In a nation where the threats of being overweight or obese are almost always topics of conversation, it is difficult to fully kick off our need or even want to lose weight and become healthy. As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of American adults are overweight or obese—and that reality is creeping into younger and younger populations of our country.
We have seen this truly unfortunate reality on the big screen over the last few decades with films like Food Inc., Fast Food Nation and the more recent Fed Up, but it is difficult to get these messages to a population of 318 million who come from different expectations, different perceptions of healthy bodies, and different food backgrounds.
Hence, the following list shows some steps that can be implemented into almost any lifestyle, regardless of sex, location or income. Let's kickstart your weight loss and, more importantly, your path to a healthier life!
- Firstly, remember that weight loss is 80 percent about diet, 20 percent about exercise: No matter how many hours you spend on the treadmill or the stair-master, body change cannot occur without a change in your diet. If you are trying to lose weight, you need to realize this from the get-go. Don't follow up your workout with a double bacon cheeseburger if you want to lose some pounds; focus firstly on what you eat, and you will soar.
- Eat fresh and natural foods: From the above realization, you further need to accept more fresh and natural foods in your diet. This does not only include fruits and veggies, but further goes into good grains (quinoa, whole grain pasta, crackers and bread, brown rice, steel-cut oats), good dairy (soy or low-fat milk, plain and unsweetened Greek yogurts like Fage or Chobani, low-fat or non-fat cottage cheese), and rich proteins in moderation (almonds, cashews, all-natural peanut or almond butter).
- Ditch the unwanted calories from processed foods: Again, focusing on fresh and natural foods leaves a very rare space for processed foods. Sure, Lay's and M&M's can be fun to eat, but limit these "treats" to very rare occasions. After a while, you won't even want to reach for the bag of chips—your cravings for healthy foods will come with time and practice!
- Keep track of the calories from what you drink: Truthfully the best drinks for weight loss and healthy living in general are water, green tea, milk, coffee, and iced or hot tea (there's also protein shakes, that you can make homemade to get the full benefits). Other than these, try to either limit or ditch the other drinks. This includes sodas, milkshakes, and alcohol. That isn't to say you have to completely get rid of all of these drinks immediately, but you shouldn't continue to have your daily Frappuccino fix if you're looking to lose weight.
- Limit your simple carbohydrates, and eat them before 3 p.m.: One of the hardest parts of weight loss is accepting the fact that you have to limit your simple carbohydrates throughout your diet. Simple carbohydrates include pasta, crackers, bread, tortillas, naan, pizza, and cereal. Even if you do transition to healthy versions of these foods (like whole-grain or whole-wheat), try to eat these types of foods before 3 p.m. Your body begins to slow down around this time, regardless of exercise, so you will begin to hold onto more of those starches, which only perpetuates the cycle.
- Exercise however you can: Returning to the exercise factor of weight loss, we must remember that exercise is still important, even if it is only 20 percent of your journey. Exercise doesn't have to only be synonymous with going to the gym, even though having a gym pass can definitely be helpful. Look up work-out videos or simple home work-outs online to save some money and drive yourself to get your exercise in. Check out videos by bloggers like Blogilates or BeFit, or get an at-home subscription to Daily Burn. You can even go the extra mile and buy Shaun T's Insanity for a workout that will really work you!
- Lift weights—seriously: Instead of simply focusing on cardio exercise, you need to also focus on building muscle through weight training. By gaining muscle, your body will more quickly be able to burn fat. This means you won't get bulky, but instead will get toned. Weight training can also be done at home, but it is helpful to look up exercises online for this form; it is also incredibly helpful to have weight-lifting machines at a gym.
- Don't fret—weight loss and overall change takes time!: Change isn't going to happen overnight. You may have cheat days where you feel like you've backtracked on all of your change in a few hours—this is not the case. Weight loss and healthy lifestyle change takes time, so don't worry if you don't see results immediately! It can take months or even years to get to the point you want to be at—so don't give up, just keep going!
Hopefully this helped you in your kickstart toward a healthier lifestyle—now get out there and get started!