So you want to start eating better and losing weight? What exactly does “eating better” mean? Some people think eating better simply means eating less or skipping meals. But, losing weight and perhaps even more important, maintaining weight loss starts with a commitment to proper nutrition.
If you’re new to dieting or, perhaps you’ve lost weight in the past and have now gained it back, your first step is to look in the mirror. Literally, when you look in the mirror you may not like what you see. Take an honest inventory of your current habits asking questions like:
- Do I exercise? If so, how regularly?
- What foods am I eating? Processed foods and foods high in fat and sugar, or natural foods?
- How often am I eating? 3 meals a day? More? Less?
- Do I eat even when I’m not hungry? Am I an emotional eater?
- Do I consume most of my calories at night? Remember, calories are also found in beverages.
Your eating habits and your physical activity level (or lack thereof) will likely give you a good starting point as far as what needs to change.
On the surface, losing weight is simple. Basically, you need to consume fewer calories than your body burns. Your body uses calories from food for energy. Every metabolic process in your body requires energy. Some foods have more calories than others and foods that are high in fat and sugar are also usually high in calories. If you take in more calories than you burn off, your body will store those extra calories as fat.
It is easiest for your body to burn carbohydrates for energy. If your diet contains foods lower in carbohydrates (low glycemic index foods), your body will begin to burn stored fat for energy, a process called ketosis. You can build on these principles as you teach yourself how to eat properly, whether you’re at home or dining out.
- When eating starches, go for the whole grains instead of refined and processed foods.
- When selecting proteins, choose lean cuts that are lower in saturated fat.
- As for fruits, choose berries and citrus and avoid canned fruits and fruit juices, which are higher in sugar.
- Green vegetables are a good bet. You can’t go wrong with salad greens and spinach (just don’t overdo it with the dressing!).
- When selecting fats, choose healthy oils like olive and canola oils instead of hydrogenated oils and butter.
- Water is also essential to any healthy diet as it provides proper functioning of organs and removes wastes and toxins from your body. Drink twice the amount of water you think you need and then double that – seriously!
There is nothing magic about nutrition and while claims of miracle drugs and miracle diets come and go they are usually unsustainable and/or dangerous long term. You need to find a diet that works for you and stick with it and make sure your diet includes a wide variety of foods that you enjoy. If you limit yourself, you’re less likely to stick with it. Eat foods that you’re going to be able to eat for the rest of your life. Remember, a good diet requires a long term commitment. People who lose weight and tend to keep it off generally eat a low fat, high fiber diet. Foods with higher fiber content also help you feel full, so you’re less likely to overeat.
Exercise is usually recommended to those who are physically able. If you cut back on calories, you can still lose weight without doing a lot of exercise. However, you do need to exercise if you plan to keep the weight off. Exercise is a necessary part of improving metabolism and maintaining weight loss.
Exercise is also a good outlet for stress. After all, you’re better off hitting a treadmill at the end of a bad day than grabbing a gallon of ice cream. So called, emotional eating, which is eating to satisfy your feelings instead of your hunger, can wreak havoc on your diet plan and your waistline. We all feed our emotions sometimes, but problems arise when a person uses eating as the only way to manage his or her feelings. You’re more likely to overeat if you’re eating for reasons other than hunger and you’re also likely giving your body calories it doesn’t need.
When doing your self-assessment, if you find that you are guilty of emotional eating, there are ways to manage it. Look for healthy alternatives for comfort foods. Or, if you must indulge, do so in moderation by eating smaller portions. You can also choose another activity to keep your mind off the craving. Try exercising, calling a friend, or even exercising with a friend. The key is to recognize the triggers and arm yourself with healthy options so when those emotional cravings come calling, you’re ready and able to stay on track.