Healthy Weight Loss Strategies

While we acknowledge the global nature of the obesity epidemic we are currently facing, it is equally important to ensure that we are taking the right actions towards achieving healthy weight loss results.

Losing weight is quite a difficult challenge. It is however amazing that just about everyone has a perfect way to go about it.

One truth though is that when it comes to healthy weight loss, “one size does not fit all.”

And then again, losing weight does not have to result in negative side effects such as lowering of metabolic rate and loss of lean body mass.

Basic Weight Loss Factors

Differences in one’s age, sex, body type, underlying medical issues, physical activity levels, and genetics play important roles in determining how fast one is able to lose weight and keep it off.

You might also need to factor in past experiences with dieting and individual food preferences to that list.

Consequently, before considering any weight loss method, it is important to know that there are certain conditions that can complicate the processes involved in the reduction of body fat. Conditions such as pre-diabetes, diabetes, hormonal imbalances, or abnormal fat metabolism might need to be corrected first.

What is a Healthy Weight Loss Rate?

A healthy and sustainable rate of fat loss is roughly 1 to 2 pounds (0.45–0.9 kg) per week. This can be achieved by creating a caloric deficit of about 500 to 1,000 calories per day.

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The general advice is to combine a healthy diet with regular exercise to lose weight. Avoid weight loss methods that might make you experience the negative side effects of overly rapid weight loss.

A lot of research shows that losing weight in a slow and steady manner is easier to maintain long-term. It’s generally safer than very fast weight loss – more on that later.

Additionally, slow healthy weight loss is also better for developing and maintaining the healthy lifestyle changes that the individual needs not only to lose weight but also to keep it off.

Just losing the weight for the moment should never be the main focus.  However, it can be a good starting point when starting to lose weight.

Why Do You Want to Lose Weight?

You must decide first. This is probably the most important aspect of losing weight. You have to come to a point where you are sick of your current weight situation and that it is time for a change.

What is your goal? Having a burning and emotionally compelling reason to lose that weight will give you a good footing to start and keep up your healthy weight loss journey.

Short term goals like having more energy for running around with the kids and being able to fit into that old dress/suit might not carry you the whole way but serves as good starting points.

When temptations strike, try to focus more on the long term weight loss benefits of being a healthier fit person.

How Will You Achieve Your Dream Weight

Do you intend cooking more meals at home? Will you be eating smaller portions? You will need to be specific and start small.

There is also the need for you to identify possible barriers to achieving your healthy weight loss goals. Then you need to find practical ways to overcome them.

For instance, would a busy schedule be preventing you from going to the gym? How do plan creating time then? Would it help if you woke up an hour earlier than usual?

Understand What Drives You To Eat!

We eat because it provides us with energy to function and do things. However, we all know that very few people eat for that reason. What are your triggers – stress, anger, anxiety, or depression?

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Do you relax and reward yourself by snacking in front of the TV at the end of a stressful day at the office?

To move forward in your healthy weight loss journey, you need to avoid using food for comfort. Try to avoid these especially when you are upset, angry, or stressed. Explore and develop other healthy ways to cope with these feelings.

For example, if you are bored or lonely, try reaching out to a friend who makes you laugh instead of reaching for the refrigerator.

The Puzzle of the Calorie

We are all probably familiar with the popular weight loss phrase, “calories in, calories out.”  While sounding so simple, it often becomes quite confusing and so difficult to implement.

Naturally, to maintain a stable weight, your energy intake needs to at least equal the amount of energy you use. If you eat more than use, you will gain weight. Similarly, if you use more energy than you consume, you will lose weight.

But the real truth is that it is not as simple as that – as most people can attest to.

Too few calories can actually prevent your body from losing weight and getting rid of that extra stubborn fat. This can happen because the body is literally in starvation mode. You have to eat enough before your body starts burning stored fat.

For instance, eating 100 calories of high corn syrup is definitely not the same as eating 100 calories of broccoli.

