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If you’re overweight or obese, you probably don’t need to hear it, but weight loss is your key to better health. Carrying extra weight increases your risk of heart problems, diabetes, and joint pain and damage, and it has been linked with a higher incidence of breast cancer. So, what’s the best way to lose weight?
There is no weight-loss plan that fits everyone’s needs, and you may need to try—or have already tried—multiple different approaches in search of a plan that works best for you. Here are some basic weight-loss strategies that have helped many people achieve their goals.
1. Understand that weight loss is a process.
A sensible diet and exercise plan that you can follow for several months will help you shed pounds safely and gradually. Studies suggest that steady weight loss of this kind is more sustainable than the rapid weight loss that results from fad diets, which often are followed by rebound weight gain. Eventually, your healthier eating habits will become part of your routine, and you will have created a healthier lifestyle for yourself.
2. Start your weight loss mission with simple steps.
If you try to follow an eating plan that’s extremely different from your regular diet, you’ll probably have trouble sticking to it. For many people, making small changes gradually is the best way to lose weight. Here are some suggestions:
- Eat protein for breakfast. Try an egg white omelet, yogurt, or cottage cheese. Protein helps to fill you up and can prevent overindulging later in the day.
- Start your meals with vegetables or a salad. Eat these at the beginning so that you fill up on the healthier foods that are high in nutrition. This can help prevent you from overeating the less healthy, higher-calorie, and more fattening foods.
- Eat high-fiber foods to help you feel full. High-fiber foods include whole grains such as whole wheat, oats, barley, buckwheat, and brown and wild rice. Many fruits and vegetables also are good sources of fiber.
3. Be conscious of—and vigilant about—the foods to avoid.
Specifically, steer clear of foods that can be “diet-busters.” Among them:
- Fried foods
- Foods swimming in gravies or sauces
- Beverages that are high in added sugar, including regular soft drinks, specialty tea and coffee drinks, energy drinks, and some juice drinks
- Processed foods, especially those that contain refined grains, such as pies, cakes, cookies, crackers, and white bread
- Decadent desserts, which often are loaded with the “triple threat” of added sugar, white flour, and saturated fat
4. At the same time, be realistic.
If you—like most people—have favorite foods that are counterproductive to weight loss, attempting to cut them out of your diet completely may not be realistic. Again, the best way to lose weight depends on what works for you. Designating a “cheat day” once a week gives you something to look forward to and can help you stay on track for the rest of the week. It also means that you don’t have to feel guilty when you have that bowl of ice cream or those chicken wings; just don’t go overboard on cheat day, or it will be more difficult to return to your healthy eating plan.
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5. Get moving and stay moving.
When creating an exercise plan, be specific and set concrete goals. Just saying, “I’m going to start exercising” or “I’m going to exercise more” is too vague. It’s better to say, “I am going to go to the gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday for 45 minutes,” or “I am walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes before lunch” or “I am riding the exercise bike for 30 minutes when I get home from work, before I eat dinner.”
Try to engage in some kind of moderate-intensity exercise (brisk walking, for example) for 30 minutes most days of the week. If 30 minutes is too much for you, begin with one or two 10-minute sessions a day and work your way up. If you already exercise regularly, increase your time and/or the intensity of your activities to burn more calories.
If you hate to exercise, then the best way to lose weight for you may be based solely on changing your diet. However, you’re likely to see positive results more quickly if you exercise—and physical activity also provides a host of health benefits in addition to its role in weight loss.
BEST WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT? WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR FRIENDS
Making your intentions known to others can be a powerful tool; for some people, the best way to lose weight is with a family member or friend. Chances are that you aren’t the only member of your family who needs to lose weight. Talk to your family and friends about making a commitment to lose weight together. Other people can help keep you motivated.
Originally published in 2017, this post is regularly updated.