If you struggle with weight loss, but can't seem to stick to a diet (or workout plan) long enough to make a difference, you may be approaching the problem all wrong. Instead of trying to make a huge change and overhaul your entire life and diet so you can lose, say 30 lbs, try a smaller, more incremental approach.
In fact, rather than focusing on losing a certain amount of weight, instead, try making a few simple, gradual healthy changes to your overall lifestyle. Not only will you build a healthier body in the long run, but you will end up losing weight naturally - without even feeling like you're trying! For example, did you know that not getting enough sleep causes weight gain? In fact, you could lose a few pounds per year just by sleeping more - how awesome is that?!?
Here are 7 simple tips that you can begin incorporating into your life today, to help you achieve and maintain your desired weight, while building a healthier, stronger, more resilient body in the process.
"Fake" or processed foods full of artificial fats and sugars are not only killers, but they will also destroy your waistline in no time flat. To attain a healthy weight - and build a healthy body - you need to eat healthy foods. This doesn't mean you have to give up all of your favorite treats. But by gradually substituting healthier foods for junk food, you will begin to achieve better health - and a better figure.
Keep in mind that "healthy" doesn't mean low-fat everything! Substitute healthy fats for unhealthy ones (choose coconut or olive oil rather than processed vegetable oils), eat grass-fed meats rather than grain-fed (and eat less meat in general), and choose quality proteins over processed carbs, and you'll be well on your way to a healthier and trimmer body - all while very much enjoying what you're eating!
2. Watch Out For the Snack Trap
Let's face it: we all love to snack. And it shows in our expanding waistlines! As meal portion sizes have increased, so have snack sizes. According to researchers at Purdue University, average snack sizes have increased by 220 calories over the past 30 years. That means if you snack twice a day, you're adding nearly 500 extra calories per day - on top of your probably already over-sized meal portions!
And it doesn't matter how often you eat either. It is a myth that you should eat more meals per day to lose weight. What really matters is how many calories you consume. If you're eating 3,000 calories per day, it doesn't matter when you eat them - you're still going to pile on the pounds!
Rather than trying to eat at specific times, focus on eating healthier foods (as mentioned above), and in smaller portions. Choose snacks that fill you up, rather than empty sugar and carbs. Try a handful of nuts, and mix in some dried fruit if you want a bit of sweetness. Plain yogurt with fresh fruit on top also makes a great snack. Hard boiled eggs are portable little packages of protein and healthy fats that can help tide you over between meals. Just as I discussed above, choosing real, whole foods to fill your snack cravings can help keep you fit and healthy.
3. Consider Soda a Dessert
Would you eat 3-4 desserts per day? Hopefully not! But that's what you're doing if you're a regular soda drinker. Sugary drinks like soda pop and even fruit juice should be considered equivalent to a dessert. According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, if you add up all of the calories contained in the beverages consumed daily by the average American, it will often total more than 50% of your daily calorie intake! This means you could cut your calorie intake in half, simply by switching to water! How quickly do you think you could lose that stubborn belly fat if you were only consuming half as many calories?
If you're a Coke addict (I mean the drug, err...soda....), start gradually reducing your intake by switching one soda per day for water. Coffee (no creamer) and tea are also okay if you want some variety. I think you'll be amazed at how much easier it is to lose weight.
4. Eat More Fish (& Fish Oil)
Not only is fish a lean, healthy source of protein, but it contains essential Omega-3 fatty acids, which are in short supply in the American diet. Their counter part - Omega-6 - is found just about everywhere, and some studies have theorized that the imbalance between these two types of fats is partly at fault when it comes to our obesity as a nation.
Some scientists believe that Omega-3s may help fight cortisol - a stress hormone produces by your body which causes it to store fat. Omega-3 fatty acids help lower cortisol production, meaning you can burn more fat more easily, and also build more healthy, lean muscle.
If you don't consume fish regularly, you should consider adding a high-quality fish oil supplement to your diet. Just remember to choose wild-sourced fish and fish oil; farmed fish is often fed corn, which makes it higher in Omega-6, and lower in Omega-3.
5. Get Enough Sleep
As I mentioned above, sleep is important to maintaining a healthy weight - and good health in general. Lack of sleep causes an increase in appetite, meaning that when you sleep less, you eat more. A research study by Harvard University of more than 68,000 people found that subjects who slept less than 6 hours per night weighed nearly 5 1/2 pounds more, and were 15% more likely to be overweight, than those who slept more than 7 hours per night.
Lack of sleep also depresses the immune system, and has been linked to depression. For optimal health, wellness, and body weight be sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night - 8 is better.
6. Do More Weight-Bearing Exercise
When it comes to losing weight, many people think of cardio as the answer. But in fact, this isn't exactly true. If you engage in regular, long-distance running or other steady-state cardio, your body will adapt and become more and more efficient, meaning it will burn fewer and fewer calories for the same amount of exercise. This is why many cardio-enthusiasts soon plateau in their weight loss efforts, and give up.
On the other hand, weight bearing exercise such as weight lifting or other resistance training just 3 times per week will give you a metabolic boost, meaning you'll burn fat more efficiently even while at rest. Remember, muscle burns calories - fat doesn't.
This doesn't mean you're going to get big and bulky - that takes a lot of effort, time, and training. What it does mean is that by swapping your fat for muscle, your body will get more and more efficient at regulating its own weight. As an added bonus, ladies, weight-bearing exercises helps prevent osteoporosis and thinning bones as you age.
That isn't to say you should never do cardio; in fact, cardio exercise can also be helpful in short intervals. Try cross-training or high-intensity interval training to get the most health and fat-burning benefits from your cardio workouts. An effective cardio workout doesn't need to take more than 20-30 minutes, max.
7. Lift Heavier Weights
Not only should you be incorporating weight training into your exercise routine on a regular basis, but you should also go for increased resistance. Researchers at St. Louis' Washington University School of Medicine found that lifting heavier weights not only burns more calories during your workouts, but also increases your sleeping metabolism by 8%. That's right - by lifting heavier weight, you can burn more calories even while you're sleeping!
If you can do more than 10-15 reps of any weight-bearing exercise, the weight you're using isn't heavy enough. Increase the weight you're lifting by 5 pounds at a time, and lift more slowly and deliberately. For more information on this type of weight training, I recommend The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution, by Frederick Hahn, or Power of 10, by Adam Zickerman.
From diet to sleep to exercise, there are many little tricks you can use to improve your results when it comes to health and achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. These 7 should get you off to a good start, without making too many major life changes at once. Simply switch out some of your food choices, and some of your workout exercises, for these instead, and watch your body naturally become stronger, healthier, and leaner!
Good luck, and let me know how it goes!
P.S. Thanks to Born Fitness for some of the information shared in this article.