March is National Nutrition Month: Simple ways to lose weight without dieting

By Jill Fleming MS, RD/LD
Veterans Memorial Hospital Dietitian

Sure, you can lose weight quickly. There are plenty of fad diets that work to shed pounds fast, leaving you feeling hungry and deprived.  The problem is that most people can only follow these restrictive diets for a short time, eventually going back to their old way of eating. I call this the “diet roller coaster”.

Instead of starting a restrictive diet, which lowers your metabolism, why not adopt a few new choices that can turn into lifelong habits?  The weight you lose with new habits is more likely to be permanent.

Here are 10 of my favorite proven habits to promote weight loss:

1. Eat breakfast daily. This simple habit “breaks the fast” to wake up your digestion. It raises your metabolism, so you will be burning more calories all day long. I recommend eating something within the first hour of waking. Include protein at breakfast, which will help control your appetite later in the day.
2. Become a day-time eater. Your metabolism is the highest from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. This is the best time to consume the majority of your calories. Many people will choose to “close the kitchen” after their supper meal. If you have a late-night craving, try a cup of hot tea, broth or cocoa.
3. Choose your liquids wisely. Sweetened drinks and alcohol provide empty calories. Plus, liquids will not fill you up, so you end up taking in a lot of extra calories. Satisfy your thirst with water, sparkling water with lemon, or unsweetened tea. Ideally, you would drink half of your body weight in ounces of water. Diet soda and artificially sweetened beverages are not a good substitute, as they make your liver work harder to filter the added chemicals.
4. Eat more vegetables.  Non-starchy vegetables (all except potatoes, corn and peas) should be eaten liberally. They are full of fiber, which is known to help with appetite control, and low in calories. Over the past 25 years, I have noticed that the more vegetables a person eats, the faster they experience weight loss.
5. Eat fruit for your sweet tooth. If you think you want a cookie or some ice cream, try eating an orange or apple (or any fruit you like) first.  Tell yourself you can always have the sweet treat, if you still want it after the fruit. In most cases, you will be satisfied with the fruit, which provides fiber and a lot of good nutrition.
6. Shrink your portions.  Most people find it is easy to eat less by using a smaller plate. Try using your salad-sized plate for your next meal. Notice if you consume less food than you would have if you used a dinner plate.
7. Only eat while sitting at a table without distractions. If you are used to eating in your living room while watching television, this will feel like a huge change.  Watching the TV while eating causes you to be distracted, not noticing how much food you are consuming. By only eating while sitting at a table, this will also help to eliminate mindless eating on the run or while cooking.
8. Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is important to keep us healthy, but did you know that when you are getting less than six hours of sleep per night, you are more likely to gain weight? Lack of sleep causes three hormones to become out of balance. Unbalanced, these hormones will cause you to be hungrier, crave simple sugars/junk food and cause you to gain more weight in your waistline.
9. Move your body more.  Count steps, count minutes of movement or join the Wellness Center with a friend. Movement will help keep your lean muscle mass burning calories for continued weight loss.
10. Deep breathe daily.  Your body requires oxygen in order to use stored fat for energy. Setting aside five to 10 minutes to deep breathe will help you take in some additional oxygen and relax.  This is essential, as most of us have a lot of stress in our lives.

Follow one or all of these simple lifestyle choices until they become habits. The gradual weight you lose will be a permanent weight loss instead of just a short-term fix. You can then give yourself permission to stop dieting for the rest of your life.
 

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