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Weight Loss Tips - How to Lose Weight

October 20th, 2011 Healthy Living

Beware of Alcohol’s Hidden Calories

Most health experts agree that drinking a glass of red wine provides a dose of healthy antioxidants. But if you are trying to lose weight, it might be best to back off the alcohol for while. Alcohol is not calorie-free; it provides about 7 calories per gram.

If you are counting calories, remember that a 5-ounce glass of wine has about 100 calories. A 12-ounce can of beer (not light beer) equals about 150 calories, and 1.5 ounces (about a shot glass worth) of distilled spirits equals 100 calories.

If you choose to drink alcohol and you are following a weight loss program, factor in the calories for the alcohol and eat less of some food during a meal to allow for the extra calories. If fat is your main concern, remember that beer, wine, and spirits contain zero fat.

But know your limits and keep in mind that alcohol can impair your judgment and cause you to crave more food, so if you have more than one drink you may find yourself snacking without realizing what you’re eating. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you overindulge one evening, but don’t make a habit of it if you are trying to lose weight and keep it off.

Diet or Exercise For Weight Loss? It’s The Calories That Count

There are lots of weight loss myths, but here’s one truth: To lose weight, you must burn off more calories than you take in. Here’s the simple equation: 3,500 calories equals one pound of fat, so you need to burn 3,500 more calories than you eat to lose one pound.

Obviously, you can’t do this in one day. And everyone’s metabolism is different. But consider this: If you cut 500 calories from your diet each day for a week, you could lose one pound (7 days times 500 calories equals 3,500 calories).

To lose weight safely, most health experts recommend eating no fewer than 1,200 calories per day diet for women and 1,500 calories per day diet for men. If you eat fewer than these amounts of calories over the long-term, you can send your body into starvation mode, which may slow your metabolism and sabotage your weight loss program.

It doesn’t seem to make much difference whether you create a calorie deficit through diet or exercise. A recent study showed roughly equal weight and fat loss for two groups of healthy adults, half of whom ate 25 percent fewer calories but didn’t exercise and half of whom ate 12.5 percent fewer calories and burned 12.5 percent fewer calories with exercise.

But exercise has many benefits in addition to weight loss, so you don’t have an excuse to skip it! Regular exercise helps you maintain weight loss and it also improves your cardiovascular health and your mental health, too.

Be sure to talk to your doctor before you start any diet or weight loss plan, especially if you have any chronic health conditions or if you are following a special or restricted diet.

Fat-Free Foods: They Still Cost Calories

Your grocery store shelves are filled with fat-free products, which can be especially alluring if you are trying to lose weight. It’s healthy to reduce the overall amount of total fat and saturated fat in your diet, but don’t fall into a trap of eating only fat-free or reduced fat foods.

When you are incorporating fat-free or low-fat foods into your weight loss plan, check the calories. Some fat-free foods actually have more calories than the full-fat versions because they contain more sugar to make up for the flavor lost by cutting down on the fat. Also, you may be tempted to eat more of a fat-free food than you would of a regular food because you think it has fewer calories or because the taste is less satisfying. As Julia Child once said, “Fat gives things flavor.”

For example, a half a cup of non-fat vanilla frozen yogurt has 100 calories, and a half a cup of regular frozen yogurt made with whole milk has 104 calories. If you are looking to limit your fat intake, then choose the fat-free version, but if calories are your main concern, you can still enjoy real ice cream, just be sure to watch your portion sizes and stop with half a cup, rather than half a carton.

Follow That Food: Try a Food Journal to Track Eating Habits

Some people find it helpful to keep a food diary when they begin a weight loss plan. The diary is for your eyes only—you don’t have to share it with anyone. And you don’t have to write down everything you eat every day. But if you are having trouble losing weight, maintaining weight loss, or getting started with a weight loss program, writing down what you eat and when, where, and why you ate it can be a helpful way to identify patterns of behavior that you can change.

But don’t just write down what you ate and how much. Include the following information for everything you ate on a given day or a few days to make the food journal truly useful:

  • Date and time of day
  • How much did you eat?
  • Where did you eat (kitchen, car)?
  • What were you doing (eating with family, working, watching TV)?
  • What was your mood? Were you upset?
  • Were you hungry?
  • Were you alone?
If you are diligent about keeping a food journal for a few days, you may identify some poor eating patterns. For example, do you always buy a muffin on the way to work? Try packing a baggie full of low-fat, low-calorie cereal instead. Do you watch the news with a bag of chips every night? Buy grapes or berries to keep on hand as an alternative when the late-night munchies hit.

A food diary may show what triggers emotional eating, too. When your deadline is looming, make sure you have mints or gum at your desk so you don’t have to hit the vending machine. If you can identify situations that are likely to cause mindless eating, you can have your defense plan ready.

Get Healthy With a Little Help From Your Friends

Commitment to a weight loss program can be easier if you have the support of family and friends, as well as your doctor and other health care professionals. Support comes in many forms. You’ll need emotional support to help you when you feel discouraged and organizational support to factor healthy eating and exercise into your day (maybe that means having a friend pick up your kids after school so you can go to the gym).

