(Article first published as Weight Loss is Just a Lifestyle Change Away on Technorati.)
Americans continue to struggle with weight loss, and yet the number of people who indicate they are actively trying to lose weight has steadily decreased. As a nation, we have become less concerned about the impact overweight and obesity will have on our quality and length of life, as well as the burden being placed on an already broken health care system.
The solution is well within our reach, and like every significant achievement, healthy weight loss requires time, planning and perseverance. The most important part of losing weight is to keep in mind that it’s not a diet, but a new lifestyle which must be followed every day. Virtually every diet is destined to fail when viewed as a temporary plan. Only a sustainable dietary modification program with proper exercise will result in permanent weight loss.
Keep an Electronic Food Journal
The best way to develop a weight loss plan is to keep an accurate food journal and record everything eaten in a day. Be honest with your quantities and weigh foods where appropriate. Using one of the many free online food calculators, input the journal results to receive the total calories consumed for each day. Most people are surprised to see the total number of calories, especially when eating out or frequenting fast food restaurants.
After a few days, begin to look at the types of food you eat regularly, especially the high sugar items and refined carbohydrates. While it may be true that each calorie has the same impact on weight regardless of the type, studies demonstrate that many people are metabolically sensitive to calories from high fructose corn syrup and highly processed wheat and corn based foods. From an evolutionary perspective, these are new food groups which create havoc in our body, as it leads to abnormal fat storage and weight gain.
Eat a Well Balanced Diet to Lose Weight
Many fad diets eliminate one or more of the major food groups, resulting in an unsustainable lifestyle and possibly even damaging your health. The only diet which can work is balanced and consists of reduced quantities of lean proteins, nuts, seeds, healthy monounsaturated fats and unlimited raw green vegetables. The key is to eat healthy quantities of green leafy vegetables such as spinach and spring mix so you become full. Resist the natural urge to eat processed and refined foods which are laden with calories and have been stripped of nutrients.
It’s important to slowly eliminate the most calorie dense food choices such as sweets, breads, fried foods, snacks and soft drinks. Most people can easily eliminate 500 calories per day simply by making a low calorie substitution. This is a good starting goal, as 3,500 calories dropped per week will result in 1 pound lost. Most women will want to target approximately 1,200 total calories per day, while men will need around 1,500 calories. Never go below 1,000 calories per day, as the body has certain energy requirements for normal metabolic function which may be jeopardized.
Compliment Diet with Exercise
No weight loss lifestyle plan would be complete without exercise. Physical activity is a great way to achieve an extended calorie burn, but more important are the health benefits from improved blood lipids and blood sugar control as well as lowered blood pressure. Exercise helps tone the different muscle groups in the body and modifies insulin resistance that can alter how fat is stored and burned. This has a direct effect on weight loss and will also lead to overall improved health as you age. A high intensity workout is not necessary, as just 20 minutes of moderate exercise on most days is enough to reap the rewards and fuel weight loss.
Americans continue to gain pounds at an alarming rate, and appear to have become complacent with their efforts to lose weight. Dedication is required to reach a proper weight, and can only be achieved by committing to a new lifestyle of healthy eating and physical activity. It’s difficult to make the changes necessary to reverse a lifetime of eating processed junk food, but the reward is a natural and healthy weight loss which can be maintained for life.