Monday, March 4, 2013

Lifestyle Changes: An Alternative to Dieting

Did you give up on the ever popular “I need to lose weight” resolution this year? Before you try the newest fad diet, consider approaching your goal differently and make this the time you actually achieve your goal weight.  Diets are tough to follow and only produce temporary results.  Instead of following this yo-yo dieting pattern, try making simple lifestyle changes that you will be able to sustain through healthy weight management.

You know you want to lose weight.  Check.  You have a goal weight in mind.  Check.  Now what?  Before beginning to make these lifestyle changes, make a list of why you want to achieve your goals.  Do you want to look fabulous for your sister’s wedding?  Do you want to be able to chase your 3-year-old around the park?  Perhaps you want to reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.  Identify your reason for making changes and write it down somewhere you will see it often.  Now that you know why you want to lose weight, you can set a realistic weight goal.  It is healthy to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week.  Research shows weight loss is longer-lasting when it occurs slowly.  Starving yourself can result in loss of muscle and bone mass.

To start dropping pounds, remember this simple equation: healthy weight loss equals regular exercise and healthy eating.  Think of your body as a machine.  You need a certain amount of fuel in order to sustain basic life functions.  To lose weight, you need to burn more energy than you consume.  Consuming more calories than you burn causes weight gain.

Try to exercise for 20-30 minutes most days of the week (4 or more days).  Once your body adapts, aim for 50-60 minutes per workout to see greater results.  Starting out too quickly and pushing your limits is a recipe for injury.  Begin slowly, giving your body time to adapt to the increased physical demands.  If you participate in activities you enjoy, such as walking your dog, you will be more likely to follow through with your exercise program.

To lose one pound a week you will need to reduce 3,500 calories from your normal diet. To do this you can cut your daily caloric intake by 250 calories & burn an additional 250 calories through exercise. This means, for example, giving up 1/2 cup of ice cream or replacing one 20 oz. soda with water.  Also, taking a 40 minute brisk walk, 30 minute jog, or 45 minutes of shoveling snow (based on a 160 lb. person) every day.

Another simple change is to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.  Also, writing down what you eat will help you realize where you can make positive changes in your diet.

One of the most important aspects of making lifestyle changes is to keep a positive attitude.  It is important to focus on becoming healthy and not on becoming thin.  Try making these small changes and see what works to help you reach your weight loss goal. 

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