If you are like most people, you probably are or have been on a diet. An estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet each year and spend $33 billion annually on weight loss products. Nearly two-thirds of Americans, however, are obese or overweight. If you plan to start a weight-loss program, it is important to make sure it is safe and effective. Follow these suggestions to find a weight-loss program that’s right for you:
- Involve your doctor. He or she can review your medical problems and medications and provide guidance regarding exercise and healthy nutrition. Your physician can also refer you to a Registered Dietitian for additional counseling.
- Slow and steady weight loss is the key. It’s tempting to start a program that promises rapid weight loss, but studies have shown that slow and steady weight loss is easier to maintain in the long run. Aim for weight loss of no more than 1-2 pounds per week.
- Eat real food. Look for a plan that includes a variety of foods from all of the food groups. Beware of diets that forbid certain foods. Be sure to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein.
- Focus on portion sizes. The key to healthy weight loss is to stick to the appropriate portion sizes in order to stay within your calorie goals. There are no foods that need to be eliminated from your diet as long as you do not over-indulge.
- Think about sustainability. Ask yourself if this is a diet you will be able to maintain for the rest of your life. A diet should include foods that you enjoy eating. If a diet is overly restrictive or boring, you most likely will not stick with it.
- You should not feel hungry or deprived. This may result in irresistible cravings and overeating. A balanced diet rich in fiber and lean protein should keep you feeling full all day.
- Don’t forget to exercise. The best way to lose weight and to keep it off is to focus both on healthy nutrition and physical activity. Exercise helps to burn calories, boost your metabolism, build bean body mass, improve your mood, and strengthen your cardiovascular system.
- A healthy diet should fit in your budget. A diet plan that requires you to buy special meals or supplements can be expensive. It is possible to follow a healthy diet while sticking to a budget by consuming real food.
- A weight loss program should address behavioral change. It is important to learn how to select healthy foods, read food labels, stick to appropriate portions, eat mindfully, and incorporate exercise.
- Enlist support. To be successful, it is best to have support from family and friends. Some programs also offer support groups, either online or in person, which help to keep participants motivated.
Successful weight loss requires permanent changes to your eating habits and exercise patterns. This means that in order to maintain weight loss, you should find an approach that you can embrace for life.