If you are the type of person who likes to do things on your own, do what works for you, but sometimes it also helps to have the support of others who are facing the same challenges and trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Thanks to the Internet, you can find plenty of extra help, support, and guidance through online weight loss support groups and websites and online weight loss blogs. An advantage to the Internet is that it is anonymous, and you can log on to group website and read what others have to say or share your own thoughts at your convenience.

Other support mechanisms to help achieve your weight loss goals include:

  • Professional weight loss groups. Groups such as Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig offer periodic meetings and menu plans to help you count your calories and make sure that you eat a variety of foods.
  • Personal trainers. If your doctor agrees that you can start or enhance an exercise program as part of your weight loss strategy, a personal trainer can help design a workout routine that fits your time schedule and ability level.
  • Registered dietitians. A registered dietitian or professional nutritionist can work with you and your doctor to design a menu plan. A dietitian is an especially valuable resource if you have a chronic medical condition that requires a special diet, or if you have problems.
Of course, your doctor should be your first source of support. Talk to your doctor before you start a weight loss program and he or she may be able to recommend online or local in-person groups.

Ideas For Healthy Snacks To Help You Lose Weight

You’ve seen the pre-packaged 100-calorie snack packs of chips and cookies now available from many major snack food makers. A 100-calorie snack fits into most people’s weight loss plans, or a 100-calorie snack is often just right if you are simply trying to maintain a healthy weight.

Some snack bars are just 100 calories and nutritionally balanced, but these bars can be expensive and some brands are tough to chew and swallow. But you can use a calorie counting book or website to create your own 100-calorie snacks provide energy and nutrients.

Some ideas:

  • Two domino-sized chunks of low-fat cheddar cheese
  • One fat-free chocolate pudding cup
  • One cup of sliced bananas and fresh raspberries
If you are following a weight loss plan, following a set schedule for snacks throughout the day helps you stick to your plan and keeps you satisfied so you are less likely to overeat at meals.

If eating a small bag of pretzels, a piece of fruit, or even a small cookie keeps you from having second or third helpings at dinner, you will probably consume fewer total calories for the day. The trick is to make sure you consume healthy and low-calorie snacks that satisfy you, so that you avoid second or third helpings at mealtimes.

Be a savvy label reader when choosing snacks. Some snack foods that sound healthy aren’t that much different from any other snack food. For example, 1 ounce of Sun Chips, which is marketed as “healthy”, has 140 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 19 grams of carbohydrate. Doritos are surprisingly similar: 1 ounce of Doritos has 150 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 20 grams of carbohydrate.

Little Hints For Cutting Lots of Calories

Sure, calories can add up in small amounts over the course of the day, but little subtractions can add up, too. Whether you are trying to lose weight or maintain your current healthy weight, keeping these hints in mind can keep unnecessary calories from adding up to unwanted pounds over time.

  • Try your coffee black, or use a low-fat, low-calorie sweetener. Creamers, sugars, and flavored syrups can add up to several hundred calories (beware of those gourmet coffee drinks).
  • Drink diet soda or sparkling water instead of regular soda.
  • Trim calories in ice cream cones. If you like your ice cream in a cone, get the wafer rather than the waffle, or choose a cup instead.
Many people who are following a diet plan use dining out as an opportunity to splurge a little. But if you dine out often, it can be difficult to keep the calories under control if you are trying to lose weight, especially because no one wants to waste good food. But when you dine out, keep these points in mind to help you keep your weight loss plan on track:
  • Ask for a take-home container at the start of the meal and put half of the food into it so you can enjoy it the next day.
  • Request that your meal be served without gravy, sauces, or butter, or ask for these items on the side.
  • Choose foods that are steamed, baked, broiled, poached, or roasted, rather than deep-fat fried.
  • Share a meal or dessert with a dining companion.
  • Ask for salad dressings on the side, and use small amounts.

Size Up Your Servings For Accurate Calorie Counts

People who are trying to lose weight often underestimate the importance of portion control. But it’s easy to confuse portions with serving sizes, especially when dining out at restaurants where a single portion (one person’s order) may be enough servings for 3-4 people, according to the U.S. government’s food pyramid. Keep the image examples below in mind next time you need to count calories:

  • 3 ounces of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.
  • A medium apple or orange is about the size of a tennis ball.
  • 1 ounce of cheese is about the size of four dice.
  • A medium bagel is the size of a hockey puck.
In addition, consider the nutrient value of foods relative to the calorie count. The term “nutrient density” refers to the amount of nutrients in food rather than the number of calories, although nutrition experts don’t all agree on the use of this term.

Some nutrition experts say that any food should supply 50 percent more nutrients than it costs in calories. For example, a quarter cup of sunflower seeds has 200 calories and a can of regular (non-diet) Sprite soda has 140 calories. But the sunflower seeds provide 20 percent of your recommended daily value of folate and vitamin B5, while Sprite provides neither. Because the 200 calories make up about 11 percent of the total calorie intake (based on a 2000 calorie diet,) you are getting twice as many nutrients as calories with the sunflower seeds, so it is a nutrient-dense food and the calories are doing you some good rather than being “empty calories.”