Editor's note: "Focus on Fitness" features healthy lifestyle advice from local and national health and fitness experts. Check here weekly great information and tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Looking for a way to slim down so you can fit into that bikini? Healthy weight loss isn't easy, mostly because it requires significant lifestyle changes. But it is possible, and it's worth it in the long run.
The basic principle of weight loss remains calories in versus calories expended, but if counting calories was the only way to manage weight, with a little willpower, we would all have the physique we desired. The reality is there are many roads to achieving a healthy weight.
Americans eat out about four to five times per week, and all that dining out can put the calorie conscious at an immediate disadvantage.
"The plates at any restaurant in America are piled high with food twice to three times the recommended serving size for anyone trying to lose weight," says Shari Solomon, a holistic nutrition consultant from Boston, Mass. Solomon suggests a simple solution that will also help you save money: "When dining out, as soon as you order, ask for an extra plate. When the meal comes, put half of it onto the empty plate and immediately ask the server to wrap it up to go."
Recognizing appropriate portion sizes and locating hidden calories are also part of Tucson, Arizona, nutritionist Lauren Kanzler's approach to mindful eating and weight loss. Kanzler helps her clients avoid fad diets by teaching them about whole foods -- fruits, vegetables, beans, lean protein, and the healthy omega fats (3s, 6s, and 9s). Taming blood sugar levels by avoiding refined sugars, opting instead for unprocessed carbohydrates with low Glycemic Index (GI) scores helps control appetite and cravings. Choosing low GI carbs -- the ones that produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels -- is the secret to reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes, and is the key to sustainable weight loss.
Certified health and nutrition coach Randi Dukoff of Jericho, New York, says a balanced breakfast is essential. According to Dukoff, breakfast should feature all three macronutrients to jumpstart the metabolism -- think two eggs with a cup of blueberries and a slice of Ezekiel bread with a little butter. Breakfast should comprise at least 25 percent of the day's calories. People who eat breakfast are more successful at losing weight and sticking to a diet, while those who skip the most important meal of the day are more likely to eat unhealthy snacks, experience cravings, and are more prone to binges.
Another constructive tip from Dukoff is to "ditch soda and drink water in the amount of half your body weight in fluid ounces a day." That amounts to about nine eight-ounce glasses for a 150-pound person. Soda, which Dukoff refers to as "liquid candy," contributes about 10 percent of the calories in the American diet.
Dukoff encourages crowding out the "fake foods" with eight daily servings of colorful fruit and vegetables.
"Take advantage of spring as a time to eat locally and seasonally, and avoid processed foods like high fructose corn syrup and anything else that you can't pronounce, which lead to weight gain and disrupted insulin," she notes.
Gina Van Luven, a health and nutrition counselor from Park City, Utah, agrees.
"There is no 'magic bullet' for weight loss because everyone's body is unique," she says. The most fundamental weight-loss principle is to "eat a diet of mostly whole, unprocessed foods, focusing more on vegetables, since those seem most lacking in the American diet."
Another important thing that might be hampering your success: your fixation on weight.
"Throw your scale away," says Jeanne S. Boone, a professor of nutrition and health at Palm Beach State Collage, Boca Raton, Florida. Boone suggests focusing on your behaviors, on eating more healthfully and increasing physical activity. "Instead of thinking about losing weight, focus on becoming more fit, and the weight (fat loss, really) will take care of itself," she says. For maximum fat burning, workouts should include both cardiovascular and resistance training.
Lastly, adequate sleep is essential to maintaining a healthy weight. Research shows that people who sleep fewer than six hours a night are more prone to obesity. Even one night of sleep deprivation can raise ghrelin levels, increasing hunger and appetite and contributing to obesity.
And don't forget that healthy weight management takes time. Shantih Coro, a functional diagnostic nutritionist based in Miami, explains that permanent weight loss requires patience, correcting metabolic imbalances, and lifestyle adjustments.
"My fat and weight loss program is not quick," she says. "I know that when you lose weight fast you gain it back fast. When you lose weight on my program you will be making a lifestyle change."
Lisa Tsakos is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and NaturallySavvy.com's Chief Nutrition Expert. NaturallySavvy.com is a website that educates people on the benefits of living a natural, organic and green lifestyle. For more information and to sign up for their newsletter, visit www.NaturallySavvy.com.
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