Whether you keep a strict exercise routine or have made a New Year's resolution to begin a healthy lifestyle, here are some safe and healthy ways to shed that extra weight from the holidays.
The holidays have passed, leaving you with cherished memories –– and unwanted pounds.
Whether you keep a strict exercise routine or have made a New Year's resolution to begin a healthy lifestyle, here are some safe and healthy ways to shed that extra weight.
Losing weight in an unhealthy way can be just as bad as living an unhealthy lifestyle. Shedding weight through crash diets or too much strenuous exercise can easily place your health in jeopardy.
Gayle Jennings, a clinical dietician at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, Ill., says crash diets are popular among people who desire to lose weight fast, whether after the holidays or for special occasions, such as a high school reunion or a wedding.
But crash diets can backfire when lowered metabolism causes weight gain.
"Once you lose weight and stop dieting, the outcome is weight gain," says Jennings, who adds that crash diets can cause people to gain even more weight than before the initial weight loss.
"Crash diets work quickly, but cutting calories too fast or too much lowers your metabolism and deprives your body of the nutrition and vitamins you need to stay healthy," she says.
What constitutes a crash diet? Drastically cutting calories and/or engaging in excessive exercise.
Jennings says diets that limit food intake to 1,500 calories are "all right."
"Twelve hundred calories is my cutoff, although I've known people who have limited their caloric intake to 1,000 calories, which I think is a bit extreme. The bottom line is that you want to stay safe while losing."
Skipping breakfast, another unsafe weight-loss method, can also deprive the body of nutrients and slow down your metabolism.
"High metabolism helps burn calories," says Jennings, who says skipping breakfast causes you to become hungrier and consume more calories later in the day. "Research has shown that people who are successful at losing weight will always eat breakfast."
If you've ever found yourself wondering what a healthy weight-loss plan looks like, here are some steps to get you started.
First, rather than eating three meals a day, try eating breakfast and dinner and "grazing" on healthful foods in between meals. Jennings says non-starch veggies can leave you feeling full throughout the day. Carrots, broccoli, peppers and cauliflower are good snacks. So are nuts because of their high protein content.
"Constantly grazing on nuts can put on the pounds because of their high calorie and fat content," Jennings says. “So remember to use moderation. White popcorn or air-popped popcorn also makes a healthy snack."
Jennings says beginning with small goals, such as decreasing fat and calories, helps her patients stay with their weight loss plan over time.
"My patients find it helpful to keep a food diary and record everything they eat each day. A diary helps you see and become more aware of what you're eating," she says.
Small changes in an exercise routine can also make a significant impact on health, Jennings says. If you've never exercised before, Jennings recommends starting with five- to 10-minute routines three times a week.
"Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking farther away from the store. Attach a pedometer to your waste to count your steps. Tai chi and yoga are also good exercises for those who are not in great physical shape," she says.
Other light exercises include walking one or two miles, lifting weights for 10 minutes or jogging in place.
Cutting calories is one of the most challenging facets of dieting but the most essential to weight loss. Jennings says cutting calories can be as simple as taking a smaller plate at meals or using what she calls the "plate method."
"Divide your plate in half –– one half for veggies and fruit, one quarter for whole grain, and one quarter for lean protein. It's an easy way to control portion size and make sure you're getting all four food groups," she says.
Jennings recommends for people who are obese, which means 30 or more pounds overweight, to cut between 500 and 1,000 calories per day from their diet.
"One to two pounds per week is a healthy rate to lose weight for a healthy weight-loss plan," she says.
Beginning a weight-loss plan
Jennings says making an appointment with a dietician is the best way to begin a healthy weight-loss plan. Memorial Medical Center's Choosing to Lose program centers around helping people achieve a healthy weight via community support. The program is open to the community for a free 10-week session for one hour per week.
Jennings says the program discusses steps for conquering unhealthy eating behaviors.
"We look at calorie amounts and how to read labels. We discuss ways to conquer emotional eating and learn how to distinguish 'good' and 'bad' fats. We teach participants that maintaining a healthy weight is a lifestyle, not just a diet, and we help them maintain this lifestyle by showing them how to put together a healthy weight-loss plan," she says.