4 Nutrient-Rich Superfoods to Boost a Healthy Diet

Photo Credit: Diego CC-BY-2.0 2008

Looking good, feeling good and being healthy starts with good nutrition and exercise. Some foods contain more essential vitamins and nutrients per serving than other foods. It is important that you know the nutritional value of the foods you eat, especially if you are trying to lose weight. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that people need to eat more fruits vegetables, dairy and whole grain foods. A tasty way to add more of these foods to your diet is to eat more yogurt or low-fat milk, dry beans, eggs, and nuts.

Beans

Dry beans are rich in protein, magnesium, potassium and carbohydrates.  They are an excellent low-fat source of nutrition. In addition to vital minerals and protein, dry beans provide an abundant source of fiber that can help lower cholesterol and keep your digestive tract functioning well. Beans are a good substitute for meat or as a side dish when chicken or turkey is the main course. You can add beans to soups and gumbo dishes for extra nutrition and flavor. Thoroughly wash dried beans and soak them in cold water for about an hour. Cook dry beans slowly over medium heat until the bean is tender.

Yogurt

Low-fat and fat-free yogurt contains more calcium than a glass of milk. Yogurt also contains protein, Vitamin  D and potassium. Some brands of yogurt include probiotics that help to maintain the balance of good bacteria in your digestive tract. Add some raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or oatmeal to sweeten your plain yogurt. Berries and granola added to your yogurt makes it tastier and you get the nutritional benefits of the fruit and grains. Add yogurt to dessert recipes to replace a portion of cream cheese.

Eggs

Eggs are among the most versatile and nutrition-packed foods you can eat. Eggs are loaded with protein, almost all the vitamins and minerals your body needs and they contain choline for healthy brain development. Most people think of eggs for breakfast, but they may be eaten at other times, too. Hard boiled eggs are a great snack, or an egg salad sandwich made with low-fat mayonnaise on whole wheat bread is a nutritious lunch.

Nuts

Nuts in small portions or added to salads are a great way to get more protein, fiber, healthy fats, and antioxidants in your diet. Try some  almonds, peanuts, walnuts, or pecans alone, in salads or in low-fat yogurt for a delicious way to enjoy a daily dose of extra nutrition. Add nuts  to your breakfast cereal, oatmeal or baked in cakes and breads.

Your Brain on Food: Whole Food Versus Junk

Many of us have heard of the effects of drugs on the brain. Countless commercials and preventative programs are dedicated to raising awareness on this issue. One neglected topic, however, has been that of what junk food does to the brain. We know of the physical implications, but are there mental ones as well?

Junk Food is Addictive

The reason that one chip can mindlessly turn into the entire bag in a matter of seconds is due to the addictive properties of junk food. Foods such as chips, cookies, and candies are actually master magicians. You may reason, “this one candy bar will surely hold me over until dinner.” You begin to indulge and 30 minutes later, you’ve eaten a candy bar, a bag of chips, and a honeybun.

Since junk food has no nutritional value, you will never truly remain full. Your mind will keep telling your body to eat more in order to fulfill that hunger. In addition, junk food is highly addictive. A breakthrough study conducted by researcher Nicole Avena from the University of Florida found that junk food is indeed addictive.

Through observing the effects of sugar on rats, they found that when sugar was removed from the rat’s regular diet, they began to exhibit withdrawal symptoms. Researchers have since performed additional studies that prove the addictive properties of junk food.

When surveying individuals with a desire for junk food, they noticed that when presented their junk of choice, certain chemicals are released that is similar to that of cocaine addicts being shown cocaine. Their inhibition is low and their ability to make wise decisions is altered.

Junk Food Negatively Impacts Your Cognition

The hippocampus is an important part of the brain that controls memory, information retention, and overall wellness. A study conducted by researchers at the Australian National University polled older people between the 60 and 65 years of age. Their findings were quite astonishing.

