Avoid rigid, restrictive diets. As a nutritionist advising and coaching clients on healthy eating and weight loss, I regularly get…
Avoid rigid, restrictive diets.
As a nutritionist advising and coaching clients on healthy eating and weight loss, I regularly get asked about the best weight-loss tips along with the best diet to go on. Almost daily, I’m asked about the latest diet “flavor” of the day, whether it’s a low-carb diet, intermittent fasting or a recent plan featuring a celebrity’s weight-loss journey.
I’m not a fan of rigid diets, cookie-cutter plans or programs that recommend omitting entire food groups, require special food concoctions or eating only at certain times. While some of these diets may work for the short term, it’s unlikely that they will be realistic for the long term.
The best diet to go on is one that is sustainable for the long haul and comprised of a combination of healthy foods. When using the word “diet,” I like to consider Merriam-Webster’s definition: “habitual nourishment” as opposed to rigid restriction.
To help consumers select a healthful eating plan, every January, U.S. News & World Report rates the Best Diets with input from a panel of health experts. As a member of the panel, I was glad to “weigh in” on the best — and worst — diets for a variety of conditions, ranging from weight loss to heart health and diabetes. This information can help guide you in selecting an eating plan that can work well for you.
While motivation tends to be highest at the start of the year, it’s important to cultivate healthy habits you can follow throughout the entire year. While there really is no one-size-fits-all approach, here I share seven sustainable weight loss tips that you can incorporate to whichever eating plan you feel may work best for you.
1. Create an environment for success.
Our food environment plays a big factor in guiding our food choices. When we’re surrounded with nutritious foods, it’s so much easier to make the healthy food choice.
If our “default” environment is filled with large portions of junk food, it becomes increasingly difficult to eat healthfully. If, on the other hand, we keep healthy foods around, we are more likely to select more nutritious food choices. The goal is to make the healthy choice the easy choice. Here are some healthy foods I love keeping in my kitchen.
2. Focus on what you can add to your eating plan.
Instead of approaching eating from a limiting mentality and just restricting your calorie intake, focus instead on healthy foods you can add to your diet. Eating is pleasurable and should, therefore, include foods that you both enjoy and are good for you.
Consider adding a seasonal fruit or vegetable to your lunch or preparing a fish dish from your favorite cookbook for dinner. Try a new grain you haven’t yet tasted, and make your salad more interesting by adding different vegetables and toppings. I like tossing in hearts of palm or artichoke hearts for a change. And instead of brown rice, I try to include wild rice for a change.
3. Be present for your meals.
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention to the present moment. Whether you are chopping vegetables or taking a bite of food, when we apply mindfulness to eating, we tune into our appetite, pay attention to our hunger levels, and note when we are satisfied.
As I wrote in my book “Finally Full, Finally Slim,” this practice can help you lose weight. This study found that people who practiced mindful eating for six weeks lost on average 9 pounds. These strategies can help you eat mindfully:
— Sit down when you eat.
— Chew your food slowly.
— Cut your food into bite-size pieces.
— Unplug from technology while eating.
This study found that people who played computer games while eating ate more quickly than and nearly twice as much food as those who were not distracted while eating.
4. Cut it in half.
While it may be difficult to cut out sugar, sweetened desserts and refined grains altogether, a more sustainable approach is to try cutting your intake of these foods in half. Rather than banning some of your favorite foods, practice portion control instead.
How about enjoying an appetizer portion of pasta instead of a main dish portion, eating one cookie instead of two cookies and swapping one of your sodas for a sparkling water? As I wrote about common portion size mistakes, while what you eat is the key to good health, how much you eat is just as important. And because many food portion sizes have increased in recent years, it’s easy to overeat.
I also advise paying attention to your portion of calorie-dense healthy foods like avocados and nuts. Enjoying one third of an avocado instead of an entire avocado and a handful of nuts instead of a full cup is sufficient.
5. Follow the half-plate method.
Aim to fill half of your lunch and dinner plate with colorful vegetables. Vegetables not only boost your intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, but they’re relatively low in calories and high in fiber, creating a feeling of satiety. Vary your vegetables, go for color and add some crunch. I love including jicama or red pepper to a salad or filling my plate with roasted Brussels sprouts or sautéed bok choy (Chinese white cabbage).
To lose weight, focus on eating better, not less. And filling half of your plate with vegetables is a great place to start. Enjoying a vegetable soup or making a smoothie with vegetables count too.
6. Swap red meat for plants.
Eating less red and processed meat and more fruits, vegetables and legumes can not only help you lose weight but also help you live longer. This recent study found that eating more plants instead of a typical Western diet can increase your lifespan by around 10 years. So, instead of a hamburger, choose a veggie burger. Enjoy vegetarian chili or a split pea soup on a cold winter day and top your salad with beans instead of processed meat. You can lose a few pounds as well as live longer.
7. Celebrate small victories.
When counseling clients, I advise them to recognize — and celebrate — small victories they’ve achieved along the way. These could include drinking more water, skipping the second glass of wine, feeling more energetic or eating a piece of fruit as a late afternoon snack.
Long-term success is comprised of small victories. It’s helpful to acknowledge your progress along the way. I also advise focusing on how you feel and how your clothes fit instead of obsessing about the number on the scale. Celebrating small victories has made a big difference for my clients trying to lose weight and helps keep up momentum.
Finally, consider this: weight loss, like anything else, is not black and white. You do not (and will not!) get it perfect. Do the best you can, eat foods you enjoy, enjoy the process and focus on improving your health as well.
7 weight loss tips to follow for long-term success:
— Create an environment for success.
— Focus on what you can add to your eating plan.
— Be present for your meals.
— Cut it in half.
— Follow the half-plate method.
— Swap red meat for plants.
— Celebrate small victories.
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