Dr. Tariq Jagnarine
Family Medicine, Endocrinology/Diabetes
Being overweight or obese can lead to a range of health problems, including heart disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. Although many different “fad” diets are available, a balanced lifestyle and nutritious diet are the key to healthy living and better weight control.
Crash diets are not a sustainable solution, whatever perks their proponents might claim them to have. To both lose weight safely and sustain that weight loss over time, it is essential to make gradual, permanent, and beneficial lifestyle changes.
People can lose weight, and maintain this loss by taking several achievable steps. These include the following:
1. EAT VARIED, COLOURFUL, NUTRITIONALLY-DENSE FOODS
Healthful meals and snacks should form the foundation of the human diet. A simple way to create a meal plan is to make sure that each meal consists of 50 percent fruit and vegetables, 25 percent whole grains, and 25 percent protein. Total fibre intake should be 25–30 grams (g) daily.
Eliminate trans-fats from the diet, and minimise the intake of saturated fats, which have a strong link with the incidence of coronary heart disease.
The following foods are healthful, and often rich in nutrients:
* Fresh fruits and vegetables
* Whole grains, such as brown rice and oatmeal
Foods to avoid eating include:
* Foods with added oils, butter, and sugar
* Fatty red or processed meats
* Baked goods
* White bread
* Processed foods
2. KEEP A FOOD AND WEIGHT DIARY
Self-monitoring is a critical factor in successfully losing weight. People can use a paper diary, mobile app, or dedicated website to record every item of food that they consume each day. They can also measure their progress by recording their weight on a weekly basis.
3. ENGAGE IN REGULAR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND EXERCISE
Regular physical activity can help a person lose weight. Regular exercise is vital for both physical and mental health. Increasing the frequency of physical activity in a disciplined and purposeful way is often crucial for successful weight loss.
One hour of moderate-intensity activity per day, such as brisk walking, is ideal. If one hour per day is not possible, the Mayo Clinic suggests that a person should aim for a minimum of 150 minutes every week.
If the thought of a full workout seems intimidating to someone who is new to exercise, they can begin by doing the following activities to increase their exercise levels:
* Taking the stairs
* Raking leaves
* Walking a dog
* Playing outdoor games
* Parking farther away from a building entrance
4. ELIMINATE LIQUID CALORIES
It is possible to consume hundreds of calories a day by drinking sugar-sweetened soda, tea, juice, or alcohol. These are known as “empty calories”, because they provide extra energy content without offering any nutritional benefits.
Unless a person is consuming a smoothie to replace a meal, they should aim to stick to water, or unsweetened tea or coffee. Adding a splash of fresh lemon or orange to the water can provide flavour.
Avoid mistaking dehydration for hunger. An individual can often satisfy feelings of hunger between scheduled meal times with a drink of water.
5. MEASURE SERVINGS, AND CONTROL PORTIONS
Eating too much of any food, even low-calorie vegetables, can result in weight gain. Therefore, people should avoid estimating a serving size, or eating food directly from the packet. It is better to use measuring cups and serving-size guides. Guessing leads to overestimating and the likelihood of eating a larger-than-necessary portion.
6. EAT MINDFULLY
Many people benefit from mindful eating, which involves being fully aware of why, how, when, where, and what they eat. Making more healthful food choices is a direct outcome of becoming more in tune with the body.
People who practise mindful eating also try to eat more slowly and savour their food, concentrating on the taste. Making a meal last for 20 minutes allows the body to register all of the signals for satiety.
It is important to focus on being satisfied after a meal, rather than being full, and to bear in mind that many “all-natural” or low-fat foods are not necessarily healthful choices.
7. STIMULUS AND CUE CONTROL
Many social and environmental cues might encourage unnecessary eating. For example, some people are more likely to overeat while watching television. Others have trouble passing a bowl of candy to someone else without taking a piece.
By being aware of what may trigger the desire to snack on empty calories, people can think of ways to adjust their routines to limit these triggers.
8. PLAN AHEAD
Stocking a kitchen with diet-friendly foods and creating structured meal plans would result in more significant weight loss.
People looking to lose weight or keep it off should clear their kitchens of processed or junk foods, and ensure that they have the ingredients on hand to make simple healthful meals. Doing this can prevent quick, unplanned and careless eating.
Planning food choices before getting to social events or restaurants might also make the process easier.
9. SEEK SOCIAL SUPPORT
Having social support is a great way to stay motivated. Embracing the support of loved ones is an integral part of a successful weight loss journey.
Some people may wish to invite friends or family members to join them, while others might prefer to use social media to share their progress.
10. STAY POSITIVE
Weight loss is a gradual process, and a person may feel discouraged if the pounds do not drop off at quite the rate that they had anticipated.
Some days will be harder than others when sticking to a weight loss or maintenance programme. A successful weight-loss programme requires the individual to persevere, and not give up when self-change seems too difficult.
Successfully losing weight does not require people to follow a specific diet plan, such as Slimming World or Atkins. Instead, they should focus on eating fewer calories and moving more, to achieve a negative energy balance.
Weight loss is primarily dependent on reducing the total intake of calories, not adjusting the proportions of carbohydrates, fat, and protein in the diet.
A reasonable weight loss goal to start seeing health benefits is a 5–10 percent reduction in body weight over a 6-month time frame.
Maintaining weight loss involves a commitment to a healthful lifestyle, from which there is no “vacation.”
Although people should feel free to enjoy a special meal out, a birthday celebration, or a joyful holiday feast without feeling guilty, they should try not to stray too far from the path of healthful eating and frequent physical activity. Those who do may find that they lose focus. Regaining lost weight is easier than losing it.
Achieving and maintaining weight loss is possible when people adopt lifestyle changes in the long term.