When it comes to healthy weight loss and the calorie effect, the idea is to ditch foods packed with calories and that don’t make you feel full. Then replace such with foods that fill you up with fewer calories – vegetables for example.

Losing Weight Too Fast Does Not Last

It is actually possible to lose weight fast. However, fast weight loss might come with some possible health risks in the long run.

Shedding too much weight and too quickly, generally results in significant reduction in fat-free mass – lean muscle tissue and bone – and also body water [1,2].

This reduction in fat-free mass can lead to a slowing of the metabolism [3]. Muscle burns calories, but fat doesn’t.

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This slowing of the metabolism can persist long after you have stopped restricting calories or stopped exercising. The slowed metabolism can cause a rebound effect and often lead to regaining weight [4, 5].

Some research indicate that losing weight too fast as a result of eating fewer calories may make your body to reduce calorie burning by as much as 23% per day [6, 4].

Losing weight too fast can take a toll not just on your body but also on your mind. It may make you feel hungry, sluggish, drained, unsatisfied, and sick.

Such continuous cycles of dieting, weight loss, and dieting again is called “yoyo dieting.”

And then it is so easy to give up when losing weight this way, except of cause, you have iron willpower.

More importantly, you don’t want to lose weight and end up with another ailment as a result of the process or technique you employed.

Slow and steady wins the race of a healthy weight loss. Always aim to lose 1-2 pounds (0.45–0.9 kg) per week.

Make Better Food Choices

It is not a must to quite any particular food group in order to lose weight.

In fact, you’re more likely to keep the pounds off for good if your choice of food is something you can live with for the long term.

Cut Back on Carbs (CBC)

When it comes to healthy weight loss, you really need to be choosy about your carbs.

You need to reduce the amount of sugars and starches you consume daily. It is one of the best ways to avoid calorie counting or portion control when starting to lose weight.

This will drastically reduce your appetite and hunger levels and help you eat fewer calories [7]. Obviously, this helps to eliminate the main reason why most people fail to lose weight using conventional methods.

This is why it is interesting to know that several studies have consistently reported that people who eat fewer carbohydrates do not notice an increase in hunger and can lose weight without any major effort [8, 9].

Reducing your carb intake will automatically make your body resort to burning off stored fat instead of carbohydrates for energy.

You also benefit from reduced insulin levels. This helps to reduce bloat and unnecessary water retention [10, 11] as your kidneys begin to shed excess sodium and water out of your body.

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Cutting back on carbs is definitely one of the most important things you need to do on your healthy weight loss journey [12].

You can achieve up to 3 times greater weight loss result with a low-carb diet than with a standard low-fat diet [13, 14]. It is simply powerful.

Aiming for about 100-150 grams of carbs per day is a good starting point.

Getting below 50 grams of carbs per day can be effective if you are looking for faster weight loss but you need to watch it!

Go for carbs that are low on the glycemic index or lower in carbs per serving. Choose whole grains over processed items as processing removes key nutrients such as fiber, iron, and B-Vitamins.

Eat More Protein

As is often said, “When it comes to healthy weight loss, protein is KING” and actually for good reasons.

You can’t go wrong adding more of nuts, bean, and soy to you healthy diet if you are vegetarian/vegan. Other individuals can additionally include more lean meat, poultry, dairy, and fish.

Protein foods are easily satisfying and help build and keep up your muscles.

You can easily use up to between 80-100 calories per day in the processes involved in digesting and metabolizing the protein you eat [15, 16, 17].

Eating proteins simply fills you up and reduces your appetite.

Actually, some studies report that the reduced appetite from a high-protein diet can help you reduce your calorie intake by as much as 400 calories less a day [18, 19].

You can easily increase your daily protein intake by regularly eating eggs for breakfast.

The truth of the matter, when it comes to sustainable and healthy weight loss, is that a high protein diet and some form of resistance training are the most important factors for building and maintaining muscle mass [20, 21].

And as you very well know, muscles are very metabolic in nature!

Eat The Good Fats to Burn Fat

Fats are not your enemy, you just need to understand them better. If you start choosing the good fats, you will soon end up being very good friends.

