The ABCs of Weight Loss

We've got 26 tips to help you succeed.

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

A is for attitude. A can-do attitude will help you get over the inevitable hurdles of weight loss. Anticipate slip-ups -- they happen. But instead of letting them derail your weight loss efforts, learn from them and get right back on track. You don't have to be perfect to lose weight and be healthy. Just keep your eye on the target and keep moving forward, one step at a time.

B is for breakfast. It really is the most important meal of the day. Don't leave home without eating something nutritious to get your metabolism perking and give you energy for the day ahead. It can be a banana, low-fat yogurt, cereal, last night's leftovers, etc. A small meal that contains both fiber and protein can keep you feeling satisfied until lunchtime.

C is for calories. They do count. Get into the habit of reading food labels to help you make healthy choices. And keep in mind that all the information listed there is based on the portion size the label specifies (which may not be the size of the portion you usually eat). Monitoring your portions and learning more about the calories in the foods you enjoy will help you meet your goals.

Diets don't work. There are hundreds of diets that will help you lose weight, but what good is losing weight if you gain it right back? Eating crazy food combinations or eliminating food groups is not the way to keep weight off. Instead, choose a nutritionally balanced plan with enough calories to keep you from feeling famished.

Eating regular meals is essential. Experts agree that you should go no longer than 4 to 5 hours between meals. Otherwise, intense hunger can trigger a binge. Some experts believe dieters have better control if they eat several mini-meals throughout the day. Choose the meal pattern that works best in your lifestyle, but make sure to eat at least three meals per day.

Fiber is nature's weight loss aid. It comes in two forms, soluble (the gummy type found in oatmeal and beans) and insoluble (the type found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains). Both are important to good health. Soluble fiber can help to lower cholesterol; insoluble contains indigestible fibers that add bulk to our diets. Both forms of fiber swell in the stomach and help to create a feeling of fullness. Most high-fiber foods are also high in water and low in calories, making them must-have diet foods.

Gum chewing may be just what the dentist ordered. Chewing on a piece of sugarless gum can help cleanse the mouth of bacteria, satisfy a sweet tooth, and reduce the urge to eat. Keep a pack of sugarless gum handy. The next time you have the urge to reach into the cookie jar, try a piece of gum instead for a zero-calorie treat.

Heart-healthy foods should fill your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. Choose foods that are low in saturated and trans fats. Enjoy plenty of naturally fat-free, low-sodium fruits and vegetables. Choose healthy fats such as canola, olive, and vegetable oils. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like walnuts, flaxseed, and salmon and other fatty fish. Choose low- and non-fat dairy products, as well as the leanest cuts of meat (round and loin) and skinless poultry. Beans, nuts, and whole grains round out the list of heart-healthy foods.

Invest in a pedometer and track your steps each day. The goal is to walk at least 10,000 steps -- the equivalent of 5 miles -- daily to thwart weight gain (and promote weight loss). Challenge yourself to increase your steps each day, even if you can't get up to 10,000. Every step counts; remember that your goal is simply to improve your fitness level.

Just do it! Get into a routine that includes regular physical activity. Not only does exercise energize you, it burns calories, improves balance and coordination, and relieves stress. When you don't have time for a formal workout, try to squeeze in at least three 10-minute chunks of physical activity. (Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine.)

Key to an effective exercise plan is variety. Try something new -- maybe Pilates, yoga, or water aerobics. Having fun and trying new things will keep you interested and enhance your commitment to exercise. Another key: starting your day with activity is one of the best ways to make sure it does not get squeezed out of your schedule.


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