Successful weight loss requires permanent changes to your physical activity and diet. You are more likely to achieve this change if you adopt a personalized weight loss plan that takes into your account your health, physical condition, age, lifestyle, food preferences and special needs. Best of all, it does not have not have to cost you any money.
Consult your doctor before starting your weight loss program, particularly if you are very overweight or new to exercise. Your doctor can evaluate any medical issues you may have, any medications you may be taking, identify what may be contributing to your weight gain, and help you set your weight loss goals and how to achieve these goals safely.
The amount of calories you eat daily should depend on your age, physical activity and whether you are trying to gain, lose or maintain your weight. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that for weight loss you should reduce calories and increase levels of physical activity or exercise. If you eat 100 more calories a day than you burn, you will gain about 1 lb. a month, equivalent to 10 lbs. a year.
To lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you take in, but eating fewer calories than you need for maintenance will slow down your metabolism and cause weight gain, as your body seeks to conserve energy.
One-size-fits-all fad diets may help you lose weight in the short term, but such diets are difficult to sustain. Try to eliminate or reduce candy, chips, cakes, fast foods, sodas and alcohol in your diet. Read the labels on food packaging, and avoid foods that are high in fat or contain added sugar. Eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods that you like and enjoy eating. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eating whole grain carbohydrates, lean cuts of meat, nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables is a safe and healthy way to lose weight. Modify your favorite meals by including more vegetables and adding omega-3 fats like hemp or flax oil, which help metabolize fat. Try healthy foods that may be new to you, such as the grain quinoa or exotic fruits like mangoes or papaya.
Exercise or regular physical activity will burn calories and elevate your metabolism so your body burns fat more efficiently. "The Harvard Health Letter," published by the Harvard Medical School, suggests a number of ways you can exercise without going to the gym. For example, park your car in the farthest corner of the parking lot or on the top floor of the parking garage. Walking the extra distance will burn more calories. Take the stairs instead of the elevator to exercise your heart and lungs and strengthen your legs. Find a friend with whom you can go jogging, biking or walking; the social element will make it more likely that you stick with the activities.
Choose a physical activity that suits your age and fitness levels. If you are 40 or older, have not exercised for a number of years and carry a lot of excess weight, jogging or running may not be the best activity for you. Brisk walking with a friend or taking your dog for regular walks may be more suitable. These place less stress on your joints and heart.