America has an obesity epidemic. The hard part comes when you try to do something about your own weight. Where do you start? It can be so confusing with the variety of new diets, exercise programs and advice that you see on an almost daily basis. The most important thing to remember when trying to lose weight is that you have to do what works for you.
People are always offering advice about what you should and shouldn't eat. Interesting, different and healthy foods are more readily available today than at any time before -- such as kale and spinach smoothies for a quick and easy power breakfast and chia seeds and beet juice to help fight diabetes and regulate blood pressure. Look at your typical food choices and plan what small changes you can make, but ensure they are changes you can stick with. A cabbage soup and apple juice diet may seem like a great idea, but it's not a good choice for the long term. Any diet changes you make -- from avoiding fast food lunches to eating more salads -- need to be ones that you can continue with.
Exercise for Weight Loss
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Exercise is an essential part of weight loss. Exercise will help to burn calories, boost your metabolism and increase energy. As with food choices, make exercise choices that you can stick with for the long term. You might think that running marathons is a great idea, but if you don't like running, it probably won't work for you. You might like dancing, however, so try an exercise dance class. Or you might enjoy water aerobics, kickboxing or cross-fit training. Find a friend, find a class and try out some different options. Exercising with a friend or a pet will help keep you motivated and interested longer.
The most basic principle of weight loss is calories in and calories out. Even if you make changes in your diet and exercise, if you still eat more calories than you burn, it won't do you any good. How much weight you lose depends on how many more calories you burn than you consume each day. A healthy weight loss is about 1 to 2 pounds per week. This allows your body to slowly adjust to the weight loss, so it doesn't feel starved, and you have a better chance of maintaining your goal weight. Try to burn about 250 to 500 calories more than you eat each day, but don't restrict calories to the point where you are always feeling hungry, or you won't lose weight. Snack sensibly -- fruit, whole grains and lean protein -- to keep hunger at bay between meals.
Once you reach your weight goal, balance the calories you eat with the calories you burn. Eating a few more calories one day doesn't mean the end of your diet. Having a treat every once in a while will help you stick with your diet and your weight maintenance. A treat would be that small slice of cake at a birthday party, not eating 6,000 calories of fast food because you felt like it. When you slowly make diet and exercise changes, you are more likely to stick with them once you reach your goal and maintain your goal weight. As always, before starting any weight-loss regimen, check with your physician or medical provider to ensure that you are able to begin your journey safely.
Lisa Coffman is a food and nutrition specialist based in Iowa. She has spent time working with the elderly in long term care, nutrition education for low income families and food intolerances and food allergies. She is currently finishing her Bachelor of Science in human food and nutrition from the University of Wyoming.