Tips for successful weight loss
My previous hub – Three important basics of weight loss: Made easy – has lucidly explained how diet and regular exercise contribute to weight loss, which if done consistently can work wonders over a course of time. An individual should form a suitable weight loss plan, which must have appropriate inclusions of diet and exercise including aerobic, strengthening and flexibility exercises. And by the dint of consistency to the well structured plan, one can achieve one’s targets easily.
Losing weight is only half the battle and maintaining the loss is the other half. The battle can only be won by consistently following the weight loss program in spite of many setbacks. A consistent routine will take some time to develop. After a couple of weeks, it will be part of your every day routine. Once you hit that level it is smooth sailing, almost "auto-pilot." The more time you do it, the more confidence you will develop to stick with it. One has to keep on updating one’s knowledge of newer authentic scientific information about weight loss, which will help one’s progress towards achieving one’s goal.
Some general tips –
- Turn down your thermostat - Research suggests that keeping temperatures below 68 degrees Farenheight may fire up your metabolism because you'll burn extra calories to stay warm. Cold exposure activates thermogenesis viz. generation of body heat, which takes place in brown fat. This type of fat is the good calorie-burning fat that research found most humans have.
- Take adequate sleep daily - Lack of sleep throws off your appetite hormones and puts them into overdrive, increasing hunger and appetite. Poor sleep also affects your blood sugar and insulin levels and puts you at higher risks for weight gain.
- Minimize eating out - One study found that eating just one restaurant meal per week increases your risk of obesity by a whopping 15%. By making meals at home, you can control fat, sugar and salt content. And you also control the portion sizes.
- Avoid packaged and processed foods - Instead of grabbing something packaged or processed, pick foods that are filling and whole. Whole foods are foods that are unrefined and unprocessed, such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits, and animal products including meats and non-homogenized dairy products.
- Reduce stress - When your body is stressed, your brain commands several powerful hormones to be released. There occurs a surge of adrenaline and cortisol, which communicates to your body to replenish the energy even though you haven’t used any calories. This makes you feel very hungry. Your body will continue to pump out cortisol as long as the stress remains. It is at this point we crave salty, high-fat, or sweet foods because they will immediately stimulate the brain to deliver pleasure chemicals that reduce tension. Chronic stress produces cortisol, which stimulates the body to store fat, especially visceral fat.
- Drink black coffee - Coffee helps mobilize fats from fat tissues and increase your body’s metabolism. The higher our metabolic rate, the more potential we have to lose weight. Caffeine can increase a person’s metabolic rate and thus increase fat burning. It is important, however, to consume coffee in moderation. Caffeine can aid in weight loss, but excessive consumption can create insomnia and increase stress levels. The recommended daily intake is one to two cups per day.
- Certain drugs – Some prescription drugs, including antipsychotic drugs and some medications for migraine, seizures, high blood pressure and diabetes may cause weight gain.
Tips for diet –
The following tips about diet are useful for success of weight loss:
- Don’t skip breakfast – Eating breakfast helps to control weight. A common mistake most of us make is to skip breakfast for weight loss. This could encourage us to snack more throughout the day as we feel hungry, thereby sabotaging the weight loss plan.
- Keep a diary – We have horrible memories in terms of what we eat. So, keep an account in a journal of what we have eaten at a particular meal. Review it before next meal or snack.
- Eat regular meals – Many miss meals in order to lose weight but it has been found that eating regularly during the day helps burn calories at a faster rate. It also reduces the temptation to snack on foods high in fat and sugar
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables - Fruit and vegetables are low in calories and fat, and high in fiber – three essential ingredients for successful weight loss. They also contain plenty of vitamins and minerals.
- Eat high fiber foods – Besides fruits and vegetables, fiber is also found in plenty in oats, whole grains, cereal and brown rice.
- Don’t ban foods – Don’t ban any food, especially the ones you like because it will make you crave for more. There is no reason why you can’t enjoy occasional treat as long as you stay within your calorie allowance.
- Avoid junk food - Avoid stocking junk food, such as chocolate, biscuits, crisps and sweet fizzy drinks, at home because their presence will tempt you to consume them. Instead, stock up on healthy snacks such as nuts, fruit, unsalted rice cakes, oat cakes, unsalted or unsweetened popcorn, and fruit juice.
- Drink within recommended limits – Since alcoholic drinks also contain calories, drinking too much can easily contribute to weight gain over time. So, consume alcohol within medically recommended limits.
- Plan meals - Plan breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week, making sure you stick to your calorie allowance. Make a shopping list, but don't shop when you're hungry as that can lead to high-calorie impulse buys!
