Eat right for weight loss

December 2012

Portion control can help with weight loss

Everyone’s looking for a weight–loss magic bullet, but the true way to trim down is to control your calories.

Like most people, you've probably heard a lot of weight–loss "wisdom” such as “cut the carbs," "avoid fat," and "pack in the protein." Then there are the many trendy diet plans: the cabbage soup diet, goji berry diet, egg diet, the juice diet, you name it! Some of these might help you lose weight in the short term. But staying on many of them can damage your metabolism — not to mention leave you bored and hungry from their limited menus!

There are also the diet plans you can buy, which typically come with prepackaged foods. While these can be a good way to learn about portion control and may be more balanced in terms of vitamins and minerals, they can be expensive.

So how can you lose weight? Use more calories than you're consuming. It really is that simple. And the two proven ways to do this? Eat less and exercise more. Keep things simple by making sensible choices on a day–to–day basis.

Finding your "caloric balance."

The true way to trim down is to control your calories. They are the key to successful weight loss.

So where do you start? The first thing to do is to see your doctor and learn how many calories you need each day. From there, you can work backward to see how many calories you can safely cut to lose weight at a sensible rate.

Something you can do right now is learn about your Body Mass Index (BMI). This is the ratio of your weight to your height, and the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) online Body Mass Calculator is a handy tool.

You can also start thinking about your caloric balance. Here's a simple explanation from the CDC:

If you are...
  • Maintaining your weight, you're "in balance." You are eating roughly the same number of calories that your body is using. Your weight will remain stable.
  • Gaining weight, you're "in caloric excess." You are eating more calories than your body is using. You will store these extra calories as fat and gain weight.
  • Losing weight, you're "in caloric deficit." You are eating fewer calories than you are using. Your body is pulling from its fat storage cells for energy, so your weight is decreasing. To lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week, you need to cut the number of calories you take in by between 500 and 1,000 calories per day.
Here are helpful tips on cutting calories from the CDC:
  • Replace high–calorie foods with low-calorie foods. Foods that have lots of fiber and water are good ways to feel full without eating too many calories.
  • Learn to eat fruits and vegetables instead of high–calorie snacks. They're a great way to fill up and get lots of good nutrition for fewer calories.
  • Think about your drink. We often forget that there can be hundreds of calories in our beverages. Coffee drinks with lots of cream and syrup, smoothies loaded with sugars, and certain alcoholic drinks, can pack as much as 500 calories. This is as much as an entire meal in a single cup.
  • Rethink your serving sizes. Portion sizes can cause you to eat more calories than you realize. Studies show that people consume more calories when faced with larger portions, even though they don't mean to.

Lastly, don’t forget to exercise! When you don't exercise, you place the entire burden of weight loss on your diet. Being more active means that you can eat more of the things you like and still lose weight. The key is finding an exercise you enjoy. And whatever you do, try to get one hour of exercise each day. Every step toward healthier living is a step in a good direction.

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