More than two-thirds of adult Americans are classified as overweight or obese, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Weight loss is a profitable industry, but unfortunately many people have a very difficult time losing weight and keeping it off. To really see permanent changes in your body, you cannot look at the journey as a short-term fix. Instead you need to focus on lifestyle changes that you can maintain for the rest of your life.
Before You Start
Many people set themselves up for failure by trying to make drastic changes that result in fast, unhealthy weight loss. Often these plans are not made to continue long term. You need to realize that if you want to make permanent changes to your body, you need to make permanent changes. But all the changes do not have to happen overnight. Set small realistic goals. Focus on losing 1 to 2 pounds per week through increasing activity and decreasing calories. These changes will become habits, and over time you will succeed.
A strong support system is a very important part of successful weight loss. Making lifestyle changes is hard, and if you are surrounded by people that do not support you, or even try to sabotage you, it is even more challenging. Talk to your family and friends about what you want to do and why you want to do it. Tell them your plans and what you need from them. Sometimes it's helpful to join a weight-loss support group.
Exercise is an integral part of weight loss and maintenance. You need to incorporate both cardio and resistance training. For cardio, start with something basic such as walking. Build up to walking five to seven days per week for 30 to 60 minutes. Keep your pace brisk so that your intensity is moderate to vigorous. Once walking becomes easy, try other things such as jogging, swimming or cycling. Two to three days per week perform resistance-training exercises. Choose one exercise for each major muscle group: chest, back, shoulders, triceps, biceps, abs, thighs and calves. Do one to three sets of eight to 12 reps with a challenging resistance. Every six to eight weeks change your exercises to prevent boredom and keep your body changing.
Diet has become a dirty word that is synonymous with deprivation and hunger. But it also simply describes the way you eat. Your goal is to gradually change your diet so that it supports weight loss and is healthy and satisfying. Aim to eat five or six small meals each day. This will raise your metabolism and prevent hunger. Include whole grains, lean sources of protein and heart-healthy, unsaturated fats. Also important are fruits and vegetables. Fresh and frozen are the best choices. Add variety and use spices to keep food from tasting bland.
- MayoClinic.com: Weight Loss: 6 Strategies for Success
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Keeping It Off
- University of New Mexico: Winning at Losing: Secrets of Long-Term Weight Loss
- ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription; American College of Sports Medicine
- My Plate.gov: Food Groups
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