The adults who reported eating junk food on a regular basis actually had a smaller hippocampus when compared to the other adults who ate a healthy diet. Their hippocampus was significantly larger. The danger in having small hippocampus results in mental challenges such as anxiety or depression.

Learning may become increasingly difficult as well as retaining information to be recalled later. In some cases, excessive junk food consumption has contributed to early onset dementia.

The results of this research do not apply only to older people. Children and teenagers are also vulnerable to these effects. Children who consume large amounts of junk and processed foods are more likely to experience problems both socially and in the classroom.

Attention Deficit Disorder along with anxiety related symptoms are common. Body awareness is decreased which impacts their ability to make friends and develop normally.

How Whole Foods Impact the Brain

Whole foods are defined as foods in their natural state, free from processed chemicals, fake properties, and bleach. They are whole wheat, grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Anything pre-packaged or altered in color does not fit the bill.

Whole foods are beneficial for healthy brain function. When we eat certain foods such as salmon or blueberries, those nutrients promote healthy brain function.

Probiotics like whole yogurt and kefir, work in conjunction with your digestive system to send anxiety destroying signals to the brain. Berries, kale, sweet potatoes, and even dark chocolate are all examples of “brain food” that assists with cognition and mental well-being.

When you choose to eat “clean” your brain is able to process information in an organized manner. You are able to assess your surroundings to adequately fight anxiety and social hiccups. In all, eating whole foods has an impact not only on your brain, but on your overall health.

There are no clear indications of the benefits of regularly eating junk food. While destroying the brain, it also destroys the body. Choosing to eat whole foods has lasting benefits that will keep you happy and able to retain information.

 

4 Ways You Can Avoid Emotional Eating During the Holidays

The holiday season is here and it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed with all the arrangements, the traveling, the inviting and the visiting of friends and families, the seasonal shopping for gifts and for food, the cleaning, the preparations and decorations, and then of course, the eating!

There’s the eating to celebrate, the eating to share sustenance with loved ones; there’s the eating for enjoyment and pleasure and there’s the eating to stuff down and avoid the unpleasant feelings of stress and anxiety that come inevitably as part of the package of fun festivities.

Sure, there’ll be laughter and enjoyment, good times and togetherness, but all this excitement can bring with it some uncomfortable feelings like apprehension, nervousness, and even uncertainty.

Not to mention all the stress that comes from all the extra chores that come with the holidays, like gift shopping in crowded malls, and planning cooking and cleaning in preparation for parties, dinners and relatives coming into town.

It’s at times like these when it’s more tempting than ever to turn to food as a source of comfort. It’s so easy when food is all around you and everywhere you look. It’s hard not to pick at the left overs or take a second piece of pie.

So what can you do to reduce that holiday stress so you don’t turn to the cookie jar or finish off that wonderful bucket of gourmet ice cream, or take that last slice of cheesecake?

  1. The first thing you can do is take a moment to breathe. Really stop everything, and just before your hand reaches the door of the refrigerator, focus instead on the cool air as it passes through your nostrils and feel your lower belly fill as you use your diaphragm to breathe in. Hold the breath in for a second and then focus on the air as you breathe it out through the nostrils, warmer now, and feel your belly cave inwards as the air goes out. Focus on this process for ten complete breaths and you will feel much calmer, your anxiety will have subsided and your cravings will have diminished in intensity.

 

  1. Make sure you get your daily dose of fresh air and exercise, even if it is just a walk around the block. Being at a family gathering can get very warm and stuffy and all those people breathing out carbon dioxide and using up the available oxygen can make for an atmosphere that can build up feelings of stress and cause irritability. Getting outside can help clear the head and calm the mind. It takes you away from the source of food and gets you participating in some healthy exercise.

