Ask someone how to lose weight, and they'll likely suggest eating healthy and exercising regularly. If people can recite this conventional wisdom yet still struggle with weight loss, perhaps it's worth looking into less-touted strategies for shedding pounds and keeping them off for the long run. Plus, given that being obese carries a financial penalty ($2,600 to $4,900 annually), losing weight leads to significant savings, in addition to better health. Here are six less conventional tips to guide you to a healthier weight.
Change one thing at a time
Bestselling author and Zen Habits writer Leo Babauta recommends putting all of your energy into one habit for at least a month, until it’s on “autopilot,” before tackling new habits. Instead of trying to change your diet, exercise regimen, sleep schedule, etc. at the same time, start with just one thing.
Focus on diet first
While exercise has numerous physiological and mental benefits, health experts agree that diet has a bigger impact on weight loss on its own compared to exercise.
Base your meals around lean protein and non-starchy vegetables. Add in fat (see below for more), and on days where you’re more active, include a small sweet potato for additional carbohydrates.
Breakfast not only cues your metabolism, it sets your hormones on the right track for the day. Aim for 20-30 grams of protein (3 eggs, 1 cup Greek yogurt, or a palm- or playing card-sized portion of meat or fish), healthy fat and if you’re active or exercising first thing in the morning, some carbohydrate in the form of low-glycemic fruit. Here are a few examples:
- Protein shake.
- 1 cup Greek yogurt with berries.
- 2-3 eggs with 2-3 slices of turkey or pork bacon.
- Dinner leftovers (a palm-sized portion of meat or fish plus some veggies).
After decades of low-fat, low-cholesterol mandates, even the government is starting to come around on its stance on fat. Counterintuitive as it may be, adding fat to your meals actually can help you lose weight and get healthier.
Add a handful or few tablespoons of the following as you cook or as toppings:
- Olive oil.
- Coconut oil.
While there’s little evidence to suggest that saturated fats cause heart disease, food quality is something to pay attention to when it comes to saturated fats. Look for butter and meat that has been grass-fed and grass-finished, and pastured-chicken eggs.
Do strength training
When it comes to exercise that gives you the most “bang for your buck,” it’s hard to beat strength training. In addition to making you stronger for everyday activities, strength training increases muscle mass, and increased muscle mass burns fat even during rest phase.
According to Mike Deskevich, an owner of Barbell Strategy gym in Boulder, Colorado, “The older you are, the more important it is to lift. Muscle mass is the most protective attribute you can have as you age.”
Not only are falls and bone fractures less likely if you are stronger, but in reducing the likelihood that either will happen, you’ll spare yourself the costs of healing and recovering from a fall. The CDC estimates the average hospital cost for a fall injury is $30,000 — and it goes up as you get older. A $30,000 hospital bill or an annual membership to a strength gym? We think the latter is a much better (and less painful) investment.
And if you need proof that barbell lifting is possible at any age, watch this video of 88-year-old Mrs. Fox deadlifting 88 pounds.
When it comes to diet, your body doesn’t recognize moderation as moderation. Everything you consume — regardless of quantity — sends information to your body about how to process what you eat.
That means eating one mini blueberry muffin per day still sends your body the message that it can anticipate those carbs (which rapidly turn into sugar and then fat) on a daily basis. “Moderation” may make sense to us, but not to our bodies. Plan a weekly “cheat day” to enjoy off-diet foods, but otherwise, eschew moderation and be strict about it.
Have you tried any of these tips? Share your experiences with the community by telling us what you did to succeed.
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