You've probably heard of various tricks to lose weight -- and maybe you've come up with some on your own. Trimming down the number of daily meals from three to one may make sense in theory. However, fitness experts say that skipping meals may actually result in weight gain. You can lose more than 20 lbs. in three months safely and more healthfully through reduced-calorie meals and exercise.
Calories and Weight Gain
It doesn't matter when you eat or from which food source calories are derived; whenever you consume more calories than your body needs, the excess calories are stored in the form of body fat. Each pound you aim to lose represents 3,500 calories that your body couldn't use. According to the American Council on Exercise, or ACE, you gain weight from these calories regardless of whether you eat in the morning, midday or at night. While eating meals at night won't make you gain weight, most people who eat late tend to over-consume.
Skipping meals can actually cause weight gain if you limit yourself to one meal a day. ACE and the Weight-Control Information Network, or WIN, indicate that dieters who skip meals are more likely to feel hungrier and compensate later in the day by overeating. WIN also notes that studies show that people who skip breakfast and skimp on meals the rest of the day tend to weigh more. Running on empty can also be detrimental to your exercise plan. According to MayoClinic.com, not eating before you exercise can make you feel drained during your workout. Have a small snack at least an hour before you exercise. If you eat a small meal, wait two to three hours.
A Healthier Solution
WIN suggests that people who eat a nutritious breakfast and four or five more small meals during the course of the day have a better chance of keeping their weight under control. The American Dietetic Association suggests simple strategies to trim calories from meals. To help with portion control, serve your food on smaller plates and bowls. Eat your food slowly -- you're more likely to overeat if you inhale your meals. Pay attention to your choice of beverage. Soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit juice and sweetened coffee drinks are hidden sources of calories. Water is your best beverage choice.
Weight Loss and Exercise
To lose 1 to 2 lbs. a week -- or between 12 and 24 lbs. in three months -- the solution is simple: create a calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 every day, either by reducing calories from your meals or increasing your level of physical activity. Doing both will give you the best results. Make calorie reduction and exercise a part of your lifestyle for permanent weight loss results. Cleveland Clinic psychologist Scott Bea notes that, like any other kind of substance abuse, overeating can be a tough habit to break. Rather than reach for the first "fast weight loss" method that comes to mind or setting a time limit for your goals, take time to enjoy the process itself.