Tips for exercise -
The following tips about exercise are useful for the success of weight loss –
Aerobic exercise -
- Exercise intensity - An aerobic activity that makes it difficult to carry out long conversation is quite effective for weight loss. Most people can physically sustain aerobic exercise longer but this should not deter one to include other stuff – strength training and flexibility – into one’s exercise plan.
- Vary intensity – Several times in your routine, increase the pace of aerobic exercise that is way too hard to keep up for more than a minute. Alternating between ten minutes of steady-state cardio in the aerobic zone, and one minute of unsustainably intense cardio gives a bang to your weight loss plan.
- Try different cardio exercises – If you workout in a gym, you can try different cardio machines – treadmill, elliptical, or stair climber. They will also give a bang to your weight loss plan as your muscles won’t know what hit them. Otherwise, if you workout outdoors, you can alternate doing walking, jogging or running. Doing different cardio exercises also helps reduce or prevent plateau effect of exercise.
- Keep moving throughout day – Besides contributing to overweight and obesity, a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to be risk or risk factor to a host of diseases. People sitting still more than 4 hours per day have a 40 percent higher risk than those who sit fewer than 4 hours per day. It is shown to be a risk factor on its own independent of hard exercise and BMI. Besides your regular exercise plan, prefer to move around even in home as much as possible.
Strengthening exercises -
- Increase resistance to muscle or muscle group – When strength training, do repetitions till you find your last rep quite difficult to do. If you find that you can easily do last rep, increase appropriate resistance to the movement.
- Focus on form – Align your body correctly and move smoothly through each exercise. Poor form can prompt injuries and slow gains.
- Alternate working different muscle groups – This is also known as cross-training. It sustains higher level of intensity for longer than when you simply stick to working one area.
- Vary different exercises – Keep on changing different exercises for the same muscle or muscle group so as to avoid plateau effect.
- Rest between sets - The amount of time that an individual rests between sets is dependent upon the intensity, at which one lifts. If you are doing higher reps (12-15) then your rest periods will be shorter (45-75 seconds), but if you are doing only a few reps (1-5) then you will need longer periods (2-5minutes) between each set. This is necessary to recover energy for another bout of the same movement.
- Allow rest – Perform each strength training workout allowing at least one or two days of rest for muscle recovery. Strength training causes tiny tears in muscle tissues, which aren’t harmful. But they are important because muscle grow stronger as the tears knit up.
- Stick to your routine – It is ideal to work all the major muscles of your body two or three times a week. You can choose to do one full-body strength workout two or three times a week, or you may break your strength workout into upper- and lower-body components. But be sure to perform each component two to three times a week.
Flexibility exercises -
- Perform static stretching - Static stretching involves slowly stretching a muscle to its end position and holding it for a short period of time, usually 10-30 seconds at least three times a week. As a matter of fact, it can be the safest and most effective form of stretching. It just simply should not be done as a warm-up. Never statically stretch a cold muscle. Cold muscles are more likely to tear when stretched improperly. Therefore, warm up before active stretching exercises by doing dynamic movements of different parts of the body.
- Use dynamic movement as warm-up – Before jogging, first do some dynamic movement and slowly walk for some time to warm up. For weight training, do first set with light weights and do subsequent sets with weights you have been doing currently.
- Don’t overstretch - You must stretch and hold a muscle beyond its normal length to improve flexibility. However, you should not stretch to the point of pain, because it could do serious damage. Only stretch a muscle to a comfortable point and hold for about 10 to 30 seconds or so. Do multiple stretches of your major muscle groups.
- Stretch smoothly – Perform stretching movements smoothly and evenly without jerks; otherwise it is likely to cause injury to the muscles and related structures.
The bottom line –
Notwithstanding other components, the most important component of a weight-loss program is setting up appropriate goal. Then we can proceed towards the goal by making steady and consistent steps, incorporating all the components of weight-loss plan.
We may at times get disheartened as we see little or no progress towards our goal. This can happen many a time due to plateau effect, slowing or halting the progress. This happens as our body becomes physiologically used to what it is being subjected. To avoid the plateau effect, we should keep on introducing variability in our plan by varying the volume, intensity and duration of different exercises and by making necessary changes in our diet after reviewing it.
These days there are many mobile apps for healthy diet and exercise that you can download to track progress of your weight loss plan. For some , they have proved to be immensely useful.
As overweight and obesity is the risk factor responsible for causation of many illnesses, make a life-long commitment to an appropriate healthy weight loss plan. Be consistent and enjoy it!