De-sugar your diet
From juice to soda to pasta sauce, sugar sneaks into our diets in so many ways. “In addition to being high in calories, sugary foods tend to be very low in overall nutrition. And the more sugar you feed your taste buds, the more sugar they want,” says Kirkpatrick.
Losing weight successfully means weaning yourself off the white stuff as much as possible. “When you’re shopping for food, avoid any products that have sugars or syrups in the first five ingredients,” says Kirkpatrick. She recommends using fresh berries in your yogurt or cereal in the morning, and sprucing up your water with fresh mint, strawberries or cucumber.
One more thing: Don’t think that simply switching to artificially sweetened snacks or diet soda will be a quick fix. “Diet colas don’t take away your need and desire for sweets, and they may actually hinder your weight loss efforts,” says Kirkpatrick.
If your goal is: Keeping weight off
Make exercise part of your life
In the Penn State study, subjects who reported following a consistent workout routine were almost twice as likely to maintain their weight loss than those who didn’t. “We found that earlier in the process, people who experimented with different forms of exercise were more successful. But over time, it becomes about a routine,” explains Dr. Sciamanna. “It has to be something you don’t need to think about, and that fits into your life easily.”
For the best results, Dr. McTiernan recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. “Schedule it into your day like you do other appointments,” she suggests. And keep in mind that you don’t have to change into your Lululemon gear and hit the gym to reap the benefits of working out. “Take walk breaks instead of coffee breaks at work, and stand up often if you have a sedentary job,” she says.
Choose low-fat, high-quality protein sources
“We live in a carb-laden world,” says Dr. Sciamanna. And unfortunately, most of the carbs within easy reach aren’t of the high-fiber, whole-grain variety. Take a peek at your office vending machine and what do you see? Pretzels, chips, cookies and candy bars, most likely. “These snacks will only fill you up for a short period of time,” says Kirkpatrick. “You’ll be looking for something else to eat shortly after.”
The solution? Low-fat, high-quality protein. “Protein promotes satiety—it helps you feel full,” explains Dr. Sciamanna. Lean meats such as chicken and turkey, fish, beans, yogurt and nuts are all excellent sources of low-fat and/or high-quality protein. In fact, when researchers at Harvard University analyzed more than 20 years worth of nutritional studies, they found that yogurt and nuts were the two foods most closely tied to weight loss. Just make sure to choose yogurt without added sugar or artificial sweeteners, and if you decide to snack on nuts, portion them out beforehand so you don’t overdo it, since nuts are higher in fat content.
(P.S. The Harvard study found that some of the worst offenders for weight gain included potato chips, sugar-sweetened drinks, red meat and processed meats. Surprised? Neither were we.)
Remind yourself why you want to maintain your weight loss
“In our research, we found that a few cognitive practices were particularly useful for weight loss maintenance,” says Dr. Sciamanna. So what exactly is a cognitive practice? Nothing more than a thought or mantra that you try to think of often.
It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, and we’re not here to judge. “I want to be a fit, healthy role model for my daughter” and “I want to fit into my favorite J Brands” work equally well in our book. In this case, it’s the thought that counts!
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