 

  1. When you do eat, eat mindfully. That is, instead of zoning out and just stuffing yourself silly until you reach for the antacids and feel the waistband tightening mercilessly, eat with awareness. See the food, smell the food, and really savor the food. Focus on the food as you take a bite, the sweet or savory tastes, the unique textures, and the different colors. Enjoy the very experience of eating for pleasure. That way, you will slow your eating down, you won’t rush, you won’t eat quite so much, you won’t feel guilty about it, and you’ll taste each and every morsel. You’ll feel full sooner and you won’t be as inclined to reach for more.

 

  1. Be grateful. Be grateful for all the goodness you are receiving: the company of friends, the warmth, and good cheer, the wonderful food. Experts have found that being grateful increases your feelings of contentment and this in turn reduces your stress and lowers the temptation to eat for self-comfort. Finding other ways than eating to soothe yourself is healthier and more

Valentine’s Day Treats That Won’t Bust Your Diet

Photo Credit: KitzOOO

Are you looking for the perfect sweet Valentine’s Day gift for yourself or a loved one, but don’t want to add too many extra calories? Sugar-free and low-sugar candies and sweets are a good option for those counting calories.

Chocolate should not make you feel guilty and may even help you get some nutrients you might be lacking. Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, which improve your blood pressure, lower your bad cholesterol and improves blood flow. The darker the chocolate, the more flavonoids it contains. Chocolates that consist of 70 percent cocoa are richest in flavonoids and usually less than 150 calories per serving. You can indulge in dark chocolate without the guilt. Unfortunately, milk chocolate does not offer the same guilt-free benefits and contains more calories.

Dried fruits are naturally sweet and contain plenty of vitamins and minerals. Nuts covered in dark chocolate are another good Valentine’s Day treat that won’t add a lot of calories to your diet. Some nuts can be high in fat, so check the label for calorie and fat information. Sugar-free jelly beans give you all the flavor your sweet tooth demands without the extra calories. Fresh fruits, such as strawberries, blueberries and pineapple are sweet and loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Making Sense of Macronutrients: A Brief Look at the Ketogenic Diet

Photo credit: Kjokkenutstyr [CC BY-SA 4.0]

Macronutrients are the building blocks needed to maintain health. The seemingly simple concept is the source of debate among scientists, nutritionists, celebrities, and laypeople. The question of ratio, quantity, and combination of macronutrients is not new. At different points in recent years, we have seen advocates for a surplus of one over the other in most fad diets—making it nearly impossible to know what to eat.

One diet currently gaining popularity was created to treat childhood epilepsy in the early twentieth century. A ketogenic diet, recently rebranded as a “bio-hack,” has been proven to be effective in the treatment of childhood epilepsy—but is it safe for everyone?

Following a ketogenic diet means strictly limiting carbohydrates—starchy vegetables, grains, and fruits—that convert to sugar during digestion and are used to power the body. Instead of being fueled by sugar, the body is forced to burn fat for energy. The body enters a state of ketosis, a similar effect to fasting in which the presence of both acetone and beta-hydroxybutyric acid appear. Followers of ketogenic diets get up to 75 percent of their daily calories from fat, 5 to 10 percent from carbs. Remaining calories come from protein, typically 1 gram per kilogram of body weight.

In addition to epilepsy, researchers have studied the therapeutic effects of a ketogenic diet on obesity, headaches, neurodegenerative diseases, and endocrine, sleep, and psychiatric disorders. One study shows that benefits in obese patients included decreased body mass index, total cholesterol, triglycerides and blood glucose.

The ketogenic diet differs from other low-carb diets, like Atkins, because it is not broken up into phases. Unlike Atkins, carbohydrates are not slowly reintroduced to the diet; practitioners just continue with the drastically reduced carb consumption. Unfortunately, a prolonged sense of deprivation can lead to significant overindulgence.

One feared consequence of maintaining ketosis for a prolonged period is ketoacidosis, a state in which the blood acidifies from high-levels of ketones. So far, the level of ketones necessary to reach ketoacidosis has not been possible in nutritive ketosis. There are several real side-effects to consider, however, including digestive issues, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and micronutrient deficiencies. When choosing the ketogenic diet, it’s important to discuss supplementation with your doctor or nutritionist to avoid these types of issues.

