Some people can lose weight the right way on their own; others benefit from organized programs. However you achieve your goals, you’ll want to learn the principles of sustainable weight loss and skip programs and products that don’t work or are unsafe.
Nutritionists say that if you consume more calories than you burn, your body stores the excess as fat, causing you to gain weight. If you take in only as much as you use, your weight stays the same. But to lose body fat and weight, you’ll need to burn more calories than you consume.
Experts suggest that if you want to slim down, a reasonable goal is to reduce your weight by 10 percent over six months. Most healthy individuals should aim to lose up to about 1/2 to 1 pound (about 500 grams) a week. To lose weight at this rate, you’ll have to burn about 200 to 300 more calories each day than you take in. The best way to do that is to limit calorie intake while increasing exercise.
If dieting on your own proves too difficult, you may want to join the millions of people who sign up for weight-loss programs each year. Be aware, though, of what to look for in a program before signing up. The best ones offer:
– Proof of effectiveness. You can review long-term data on all clients who joined the program – not just the success stories.
– Qualifications. The program is run by a professional educated in nutrition and weight loss, with the help of a registered dietitian and experts in behavior modification and exercise physiology.
– Emphasis on slow weight loss. The program’s central aim is to change long-term eating habits.
– Nutritional balance. The list of allowed foods is drawn from the basic food groups. Instruction for preparing healthful meals is part of the program.
– Easy access to foods. All foods in the plan can be purchased at the supermarket.
– Exercise instruction. Basic information about healthy, safe exercises is discussed.
– Behavior modification. The program provides written materials or, better yet, counseling on how to change your eating habits.
– Follow-up programs. Ongoing support after your goal weight is reached is available for a reasonable fee.
Experts advise that once you’ve lost that first 10 percent of your weight, strive to maintain your weight for several months before contemplating further weight loss. Here is where exercise really helps – it’s been proven effective in preventing weight regain. One reason is that it revs up your metabolism, so you burn body fat more efficiently. By developing muscle, which burns more calories than body fat does, you’ll also increase the number of calories you burn, even at rest. Of course, regular exercise offers other health benefits, too.