If you’re like most Americans, you probably have a few pounds that you’re looking to lose. Most adults know that they’re heavier than would be ideal, and they remember when they looked and felt healthier and more athletic. Unfortunately, there’s a big difference between knowing you should lose weight and actually being able to accomplish it.
Many people go on strict fad diets only to find themselves binging on forbidden and unhealthy food just a week or two later. A lot of people who resolve to begin an exercise program end up overworking themselves their first day at the gym. Sore, discouraged and possibly injured, they give up.
Lifestyle overhauls can be useful if you can get them to stick. However, when people make smaller, less sweeping changes, they’re much more likely to actually follow through. These small changes don’t just end up as part of a discarded fitness plan, they become healthy, sustainable. Here are five simple, small changes that can help you to easily lose weight and become more healthy.
Increase Your Activity Level
The concept behind weight loss is very simple. The human body takes in energy (or calories) by eating. The body uses this energy to stay alive and to perform all of the activities that it needs to.
When the amount of energy taken in is higher than the amount that is used, the extra energy is converted into fat and stored away. When the body uses more energy than it takes in, the body uses its fat deposits to fuel activity, which results in weight loss.
Simply increasing your level of activity will cause your body to use more energy, thus helping you to lose weight. Being more active will also help you to have a higher metabolism, which means that you will burn more calories, even when your body is at rest. Going for a run, biking, lifting weights, swimming and playing sports are all great ways to get exercise and increase your calorie usage.
However, formal exercise isn’t the only way to increase your caloric use. There are a lot of small ways to add activity to your life. If you usually take the elevator at work, consider taking the stairs.
Instead of driving to nearby appointments, leave a little early and ride your bike or walk there. Instead of vegging in front of the couch to relax, think about going on a relaxing evening walk. The more active you can become, the more fat you will burn, and the more weight you will lose.
Most people like to have a snack between meals every now and then. There’s a reason that most offices have a vending machine which dispenses candy bars, chips and cookies: people buy them. Snacking has gotten a bit of a bad rap, given that the calories from snacks like this can definitely add up.
Most people aren’t aware of exactly how many calories they add to their diet when they snack on vending machine fare. A single candy bar can add as much as 300 calories to your diet. A small bag of chips can add around 150 calories. A package of cookies could contain as much as 400 calories.
If you eat one candy bar a day at work (which is actually considerably less than most American employees), this habit will give you an additional 1500 calories each week.
Now, consider that each pound of fat in your body stores something like 3500 calories, and remember that weight loss is determined by the difference between your caloric intake and your caloric use. This one candy bar a day habit can mean the difference between staying at a static weight and losing nearly half a pound a week.
However, snacking isn’t bad in and of itself. Ironically, if you tell a personal trainer that you want to lose weight, one of the first things that he might tell you is to eat more often. Eating often can help you to keep your metabolism high, which means more calories burned and more fat lost. However, you can only really benefit from this if you are eating low-fat, healthy snacks.
Consider bringing healthier snacks with you from home, such as carrot and celery sticks with a small amount of low-fat dressing, apple chips, a small tuna sandwich, or a piece of fruit. This sort of snack will help to take the place of a higher calorie snack, and it will keep your metabolism high.
Replace Soda With Water
Snack foods aren’t the only culprit in keeping the American diet full of empty calories. Soda can also pack a heavy caloric punch. A 12 oz. can of soda can easily contain around 150 calories, and Americans drink a lot of soda.
One study found that the average American consumes 50 gallons of soda and other similarly sweetened drinks every year. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the numbers are even higher for many demographics. Males between 12 and 29 drink around 160 gallons per year on average, or half a gallon a day!
In a lot of ways, soda is even more dangerous to your waistline than unhealthy snacking. A snack may make you less hungry, which could help you to eat fewer calories later on. However, drinking soda doesn’t typically reduce your appetite. Soda doesn’t replace food in the diet—it replaces water, which has zero calories and provides a number of other important health benefits.
Of course, soda isn’t the only fattening drink out there. There are plenty of sugar-heavy non-carbonated drinks out there, and these can be every bit as caloric as soda. Beer can also be an equally big culprit. It isn’t uncommon for a 12 oz. can of beer to have between 200 and 300 calories.
If you can replace soda and other calorie dense drinks with water, you will eliminate a large number of empty calories from your diet. Many people find that just kicking the soda (or beer) habit helps them to lose significant weight.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you can never drink a soda again, and it doesn’t mean that you can never have a beer with your friends. What it means is that the norm should be water, and that having a soda or beer should be seen as a treat. If you can make this change, prepare to see big effects.
Cook At Home
In today’s fast-paced world, it sometimes seems as though home cooking is a lost art. People are busy with their jobs, and it’s a lot easier to stop at a fast food joint than to go home and cook. This is unfortunate, because home cooked meals tend to be more nutritious and lower in fat than meals that you buy at restaurants.
When you cook at home, you have total control over what goes into your food. You can see exactly how much butter you use, how much sugar, how much salt. At restaurants, you don’t usually know what’s gone into your food, and it’s very easy for your food to be much more caloric than you anticipate.
If you don’t have much experience with cooking, it may be a bit of an adjustment to cook more of your own meals. You will want to purchase a cook book with a number of simple, but relatively healthy recipes. In time, cooking will become easier. If you make a point of making your own food instead of eating out, and if you select relatively low-fat recipes, you will definitely see a change in your fat levels.
As important as it is to build healthy habits, it can also be good to occasionally give yourself a treat. Exercise gurus suggest taking one rest day per week. Many diet specialists say that it can be good to sometimes let yourself have the things you crave.
Sometimes allowing yourself to have a single candy bar when you really want it can sate your craving, thus preventing you from binging and eating a whole bag later. Allowing yourself to have the occasional soda or beer can make it easier to accept drinking water most of the time.
Giving yourself occasional treats can help you to keep your morale up, and it can help to just make life more enjoyable.
These five tips are things that are relatively easy to do. They will require some changes in your lifestyle. However, if you do them, you will see big dividends. These five tips will help you to lose weight healthily, steadily and happily.