictive for you to stay with.  In the end, a diet is only right for you if it’s one you can stick with over time.

Remember: while there’s no easy fix to losing weight, there are plenty of steps you can take to develop a healthy relationship with food, curb psychological triggers to overeating, and achieve a healthy weight.

Four popular weight loss plans

1.  Sounds easy, right?  Then why is losing weight so hard?

Weight loss isn’t a linear event with time.  When you cut calories, you may drop weight for the first couple of weeks, for instance, and then something changes.  You eat the same number of calories but you lose less weight or no weight in any way.  That’s because when you lose weight you’re losing water and lean tissue as well as fat, your metabolism slows, and your body changes in different ways.  So, in order to keep on dropping weight every week, you want to keep on cutting calories.

A calorie isn’t always a calorie.  Eating 100 calories of high fructose corn syrup, as an example, can have a different effect on your body than eating 100 calories of broccoli. The trick for sustained weight loss is to ditch the foods that are packed with calories but don’t make you feel full (like candy) and replace them with foods that fill you up without being loaded with calories (like vegetables).

A lot of us don’t always eat simply to satisfy hunger.  In addition, we turn to food for comfort or to alleviate stress–that can quickly derail any weight loss program.

2.  Cut carbs A different means of viewing weight loss identifies the problem as not one of consuming too many calories, but rather the way in which the body accumulates fat after consuming carbohydrates–in particular the use of the hormone insulin.  When you eat a meal, carbohydrates in the food enter your bloodstream as sugar.  In order to keep your blood sugar levels in check, your body burns off this glucose before it burns off fat from a meal.

If you consume a carbohydrate-rich meal (lots of rice, pasta, bread, or French fries, for instance ), your body releases insulin to help with the influx of this glucose in your blood.  In addition to regulating blood sugar levels, insulin does two things: It prevents your fat cells from releasing fat for the body to burn as fuel (because its priority is to burn off the sugar ) and it generates more fat cells for keeping everything that your body can’t burn off.  Since insulin only burns carbohydrates, you crave carbs and so begins a vicious cycle of consuming carbohydrates and gaining weight.  To lose weight, the reasoning goes, you will need to break this cycle by reducing carbohydrates.

Most low-carb diets advocate replacing carbs with protein and fat, which may have some negative long-term effects on your health.  If you do try a low-carb diet, you can reduce your risks and limit your consumption of saturated and trans fats by choosing lean meats, fish and vegetarian sources of protein, low-fat dairy products, and eating plenty of leafy green and non-starchy vegetables.

3.  Cut fat  It is a mainstay of many diets: if you do not want to get fat, do not eat fat.  Walk down any grocery store aisle and you will be bombarded with reduced-fat snacks, dairy, and packaged meals.  But while our low carb options have exploded, so have obesity rates. 

Healthy or”good” fats can actually help to control your weight, in addition to manage your moods and combat fatigue.  Unsaturated fats found in avocados, nuts, seeds, soy milk, tofu, and fatty fish can help fill you up, while adding a little tasty olive oil into a plate of vegetables, as an example, can make it easier to eat healthy food and improve the overall quality of your diet.

Many people make the mistake of swapping fat for the empty calories of sugar and refined carbohydrates.  Instead of eating whole-fat yoghurt, by way of instance, we eat low- or no-fat versions that are packed with sugar to make up for the loss of taste.  Or we swap our fatty breakfast bacon to get a muffin or donut which causes rapid spikes in blood glucose.

4.  Follow the Mediterranean diet  The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating good fats and good carbs along with large quantities of fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, fish, and olive oil–and only small amounts of meat and cheese.  The Mediterranean diet is more than just about food, though. Regular physical activity and sharing meals with others are also important components.

Whatever weight loss plan you try, it’s important to remain motivated and prevent common dieting pitfalls, such as emotional eating.

Control emotional eating

We don’t always eat simply to satisfy hunger.  Frequently, we turn to food when we’re stressed or anxious, which can wreck any diet and pack on the pounds.  Do you eat when you’re tired, tired, or lonely?  Recognizing your emotional eating triggers can make all the difference in your weight-loss attempts.  If you eat when you are:

Stressed — find healthier ways to calm yourself. Try yoga, meditation, or soaking in a hot bath.

Low on energy — locate other mid-afternoon pick-me-ups. 

Lonely or bored — reach out to others instead of reaching for the fridge.  Call a friend who makes you laugh, take your dog for a walk, or visit the library, mall, or playground –anywhere there is people.

Practice mindful eating instead

Try not to eat while working, watching TV, or driving. It’s too easy to mindlessly overeat.

Pay attention.  Eat slowly, savoring the scents and textures of your food. 

Mix things up to focus on the experience of eating.  Consider using chopsticks rather than a fork, or use your utensils with your non-dominant hand.

Stop eating before you are full.  It takes time for the signal to reach your brain that you have had enough. 

Stay motivated

Permanent weight loss requires making healthy changes to your lifestyle and food choices.

Social support means a lot. Apps like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers use group support to impact weight loss and lifelong healthy eating.  Seek out support–whether in the kind of family, friends, or a support group–to get the encouragement you require.

Losing weight too fast can take a toll on your mind and body, making you feel lethargic, drained, and ill.  Aim to lose one or two pounds per week so you’re losing fat rather than water and muscle.

Set goals to keep you motivated. Short-term objectives, like needing to fit into a bikini for the summer, usually do not work in addition to needing to feel more confident or become healthier for your children’s sakes.  When temptation strikes, focus on the benefits you will reap from being fitter.

Use tools to track your progress.  Smartphone apps, fitness trackers, or simply keeping a journal can help you keep an eye on the food you consume, the calories you burn, and the weight you lose.  Seeing the results in black and white can help you stay motivated.

Get a lot of sleep.  Deficiency of sleep stimulates your appetite so you would like more food than normal; at precisely the exact same time, it stops you feeling satisfied, making you want to keep eating.  Sleep deprivation may also affect your motivation, so aim for eight hours of quality sleep a night.

You might have heard the widely quoted statistic that 95% of people who lose weight on a diet will regain it in just a couple of years–or even months.  Even though there isn’t much hard evidence to support that claim, it is true that lots of weight-loss plans fail in the long term.  Often that’s just because diets that are too restrictive are very tough to maintain over time.  However, that does not mean your weight loss attempts are doomed to failure. 

Since it was established in 1994, The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) in the United States, has tracked over 10,000 individuals who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off for long intervals.  The study has found that participants who’ve been successful in maintaining their weight loss share some common strategies. 

Successful dieters in the NWCR study exercise for around 60 minutes, typically walking.

Recording what you eat every day helps to keep you accountable and motivated.

Eat breakfast daily.  Most commonly in the study, it’s cereal and fruit. 

Eat more fiber and less unhealthy fat compared to the typical American diet.

Regularly check the scale.  Weighing yourself weekly may help you to detect any small gains in weight, enabling you to promptly take corrective action before the problem escalates.

Cutting back on the time spent sitting in front of a display can be an integral part of embracing a more active lifestyle and preventing weight gain.