With trends shifting from low-fat to low-carb/high-fat, high-protein to moderate-protein, deciding what to eat is challenging. If you grew up during the low-fat craze of the 1990s, you may find it difficult to add healthy fats to your diet. One benefit of a short-term ketogenic diet or a “low-ketogenic” plan is that it allows a higher number of carbohydrates and can act as a reset for the sugar-filled Standard American Diet. Once the curve from high to low blood sugar is stabilized, it can be easier to make choices based on true, biological hunger instead of cravings.

Ultimately, a balance of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, and animal or plant protein provide an accessible middle ground for most. By eating a varied diet, you are more likely to get all of the necessary nutrients without supplementation, and you are less likely to binge on forbidden food categories. If you have been limiting caloric intake for weight loss, adding a slice of avocado can be profoundly satisfying.

Resources

Scientific American

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/the-fat-fueled-brain-unnatural-or-advantageous/

Women’s Health Magazine

https://www.womenshealthmag.com/weight-loss/high-protein-diets

Scientific American

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/the-fat-fueled-brain-unnatural-or-advantageous/

National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/

 

 

5 Key Components of a Full Body Transformation

When you begin a new diet and exercise routine, your goal is to see a full body transformation. However, for most people, this just isn’t the reality. They find themselves unable to reach their goals, and then they end up giving up and reverting to their old habits.

The reason that so many people struggle to reach their goals is that they are missing one of the five key components to reaching a full body transformation. Read on to find what the five key components are and how you can make them work best for you.

Diet

Perhaps the most important part of any body transformation is the diet that you are eating. A simple internet search is going to find you a wide range of options. Ultimately, you are going to want to select a diet that doesn’t cut anything out of your diet completely.

When you cut something out in its entirety, you are more likely to cheat because you are going to miss that food. Instead, focus on getting a healthy number of calories and ensure that those calories are coming from healthy food sources.

Find out what number of calories you are going to need to consume on a daily basis to meet your goals and work out where you are going to get those calories from. Remember to consider how much sugar, carbohydrates, fibers, and protein you are getting from your dietary choices, as well as the rest of your vitamins and nutrients.

Exercise

Like with diet, you are going to be able to find a wide variety of exercise routines and options by doing a little bit of research. Choose an exercise plan that you are going to be able to stick to. Start with small changes and work your way up.

If you aren’t exercising at all, walking for even fifteen minutes a day is going to help you to see results. Try to choose exercises that are going to work your entire body in a rotation, focusing on different muscle groups on different days of the week.

It is also important that you don’t forget about your cardio exercises. Remember to make exercising fun. Look for classes that appeal to you to make it easier to stick to.

Mindset

Your mindset is going to make the biggest impact on whether you are successful with your body transformation. If you are of the mindset that you aren’t going to be able to reach your goals, then you aren’t going to reach them. Telling yourself things like “I don’t have time to work out” or “I don’t know how to eat healthy” are going to sabotage your chances of success.

Instead, tell yourself that you are important enough to make time for and that you can learn how to make healthier food options. Then, follow through and prove to yourself that you can do it.

Motivation

What is your motivation to transform your body? Perhaps you are going on a trip, and you want to drop some extra weight, or maybe someone close to you was just diagnosed with a health disorder, and you don’t want to be next.

Your motivation is personal to you, and there is no right or wrong to what can motivate you to want to be healthier. Whatever your motivation is, remind yourself of it on a regular basis. Put up motivational pictures where you are going to see them or use motivational quotes.

If you can find someone who understands your motivation, that is a great person to rely on for support and to remind you of that motivation.

Support

You aren’t going to be successful if you don’t have some form of support during your journey to a body transformation. Changing your diet and exercise routines takes a lot of work, and it is easy to get discouraged. You might not have anyone who you know personally that would be a good support for you, but that is okay.

You don’t need to have someone who is physically present to support you. There are many online forums that are full of people who are taking the same journey as you and are going to be more than willing to support you.

