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.

 

6 Ways to Lose Weight Quickly

Photo Credit: Michael L. Baird CC-BY-2.0

There are healthy and unhealthy ways to losing weight quickly. Relying on quick fixes like appetite suppressants, liquid diets, herbal formulas and weight loss supplements will not produce long-term healthy weight loss. Although these methods might help a little, the best approach is make some big changes to your exercise and eating habits. As you begin your healthy weight loss journey, it’s imperative that you stay focused, consistent, motivated and disciplined to reap the best weight loss results.

Lose weight quickly by first eliminating foods that are high in sodium, fat and sugar, such as white flour products, deep fried foods, processed meats, fast foods, candy, chips, commercial baked goods and high-fat dairy products. Instead, select foods that are abundant in nutrients like lean meats, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, fruits, seeds and beans.

Reduce your total caloric intake and increase your activity level to lose weight fast. To lose one pound of body fat, you need to cut 3,500 calories per week through diet and exercise. For example, you could burn 250 calories through exercise and then cut 250 calories from your diet per day. The key is to reduce your daily intake by 500 calories to lose one pound per week. Safe weight loss is one to two pounds per week. Losing more than that is not healthy because more than likely you’re losing muscle and/or water weight. And if you lose weight too quickly by not consuming enough calories, it can cause your body to go into starvation mode, causing your metabolism to slow down and store more fat.

Avoid high calorie, sugar-laden beverages, such as sweetened tea, sodas, flavored coffee drinks, milk shakes, and fruit juices. Liquid calories can add up fast and can easily sabotage your weight loss efforts. Instead, drink water and other healthy beverages like green tea or vegetable juice.

Eat more often to burn extra calories throughout the day. Every two to three hours during the day, eat a small, well-balanced meal. Combine a healthy balance of complex carbs and protein, and make sure you eat breakfast every morning. For example, a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries is an ideal way to start your day. Add soy milk, walnuts and yogurt for an extra dose of balanced nutrition.

Boost your metabolism and burn more calories all day long by building lean muscle. You will burn calories even while you’re at rest because muscle is metabolically active tissue. Weightlifting workout routines that target all of your major muscle groups will help you to build muscle. For example, you can do chest presses, back rows, shoulder presses, bicep curls, triceps dips, squats, hamstring curls and calf raises. Start with one set of 12 to 15 repetitions, two to three non-consecutive days a week.

Lastly, do some calorie-blasting cardio interval training to really ramp up your weight loss efforts. The harder you push yourself, the more calories you will burn. First, do a 5-10 minute warm up and then begin your workout. Here’s an example of a 20 minute cardio interval routine on a bike: 1 minute of pedaling as fast as possible, and then 2 minutes of slow, recovery pedaling. Continue this pattern for a complete 20-minute workout routine. Finish by cooling down for 5-10 minutes. Do your cardio routine 3 non-consecutive days a week. For example, you can do your cardio on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and your weight training on Tuesday and Thursday. Choose a form of exercise that you enjoy such as cycling, walking, running, swimming, stair stepping, jumping rope or elliptical training.

Calorie Deficit + Cardio + Strength Training = Weight-Loss

Photo Credit: ParentingPatch

If you’re like most of us, you would like to lose a few pounds. You’ve tried everything but you just can’t seem to drop those last 10 pounds, right? There is no magic pill and it’s not a big mystery why you can’t drop those last 10 pounds. Most people need to create a calorie deficit — burn more than you eat. Many fad diets are based on calorie restriction by limiting the types and amounts of food you eat. Dieting can help you lose weight initially, but in the long-run you will probably regain most of that weight-loss. Deprivation doesn’t last long and you will not be very happy if you have to continually deprive yourself of foods you love. The key to lasting weight-loss is to burn more calories than you consume and build muscle mass to increase your resting metabolism.

It’s pretty easy to gain one pound of fat but you have to burn 3,500 calories to lose it. You can lose 1 pound of fat each week by creating a calorie deficit of minus 500 calories each day. Your resting, or basal, metabolism is the amount of calories you burn just being alive. Lungs breathing, heart pumping blood, brain thinking, abdominal and spinal muscles holding your body upright, all burn calories. Your basil metabolism accounts for up to 75 percent of the calories you burn every day. Increasing your muscle mass by doing strength training exercises can increase your basal metabolic rate, so that you burn more calories when at rest. Muscle tissue also burns many more calories than other tissues in your body. Gain 1 pound of muscle and burn an extra 50 calories per day while resting. Gain 10 pounds of muscle and you will burn an extra 500 calories per day doing nothing at all.

For fast and lasting weight-loss, combine strength training with cardio. Do strength training 2 days each week and cardio 3 days each week. A typical week might be Monday, Wednesday and Friday doing cardio, and Tuesday and Thursday doing strength training. Cardio is any exercise that elevates your heart rate and makes you sweat. Running, jogging, bicycling, swimming and sports activities are good ways to get a cardio workout to burn fat. Strength training includes not only lifting weights and working out on cable and weight machines at the gym, but also includes bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, crunches and planks.

