So you’ve tried everything, and nothing seems to work. South Beach, Atkins, Low carb, No Fat, Weight Watchers…etc. The diet was either completely ineffective, too difficult to follow, or produced fleeting results. So what is the magic bullet to help you lose weight?
Are you ready for this….here’s the answer, drumroll please….
There is no magic bullet! There is no such thing as a diet that works in the long run. Period. Testimonials can be bought, and results can be exaggerated or skewed. Your friend may have initially lost 15 pounds on Atkins, but what was her weight 6 months or 1 year later? Chances are, the weight returned… with reinforcements.
Fad diets are simply what the name suggests, fads. The weight you lose from them (if any) will not stay off forever. In fact, any kind of “diet” will not work in the long run. I guess if you want to temporarily shed a few extra pounds for beach season, go ahead and pick the newest flavor — aheam, I mean diet — of the month. If you want to lose weight permanently, you can forget about it.
Okay. Enough about what doesn’t work. Let’s talk about what does work. The best weight loss plan and healthiest and longest lasting way to lose weight is to make lifestyle changes.
You simply need to: change your eating habits and start exercising regularly.
1. Eating Habits
First, you need to begin eating 5-6 small meals per day instead of the traditional breakfast – lunch – dinner routine. You should eat something every 2-3 hours. If you prefer, you can make 3 of the meals a bit larger, and have 2 or 3 lighter, snack-like meals in between. Eating smaller portions more often is healthier because it allows your body to burn off the calories more efficiently. Evolutionarily speaking, humans were meant to graze, eating bits of food constantly throughout the day.
Next, you obviously need to eat healthy. You don’t need to go overboard with this, as some fad diets suggest. There are plenty of good books and a plethora of info online about this. For now, here are a few general guidelines:
- Avoid foods high in cholesterol, saturated fat, or containing artificial ingredients (especially artificial sweeteners) and sugar.
- Go for foods in their natural form whenever possible; the less “processed” or “refined” a food is, the better.
- Avoid junk food, fast food, fried food, chips, candy, beer, carbonated soft drinks, or fruit drinks with lots of extra sugar like lemonade.
With all that being said, it will probably be counterproductive to cut out ALL of the above. When you’re used to eating whatever you want, your body begins to crave certain things, eventually leading to a junk food/candy binge, or quitting healthy eating altogether. Instead, plan one or two days a week where you let yourself have some of these unhealthy foods/drinks in moderation. This is an excellent way to reward yourself for eating healthy the rest of the time!
2. Regular Exercise
In addition to eating healthy, you also need to begin exercising regularly. Cardio exercise is hands down, the best way to lose weight. What type of cardio you do isn’t as important as making a plan and sticking to it. You can jog, bike, rollerblade, row, use a stairmaster, elliptical machine, go spinning, use an exercise video, etc. Or you can make a plan using a combination of several methods.
Whatever form of cardio you choose, try working up to exercising 3-5 days per week. I say “working up”, because you shouldn’t start exercising 3+ days a week from the beginning. This will be way too tough — you’ll just be setting yourself up for failure. Instead, start working out once or twice a week, and then gradually increase the frequency when you feel ready.
In addition to increasing frequency, you’ll also want to gradually ramp up the intensity. For example, if you start out by jogging one mile the first couple weeks, try jogging 1.5 or 2 miles the next couple weeks, etc. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. If you follow an organized plan with small increases in frequency and/or intensity, I guarantee you will see steady improvements.
When you eat healthy and follow an exercise plan, you’ll feel better, look better, and be filled with energy and a new enthusiasm for life!