(First published as Weight Loss Success: Five Essential Steps on Technorati.)
Millions of Americans are looking for a weight loss plan which is easy to follow and will deliver results. The problem with most traditional weight loss diets is that they eliminate certain important food groups or require drastic lifestyle changes which can’t be maintained long term. The only weight loss plan which can work allows for flexibility in food choices and is structured for a slow transition to a new dietary lifestyle.
Healthy weight loss occurs when calories consumed exceeds the energy burned through basic body metabolism and physical activity. The important thing to understand is that the type of food we eat and more importantly, when we eat that food has a profound effect on whether the body stores fat for future needs or burns fat for energy. For those who have tried the typical diet programs and failed, the following 5 steps will provide the necessary guidelines to achieve permanent weight loss.
Step 1: Stop Eating After 7 PM
Our body abides by a very intricate set of circadian rhythms, allowing time to carry out many necessary metabolic functions. One of those functions is fat burning and storage, which ideally occurs at night when you are asleep. When you stop eating 3 to 4 hours before going to bed, initial digestion of food in the stomach is allowed to complete and the body must turn to burning fat for its energy needs.
Try to fast for at least 12 hours each day, as the body will dip further into fat reserves for a longer period of time, and will also carry out other essential cellular maintenance functions which will slow down when food is being digested. This is not recommended for diabetics who may require small meals throughout the day.
Step 2: Eat 3 Meals: No Snacking
It’s important to eat a breakfast, lunch and dinner meal each day. The critical point is to allow sufficient time between meals with no snacking. The body closely regulates blood sugar and insulin, and eating between meals sends this delicate mechanism awry resulting in excess fat storage. The body needs three evenly spaced, moderately sized meals to fuel our energy needs, and also needs several hours after eating to process the food and return blood sugar and insulin to pre-meal levels. This will encourage fat to be used for fuel instead of being stored.
Step 3: Moderate Meal Size
Eat slowly and closely monitor the amount of calories at each meal. The body is very sensitive to caloric intake, and excessive eating at any given meal causes an overload of sugar and fat to flood the bloodstream with detrimental health implications. Women should target 400 to 600 calories each meal, and men should be in the 500 to 600 calorie range.
Spread the meal out over at least 20 minutes to allow your body to send the full signal indicating you’re satisfied with the portion consumed. Once the body becomes conditioned to a smaller meal size, overeating will feel unpleasant and natural weight loss will be the result.
Step 4: Include Protein with Breakfast
Proteins are very complex structures which require 30% more energy and up to 12 hours for complete breakdown by the body. Eating a solid protein source with breakfast starts the energy burn cycle which continues for most of the day, as it ramps up the natural fat release mechanism in the body. It’s important to avoid quick burning carbohydrate sources such as pancakes, breads and donuts especially early in the day, as they negate the positive metabolic effects of protein digestion by disturbing insulin response.
Step 5: Reduce High Calorie Carbohydrates
Refined and processed carbohydrates cause an immediate release of sugar into the blood as they begin to break down in the mouth. This starts a vicious cycle causing insulin resistance and ultimately conversion of sugar into stored fat. Carbohydrates from vegetable sources have the opposite effect as they are bound to fiber and break down very slowly. We have evolved to eat a varied diet including lots of vegetables, lean protein sources and healthy fats. The excessive amounts of breads, pastas and sweets consumed by most people causes a sugar overload which leads directly to excess fat storage.
Permanent weight loss is an attainable goal, even for those who have tried and failed repeatedly. It’s important to be mindful of the type of foods eaten and choose wisely from all food groups. A key weight loss strategy is in the proper timing of meals with fasting, as well as intelligent macronutrient combinations. By following this 5 step plan, your healthy weight loss goal is well within reach.