What's the best way to lose or maintain weight without skipping all the "good-stuff?"

This question could not come at a better time! Recently, many of my patients have said that they would like to lose weight to be “bathing suit season” ready. Others (like myself), have expressed the desire to shed a few pounds for their wedding. I could tackle this question in a practical way: eat less/exercise more. But, as we all know, it isn’t that simple.

Healthy and sustainable weight loss should begin with a thoughtful look at one’s goals. Start by setting weight loss goals that are attainable and healthy for you. I advise you to avoid looking at charts that tell you what you “should” weigh. In addition, try not to look back on pictures of yourself when you were in your late teens or 20’s and compare those images to where you are now. Ask yourself where you think you could improve your eating habits and how you can get more physical activity each day. Some people find it helpful to contact a local registered dietitian to help you begin this journey towards achieving a healthy balance with eating and exercise. Other people find it useful to begin recording everything they are eating and drinking (including portion sizes) for a few days during the week and one day on the weekend. This allows insight into eating habits and can help you ask a few important questions: Do I regularly skip breakfast? At what time of the day do I snack the most and do I snack during times that I am stressed and/or bored? Do I consume excess calories without even realizing it? Do I have opportunities for moving more during the day? Are my portion sizes bigger than I am aware of (and…what exactly is “one portion”)?

Once you have a general feel for what areas you could improve upon, set realistic goals for change. One big step that has helped many of my patients is to avoid eating while standing up. This is by far one of my favorite weight loss hints. The basic premise is eating more mindfully. It is common for people to nibble on dinner that they are preparing for their family or munching on a handful of candies from their neighbor’s desk or picking the last few French fries from their child’s plate when cleaning up after dinner. These calories count and add up (mostly unbeknownst to us). It is easy to get into the habit of nibbling while standing so I just urge people to catch themselves each time they are doing it and practice sitting while eating. Ask yourself if you are genuinely hungry (and not eating because you are bored or stressed out). If you are hungry, take a portion of whatever you desire, put it on a plate, sit down and try to focus on the flavor of the food. It helps to keep quick and healthy foods around to snag in this scenario. A few of my favorites include: string cheese, high fiber bars, pre-cut fruit, pre-portioned popcorn or almonds.

I advise you to skip the “I am on a diet” mentality. This can lead to one eliminating many favorite foods altogether. Speaking from personal experience, avoiding foods I like the most just makes me crave them more and eventually will lead me to overeating them. Having one piece of individually wrapped “good” chocolate isn’t going to cause you to suddenly gain weight. Consuming a handful of potato chips will not lead to you spending the entire summer indoors. When you allow yourself to have a portion of what you enjoy (while sitting down and focusing on the flavor) you will feel more satisfied and it will help you to make healthier food choices every day.

I have been on a big kick lately to figure out ways to move more during the day. Recently I changed jobs and now find myself much more sedentary than usual. All movement counts. Physical activity plays a big role in losing weight and keeping it off. I used to be under the impression that one had to go to the gym every day to burn the most calories. Then I grew up and realized that “life happens”, metabolism slows down, and I need to be creative with ways to increase my heart rate during the day. If your job is sedentary in nature, find ways to insert movement during your day. You could skip the elevator and take the stairs as many times as possible during day. Find a friend and walk with her over lunch, pack a gym bag and hit the gym before returning home from work, or take your dog on a long walk to de-stress after the workday is done.

Weight loss can be easily achieved for some if they took a good look at how many liquid calories they are consuming. Millions of Americans consume far too much soda, fruit punch, and sweetened drinks. It is very easy to consume 500+ calories from the beverages, and cutting these calories out could lead to 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week! I always tell my patients to start drinking more water each day. It is one of the healthiest beverages for us. I was very resistant to drink water for a long time. My biggest excuse was “it doesn’t taste good.” After a while, I realized that I never tried to make it a healthy habit. I think it is important to determine why you are not drinking water throughout the day. When I was determined to make it part of my work day, I found that I only like consuming water that is ice cold. So, I invested in a sassy water container that keeps water ice cold all day. Placing that container by my purse reminds me to bring it to work and having it on my desk is the visual that I need to sip all day. If you are truly not a water fan, there are other fantastic low calorie options to stay hydrated all day. Add a hint of flavor by steeping fresh fruit, mint, or cucumbers into seltzer water. Low calorie flavor packets can be added to water AND there are the Old Orchard’s Cranberry Cocktails and Healthy Balance juice lines. Not only are they high in vitamins but they are low in calories and do not contain added sugar! Whether your goals are to be comfortable on the beach or to rock that wedding attire, please remember to be kind to yourself.

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