If you're looking into weight-loss programs, the best one is both the easiest and the hardest: Change your lifestyle.
"People should not go on a weight-loss program," says Keri M. Gans, RD, CDN, a nutrition consultant in New York City and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "They should develop healthy eating habits. The problem with a program is people feel they can go off at any time. If you instead change your lifestyle and how you approach food, then you're looking at a long-term plan for health."
The Best Weight-Loss Programs
It all comes down to calories. If you eat 100 more food calories than you burn each day, you'll gain about a pound a month. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you slowly but surely will lose weight.
Figure out how many calories you should be taking in to maintain your current weight. The number can range from 1,600 calories a day for a sedentary older woman to 3,000 calories a day for an active young man.
Next, increase your physical activity to match or outburn the calories you take in every day. Also, plan your diet carefully to maximize nutrition while minimizing calories.
Lifestyle Obstacles to Weight Loss
Finally, begin your weight-loss program by carefully re-examining your life and recognizing some of the habits that can block weight loss. These include:
Skipping meals. "Are you eating small, frequent meals throughout the day, or are you skipping meals and having long gaps between meals?" Gans asks. "That only makes you hungrier, and you'll tend to overeat at your next meal."
Eating out without thought. "Do you dine out all the time and use that as an excuse not to make healthy choices at a restaurant?" Gans asks. "Even when you're dining out, you can make healthier choices. Order broiled food, not fried. Say no to desserts. Have a bowl of berries instead of pie. Order sauces on the side."
Keeping unhealthy foods in your house. As part of a smart weight-loss program, you should clear out all the junk food and make sure you have a wealth of healthy options available for snacking and dining. "You need to keep fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy in the house so it's there for you to make meals out of," Gans says. Simply limiting some foods, such as soft drinks, that are high in sugars may help you significantly reduce calories.
Keep your portions small. One quick way to control weight is to cut back on the size of your portions. Many personal weight-loss programs fail because people ladle out way too much food for themselves and then feel compelled to clean their plates.
Make Smart Food Choices
Your food choices can also help determine the success of your weight-loss programs. Healthy and nutritious eating will include:
Fruits and vegetables. "Low in calories and rich in nutrients, fruits and vegetables can build your meal and help fill you up," Gans says. Orange and dark-green vegetables contain some of the best nutrition around.
Whole grains. At least half the grains you eat should be whole. They contain loads of fiber and will help you feel full.
Low-fat milk and milk products. They fill you up and ensure you get enough calcium to stay healthy.
Lean meats, poultry, and fish. Everyone needs protein, which satisfies hunger like no other food group. So choose lean meats, poultry, and fish and prepare them by baking, broiling, or grilling — no frying.
Last but not least, remember that lifestyle-based weight loss will occur more slowly than with fad diets, melting off only one or two pounds a month, Gans says. But because you've changed the way you eat, you'll be glad to hear that those pounds are far more likely to stay off.