What are the most effective strategies for weight loss?
With 70 percent of American adults being overweight or obese and 20 percent of adolescents being obese , the US food system and environment is failing us. 45 million Americans go on a diet each year but many of them fail to achieve their goals. For those who are trying to lose weight, what strategies work?
- Start tracking your food, at least for a certain period of time. Many individuals do not realize all the food and drink that they consume throughout the day, and what that translates to in calories, fat, sugar and protein. We first need to become aware of what we are consuming; then we can try to fix it.
- Eat more fiber. We’re talking fruits and vegetables, but also beans, legumes and whole grains (whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, barley). An average serving of fruit and vegetables has 3 to 4 grams of fiber. Women should try to eat at least 21 to 25 grams of fiber each day, while men should aim for 30 to 38 grams a day .
- Eat more vegetables. Make a commitment at every meal to have at least one vegetable serving (if not two!) and choose to eat your vegetables first. This way, you always eat the vegetables, which are lower in calories and provide fiber to fill you up.
- Change your environment to make the healthy choice the easy choice. For example, put fruit on your counter and move sugary snacks to the back of your pantry. Put on your gym clothes in advance so that there is no additional barrier to overcome when the time arrives. Take stock of how your environment either helps or hurts your goals and try to modify your surroundings to encourage healthy choices.
- Cut out sugary beverages and limit alcohol! Sugary beverages include soda but also fruit juices, lemonades, etc.
- Eat more mindfully. Put down your phone and don’t watch TV while you eat. Savor the taste, smell and texture of your food. Aim to eat more slowly to fully enjoy every bite.
- Stop eating when you are 75 percent full. Then make a deal with yourself: if after waiting 20 full minutes you still feel hungry, you can have a little more.
You might notice that the seven tips above are all related to food. While exercise is also important for weight control, dietary choices often have a larger impact on weight. Just increasing physical activity levels is usually not enough for most individuals to lose a significant amount of weight. Nevertheless, exercise is still important and crucial in controlling many health risks. Most individuals who successfully meet their weight loss goals are those who have regular exercise routines as well as healthy diets.
Sasha Clynes, Wellness Strategy Manager, holds a Master’s in Health Promotion from Columbia University. She loves digging into nutritional epidemiology research and finding delicious vegetable recipes, but can’t resist a good dessert.