Need to get ready to hit the beach? Have a class reunion or important event coming up that you want to have a great body for? Follow these 10 rules and you will be on your way!
We all want to lose weight and look great, but it can be easier than you think. Most of us also have busy lives, so it helps to have a bit of a plan to follow.
In fact, weight loss can be pretty easy. Let's say you've got 20 pounds to lose. Now, most of us would like to drop that 20 pounds a month or two or so we think. However, that's neither healthy nor realistic.
There's a better way, and this 10-step plan can help you lose 20 pounds a year without even thinking about it; it simply means eating healthier, getting some moderate exercise, and doing other healthy things that, let's face it, everyone should do, not just those of us with less than perfect abs.
So, here goes. 10 steps to a healthier lifestyle:
Step one: Eat as many calories as you need to for good health, but don't overdo it.
In fact, if you starve yourself, you're setting yourself up for weight GAIN. That's because your body can't keep that up for very long (unless you're anorexic, which is a subject for a different article), and if you starve, eventually you're going to have to eat. And when you eat, you'll be very hungry and are likely to binge.
It also slows down your metabolism because your body thinks you're starving. This is a natural survival mechanism and guess what? That's right, when you eat again, your body can't burn those calories as quickly because you've lowered your metabolism. So you need to eat enough calories to sustain yourself and keep that metabolism up. You also need to eat regularly so that you don't get too hungry. Women should opt for about 1500 calories a day, men about 2000 calories a day, to lose weight and keep it off.
Step two: Eat breakfast.
Maybe it's something you think you can't do. Perhaps facing a morning bowl of oatmeal isn't your thing, or perhaps it takes your stomach awhile longer to wake up than you do. If breakfast isn't your thing and you skip it because you just can't face food that early in the morning, make it easy on yourself by making yourself a fruit smoothie with some protein powder included for a protein punch, so that you can drink your breakfast instead of eating it.
If it's that breakfast foods aren't your thing, though, it's okay to grab something else instead on your way out the door. Leftover stirfry, quickly reheated in the microwave? No problem. How about some peanut butter on some whole-grain toast?
The point is, get some good nutrition in your stomach within a couple of hours of getting out of bed, and shoot for at least 300 slow burning calories. This helps keep your blood sugar from crashing later on, which will cause you to overeat.
Step three: Eat most of your food earlier in the day.
It's not just an old wives tale that you shouldn't have most of your food after the sun goes down. Breakfast should be moderate to large, depending on how much food you can handle when you first get up. Lunch should be similar and of course you can include some snacks along the way, too.
By five o'clock, though, you should be winding things down and supper should be pretty modest. A light snack at about eight o'clock is just fine, as long as it's healthy. You shouldn't eat anything within about two hours of going to bed. This sets you up for weight gain and also makes it harder to sleep, since your body's working on digesting and this can give you heartburn and other digestive upsets. So opt to get most of your calories before five o'clock, and wind down the day slowly.
Step four: Focus on whole grains, fruits and veggies, legumes and beans.
Of course, some lean meat included regularly is fine too, but the bulk of your calories should come from fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans and legumes. Supplement with modest amounts of meat and dairy, and small amounts of healthy oils, too, like olive oil. Processed sweets and sugars and processed carbohydrates like white flour should be taken only occasionally if at all as a treat.
By focusing on nutrient dense foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables that are low-calorie, you both set yourself up for a reduction in calorie intake without even trying, and you also make your blood sugar stay level, which means you don't have sudden surges of hunger as you do with the standard American diet.
Step five: Lose it slowly.
If you've got to drop weight, focus on losing it slowly. Yes, we hear about the rapid weight loss claims of so many popular diet programs, and it's often true that they probably do help you drop weight rapidly. However, it's not likely that you can keep that weight off because these diet programs don't focus on realistic results or ways of eating.
It's neither realistic nor healthy to expect that you can keep weight off like this over the long term. Therefore, both for your own health and to both get and keep weight off sensibly, lose it slowly. Opt for one to two pounds a week on a steady basis. If you do this, you can was as much as 100 pounds in the year. Keep in mind as well that if you're exercising at the same time (which is good), you're likely to have some plateaus on the scale because you're gaining muscle mass as you losing body fat.
Therefore, there may be some times when it looks like you are even gaining weight instead of losing it. However, what's really happening is that you're swapping muscle mass for fat, and this is what you want. Slow and steady wins the race.
Step six: Focus on complex carbohydrates
This harkens back to step four, but simply put, focusing on complex carbohydrates as a major part of every meal is going to help keep you full and keep your blood sugar steady, too.
Step seven: Go light on soda, high sugar drinks, and alcoholic drinks.
All of these beverages contain high amounts of sugar and calories. One of the major reasons people gain weight is because they "drink" so many of their calories and therefore don't realize how much they're consuming.
So drink water as your main beverage, watch the caffeine (which can make you hungrier if you're not careful), and opt to avoid beverages like soda, high sugar drinks, and alcohol except for as occasional treats.
Step eight: Eat something every four hours.
Instead of your "three squares a day," you might find it beneficial to divide your calories up among several snacks and meals. This not only helps you feel full so that you avoid binging on anything close at hand, but it also keeps your metabolism stoked, too. One good way to manage this is to have three moderate meals a day and two snacks.
Step nine: Keep your food "real."
Of course, protein shakes and bars can provide a healthy meal in a pinch if you know what you're looking for, but most of your food intake should come from solid food instead of shakes or bars. Solid food has fiber and bulk that helps you feel full longer, and it also provides you the "mouth" satisfaction you need if you're somebody who needs to truly "eat" your food to be satisfied.
Step 10: Make fast food and high-fat foods occasional treats ONLY.
Yes, I know, that daily McDonald's stop has become a habit, but make it an occasional treat you give yourself once a month instead. Focus instead on creating your own healthy "fast" food meals of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, lean meats, and low-fat or no fat dairy. Your body will thank you and incidentally, your pocketbook probably will, too.