Studies show that even moderate weight gain, anywhere from 5 - 22 pounds, is bad for you once you reach a certain age. For most people, this small increase in pounds occurs at little bit at a time. Maybe every year you put on five pounds at Christmas and fail to lose it before the next holiday season.
Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health have linked this incremental increase over the years to an increased risk of premature death. What can you do to keep those pounds from sneaking up on you?
Understand the Importance of Managing Your Weight
It starts with understanding how your weight factors into your health, explains the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Increased weight – even at the moderate level – puts you at risk for life-threatening chronic illnesses such as:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea
Body Mass Index (BMI), an estimation of the fat, is the current standard for weight health. A BMI equal to or greater than 30 puts you in the danger zone.
Waist circumference is another indicator, especially for cumulative weight gain. For women, a waist circumference of more than 35 inches is problematic. For men, the magic number is 40-inches. Either one of those risk factors means it’s time to make some changes.
Understand How Weight Loss Happens
Despite what fad diet gurus want you to think, there is no quick fix for this weight gain. Fads diets kind of miss the point when it comes to healthy eating and weight loss. It’s not about seeing the number on the scale go down – it's about keeping that number down. Drastic weight changes in either direction shock the system and affect your overall health.
There is only one way to lose weight — eat fewer calories than you burn. The problem is that even though you want to drop it fast, your body still needs food. You must find a healthy balance that allows you to reduce calories, increase your activity and lose weight the way many people put it on; gradually.
The current theory is that you must burn 3,500 excess calories, that is more calories than you eat, to lose one pound of fat. To put that in perspective, if you normally eat 2,000 calories a day, reducing to just 1,500 will allow you to lose one pound a week. It might seem like dropping down to 500 calories a day like fad diets suggest would mean even faster weight loss but it doesn’t work that way.
The human body has a panic button when it comes to calories. If you reduce your intake by too much, it decides you are starving and will stop burning fat. You need your body to keep burning fat for fuel, and not go into a panic that will prevent you from losing weight.
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The Good and Bad News About Weight Loss
The bad news is many of the things you hear about weight loss are flat out wrong.
- Snacking causes you to gain weight — The truth is the right kind of snack can keep you on your diet. Eating small meals, three plus two snacks a day helps level out your blood sugar so you don’t feel tired and hungry.
- Fast food restaurants are the worst — At one time that would have been true. Today, you have healthier options when eating out, even at fast food joints. Go for the salad instead of the fries, and water instead of the large coke, for instance, and always choose grilled chicken and soft tacos instead of the fatty choices.
- No Carbs — That is definitely a myth. A balanced, healthy diet means at least 50 percent of what you eat should be carbohydrates. The problem is not all carbs are created equal. Avoid processed starchy foods like white bread and rolls. Think whole grains for pasta and bread, instead.
- No Fat — Yet another myth. Healthy fats like olive oil and avocados are actually good for you. A balanced diet should include 20 percent healthy fats.
- Go Protein or Go Home — A healthy diet should consist of 30 percent good protein like lean meat and nuts, not 100 percent, because you can’t get what your body needs to work right just from protein.
The good news about weight loss is a little bit counts big. Just like gaining a few pounds can hurt you, losing just a few is still beneficial. Your initial goal should be to lose 10 percent of your body weight, so if you weigh 200 lbs, 20 pounds will lower your risk of chronic illness substantially.
Good Habits That Mean a Healthier You
Steady wins the race in the world of healthy weight loss, so lose the idea that you need to drop all the excess pounds in a few weeks. Focus on making lifestyle changes that will lead to healthy habits that last. Consider some tips to get you there such as:
- Look for bad behaviors that lead to weight gain, like late night eating and unhealthy snacking. Tackle those problems first to cut calories.
- Don’t skip meals. Low blood sugar kills even the most strategic diet plan. Eating small meals at regular intervals will keep you on track.
- Cover half your plate with something green. Leafy vegetables like lettuce or spinach are not only filling, they are a good source of fiber and nutrients.
- Keep a food diary and count calories. Once you start counting calories, you get an idea of what you should and shouldn’t be eating. Write down every food and drink and the calories that go with them. At the end of the day, tally them up to see how you are doing.
- Consider a dietary supplement. They are not the key to weight loss but they can be a big help when partnered with a healthy diet and exercise plan. Look at fat burners and targeted vitamins to see what is best for you.