By Jeana Teddick
Memorial Day weekend will kick off the season of hot, humid days filled with greasy burgers and gooey s’mores. For those of us stressing over the muffin tops rolling out of our bikinis, the thought of this makes us want to hide under the nearest table. The truth is that there is no uniform way to lose weight because each of our bodies responds differently. While there is no simple solution to shedding those extra pounds, there are, however, plenty of steps that you can take to develop a healthier relationship with food and achieve permanent weight-loss success.
1. Shake Your Groove Thing
Yes, that’s right! Busting out your dance moves is a great way to move around and stimulate your metabolism. The thought of intense exercise can be intimidating and cringe-worthy, but lucky for you, any sort of movement, whether it is stretching, walking or moderately jogging, does the job. According to Dr. Michael Garrick, M.D., research has shown that a 10 minute spurt of vigorous exercise is equally as beneficial as a 30 minute workout at moderate intensity. So if breaking out the moves on the dance floor is not your thing, simply choose another activity that is enjoyable for you. Frisbee, walking your dog and hiking are a few more examples. The most important thing to remember is that anything is better than nothing!
2. Controlling Your Food Environment
It’s 4 p.m. and you’re exhausted and drained of energy. McDonald’s is conveniently located on the way home and the draft of greasy fries wafts up your nostrils. The temptation is unbearable and you pull up to the drive-thru window.
It becomes all too easy to give in when you’re constantly surrounding yourself with situations like these. Take charge of your hunger by eliminating those unhealthy habits. Start by cooking your own meals in advance at home and packing your own snacks, where you are able to control smaller portion sizes. Another helpful tip is to make sure to avoid shopping for groceries right before meal times or when you’re experiencing cravings. Create a shopping list, stick to it, and be especially careful to avoid packaged convenience foods, which generally contain more refined sugar—detrimental to weight loss.
Permanent weight loss requires lifestyle changes and realistic goal-setting. If you constantly keep yourself motivated along the way, your chances of successfully keeping the weight off after the losing stage are much higher. Seek out support from close family or friends or join a support group to get the encouragement you need to keep pushing on. In the world of technology, it is super easy to access tools to track your progress. Smartphone apps, fitness trackers, or simply keeping a journal can help you track the food you eat, the calories you burn and the weight you lose. Seeing tangible results like that will give you a sense of accomplishment to continue your hard work.
4. Good Fat, Not No Fat
Since when is fat helpful in dieting? While it may feel counterproductive to consume fats while trying to shed pounds, it actually can boost weight loss! The most important thing here is to be aware of selecting good fats, rather than no fats. According to nutritionist Dr. Sara Wenicker, there are too many Americans consuming low-fat products but not seeing effective weight loss; she blames this on Americans’ inability to select and consume healthy fats. Good fats to choose from come in foods like avocados, natural peanut butter, seeds (i.e. pumpkin, sunflower, sesame) and olives. Being smart about what fats you choose will both satisfy cravings and keep you feeling fuller longer, which will ultimately prevent overeating later on. It’s a win-win!
5. Fruits & Veggies
Ah yes, something to snack on that doesn’t require mathematician calorie-counting skills. Generally it is okay to consume as many fruits and veggies that your heart desires, without the burden of having to keep track of the caloric intake. This is usually because your tummy will fill up—from all the water packed in vegetables—way before you reach your suggested caloric limit. Fruits and veggies are also chock full of vitamins and minerals.
These reasons make them great snacks to fill up on whenever hunger pangs strike mid-morning or mid-afternoon. The best way to guide your choice of fruit or veggie is to use the rainbow rule. A good rule of thumb with this is to consume a variety of fruits and veggies from each color category. Load up on plump sweet strawberries, tangy crisp apples, juicy green peppers or crunchy carrot sticks. The choices are nearly endless, but whatever you choose make sure to fill up on it so that you prevent cravings that may creep up later on.
6. Avoid “Zombie Eating”
No, this does not infer cannibalism. All too often we can find ourselves mindlessly eating, whether it is on-the-go from school to work or simply just slugged in front of the TV. Taking the time to be “mindful” of what foods you consume will help you to avoid overeating in the end. Eat slowly and take the time to engage your senses in the savory smells and textures of your meals. Finally, don’t be afraid to mix it up! If you focus on the experience of eating as an activity that is more fun when you take the time to be creative about it, chances are you’ll practice healthier eating habits; this ultimately yields the secret to managing a lifelong healthy weight.