When you have a bad day and eat something that you shouldn’t, and a day that you don’t work out the way that you meant to, having a support person to encourage you and help you through the bad days is going to be the difference between your success and failure.

Reaching your goal of a full body transformation isn’t going to be easy. However, there are some key components to ensuring that you are successful.

With a good diet and exercise plan in place, as well as good motivation and support, you are going to ensure that you are in the right mindset to achieve your goals and do everything necessary to meet them.

Eat a Balanced Diet for a Healthy Lifestyle

Photo credit: Peretz Partensky from San Francisco, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0]

A balanced diet refers to a combination of food aimed at giving the body with all the vital nutriments and amino acids necessary for healthy existence, which can be achieved from several plant and animal products. What matters is not the food that is consumed, but the nutritional value of the food consumed. In an average adult human body, the basic requirements of food can be broken up into various constituents. These components are known as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, amino acids and other minerals. A diet is not uniform for every human being and varies according to nutritional needs.

The nutritional needs of a human being depend on the kind of work they do and the general lifestyle they lead. Thus, the term “balanced diet” should ideally refer to a combination of nutriments required by an individual to live in their own healthy way. For example, for a person whose work involves a lot of physical labor, the appropriate diet should include more carbohydrates than would be recommended for a person who devotes their time to cerebral pursuits. Healthy eating is the key to healthy living and it can be attained only through a well-rounded diet.

Eat Wisely

The World Health Organization has a set of guidelines that help in understanding a well-rounded diet a little bit more. The WHO has five basic recommendations for healthy living:

  1. One should consume calories to replenish it. That is to say, one must only consume as many calories as we burn off every day through physical exercise.
  2. One should avoid the consumption of food rich in saturated fat or trans-fat.
  3. It is advisable to consume more plant-based food than animal-based food. There are options of fruits, vegetables and legumes that can be chosen to replace an animal- based diet.
  4. According to a 2003 health report, the consumption of simple sugar should be brought down to less than 10%.
  5. Salt and sodium intake ought to be limited. Any salt that can be consumed should be iodized.

Live Well

Additionally, according to the National Institutes of Health, there are other recommendations for healthy eating that endorse a limited consumption of certain vitamins and minerals. The human body also needs protein in very small amounts; however, it is one of the most important components of a balanced diet. No diet can be called balanced if it does not include a sufficient intake of water. Water is the best source of liquid and should be consumed in adequate quantities on a regular basis. There is no substitute for water, as the body needs water to function properly; therefore, it is imperative to include watery fruits and vegetables to get a balanced diet for better health and a stronger immune system.

 

7 Ways to Help Your Overweight Child Lose Weight Safely

Photo credit: Public Domain

If you’re trying to help your overweight child lose weight safely, begin by making gradual lifestyle changes and avoid the popular fad diets. Changes to diet and lifestyle will take time and patience, so take it one step at a time and get the whole family involved in making healthier choices.  Also, you should first talk to your child’s physician or see a nutritionist to obtain guidance or goals on a target weight.

Here is a quick list of 7 healthy suggestions to help your family conquer obesity:

