The new year is filled with new opportunities and fresh starts. It is the perfect time to reset and renew your new year’s resolutions. Many people set weight loss and healthy eating as their new year’s goal, particularly after holiday indulgences.
With enthusiasm and motivation coursing through your veins, you may be filled with hope and optimism that this is the year. The year when you’ll finally lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, and achieve your long-term goals for self-improvement.
Self-motivation and enthusiasm about your weight-loss resolutions are excellent! But don’t forget, the secret to truly achieving your new year’s resolutions is to focus on small steps instead of trying to change everything at once. Many new year’s resolutions fail because people get overwhelmed, trying to change too much too fast.
For healthy weight loss, the key is to lose weight gradually. If you try to shed pounds quickly, you’ll lose muscle as well as fat and risk putting it all back on. For healthy weight loss, aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week, and avoid fad diets or products that make promises that sound too good to be true.
Base your weight loss on reasonable changes you can make over time. We’ve made a list of effective, easy, and sustainable steps you can take to lose weight and keep it off.
Stock Up on Healthy Snacks
We all often choose to eat what’s convenient instead of what’s healthy. During a busy workday, you might not have the time to make yourself a salad, so you reach for a bag of chips or a microwaved meal.
Break this cycle by making healthy snacks the convenient option. Instead of buying pre-packaged foods, chips, or candy for your home, choose healthy snacks that you can grab when you’re in a rush.
Focus on foods that will help you meet your nutritional needs and avoid excess sugar and salt. Some great healthy snack options include:
- Nuts with no added salt or sugar
- Apple slices with peanut butter
- Kale Chips
- Baby carrots and pre-cut vegetables with hummus
- Yogurt cups
- Dried seaweed
- Air-popped popcorn
Consider Your Portion Sizes
To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you intake. But it’s not quite that simple. Everyone has a different metabolism, and everyone’s body reacts differently to different foods and exercise routines.
If you only focus on cutting calories, you run the risk of slowing down your metabolism and falling short on some nutrients.
The USDA recommends that for a 2000 calorie diet, you include:
- 5 1/2 ounces of lean meat or 1 1/4 cups cooked beans
- 2 1/2 cups of vegetables
- 2 cups of fruit
- 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free milk or the equivalent dairy products
- 3+ ounces of whole-grain products
This can sometimes be difficult to measure while you cook, so try to visualize your portions. A 3-ounce piece of meat is about the size of a deck of cards, and one cup of cooked pasta is approximately the size of a hockey puck.
If you notice you pile half your plate with meat, think about reducing that portion and replacing some of it with vegetables.
Pace Yourself and Be Present While You Eat
It’s easy to eat a bag of popcorn as you watch a movie without a second thought about if you are actually hungry. It’s nice to snack while we watch TV or chat with friends, but research shows that people who eat while distracted tend to overeat more than people who focus on their food.
If you have a once-a-week movie date with a bag of popcorn, treat yourself! But if this is a nightly habit, consider making a change. Pour yourself a small bowl of popcorn (or your snack of choice). This will help with portion control. Or swap your unhealthy snack with a healthy one. There’s no need to stress over eating a whole bag of grapes!
Another important tip is to pace yourself. If you finish your dinner and you’re still hungry, wait 20 minutes. Studies show that it takes about 20 minutes after eating for our stomach to tell our brains we’re full. So eat a little slower, and give yourself time to digest. If you’re still hungry after 20 minutes, serve yourself a smaller portion.
Read Food Labels
Knowing how to read and understand food labels can help you choose healthier options based on calories and nutrition. When selecting a pre-packaged food, look at the calories per serving to get an idea of how the food fits into your needs for the day.
Per serving, the healthiest foods are low to moderate in calories but rich in nutrients. This is also a great way to check the serving size of your next snack.
Many pre-packaged foods you may think are meant for one person actually contain two serving sizes. Check the nutrition label for the “serving size.” Sometimes, you’ll notice the nutrition label will read “Serving Size: 100 grams,” but the entire package is 200 grams. When you see this, consider saving the rest for later or sharing it with a friend.
Drink More Water
Sometimes our bodies confuse hunger with thirst. You might open the fridge for a snack when really what your body needs is a drink. If you get mid-afternoon cravings, try drinking a glass of water. If you are still craving a snack after, choose something healthy.
Water can help your brain realize you’re full. If you drink a few glasses of water with your meal, your stomach will get full faster, and your brain will get the signal that it’s time to stop eating.
Water also flushes out your system and helps clear waste. Drinking lots of water can help you feel less bloated and optimize your digestive system.
Finally, when you reach for a glass of water, you’re not drinking sugary juice or pop, which can contain lots of hidden calories. So drink lots of water during your weight loss journey.
Eat Plenty of Fruit and Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are low in calories and fat and high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. So when you think about diet for weight loss, don’t think about what you have to stop eating and instead think about adding fruits and vegetables to your plate.
The high fiber content will help you feel fuller faster. And eating lots of fruits and vegetables can have some amazing benefits, including better skin and hair and protection against high blood pressure, type two diabetes, and even certain cancers.
And the more variety of fruit and vegetables you eat, the more variety of nutrients you’ll have to fuel your body. So don’t get discouraged with salads if they’re not appealing to you; get creative and include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
Healthy weight loss isn’t just about what you eat; it’s about moving your body. Exercise can help burn off excess calories you can’t lose through diet alone.
Not everyone likes to sweat it out at the gym, and that’s OK! Find the right exercise for your body, whether that’s yoga or jogging, or weight-lifting. Any activity is good exercise, so even if you start with just 20-minute sessions, know that this is the first step to a regular exercise routine.
Don’t Make “Bad” Foods Off Limit
While this tip might sound counterintuitive, it’s important you don’t obsess about healthy eating. Never letting yourself eat chips or cake will end up causing junk food cravings.
It’s much healthier and easier for you to exercise willpower around junk food if you allow yourself to eat it. Think about reducing your junk food intake and replacing it with healthier foods, but not cutting it out altogether.
Instead of eating a chocolate bar once a day, eat a chocolate bar three days a week. And the other four days a week, eat a piece of fruit to satisfy that sugar craving. Set yourself up for success by allowing yourself to indulge once in a while.
Calculate Your BMI
There is no “perfect weight” for everyone. We all come in different shapes and sizes, with varying distributions of weight. So calculating your Body Mass Index (BMI) is just one small part of the weight loss process.
Your BMI is a calculation of your weight and height that measures if you are in a healthy weight category. Knowing the healthy BMI for your height can help you set a goal weight. However, there are some flaws to BMI, including that it has no way to take muscle mass into account.
A very muscular person might calculate their BMI and be put in the “overweight” range, even though that weight is coming from muscle, not fat. So be aware of the limitations of BMI, and simply use it as a guideline if you aren’t quite sure what a healthy weight is for your height.
A healthy BMI for adult women and men is between 18.5–24.9. The CDC has a handy BMI calculator you can use to determine your BMI quickly.
Healthy Weight Loss
Healthy weight loss doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see the pounds dropping off immediately.
Focus on small, achievable lifestyle changes, and before you know it, you’ll notice a difference in your waistline. Set yourself small goals, like losing one pound a week or eating more salad and less meat.
Get your body moving, even if you start small. Take the dog for a walk or take a yoga class with a friend. And stock up on lots of healthy foods you can grab when those cravings kick in.
If you’re concerned about your weight or have questions about weight loss CityHealth Urgent Care is here to help. Our medical professionals are here to support you and your health goals. Book an appointment at our San Leandro or Oakland locations, or schedule a virtual visit and see a clinician from the comfort of your own home!