Fad diets that promise dramatic, fast weight loss are tempting, but are rarely the healthiest option. Diets that leave you hungry or that cut out certain foods may help you lose weight, but you’ll also lose important muscle mass and water weight without burning much fat. These diets can even impact your health by leaving you deficient in important vitamins and minerals. Instead of following a fad diet that can impact your health, take steps to burn fat while preventing muscle loss and keeping your body healthy.
EditChanging Your Eating Habits
- Reduce your total calories. You lose weight when you burn more calories than you eat, so an inactive person who eats a lot of food will likely gain weight. The first step to losing weight is eating fewer calories. Track how many calories you eat in a day by writing down calorie information on all the food and drinks you consume. For foods that don’t have nutrition labels, use the USDA Food Database to look up how many calories the item has.
- Find out how many calories your body needs to maintain your current weight by using an online calculator that takes your activity level into account. Try this one online www.bmrcalculator.org/.
- A pound of fat has 3,500 calories in it. To lose a pound of fat each week, every day you should eat 500 calories less than what your body needs to maintain its current weight.
- Control your portion sizes. Many portion sizes served at restaurants or even eaten at home are much larger than they should be. When you eat too much food, your body turns it into fat and stores it for future use. Read food labels to find out what an appropriate serving size should be. If you want to eat something without a label, check the American Dietetic Association Food Exchange list for proper serving sizes.
- Use measuring cups and a kitchen scale to make sure your servings match the recommended portion size.
- Restaurants can be tricky because they usually serve extremely large portion sizes. Some restaurants post their nutrition information online, though. If possible, check the nutrition information beforehand and plan a meal between 500–600 calories.
- Remember that you don’t have to eat the whole plate. Eat half your food to reach your calorie goal, then save the rest for later. You may be able to ask your server to put half of your meal in a to-go box before bringing out your food.
- Some restaurants also have lighter menu options or half-portion sizes of their larger meals. Order off of this lighter menu whenever possible.
- Eat more healthy fats and fewer unhealthy fats. The types of fat you consume can impact whether your body chooses to burn fat or store it. Healthy fats like unsaturated oils should be the primary fat source in your diet. Cook with olive or canola oil instead of butter or lard. Other sources of healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocados, fish, and natural peanut butter. Don’t eat anything that has trans fat or lists the words “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredients list. You should avoid saturated fats as much as possible, limiting them to less than 10% of your total calories.
- To calculate total calories from saturated fat, multiply the grams of fat by nine. For example, a food item with 5 grams of saturated fat has 45 calories from saturated fat.
- Divide these calories by your total calories for the day, then multiply by 100. You want this final number to be less than 10.
- For example, if I ate 210 calories from saturated fat and 2,300 calories for the day, I would have eaten 9% of calories from saturated fat.
- Cut out processed foods. Processed foods go through some type of processing in a factory, and are usually found packaged in boxes, cans, bags, or other packaging. They’re usually high in fat, sugar, and salt that can prevent you from losing weight. They also lack a lot of the nutrients found in whole foods. Slowly eliminate processed foods from your diet by cutting two to three processed items per day. Replace them with whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
- At the store, avoid the processed foods in the aisles by shopping the perimeter, where the produce, dairy, meat and seafood, and bakery are. Only choose select items that are low-processed from aisles like the cooking aisle.
- Make meals from scratch ahead of time and freeze them into portion sizes to be eaten during the week. Homemade soups with tons of vegetables are a great freezer option.
- Look for foods that have three or fewer ingredients on the ingredients list to avoid processed items.
- Get more fiber. Fiber is a carbohydrate that our bodies cannot digest. It has many health benefits, including keeping your digestive tract healthy, and keeping you feeling full longer so you don’t overeat. Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds. Eat 25-30 grams of fiber each day with plenty of water.
- Fruits that are high in fiber include raspberries, blackberries, mango, and guava.
- Vegetables that are high in fiber include split peas, lentils, artichokes, and broccoli.
- Drink more water.  Water is a major player in weight control. It helps flush metabolic waste out of your system, keeping your metabolism running high to quickly burn fat. Water will also keep you feeling full so you don’t overeat. The adequate intake for men is 3 liters of water each day (about 13 cups) while women should drink 2.2 liters per day (about 9 cups).
- If you take part in high activity exercise or cardio during the day or live in a very hot climate, you may need to increase your water intake.
- Eat many small meals throughout the day. Instead of eating three large meals each day, eat six smaller ones. Your body can process food better in smaller amounts, resulting in less excess food being stored as fat. This can also steady your blood sugar levels and improve your absorption of vitamins and minerals. Just make sure these smaller meals are are made up of healthy, whole foods instead of processed food. You might consider this sample meal plan:
- Meal #1 (8 a.m.): One medium banana with ½ cup of oatmeal.
- Meal #2 (10 a.m.): A smoothie made with 1 cup of spinach, four medium strawberries, ⅓ cup of raspberries, 1 tbsp of flaxseed, and 8 fl oz of unsweetened almond milk.
