To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. But it’s not always clear how to do that. For most people, a successful weight-loss plan has two parts: healthy food choices and physical activity. Understanding the balance between the two can help you lose weight more easily and keep it off!
According to the National Weight Control Registry, of adults who have successfully maintained their weight loss:
- 98% have modified their eating habits.
- 94% have increased their level of physical activity, especially walking.
- 78% eat a healthy breakfast every day.
- 75% weigh themselves at least once a week.
- 62% watch less than 10 hours of television per week.
So you think you’re ready, but you’re not sure how to take that first step? It’s not as hard as you might think.
Start your weight loss journey using these 5 steps:
Set realistic goals.
A key step in setting goals is knowing where you stand so you know what you need to improve. Learn your BMI to help determine how much weight you would like to lose to reduce your risk of health problems. Set yourself up for success with short-term goals, like “I will make lifestyle changes which will help me lose (and keep off) 3-5% of my body weight” or “I will reduce the amount of times that I eat out each week from ___ to ____.” Short-term goals like these can seem more achievable, and can, little by little, keep you on track toward your long-term goals. If the goal is too difficult, it’s harder to achieve and can lead to self-judgement and disappointment that can derail the smaller successes you’ve achieved.
Understand how much and why you eat.
Before beginning a weight-loss program, assess where you are today. Use a food diary or tracking app for a while to gain an understanding of what, how much, and when you are eating. This knowledge can help you determine where you can make improvements. For example, if you tend to snack late at night or visit fast food restaurants several times a week, those might be opportunities to make healthier choices. Being mindful of your eating habits and aware of common roadblocks and excuses in your efforts to lose weight can help you set and reach realistic goals.
Manage portion sizes.
It’s easy to overeat when you’re served too much food. Smaller portions can help prevent eating too much. Learn the difference between a portion and a serving and how to keep portions reasonable.
Make smart substitutions to reduce sodium, saturated fat and added sugar.
Foods high in saturated and trans fat and sugar are often high in calories too. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite flavors. Learn to make smart substitutions instead. Learn how to reduce the added sugars in your diet with these infographics. Take the 21-Day Sodium Challenge to reduce the sodium you eat. Discover healthy snacks for between meals and fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods to help keep you fuller longer.
Balance what you eat with physical activity.
Most of us can agree it’s easier to take calories in than to burn them. The amount of physical activity an individual needs to lose weight can vary, but in the weight-loss equation, healthy eating and physical activity complement each other. Both are essential parts of losing weight and staying at a healthy weight. Physical activity is anything that gets your heart rate up. Learn the AHA Physical Activity Recommendations for Adults.
Tips to help you on your weight-loss journey:
- Work with a registered dietitian to create a healthy eating plan. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers a “find a dietitian” resource on their website.
- Learn how sleep can affect weight and see if there are changes you could make in your sleep schedule.
- If you feel you need more support, look for a weight-loss program that’s been proven safe and successful. Get personal support from a weight-loss group or buddy.
- Aim for a gradual weight loss with healthy lifestyle changes until you reach a healthy weight.
- If you have any heart conditions or you are experiencing symptoms of other chronic health issues, talk to your healthcare provider before starting a weight-loss or exercise program.
- Include maintenance in your goals to help you keep the weight off.
- Remember, these steps lead to life-long healthy eating. They are not a quick-fix diet.