Your body needs fats in order to function properly as they help in the absorption of vitamins A, D, and E which are vital for your nervous system.

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Dietary fat promotes cell growth, keeps your body warm, and serves as a source of energy. They are also involved in hormone production and equally protect your vital organs.

Each gram of fat contains nine calories whereas carbohydrates and proteins supply only four calories per gram.

To keep your diet on track and enjoy the true benefits of fat, it is important to make the right choice. Always choose from the good fats as OFTEN as possible.

Making the Fat Choice

Healthy fat choices help to promote satiety and thus help to reduce your daily calorie intake [22]. For instance, eating avocado for breakfast helped participants in one study to reduce hunger and consumed less food for the next six hours [23, 24].

Better choices for healthy weight loss are the Monounsaturated Fats from olive oil, canola oil, almonds, cashew, peanuts, peanut butter, sesame seed, and avocados.

Good Polyunsaturated Fats contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Get more of the omega-3 fats from fish sources like salmon, mackerel, and herring as well as from canola oil, flax seed, walnuts, and tofu.

High-fat foods, such as avocado, tuna, salmon, and olive oil, are more nutrient-dense than high-protein and high-carb foods. This is why you feel full faster after eating such good fats without feeling like you’re on a diet.

Good quality fat foods will fill you up quickly, curb hunger, and boost your metabolism.

The take-home message here is that you need to focus more on the quality and type of food you eat. Also consider their impact on your body’s metabolism rather than simply on their caloric content.

Try Intermittent Fasting!

Intermittent fasting is one of several types of fasting methods with various health benefits. It is an eating pattern that cycle between periods of fasting and eating.

It can consist of eating about 500 calories or 25-35 percent fewer calories every other day – when doing alternate fasting.

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There is the 5:2 diet of intermittent fasting where you can fast for two days of the week.

Another option is the 16/8 or Leangains Method.  With this method, you fast for 16 hours of the day and eat within the remaining 8-hour window.

You can also do the Eat-Stop-Eat or Spontaneous Fasting. Here you simply fast for a 12 or 24 hour period multiple times per week.

With intermittent fasting, the focus is not on how to cut calories from the meal. It is rather about cutting out the entire meal itself – depending on the type you decide to follow.

These methods therefore make you eat fewer calories overall without necessarily restricting calories during the eating periods.

The biggest appeal of intermittent fasting is that it gives you the flexibility to tailor it according to your lifestyle.

Is Fasting More Effective for Weight Loss?

A recent randomized controlled trial that followed 100 obese individual for one year noted that intermittent fasting was not more effective than daily calorie restriction [25].

The alternate-day fasting group of the study had a 38% dropout rate. However, the dropout rate was 29% for the daily calorie restriction group. 5 out of the 13 that did quit the alternate-day fasting said they were quitting because they did not like the diet.

The take home here is that irrespective of the method you use in order to lose weight, you must reduce your total calorie intake. It is the amount of net calories that matters.

So, plan your healthy weight loss around a eating regime that you can stick to for a long time and that fits into your lifestyle. This might probably be the best and most successful diet for you.

Exercise and Keep Yourself Active

OK. This is where the rubber hits the road. You have to get your butts off that couch and get active.

Exercise has the ability to improve your overall outlook. Exercising also prevents muscle loss and therefore helps to keep your metabolic rate at a healthy level.

Anything to keep you active is better than nothing at all. It is best to gradually step into it. Start with lighter exercises, and then slowly but steadily increase your level of physical activity.

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You can start slowly with small bouts of physical activities that are as simple as increasing your movement throughout the day. Or you can try things like cycling, dancing, walking the dog or even playing Frisbee with him.

Again, it does not have to be too strenuous at the beginning. Moderate spurts of 10-minute exercise each day can be just as good as a 30-minute workout.

You can choose exercise activities that are more fun to keep you going than those you think are good for you.

Try Resistance and High Intensity Exercises

As you gain more traction in your healthy weight loss journey, it becomes necessary to up the ante by trying resistance or high intensity exercises.