  1. Be a healthy role model. Children will generally pay closer attention to your actions rather than your words, so the very best thing you can do is set a good example by practicing healthy lifestyle habits yourself. Your health and weight directly affect your child’s health and weight. In fact, according to Stanford News, if both parents are overweight the risk of becoming an overweight adult jumps to nearly 50 percent. You can set your kids up for success by lining your refrigerator and pantry with plenty of quick and easy healthy snacks, such as whole wheat crackers with low-fat cheese; apple wedges with yogurt; high-fiber granola bars with oats, nuts & seeds; carrots and celery with peanut butter and raisins.
  1. Keep it positive. No one enjoys receiving negative feedback. Talk to your child with compassion and encouragement. Avoid saying negative phrases like ‘you need to lose weight’. Instead, say ‘Let’s be healthy and start taking care of our bodies’. Focus on the foods you can eat, not the foods you should be limiting or cutting out. Avoid saying, ‘don’t eat that.’ Instead, use positive language by saying something like ‘Let’s go pick out fruits and make a fruit salad, and then we can go for a family bike ride.’ This way you are making healthy eating and exercise something that is fun to do.
  1. Make healthy eating a family affair. Try to schedule at least one meal a day that is unhurried and involves the whole family. Don’t make a special ‘diet’ meal for the person who is overweight. Everyone in the family can benefit from eating healthy meals, regardless of weight, and a family that eats together, eats better, according to a recent study in the journal Archives of Family Medicine. Children who report having regular family dinners have healthier diets than their peers who don’t, the study showed.
  1. Eat a well-balanced breakfast. A healthy breakfast should include a carbohydrate, a protein and a little fat, which will keep your children more alert during school. Carbs provide immediate energy, whereas protein and fat help you feel fuller, longer. So, instead of choosing sugary cereals and pastries, have a bowl of high-fiber oatmeal with blueberries & almonds (or almond milk), or whip up some scrambled eggs with a slice of whole-wheat toast. If you’re really running late, grab a yogurt or a bagel with peanut butter or low fat cream cheese. Do not skip breakfast. Studies have shown that weight loss is much more difficult in people who skip breakfast.
  1. Make time for physical activity. Make physical activity a family event. Every night after dinner in the summer, go for a half-hour walk or bike ride, and make it an activity that kids look forward to. If you can afford it, enroll your kids in their favorite dancing or sporting activity. Make exercise fun, not a chore or something they HAVE to do. If your kids are young, they may enjoy hide-and-seek or hopscotch. Kick a soccer ball or play some football with older children.
  1. Watch your portions.  When serving the food, try to portion out meals on dishes and avoid buffet-type or family-style eating. Resist the first temptation to have seconds, then check in with yourself to see if you are really hungry. ChooseMyPlate.gov is a great resource for learning more about portion control for kids.
  1. Don’t say diet. If you put your child on any diet, you might be setting them up for an eating disorder – whether binge eating or closet eating or another type of disorder. Instead, focus on forming healthy lifestyle habits that will eventually result in long-term weight loss and better overall health.

 

 

 

Add More Whole Foods to Your Diet

Photo credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia CommonsThe phrase “whole foods” refers to foods that are raw, unprocessed or as close to nature as possible. Whole foods include whole grains, whole raw fruits and vegetables, and unprocessed chicken and meats. It is easier to improve your diet by replacing processed foods with natural, whole foods than you might think. Whole foods are generally lower in calories and carbohydrates than highly processed foods such as frozen dinners and fast food. Switching from processed to whole foods means meal preparation will take a little more planning, but your health and your waist line will thank you.

Add more whole foods to your regular diet by replacing highly processed white flour with whole grains. Instead of white bread, choose whole wheat, oat and bran breads. Opt for fresh or frozen whole fruits and vegetables instead of canned. The canning process includes cooking and adding preservatives. Many canned fruits and vegetables have added sugar or sodium. The canning process also removes beneficial phytochemicals and nutrients that your body needs for good health. Buy fresh or frozen as opposed to canned vegetables and fruits, so that you can enjoy all the benefits of eating vegetables.

Pass by the convenience foods, such as frozen macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, and frozen meatloaf in the freezer section. These foods are usually high in calories, carbohydrates and are loaded with sodium and preservatives. Fresh, skinless chicken breasts baked or grilled with whole wheat rolls, fresh vegetables or a salad makes an excellent whole food dinner. Forget the instant mashed potatoes that are loaded with preservatives and other chemicals. Choosing long grain and wild rice as a side dish is another way to add whole foods to your diet.

