From supermarket tabloids to whispered elevator conversations, Americans are bombarded with the latest fad diets and extreme exercise regimens to trim down. The most successful weight-loss plans incorporate reducing caloric intake with a method of burning calories. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you must train yourself to eat right and exercise regularly instead of jumping on the current popular weight-loss method. Before embarking on any weight-loss plan, please consult your doctor.
Don't Skip Meals
Many think that skipping meals is the way to shed a few pounds. A 2012 study conducted by Dr. Anne McTiernan published in the "Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics" found that foregoing meals actually causes you to gain weight instead of losing it. Although the mechanism is still vague, researchers hypothesize that when you skip a meal, your body goes into fasting mode and then starts craving higher-calorie foods. These foods cause you to gain weight.
Drink Water Instead of Sugary Drinks
Don't count drinks out when you want to cut calories. Sodas, fruit juices, energy drinks and even milk can sneak calories into the most well-planned meals. A single serving of any of these drinks can add over a hundred calories that you don't need. A 2006 study conducted by Dr. Vasanti Malik and colleagues and published in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" drew positive conclusions between drinking sugar-laden beverages and gaining weight. The researchers proposed that subjects gained weight because the sugary drinks didn't fill them up. Additionally, the high-fructose corn syrup in sodas and other sugary drinks has been linked to weight gain and the development of fat tissue. Water has no calories and provides your body with the liquid it needs to function. If water seems a bit boring to you, add a splash of lemon or opt for flavored sparkling water.
Keep a Food Journal
You might be unpleasantly surprised at how much you munch throughout the day. Write down every morsel that you swallow, and you'll find that you eat more calories than you realize. Keeping a food journal will make you conscious of your calorie input and will help you cut out unnecessary calories from your diet.
Stay Away From Refined Foods
The type of carbohydrates has a direct bearing on weight loss. Processed carbs such as white rice, white pasta and sugary cereals, digest rapidly and produce spikes in your blood sugar levels. This process leads you to feel hungry and then consume more calories than you actually need. Your body digests whole-grain foods such as whole-wheat bread more slowly, so you feel full longer.
Make Every Bite Count
Eating at a slower rate may produce chemical reactions that make you feel full. Two substances, cholecystokinin, or CCK, and leptin, act in conjunction to send satiety signals to the brain. When the small intestine detects food, it releases CCK. Fat cells produce leptin, which tells the brain that the body has sufficient energy stores. These two chemicals signal to the brain that you are full. When you eat too quickly, this chemical signaling doesn't have a chance to occur, so you keep eating because you don't feel full.
Maximize Your Fiber Intake
Fiber fills you up because it is bulky, so you won't need to eat as much or as often to feel full. In essence, fiber is taking the place of more calorie-dense foods such as fats. Because fibrous foods are tougher to chew, you will take longer to chew your food, so you feel satiated after swallowing a smaller amount of food than usual. Fill your plate with foods high in dietary fiber such as beans, fresh veggies and fruits with edible skins so you don't leave much room for fatty or processed foods.
Adopt an Exercise Regimen
If you're using up more energy than you take in, you'll lose weight, so add some activity to your day. Keep in mind that you'll have to nix 3,500 calories to lose a single pound. Aerobic activities such as running or swimming burn lots of calories. Strength training with the use of weights builds muscle tissue, which uses up more calories than fat tissue. Jumping rope burns more than 800 calories an hour depending on your weight, while even leisure walking at a 2-mph pace burns 200 to 300 calories. Aim for at least half an hour of exercise a day.
Keep Your Eye on Portion Size
Losing weight means keeping track of every calorie that goes in your body. Larger portion sizes mean a greater number of calories get past your lips. To keep your portion sizes manageable, serve each person a dish already filled, don't eat mindlessly in front of the TV or computer, keep snacking to a minimum, and beware of large packaging, which usually contains more than just one serving.
Minimize Alcoholic Intake
Each alcoholic beverage you consume adds an average of 100 to 200 calories to your caloric intake. Each gram of alcohol contains 7 calories. Alcohol contributes empty calories because it does not have any nutritional value, meaning it does not contribute any vitamins, minerals, fiber or amino acids, the building blocks of protein. If you cannot stay away from alcohol, then try consuming only a drink or two per day. Although heavy drinking can cause significant weight gain, light drinking, on the other hand, may even help you lose weight, according to the McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A 2010 study published in the "Archives of Internal Medicine" found that women who consumed light to moderate amounts of alcohol - about one to two drinks a day - actually gained less weight over a 12-year period than women who totally abstained from drinking.
Eat at Home
Eating at restaurants is another calorie trap. Most restaurant and fast-food entrees are large portion sizes -- much bigger than a real "single serving" size. Additionally, restaurants use high-calorie sauces and dressings. According to a study conducted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, over a period of 15 years, people who visited restaurants twice a week as opposed to once a week gained an extra 10 pounds.