Fat-Fighting Foods

You’ve probably heard about green tea. Claims about the benefits of green tea range from helping you to sleep to increasing metabolism to helping improve your mood. There is a basis for the metabolism claim — catechins. Catechins is a plant chemical that boosts your metabolism. To enjoy the fat-fighting benefits of green tea, drink several cups of hot tea each day. Replace your regular soda or coffee with cream and sugar with a cup of hot green tea. You will enjoy the benefits of catechins metabolism boost while cutting out extra calories from sodas and coffee additives. Hot peppers contain a chemical called capsaicin, which briefly boosts your metabolism and curbs your appetite. You might eat less when you eat spicy foods.

Grapefruit does not have a magic ingredient despite the fad diet claims from a few years ago. Grapefruit does contain plenty of soluble fiber, which takes longer to digest and may help you feel fuller longer. Raw fruits and vegetables of all kinds help you feel fuller longer and are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Raw vegetables and fruits are generally low in calories, high in fiber and loaded with nutrients your body needs. Trade potato chips and other calorie loaded snack foods for a plate of raw vegetables.

Use spices in your foods to boost flavor without added calories. Cinnamon helps to curb your appetite and may stabilize your blood sugar. Stir some cinnamon into coffee, tea, yogurt and milk drinks.

Why Can’t I Lose Weight? The Truth About Weight Loss & Exercise

 

You’ve been exercising regularly but the weight just doesn’t seem to be dropping like you expected. The truth is exercise alone won’t help you lose weight. Exercise is critical to being healthy, but if you want to lose weight  you have to change the way you eat and watch what you eat. Exercise is only part of the equation. You have to create a calorie deficit and exercise to lose weight. Eat fewer calories and exercise more to burn more calories than you eat. Don’t sacrifice nutrition in your quest to lose weight. Cut out the empty calories, such as candy, cookies, chips and soda. Replace those snacks with healthy, low-calorie alternatives including fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts and whole grains. Trade ice cream for fruit sorbet and drink flavored water instead of soda. Small changes in your diet can make a world of difference in your caloric intake.

You can lose weight by dieting alone, but you may regain the weight unless you exercise. Exercise combined with dietary changes can not only help you lose weight, it also helps you maintain your weight loss. Many times people lose weight only to regain it later. Stay active, exercise regularly and continue to eat a low-fat, reduced calorie diet to keep the weight off. Binge eating can undo weeks of diet and exercise. Exercising a couple of extra minutes won’t burn the calories from 2 donuts or a greasy cheeseburger and fries. People often underestimate the number of calories they consume and overestimate the amount of exercise they get. Keep a food and exercise journal to more accurately measure how much you get of both food and exercise. You might be surprised to learn that you are eating a lot more than you thought and exercising a lot less than you estimated.

Don’t rely on the calorie counter on your treadmill or exercise bike. Calorie counters are fairly accurate, but they can vary from person to person. Exercise machine calorie counters don’t take into account the calories you would burn just by breathing and other bodily functions. So you actually burn fewer additional calories than the display estimates. You need to be physically active as much as possible during the day in addition to regular workouts. To lose weight and to maintain your weight loss, you need to change your lifestyle from sedentary to active in addition to changing your diet. If you need help getting on track and staying on your weight loss plan, a personal trainer may be able to help you.

Over 50? It’s Not Too Late to Get Fit!

Photo Credit: Shustov CC-BY-3.0
If you’re over 50 and you want to get started on the path to fitness and better health, there is good news. It’s never too late to get fit! Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s impossible to lose the middle-age spread that has widened your hips and given you a belly pooch. You can slim down and firm up flabby muscles. First, see your doctor for a complete physical. Take precautions to accommodate any limitations or illness, such as osteoporosis or diabetes. Consult a fitness expert or hire a personal trainer and GET MOVING!
The first step to fitness and a trimmer body is to exercise. If you’ve been sedentary most of your life or exercised only sporadically, start slow. Walking is a great way to get fit and lose weight. Start by walking around your block 1 time every morning or evening for 7 days. Start the next week with a walk around the block 2 times. Gradually increase the pace and distance you walk each day until you can walk at a brisk pace for a full 30 minutes.
Change your diet. Put away the soda, sugar and fatty foods. Replace sugary sodas with flavored water or a sugar free variety of your favorite food. Switch to low-fat or skim milk. Replace junk food snacks with fruits and nuts. Drink plenty of water, too.
Add strength training to your weekly fitness routine. Try to do some bodyweight exercises 2 to 3 days each week. Push-ups, sit-ups, crunches and squats are challenging functional exercises that use your own weight against the force of gravity to increase muscle mass and improve your endurance.