When it comes to losing weight, bad advice is everywhere. Every day there seems to be a new fad diet or weight loss "secret" making the rounds. It can be hard to separate fact from fiction, myth from reality. With the help of Keri Gans, M.S. R.D., author of The Small Change Diet
, we hope to add a little clarity to the process.
Here are 10 simple, and very effective, rules that Gans recommends for weight loss. Whether you implement one, or several at once, they will help you trim down and feel better in the process!
1. Commit to getting enough sleep
“You have less willpower when you’re tired,” says Gans. Lack of sleep messes with the hormones in your body that control appetite and it can increase the levels of cortisol in your system which leads to more fat storage -- around your belly in particular. So, if you are cutting your beauty sleep short to fit in that morning workout, you may not actually be doing yourself any favors. While it isn't the most exciting part of the weight loss equation, sleep is pretty essential. While the numbers vary, most people need between 7.5 and 9 hours of solid sleep a night.
2. Be mindful of your portions
Gans has a really easy way to keep your portions under control. Take a normal dinner plate and fill half of it with vegetables, one quarter with a healthy, high-fiber whole grain, and the last quarter with a lean protein. This visual representation is much easier than weighing your food or counting calories. And when something is easier to do, you are far more likely to stick with it in the long run.
3. Don't stress too much about calories
It is important to be conscious of your calories but there is no need to obsess over them. “It’s about knowing that certain things provide fewer calories but with a lot more nutrition," explains Gans. For example, guacamole and hummus are both healthy snack options, but the hummus is the smarter choice. “Hummus provides more protein per serving than guacamole and has fewer calories,” says Gans. Whether or not you have decided to count calories, it is important to make sure that you don't fall below 1,200 a day or your metabolism will start to suffer. Gans recommends using 1,600 calories a day as a base line. Just remember, you may need to eat more calories if you are working out.
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4. Eat more fruits and vegetables
One of the easiest ways to balance your weight is to eat more fruits and vegetables. “If we’re not eating enough of those nutrient-rich foods, then we’re eating more of the higher-calorie foods that provide less nutrition.” Translation: the fewer fruits and veggies you eat, the more room there is for junk food. Try to get 2 1/2 cups of vegetables a day and 2 cups of fruit (this equates to 5 servings of veggies and 4 servings of fruit). “If you think about it, if we started every dinner with a salad and had a vegetable with dinner, that’s three servings,” says Gans.
5. Avoid mindless snacking
Snacking, which is so often done mindlessly, is one of the biggest diet traps out there. To avoid eating all day long, plan your snacks ahead of time and make sure you are actually hungry when you eat them. “A good snack in my rulebook is no more than 200 calories, provides at least five to ten grams of protein, has as little sugar as possible, and contains three grams of fiber or more," says Gans. Try an apple with a single serving of cheese or a quarter cup of roasted chickpeas. Want some other great snack (and meal!) ideas? Check out the BodyRock Meal Plan. This 30 day guide gives you everything you need to clean up your diet and start feeling better! We give you a detailed, weekly, grocery lists so all you have to do is buy the ingredients and follow along! We'll take the guesswork out of everything. Get the Meal Plan here
6. Recognize what actual hunger feels like for you
“Most of us are born with the ability to recognize hunger, but along the line, we’ve lost the ability,” says Gans. Try the HALT method. Ask yourself if you are really hungry or if you are feeling angry, lonely or tired. If you think you might be eating out of boredom or habit, distract your self for 5 to 10 minutes and then see how you feel. Another option is to drink a glass of water. Sometimes thirst and dehydration can masquerade as hunger. “What we’re working on is mindful eating,” says Gans. “If you’re body is telling you that you’re hungry, don’t deny it. Just be sure that you’re truly hungry.”
7. Stay hydrated
As mentioned above, dehydration can disguise itself as hunger. “There is research that people who drink water before meals eat less, and water can help fill us up,” says Gans. The eight glasses a day rule is pretty old at this point and may not actually work for you. Figure out what your body needs and go from there. Gans suggests drinking half of your body weight in ounces each day. So, if you are a 150 pound woman, you should try for 75 ounces a day.
8. Limit the amount of high-calorie drinks you consume
One of the worst things you can do when you are looking to lose weight is drink your calories. “There’s nothing wrong with coffee, but fancy drinks have a lot of added sugar and fat,” says Gans. “If you’re having three regular lattes a day, it adds up.” The same can be said for juice, smoothies, and cocktails. “Alcohol calories count, and those calories add up…and they interfere with any weight loss you may have been hoping for,” says Gans.
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9. Develop a weekend strategy
“Health and weight-loss goals are not just a Monday through Thursday thing. They need to be all the time,” says Gans. “Within that, you have to allow yourself some time not to be so strict.” Make room for little indulgences. It is okay to go out to brunch with your friends on Sunday, there is nothing wrong with a cheat meal. But try to limit yourself to that one meal. It is when you have a whole cheat day (or two, or three), that you may run into some troubles.
10. Enjoy your food
One of the best things you can do when trying to lose weight, is to not restrict yourself. We know it sounds counterintuitive but when you deny yourself entire food groups unnecessarily, it can backfire. Gans suggests using the 80/20 rule. Following this rule means that 80% of what you eat is clean, healthy, and in line with your goals. The remaining 20% can be indulgences. “What is it that you really can’t do without? If you love chocolate more than anything, I feel there’s room for a piece
of chocolate every day.”
What weight loss rules do you follow?