Weight loss generally occurs when the body expends more calories than it takes in. That means, you have to burn off or eat fewer calories that you consume through meals and snacks. Many people cut calories from their diet and burn calories through exercise to achieve weight loss. Working out on a regular basis is helpful for weight loss, but may not be practical for some people due to health conditions, time restraints, or lack of interest. However, research shows that when it comes to weight loss, diet plays a much more important role compared to exercise. It’s easier to decrease caloric intake by modifying your diet compared to burning off a significant amount of calories through exercise. Making a few changes to your diet and lifestyle can help you lose weight safely and effectively without planned exercise.
Modifying Your Diet for Weight Loss
Count calories. Weight loss programs usually require you to modify your total calorie intake. Counting calories and being aware of how much you eat can help you lose weight. In general, you’ll want to cut out about 500–750 calories daily to lose about one to two pounds weekly.
Figure out how many calories you can cut from your daily diet by first calculating the number of calories you should take in each day. Do this by searching online for a calorie calculator, then inputting your weight, height, age and activity level in order to calculate your recommended caloric intake. Each person is different, so it’s best to get your own, personalized number.
Do not consume less than 1200 calories daily. A diet that’s too low in calories puts you at risk for nutrient deficiencies as you cannot eat enough food to meet your daily requirements for most vitamins, minerals, and protein.
Be aware that your weight is a balancing act. Calorie intake is only a part of the equation. Fad diets may promise you that counting carbs (carbohydrates) or eating a mountain of grapefruit will make the pounds drop off; but when it comes to weight loss, it’s calories that count. Weight loss comes down to burning more calories than you take in. You can do that by reducing extra calories from food and beverages, and increasing calories burned through physical activity
Write yourself a meal plan. If you are not exercising to burn calories, you must trim them from your diet in order to lose weight. Writing out a meal plan can help you plot out all your meals and snacks and make sure they fit into your pre-determined calorie range. In addition, be sure to use strategies to help yourself feel more full.
Spend some time writing out all your meals, snacks, and beverages for a few days or a week.
Allot a certain caloric amount for each meal. For example: 300-calorie breakfast, two 500-calorie bigger meals, and one to two 100-calorie snacks. This may help you choose what foods to eat for meals and snacks throughout the day.
Include foods from all five food groups most days. Review your meal plan to make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and dairy.
Having all your meals and snacks planned in advance may keep you from making poor nutrition choices when you’re in a rush.
Keep snacks conveniently located and ready in your fridge, car, backpack or purse.
Eat a balanced diet. A diet that is calorie controlled and includes all five food groups is a good foundation for healthy weight loss. You should include all of the following most days:
Fruits and vegetables. These foods are dense, filling, low-calorie and low-fat. Not only are fruits and veggies great for your waistline; they have copious amounts of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that you need for long-term health. Aim to make 1/2 of your meals fruits and/or vegetables.
Lean protein. Foods like poultry, eggs, pork, lean beef, legumes, dairy products, and tofu are great sources of lean protein. Protein will help keep you satisfied longer and may curb hunger cravings. Aim to include 3-4 oz of protein at each meal — this is about the size of a deck of cards.
100% whole grains. Foods that are whole grains are high in fiber and some vitamins and minerals. Quinoa, oats, brown rice, millet, and 100% whole wheat pasta and bread are examples of whole grains to include in your diet. Limit your grains to about 1/2 cup or 1 oz per meal.
Snack healthy. Including one to two low-calorie snacks is appropriate when you’re trying to lose weight. Many times a snack will help support your weight loss.
Snacking may be appropriate when there is more than five or six hours between your meals. Sometimes, going for long periods of time without eating may make it harder for you to stick to your planned meal or portion sizes as you may be overly hungry.
Most snacks included in a weight loss plan should be calorie controlled. Aim to keep snacks between 100-200 calories.
Healthy snacks include: 1/4 cup of nuts, one individual greek yogurt, a hard boiled egg or celery and peanut butter.
Choose healthier cooking techniques. Don’t sabotage your good intentions with poor preparation methods. Cooking methods that use a lot of oil, butter, or other high-fat sauces or seasonings may cause your weight loss to plateau or slow.
Try cooking methods that use little to no added fat. Try: steaming, grilling, braising, roasting and poaching/boiling.
Switch to extra virgin olive oil or canola oil. When substituted for saturated fats (like butter), these healthy monounsaturated fats can help to improve blood cholesterol levels, thereby reducing risk for heart disease and obesity.
Avoid cooking techniques such as deep fat frying or pan frying. Also avoid cooking methods that use a lot of butter, oil, or margarine.
Drink adequate amounts of fluids. Staying well-hydrated is also essential to weight loss. Many times, thirst can feel similar to hunger and trigger you to eat. Drinking enough fluid can help prevent this mistake and promote weight loss.
Aim for about 64 oz or about eight glasses of clear, sugar-free liquids each day. This is a general recommendation, but is a good place to start.
Fluids that will count toward your daily goal include: water, sugar-free flavored waters, plain tea, and coffee without cream or sugar.
Ditch alcohol and sugary beverages. Both alcoholic beverages and sugary beverages contain large amounts of calories that may work against your weight loss plan. Ideally, completely pass these up as long as you desire continued weight loss.
Sugary beverages to avoid include: regular soda, sweetened tea, sweetened coffee drinks, sports drinks and juices.
At the maximum, women should consume one glass or less of alcohol daily and men should consume two or less daily. Again, if continued weight loss is desired, alcohol should be avoided
Maintaining Your Weight Loss
Weigh yourself once or twice a week. Monitoring your progress is important when you’re losing weight. Stepping on the scale regularly can help you see how effective your diet program is going and whether or not you need to make any changes.
Remember, safe weight loss is about one to two pounds per week. Be patient with your progress. You’re more likely to sustain slow and steady weight loss in the long-term.
For the most accurate pattern of results, it’s best to weigh yourself at the same time of day, on the same day of the week and in the same clothes (or choose to go without clothes).
If your weight loss has plateaued or you’ve begun to gain weight, recheck your meal plans and food journals and see if you can cut out any more calories to help weight loss.
Find a support group. Having friends, family members or co-workers supporting you through your weight loss plan may help you continue to lose weight and maintain it long-term. Build a support group to help you stay on track.
See if others you know also want to lose weight. Many times people find it easier to tackle weight loss together as a group.
You can also try finding online support groups or support groups that meet in person on a weekly or monthly basis.
Get support by working with a registered dietitian; he/she can customize your meal plan and provide on-going support.
Reward yourself. Having a motivating and enticing reward at the end of your weight loss goals can help push you through to the end. Set up something exciting for yourself as you meet your goals. Ideas to try include:
Buying yourself new shoes or clothes.
Treating yourself to a round of golf or other favorite sport.
Getting a massage or other spa treatment.
Avoid food-related rewards, as these can trigger old habits that might not be conducive to weight loss.