- Meal #3 (12 p.m.): One slice of whole wheat toast topped with one boiled egg and ¼ cup of mashed avocado.
- Meal #4 (3 p.m.): 1 cup of salad topped with ½ avocado, ¼ cup cottage cheese, 2 tbsp of sunflower seeds, and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
- Meal #5 (5 p.m.): 4 oz of baked chicken with a side of green beans and ½ cup of brown rice.
- Meal #6 (7 p.m.): ½ cup of cooked quinoa mixed with sautéed mushrooms and pepper.
EditMaking Lifestyle Changes
- Exercise three to four times a week. Exercise is important part of losing weight and maximizing the amount of fat you burn. To achieve the best fat-burning results, start out by exercising for two hours and 30 minutes each week, then increasing it by 30 minutes every week. Combining both weightlifting and high intensity cardio is the best way to maximize fat-burning. Consider following this sample four-week workout schedule:
- Sundays: Week One — 45 min. Cardio; Week Two — 45 min. Cardio; Week Three — 60 min. Cardio; Week Four — 60 min. Cardio
- Mondays: OFF all four weeks
- Tuesdays: Week One — 30 min Strength Upper Body; Week Two — 45 min Strength Upper Body; Week Three — 45 min Strength Upper Body; Week Four — 60 min Strength Upper Body
- Wednesdays: OFF all four weeks
- Thursdays: Week One — 45 min Cardio; Week Two — 45 min Cardio; Week Three — 60 min. Cardio; Week Four — 60 min. Cardio
- Fridays: OFF all four weeks
- Saturdays: Week One — 30 min Strength Lower Body; Week Two — 45 min Strength Lower Body; Week Three — 45 min Strength Lower Body; Week Four — 60 min Strength Lower Body
- Incorporate strength training into your workout. Strength training is a great way to increase your muscle mass while burning fat. Strength exercises can be done with weights, resistance bands, or just using your body weight. Try mixing up strength training exercises that work different muscle parts in the body. Start out at a slightly difficult weight or resistance and do three sets of 10 for each exercise or until failure. Once you can do that weight three workouts in a row (full three sets of 10) without failing, increase the weight or resistance by one level.
- Exercises for the lower body include squats, calf raises, lunges, deadlifts, and leg press.
- Upper body exercises include push-ups, sit-ups, chest press, overhead press, bicep curls, tricep dips, and lateral pull-downs.
- Do more cardio. Cardio is another word for aerobic or endurance activity. Cardio speeds up fat-burning, but it also has many other health benefits including decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Running, jogging or walking: If you start out walking, make it your goal to work up to jogging, then running.
- Enjoy outdoor activities like sports, swimming, hiking, and biking.
- If you belong to a gym, use its treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, and stair climbers.
- Try interval exercises, like multiple sprints with jogging in between.
- Switch between high intensity cardio and slower/longer endurance cardio for maximum fat burning.
- Get more sleep. Adults over 17 should get seven to nine hours of sleep each night, and children from six to 17 should get 10–11 hours. Recent studies shown the sleep deprived or those with sleep disturbances are more likely to be obese than people who get the recommended seven to nine hours. This is because lack of sleep causes changes in metabolism and fat-burning. These tips can help you get a good night’s sleep:
- Make sure the room is completely dark with dark curtains or sheets over the window.
- Do not eat for at least two hours before going to bed in order to prevent heartburn or an increase in energy when you are trying to go to sleep.
- Only use your bed for sleeping and sex. Do not do other activities such as watching TV, reading, listening to music, or working on the computer while you are in bed.
- Make small but meaningful lifestyle changes. Making small lifestyle changes throughout the day will help make your new habits stick. In the end, you will have made a positive change to a healthier lifestyle that you will be able to maintain long-term. Some small gestures you can make throughout the day to make a healthy lifestyle change include:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Park in the back of the parking lot.
- Start a hobby that involves you moving around, like hiking or biking.
- Go to a weekly farmer’s market to buy fresh produce.
- Start a garden of your own.
- Don’t skip meals. That will just make you eat more the next meal, and result in more weight gain.
- It’s all about energy balance; what you consume in calories must be burned off with exercise!
- If you find that you are over-eating during times of stress or when you feel emotional, you may need to examine these habits, perhaps with the help of a therapist or counselor. Understanding what triggers bad eating habits can help you transition into a healthier lifestyle.
- When exercising, don’t over-exert yourself. Make sure to stop if you really feel like you can’t go any longer, breathe deeply, and drink plenty of water. Slow down and ease off on the intensity of your workout if you exercising if you develop a headache or a dry throat; this can be a sign of dehydration and you should drink some water immediately.
- Make sure that you consult a doctor before beginning ANY type of health plan or exercise regimen.
- Stop Emotional Eating
- Understand Calorie Density on the Volumetrics Diet
- Understand the Zone Diet
- Lose 5 Pounds in 5 Weeks
- Lose Weight
- Lose Weight Safely
- Deal With Obesity
- Deal With Migraines
- Train Your Body
- Make Your Leisure Time Productive
- Stay Healthy and Balance Your Diet
EditSources and Citations
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