It seems everyone, at one time or another, is on a diet. That begs the question: Why are 65 percent of U.S. adults overweight or obese? It is time for people to get serious about weight loss in order to reverse this trend, which is present in both adults and children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16.9 percent of U.S. children and adolescents are overweight or obese.
Energy In, Energy Out
Food tastes great and it is the focal point of many social events. It can remind us of special times in our lives; it can remind us of special people. When it comes down to it, food is energy. That is the main reason we eat it; we need food to live. The many types of food are broken down into the six food groups so that we can make sure we take in all of the nutrients we need for our bodies to function properly.
Losing or gaining weight is based on a very simple concept: energy in and energy out. If you take in more energy (food) than you use (movement), you will gain weight. If you use more energy (movement) than you take in (food), you will lose weight. Now, genetics do play a role in this and some people have to work harder than others to use more energy, but in general this simple concept is the one that works.
Now you know that you need to eat less and exercise more. The key is knowing what to eat so you can give your body what it needs and stay full enough so that you stay on your weight loss plan.
When it comes to foods for weight reduction and overall good health, fresh is best. Fresh foods do not contain the sodium and chemicals of processed foods, and they are more likely to be lower in fat and calories. In addition, when you buy and prepare your own fresh foods you are more likely to have a greater appreciation for the food which will help you eat it more slowly and therefore eat less of it. Remember, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to tell your stomach that you are full. Eat slowly and pay attention to these signals. Also, when preparing your own food you will know exactly what is in it. Restaurants use many hidden fats, like butter on vegetables.
Focus your shopping list, and your grocery dollars, on the perimeter of the grocery store. This is where all of the fresh foods are located. The inner aisles contain all of the processed foods, which are also usually more expensive.
Six a Day
Another key to shedding unwanted pounds is to spread your meals out throughout the day so that you never go more than two to three hours without eating. Doing this will help break the "starve and stuff" cycle that creates blood sugar highs and lows. This cycle is the reason you are shaky when you are very hungry, and tired when you are very full. Having six small meals a day keeps your blood sugar steady so you do not experience these highs and lows. It will keep you from reaching for the candy bar in the vending machine at three o'clock. Plan for an apple with some peanut butter or yogurt with granola mixed in.
Fill up on fiber-rich foods. Foods rich in fiber, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, take longer to digest and therefore help keep you full longer. If you want to test this out, for breakfast one morning have a sugary cereal and the next morning have a fiber-rich cereal. See which one keeps you full through the morning. Odds are, with the sugary cereal you will be hungry within an hour or two.
An easy way to remember how much to eat at a meal is to use the plate method. Fill half your plate with vegetables, one quarter with protein (chicken, lean meat, fish, etc.), and one quarter with a starch (rice, potato, pasta, etc). As for individual foods, there are a few portion "rules of thumb" that are helpful:
- One serving of a starch or grain is a slice of bread, 1/3 cup of pasta, or 1/3 cup of rice.
- One serving of vegetables is 1/2 cup cooked or one cup raw.
- One serving of fruit is one small piece or 1/2 cup of fruit juice.
- One serving of dairy is one cup of milk or six ounces of yogurt.
- One serving of meat is three ounces (the palm of your hand or a deck of cards).
- One serving of fat is one teaspoon of oil, butter, or margarine.
Water, Water, Water
Your body needs water. In fact, up to 60 percent of your body is made up of water. It helps flush toxins and fats from your body and helps break down vitamins and minerals so your body can better absorb them. According to WebMD, drinking at least eight 8 oz. glasses each day can enhance the rate at which you burn calories. Keep in mind that caffeinated beverages act as diuretics, flushing water from the body. Drink pure water, not soda, coffee, or tea, for best results.
Put Down the Remote
Don't forget about exercise! Taking care of the "energy out" portion of your weight loss program is a lot easier when you exercise. Try a new sport, join a gym or fitness center, or walk around your block.
The Full Scope of Weight Loss
As you are probably aware, emotions play a big role in eating habits and lifestyle. If you are serious about losing weight, it may be helpful to look into any issues that may be causing you to overeat or hinder your weight loss. Keep a journal, writing down the foods you eat, how much you eat, where you eat the food, and how you feel at the time. You may find some patterns or behaviors you didn't notice before that are affecting your weight loss efforts.