By Lauren O’Connor MS RD for AroundthePlate.org
Weight Watchers has shown us that we can eat cake and lose weight, too! Today there are a variety of weight loss plans and meal planning services that can appeal to our taste buds and keep the promise that (as long as you follow their plan) you’ll lose the weight. Finding your own healthy lifestyle without the structure of a weight loss program can be a challenge. But there are simple things you can do to instill a lifestyle that promotes good health, gradual weight loss and healthy maintenance. And that includes a healthy diet and exercise.
“Not every calorie is created equal – the bulk of your diet should be wholesome, nutritious foods in order to achieve sustained weight loss, improved health and satiety,” says Theresa DiMasi, VP Editor and Chief at WeightWatchers.com. “Eating well and exercising are two key strategies important for long-term success.
Here are some other strategies for weight loss success (and maintenance, too):
Plan, plan plan.
“Healthy eating (for most people) doesn’t happen spontaneously. It requires planning out the meals for the day, as well as putting together meal/snack combinations that feature a healthy carb (veggies, fruit, whole grains), a smart protein (eggs/whites, beans, fish, tofu, poultry, nonfat dairy) and some healthy fat (olive oils, nuts, avocados). Planning ensures that it will happen, and prevents falling victim to poor food choices (ie: dining out, fast food, vending machines),” says Erin Macdonald, nutrition, fitness, and wellness coach and president of U Rock Girl.
If you plan well, you can include a little dessert, so long as you don’t go over your daily caloric load. Make your own sweet popcorn, a low-calorie dessert you surely will love.
Listen your body.
“Pay attention to your body,” says DiMasi. “Gage and experiment. A light snack may be necessary pre-workout in the morning since you’ve been fasting all night, however in the evening (after a full day of nutrient intake), it may really not be necessary.”
When we listen to our bodies, we know when we are hungry and when we are full. If we stop to consider why we are reaching for a brownie, a bag of chips or some cookies, we may discover it is purely for immediate gratification and not necessarily something we need. Jotting down intake in a diary (with how you feel before, during and after consumption) may help you keep track, stay aware, in control and accountable.
Workout wisely (and keep yourself fueled throughout the day).
Working out can improve your energy level, metabolism and muscle tone (and keep you from eating out of boredom). But don’t work out on a full stomach, it may make you queasy and less energetic. Do make sure you have enough fuel by eating (a healthy balance of carbs, protein and healthy fats) 3-4 hours prior. If necessary, partake in a light, carbohydrate-based snack just before your workout. And be sure to replete with not only carbs (for energy), but also lean proteins; these will help maintain your muscle/tissue integrity and keep you satiated.
And Finally, Get some sleep!
“Numerous recent studies show that insufficient sleep will BOTH slow your metabolism AND create more unhealthy junk food cravings” according to Sean Folkson, NightFood founder. There is a critical relationship between nutrition, sleep and metabolism.