If you’re like most people you’ve been indulging in too many high-calorie, high-fat treats over the last few weeks and are suffering from the post-holiday diet blahs.
Ready for a healthy change? What better time than a New Year to put those less than perfect eating habits behind you and get yourself on track!
Making changes is not easy for anyone. Many people often start their New Year’s resolutions with a big bang only to lose momentum a few weeks later.
Remember that what you do to lose weight, you must continue to do to keep it off. Making small changes to your diet and lifestyle do add up and usually have a greater impact than a crash diet or quick fix – which often end up in a binge, extra weight, and a slower metabolism.
Your New Year’s resolution for eating well doesn’t have to equal deprivation and denial. Before you get started, set a realistic goal that will lead to a slow and steady weight loss of two pounds per week. If you choose a restrictive diet which results in more weight loss than this, you will likely be losing water and possibly muscle, not body fat. If the scale isn’t your thing, then consider using a change in clothes size, body fat percentage, or circumference measurements as an alternate means of weight assessment.
The following seven strategies will help boost your nutrient intake, energise you and help you achieve a healthier body in 2009 and beyond.
Drink plenty of water: Besides keeping you hydrated, water fills your stomach making it less likely for you to overindulge between meals. For the coffee and soda drinkers out there, consider swapping one of your daily caffeine-fueled boosts for a glass of cool water or cup of hot green tea.
Eat your fiber: Besides promoting regularity and lowering blood cholesterol levels, fiber fills you up sooner and keeps you feeling full longer. This is because of its slow rate of digestion in the stomach. Boost your fiber intake by choosing more whole, natural foods like beans, lentils, fruits, vegetables and whole-grains like brown rice, bulgur, oats, and barley.
Include healthy snacks between meals: Do not go longer than five waking hours without eating. A midday snack can help prevent sugar cravings by boosting energy (blood sugar) levels between meals. Snack wisely though. A 100-calorie cookie treat is likely not going to satisfy you for an entire afternoon because the sugar is digested very quickly which usually will result in more cravings. Pairing foods rich in fiber with a lean protein source does a better job at filling you up while taking the edge off your appetite before your next meal. Some great snack examples include:
- Low-fat yogurt and an apple;
- 1 part-skim cheese stick and 1-cup of grapes;
- 1-2 slices of deli turkey breast wrapped in Romaine lettuce leaves;
- Smoothie made with 1%, fat free, or soy milk and frozen berries;
- A cup of lentil and vegetable soup.
Pump up (dietary) potassium: Potassium works with sodium in the body to maintain water balance. It can also lessen the effects of a high-sodium diet on blood pressure, reduces the risk of kidney stones, and may fend off bone loss later in life. Get your potassium through foods though; it is found in a wide variety, including leafy green vegetables, fruits and root vegetables. The best food sources include prunes, dried apricots, tomato sauce, salmon, soybeans, lima beans, sweet (orange) potato and peanuts.
Add exercise to the mix: Without burning those extra calories, permanent weight loss is almost impossible. Set a minimum weekly exercise goal of 150 minutes. This can translate into five days of 30 minutes brisk walking, swimming, or biking. Exercise boosts energy, self-esteem and increases metabolism.
Stay on portion patrol: Switching your focus of what you cannot eat to how much to eat is the best strategy for long-term weight loss and maintenance. When we restrict too much in our diets we often become obsessed with that very food that ultimately leads to overindulging in it anyway. Keep portions in check by keeping a food record of what you eat and drink for a week. This will help pinpoint specific foods that may need to be reduced and highlight other foods that may need to increase.
Think marathon, not sprint: If you’re thinking short-term fix, these changes will only last a few weeks. Cut yourself some slack and focus on small, attainable goals that will be easier to achieve and help keep you motivated. Don’t obsess over every little bite or throw the towel in when you’ve gone ‘off’ your diet. It’s the little slip-ups that send people back to the mentality of ‘I’ll just start back on Monday, and enjoy the rest of the week.’ Expect obstacles and know that if you’ve slipped up today, you can balance things out tomorrow with better eating and consistent exercise.