THERE is a natural focus on weight loss at this time of year, but lasting success does not come from quick-fix diets. To achieve a healthy weight and maintain it for years to come, you must make permanent lifestyle changes – and the sooner the better.
There are things you can do right now that will have a tremendous impact on your efforts. Try these proven fixes:
Learn correct portion sizes. You may be shocked to learn that today’s typical bagel is equivalent to three to four servings. Fast-food restaurants have inflated the servings of french fries and burgers up to five times what they used to be. In reality, a single serving equals the following:
Grains: 1/2 cup of rice, potatoes, noodles; 1 slice of bread; 1 cup cold cereal
Vegetables: 1/2 cup (leafy vegetables: 1 cup)
Fruit: 1 medium apple, banana, etc. or 1/2 cup canned fruit
Meat: 3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards)
Dairy: 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1-1/2 to 2 ounces of cheese
The Food Guide Pyramid does recommend several servings from each food group, as follows:
9-11 servings of grains
4-5 servings of vegetables
3-4 servings of fruit
2-3 servings of dairy
2-3 servings from the meat and bean group
Still, most people eat more than the recommended daily amounts, except when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Invest in a food scale and get a full run-down of the Food Guide Pyramid guidelines at www.nal.usda.gov/fnic.
Eat five or six small meals a day, rather than three large meals. By eating 300-400 calories every three to four hours, you keep your blood sugar levels stable and your hunger at bay. Consume a balance of protein (20% to 25%), carbohydrates (55% to 60%) and fat (15% to 25%).
Know your carbohydrates. Whole grains and high-fibre fruits and vegetables lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes and provide a wealth of vitamins. Refined and simple carbohydrates (eg, white bread and potatoes) on the other hand cause insulin to spike and then plummet, which can stimulate hunger.
Don’t avoid fat. Just eat the right kinds in the right amounts. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and some nuts, keep you satiated and actually lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. Opt for mono- and polyunsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocados, chickpeas and nuts rather than saturated fats found in meat and dairy.
Drink plenty of water. Water is the best fluid for your body and has zero calories. Drink it instead of soft drinks, juice and alcohol, which offer lots of calories with little or no nutritional value. Keep a food log. When tallying your calories for the day, it’s so easy to forget the two cookies you munched midmorning or the glass of wine you had with dinner – unless you write everything down. Food logs are also helpful in identifying and changing eating patterns.
Exercise. No weight-loss programme is complete without regular exercise. Not only is exercise helpful when it comes to shedding pounds, but numerous studies have confirmed that it is extremely important for weight maintenance. A well-rounded fitness programme should include aerobic, strength and flexibility training. – LAT-WP