You’ve resolved that 2020 is your year: You’re losing weight and learning how to keep it off.
Maybe you’re done battling the extra 25 pounds that stuck around after having kids. Or you don’t like what your nightly Netflix and ice cream habit has done to your waistline. And you know climbing the stairs with a basket of laundry shouldn’t leave you breathless.
Whatever fuels your commitment, you can make 2020 the year you shed extra weight and poor eating habits. Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, MD, an IU Health primary care physician, offers a simple guide to making it happen.
1. Know your “why”
Ask yourself why you want to lose weight. You may say, to hit a certain number on the scale or to look better in a bathing suit.
Keep asking why your reason is important until you drill down to your real motivation. That’s where you’ll uncover your key to long-term weight loss. Wanting to enjoy, not dread, family beach vacations, or be healthy enough to see grandkids grow up can help keep you on track when your motivation lags.
2. Think lifestyle, not diet
Most “diets” work, if you stick to them. It’s the sticking-to-them that makes it tough to keep weight off. Diets that promise quick weight loss usually involve strict eating rules or eliminating whole food groups. Hit your goal weight, return to “normal” eating and watch weight return.
Changing your eating habits to support a healthy lifestyle will deliver the weight loss you want and can maintain. Along the way, you’re taking responsibility for your health, doing your part to keep your body going strong for as long as possible.
3. Log your food
Write down every bite and sip you take for one week. Track your emotions while eating too. It’s likely eye-opening. You may not think about the two creamers you add to your coffee and the calories that come with them. Who knew you were actually eating three servings of granola every morning?
You’ll see how nibbles add up and when you’re turning to food to “fix” how you feel. Seeing what you’re putting in and why allows you to assess what you want to change. Continuing to log your food keeps you accountable and helps make eating healthy a habit for life.
4. Eliminate added sugars
Jumpstart weight loss and healthy eating by cutting out added sugars. You know the usual suspects:
- Ice cream
But the biggest culprit? Sweetened beverages:
- Sports drinks
- Flavored fruit drinks
- Sweet tea
- Pumpkin-spiced coffee and its syrup-laden family of coffee drinks
Sugar is naturally in many foods—fruit and dairy—but those whole foods come packaged with nutrients too. Foods with added sugar (any ingredient ending in “ose” hiding out on food labels) are empty calories. They have no nutritional value and can pack on the pounds and lead to chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Make water your beverage of choice—plain, sparkling or dressed up with fruit slices or a splash of fruit juice. Choose the no-sugar-added versions of coffee and tea, too.
5. Use ChooseMyPlate
Make healthy eating a priority. ChooseMyPlate can help make that happen. It’s an approach that teaches you about good-for-you foods and how much of them to eat to lose weight.
It shows how choosing lower-calorie fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains over high-calorie processed, high-fat, sugar-laden foods make for easy math. Fewer calories in equals weight loss, plus bonus points for good nutrition.
6. Eat mindfully
Pay attention to what’s going in. Eating without realizing how much you’re putting away is easy to do:
- Cleaning up the last bites of your kid’s mac-n-cheese
- Plowing through a tub of movie popcorn during the previews
- Treating a sleeve of Thin Mints® as a single serving
Mindful eating is essential to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Every bite matters. What does mindful eating look like?
- Eating only when you’re hungry (no matter how good it tastes!)
- Sitting down to eat with a focus on your meal
- Eliminating distracting screens—the phone, computer or television
- Eating slowly and savoring each bite
Mindful eating comes down to appreciating food and realizing it takes less than you think to be satisfied. Craving a sweet? Have one cookie and enjoy it in four bites instead of one.
7. Get moving
Supercharge your healthy-eating approach to weight loss with exercise. No, you don’t have to join a gym. Get moving and make a lifestyle change by looking for ways to move and include activity in your everyday life.
Walking the dog and cutting the grass (with a push mower, of course) not only gets you moving, they’re a healthy alternative to mindless eating, too. Just as every bite matters, so does every step.