One of the basic truths about losing weight is that you need to burn more calories than you consume.  3500 calories equal approximately 1 pound of fat, so if you cut 500 to 1000 calories a day from a typical diet, you should lose 1 – 2 pounds per week.  There are many additional factors to consider, however, if you want to lose weight effectively and keep it off.

There are lots of “diets” that you can try, some of which are highly restrictive as well as unhealthy.  They might lead you to lose weight temporarily, but you may find it very difficult to stay on them and end up gaining all the weight back.  Even worse, you may be harming your health by cutting our essential nutrients or loading up on animal products.

The best way to lose weight is to adopt a lifestyle that emphasizes foods that are nutritious while cutting out processed foods and excess sugar.  You’ll also need to be mindful of how much you eat in order to maximize your chances of success, making sure to eat only when you’re hungry and not because of other triggers like boredom, comfort or to accompany your TV viewing.

If you’re reducing your calorie intake but don’t want to feel hungry all the time, you’ll want to make sure your meals include foods that will make you feel satiated.  Because your body doesn’t digest fiber, it keeps you feeling fuller longer while helping stabilize your blood sugar.  Studies show that increasing your intake of fiber results in decreased calorie intake as well as body weight.  Aim for at least 25 – 38 grams of fiber every day from vegetables, beans, whole grains and fruits.   Go for a wide variety of these foods and prioritize non-starchy vegetables.

Healthy fats don’t make you fat, so don’t be afraid of eating nuts, avocados, olive oil and fish.  They can actually help you lose weight by making you feel fuller and less likely to overeat.  Stay away from processed foods that are labeled “low fat”, as they are likely to have added sugar for flavor to replace the fat.

Refined carbohydrates like white flour, white rice, processed cereals and breads are stripped of their nutrient and fiber content during processing.  They’re high in calories but low in nutrients, and are absorbed quickly into your bloodstream.  This results in spikes in your blood sugar and increased hunger.  Whole grains, on the other hand, get digested slowly and fill you up for hours.  They also still have the nutrition and fiber.  Eat whole grains and seeds like quinoa, oats, brown rice and barley.

Drink water instead of soda, juice and energy or sports drinks that contain a lot of sugar.  Diet soda is not a good option because of the harmful effects of sugar substitutes.  Recent studies have shown that women over 50 who drink 2 or more artificially sweetened drinks per day have an increased risk of stroke, heart attack and death.  While you’re at it, cut back on the sugary desserts and processed foods that have sugar added, including condiments, salad dressings and flavored yogurts.

Besides watching what you eat, pay attention to how and when you eat.  Eat mindfully and slowly so you can enjoy every bite.  Even more importantly, eating slowly lets you pay attention to your body and stop when you are no longer hungry instead of mindlessly overeating.  Cut out snacking before bed and consider intermittent fasting, allowing yourself an eating window of 8 – 12 hours during the day, while fasting for the remaining 12 – 16 hours.  Besides reducing the amount of total calories you consume, intermittent fasting can improve your metabolism and increase fat loss.

Be sure to exercise regularly, including plenty of cardio like walking, running, biking or swimming to help speed weight loss.  Resistance training will help you build muscle and increase your metabolism.  Get enough sleep, aiming for 7 – 8 hours every night.

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