To lose weight, you must create a negative calorie balance by eating fewer calories than your body burns each day. If you're eating less than usual and aren't losing weight, you probably haven't cut enough calories from your diet. Exercise, portion control and a balanced diet will help you eliminate enough calories to lose weight. If you don't start losing weight with the changes, consult your doctor to make sure that an underlying health problem isn't the culprit.
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Eating a diet of healthful, whole foods helps eliminate empty calories. Center your diet on whole grains, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, low-fat dairy, beans, lean meats and seafood. These foods typically have more nutrients and fewer calories than processed junk food and they will help you lose weight. For beverages, limit yourself to low-fat dairy, water and unsweetened tea or coffee, so you're not drinking empty calories.
It's easy to eat too much without realizing it. You don't need to carry a scale and measuring cups to control your portions, though; use the palm of your hands to judge serving sizes -- anywhere, anytime. A portion of meat, seafood, beans and other protein foods is the size of your palm. A serving of starchy carbohydrates --such as potatoes, rice or pasta -- is the size of your fist. A serving of fats like butter, peanut butter or oil is the size of half your thumb. A helping of fruit fits in one hand, and a helping of vegetables fits in two hands cupped together. Don't eat more than a single portion of a food at each meal to avoid unintentionally consuming too many calories.
Staying active increases the amount of calories you burn each day, which helps you achieve a negative calorie balance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise weekly. You don't have to spend all of that time in the gym. Walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, dancing and other activities that raise your heart rate all burn calories and count toward your daily total. The CDC does recommend strength training at least twice weekly, so work weight lifting or intense calisthenics into your routine. As your muscles become stronger from exercise, you'll burn more calories at a state of rest, further helping your weight loss.
Take the time to count calories to make your weight-loss journey more reliable. According to Harvard Medical School, cutting 250 calories per day will results in a half-pound of weight loss each week. Whole foods typically don't come with nutrition labels, but calorie counter apps and websites like the USDA National Nutrient Database can help you find serving sizes and calories per serving for any food. Counting calories also allows you to fit the occasional indulgence into your diet. If you have a treat on a special occasion, record it, then cut calories from the rest of your day to prevent going over your limit.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Harvard Medical School: Simple Math Equals Easy Weight Loss
- USDA: ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Are Empty Calories?
- USA Today: Portion Control is in the Palm of Your Hands
- Centers For Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- McKinley Health Center: Breaking Down Your Metabolism
- USDA: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference