Seven simple choices for permanent weight loss

by Jill Fleming, MS, RD/LD, Veterans Memorial Hospital

The key to permanent weight loss is to adopt healthy lifestyle choices that, with consistent repetition, become habits. Most of us would love to lose our excess body fat quickly, but our real goal needs to be permanent weight loss. When you go on a restrictive diet, you will not be able to follow it for very long. Any weight you lose while feeling deprived will quickly return once you go off of the diet.
You should never go on a diet that you cannot follow for the rest of your life. Focus on making healthy choices most of the time, while still enjoying occasional guilt-free treats. Here are seven simple lifestyle choices you can add to your life today to help you reach your goal of permanent weight loss:
1) Make water your beverage of choice. You should drink at least eight cups of water daily. You will know you are drinking enough when your urine is pale yellow and non-cloudy. Water is needed to break down body fat to be used for energy.  Limit your intake of other beverages, such as sweetened or “diet” beverages. Liquid calories are always extra calories.
2) Start your day with protein and some vegetables. The easiest options are to drink a green smoothie (recipe below) or to have an omelet filled with vegetables.  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, as it breaks the fast from the night before to speed up your metabolism. Adding protein to your breakfast will also help to keep your blood sugar level stable.        
Banana Split Smoothie:
10 ozs. water, milk, almond milk or soy milk
1-2 Tbsp. peanut butter or 1-2 scoops protein powder (7-14g protein)
1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa
1 cup of fresh spinach
½ of a medium, frozen banana (freeze w/o the peeling)

3) Eat “real food” 75% of the time. Real foods are those that either won’t have an ingredient list or will have only one or two ingredients.  Examples of real foods are:  meat/poultry/fish, dairy, fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts/seeds, coconut and olive oil.  Make sure three-fourths of your plate contains real food to be sure you are making good choices 75% of the time.  The good news is your body craves what you feed it, so when you start eating more fruit and vegetables, you will begin to crave more of them.  Stop fueling your body with junk and processed foods and you will soon find your cravings for these foods will go away.
4) Eat when you are truly hungry and stop eating when you are no longer hungry. True hunger means your body is ready for fuel.  True hunger typically occurs three to four hours after your last meal. Avoid eating to the point of full or uncomfortable. Excess calories will be stored as body fat. You may find it helpful to carry snacks with you, such as almonds, popcorn or apples to prevent yourself from getting over hungry.
5) Move your body for at least 30 minutes daily. The best exercise for you is one that you will consistently do.  Think about what you enjoyed doing as a child. Maybe it was biking, swimming, jumping rope, doing the hoola-hoop or dancing. Most adults will find that when they revisit these favorite childhood activities, they still find them to be fun. Taking a walk or even just marching-in-place is the easiest form of exercise and can be done anywhere. Try it today!
6) Make sure you are getting six-and-a-half to seven hours of quality sleep per night. Research shows that when you are sleep-deprived, your appetite will be stimulated, plus you will have increased cravings for sugar and processed foods. Doing some form of exercise daily (tip #5) will also help make your body physically tired, so you will sleep better at night.
7) Deep breathe for five to 10 minutes/day. This is one of the best ways to control stress. Many people shallow-breathe when they experience stress. Since oxygen is needed to mobilize fat to be burned for energy, you will want to be sure to take that walk and do some deep breathing daily.
Whether you add one or all of these simple lifestyle choices to your life, you will find that improving your health and losing weight is an attainable goal. If you would like help with accountability during your weight loss process, consider joining the Healthy Lifestyle Weight Loss Program at Veterans Memorial Hospital, which is offered twice each year.  If you prefer a private setting, you may want to meet individually with one of our Registered Dietitians. For more information, call 563-568-3411, Ext. 567.