Written by GuestOur goal here at BestCompany.com is to provide you with the honest, reliable information you need to find companies you can trust.
Guest Post by Nancy Brown
There's a reason most diets fail: people deprive themselves too much while trying to transform their entire routine around food. That can only last so long before they reach a breaking point, usually just a few days into their diet.
Nevertheless, millions of Americans prevail with their weight loss efforts. They forego carbs, give up solids, and otherwise starve themselves in the quest to reach the "ideal" weight. It's always at the top of the list of people's New Year's resolutions and has spawned a massive industry of weight loss and exercise products that is worth $72 billion in the United States alone.
Weight loss failure rates are high with some studies pegging it at more than 90 percent. The number one reason is dieters who go to the extreme right out of the gate. This tendency sets them up for failure, which breeds discouragement, and creates a never-ending cycle of fits and starts with little success.
Reaching your ideal weight doesn't have to be a torturous experience. From moderation to portion control, here's a look at ways to be healthy without blowing your budget or depriving yourself of the sweet stuff.
1. Moderation is everything
If you were training for a marathon, you wouldn't run 26 miles on day one, nor should you go extreme when you commit to lose weight or get in shape. In order to achieve your optimal health, you have to view healthy eating and exercise as part of your lifestyle rather than a means to an end. If you don't, any pounds you shed will quickly come back, plus some. According to a report by UCLA, dieters can easily lose 5 percent to 10 percent of their weight on a slew of different diets, but the weight ultimately comes back for most, with some people even putting on more pounds.
Far too often, people will embark on a weight loss journey, assuming they have to work out at least an hour every day, consume a small number of calories, and drink gallons of water. That works until they get burned out and shelve the idea altogether. A better strategy is to take baby steps, committing to exercising three days a week in the beginning and giving up (or even just adjusting) snacking in between meals. Do it for a month, and then extend the workout length (or how often you go to the gym) and incorporate more healthy food into your diet. If you do it in moderation, it won't disrupt your life too much, increasing the odds you will stick with it over the long haul.
Moderation applies to the so-called bad food too. Instead of having a cheat day where you indulge in your favorite sweets, just have them in moderation. If you are largely eating healthy and exercising, it's okay to indulge in those cupcakes calling your name. Just limit it to one.
2. Set a plan
Before you embark on your journey, you have to come up with a plan, and the more concrete, the better. You can't just say I'm going to work out without giving any thought to how — just like you can't commit to eating healthy without knowing what foods you'll eat and which ones you'll avoid. You need to create a detailed plan, listing your goals and a timeline to meet them. Arming yourself with the proper exercise equipment or plan and stocking the fridge and cupboards with healthy food will go a long way in ensuring you stick to your plan. It also provides a way to measure progress against your stated goals and timeline.
3. Put it on your calendar
Just like you brush your teeth every morning or go to work five days a week, exercise has to become part of your routine. If it isn't, it's easy to blow it off for extra sleep or to catch up on your favorite show. If you're not disciplined enough to do it on your own, schedule it on your calendar just like you would a visit to the dentist or a coffee date with friends. If you schedule your workouts, it will be harder to blow them off.
4. Portion control instead of a diet
Instead of vowing to cut your calorie intake drastically each day, try portion control as an alternative. Instead of piling your plate with tons of food at the buffet line or eating the entire meal you were served in a restaurant, reduce the amount you eat each meal. With portions supersized in America, if you clean your plate, chances are you're overeating.
Lots of empty calories, or ones that don't give you energy or nutrients, come from those foods that are high in fat and sugar or have a lot of carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta. The same goes for soda and sports drinks. A way to lower your calorie intake and control portion is to consume less of those food items and beverages, be it during a meal or as an afternoon or evening snack. Fill up on the protein and fiber-rich foods, and ignore the other food groups. Can't resist? Keep portion size in mind, having half of that cookie, soft drink, or high-fat food item you're craving so much.
An effective way to keep your weight in check and speed up your metabolism is to swap out three big meals for six smaller ones each day. By doing that, you will keep your appetite in check, and you won't create a situation where you overeat because you are starving. Aim to have small meals that are high in protein and rich in fiber, like nuts, grilled chicken, fruits, and vegetables.
Be very mindful that if you switch to more meals, the portion is drastically smaller than when you're eating less often throughout the day. Ask your doctor what your best meal plan might be — whether it involves two bigger meals in the day or six smaller portions. Listen to your body, as a single standard doesn't apply to everyone when it comes to eating habits and portion control.
5. Cut yourself some slack
We are often our worst critic, holding ourselves to standards and expectations that we would never hold our friends, loved ones, and family too. When it comes to weight loss and a healthy lifestyle, that can have devastating effects. The harder you are on yourself when you make a mistake or break your routine, the more likely you are to quit. We all make progress only to be hit with setbacks. Life happens, as does failure, but the people who are ultimately successful are those who get right back up again.
Cut yourself some slack and accept some failure along the way, but vow to stick to your plan, even if the road to get there isn't so perfect. Mistakes are a part of life, and, as the saying goes, "to err is human."
Losing weight and eating healthy is so important to your well-being. It increases your energy and lowers your medical costs in the long run. But that doesn't mean you have to give up all those tasty treats as a result. The key is to embrace a lifestyle based on moderation, portion control, and exercise.
Create your definition of healthy rather than following the most current fad, and you might just be able to maintain weight loss and physical health for the long haul.
Nancy Brown is a freelance writer and nutritionist living and working in Los Angeles, California. She has over 15 years of experience helping people achieve their goals with health and fitness. She writes for several websites on health-related topics.