Beans, rice and legumes can replace high-calorie side dishes, such as macaroni and cheese and instant mashed potatoes. As for potatoes, they are an excellent whole food. If you don’t have time to peel, cook and whip your own potatoes, a baked (sweet) potato is just as delicious and takes less preparation time. Top your baked potato with low-fat sour cream and some fresh chopped green onions for delicious side dish. Many supermarkets offer fresh fish and other seafood. Select local fish or fish that is flown in daily. Fresh fish can be a little more expensive than the fish in the freezer, but one taste of fresh grilled perch or shrimp will convince you it’s worth the price. A salad with a mixture of lettuces, spinach, radishes, carrots, bell peppers and tomatoes is the perfect way to start any whole foods meal.

Many of the preservatives we consume come from snack foods and sodas. Rather than potato chips and snack crackers, satisfy your snack urge with fresh sliced apples, bananas, grapes and berries. You can also enjoy raisins, nuts and other dried fruits. Keep some banana and apple chips in your desk for a quick, naturally sweet snack. Blend up a berry smoothie with fresh berries, ice and 100 percent fruit juice for a refreshing whole foods treat. Keep a bowl of fresh apples, oranges, and bananas on the counter for a healthy, quick after work or after school snack. Tea, especially green tea, is a refreshing alternative to sugary soda. Toss the cold breakfast cereals and fill your pantry with whole grain cereals instead. Whole oats, wheat germ and quinoa are healthy, whole food breakfast choices. Add fresh fruit for extra flavor and nutrients. Avoid using processed sugar. Sweeten your morning oats with honey or natural maple syrup.

 

Getting and Staying Motivated to Lose Weight

Photo credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The first step to losing weight is to make the decision to do so, and then take it to the next level by changing your lifestyle in such a way as to promote weight loss and keep it off. It may seem as if you put on weight easily, but find it nearly impossible to take it off. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight takes time and hard work. There is no easy, quick fix out there to help you magically lose weight and make the fat disappear. You have to take charge of your own health and well-being by changing your lifestyle, which primarily entails eating healthier foods, getting more exercise and staying motivated about all the positive changes you’re making for yourself. Don’t lose sight of your goals if you find yourself at a weight-loss plateau and not moving forward as expected. Keep your focus, be consistent and take it one step at a time. Soon you will be where you want to be and achieve permanent, lasting weight loss.

Look through old family photo albums. Remember how thin you were? It may not be possible to get back down to that size 4 you wore in high school, but you can lose weight. Do you have a high school or college reunion coming up? Looking at those old photos may be just the motivation you need to convince you to get off the sofa and hit the gym.

Do some virtual shopping and select your dream outfit, but in a size that you want to be. Bookmark the page or print out the page and hang it on your closet door to remind you to stay motivated to lose weight. Set small goals, such as losing 1 pound each week or exercising 3 days a week. Reward yourself when you achieve each small goal. Keep in mind the ultimate reward, that new outfit! When you do lose weight and can fit into that outfit, buy it! Treat yourself when you reach each milestone in your weight-loss journey. Small rewards for successful steps toward your ultimate goal can help keep you motivated.

We all know how to make a list of things we don’t like about ourselves or a list of things we haven’t yet achieved. Motivate yourself to keep exercising, eating right and losing weight by making a list of positive aspects of your life. You have friends and family who support you. You walked 15 minutes today. You rode your bike for 3 miles. You refused pizza and ate a healthy dinner instead. You lost 1 pound last week. Positive affirmations can help keep you motivated to do the hard work necessary to lose weight.

Many people are motivated by visual stimuli, which is why television commercials are successful, especially those for food. Take a self-portrait or have a family member take a photo of you, and then stop using your full length mirror for 90 days. Stop looking at yourself in the mirror if seeing yourself causes you to have negative thoughts or reinforces a negative self-image. Continue to exercise and track your weight-loss. After three months, take another self-portrait or have a family member take a photo. Place the photos side-by-side and look at the difference. If you have stuck with your program of exercise and diet, you should see a striking difference between the two photos. Seeing how much weight you’ve lost is sure to motivate you to keep going.