Adding some form of resistance training or weight lifting can help in building muscle and increase your metabolism. This can help in compensating for the muscle loss and drop in metabolism that often happens when losing weight [26].

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) exercise is basically training in alternating intervals of high and low exercise intensities. Essentially, it is short intense bursts of exercise.

For instance, after you warm up you could do an all-sprint for 20 to 30 seconds. Then walk or jog (very slowly) for the next 90 or so seconds. You then repeat this cycle for about 8 to 10 times or as much as you prefer.

HIIT causes an oxygen deficit which results in a phenomenon called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. This process keeps burning up calories as fuel for as long as 48 hours after the workout is over [27, 28].

So, unlike regular aerobic exercise, generally called cardio, HIIT continues to burn calories long after you work out.

Avoid Stress and Get Adequate Sleep

Interestingly, both of these factors are often ignored when discussing healthy weight loss. However, they are critically important for the optimal functioning of your body and hormones.

On Stress Levels

Elevated amounts of stress can cause an increase in the levels of the hormone cortisol, which is known to increase belly fat accumulation [29].

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Belly fat is notoriously associated with chronic diseases of the cardiovascular system such as heart diseases. It is also associated with type 2 diabetes, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease and metabolic syndrome [30].

An increase in the level of cortisol has also been linked to a corresponding increase in levels of ghrelin in the body [31]. This increases hunger which is a direct threat to healthy weight loss.

Stress is equally linked to an increased preference for “comfort foods” – tasty, high-fat, high-carb, and generally high-calorie meals [32].

Consequently, chronic stress and increased levels of cortisol pose a great threat when you are attempting to lose weight.

On Adequate Sleep

With regards to sleep, research over the past decade has grown in support of the fact that short sleep duration has become a serious risk factor for weight gain and obesity [33, 34].

Generally, sleep deprivation causes feelings of fatigue which may lead to reduced physical activities and a subsequent desire to eat.

A lack of adequate sleep – normally more than 6 hours but less than 8 hours – may also have hormonal effects that increase caloric intake [35, 36].

These hormonal changes may boost your levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, while lowering levels of leptin, the fullness hormone [37]. Therefore, lack of sleep increases the chances of you becoming hungry, making it harder to lose weight.

A study by researchers at the University of Chicago found that sleep deprivation resulted in decreased leptin levels, and increased ghrelin levels in test subjects. They also observed markedly elevated hunger and appetite rating [36].

The subjects in the research had an increased appetite that tended to be greatest for calorie-dense foods. These were foods that were high in carbohydrate content such as sweets, salty snacks, and starchy foods.

In the real sense of it, even though diet modification and a strict exercise regime are necessary factors that help to burn up excess calories in order to reduce belly fat, there is still the need to get at the underlying cause.

Therefore, to achieve true healthy weight loss and keep the weight off, stress reduction and adequate sleep are a MUST.

Find Good Motivation and Support

While self-determination is a necessary motivation and quite frankly, a must, external help is still necessary to be able to healthily lose weight and maintain your desired weight once achieved.

Seek emotional support from family, friends, support groups, and especially from those who have lost weight in a healthy way. They can also cheer you up and help keep you motivated in your healthy weight loss pursuit.

Make a Vision Board

  • Cut pictures and paste on a board cork or poster board. The hang it up in a place where you can see it every day. Take a daily look at it and envision how it feels like reaching those goals.
  • Let that vision connect you to them and get inspired to achieve those goals.
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Remember that changing bad behavior takes effort and time – at least 2 months (or about 66 days, on average) according to research [[38, 39, 40].

So don’t give up if you slip along the way. You don’t have to be perfect. Just endeavor to stay on track 80% of the time and you will make it there.

Give yourself some room for a few indulgences. Making a mistake once or twice does not have a measurable impact on your long-term healthy weight loss dreams. You don’t need to feel deprived or guilty in such situations.

Healthy weight loss is a process and not an event. It is also not a contest and therefore, you are not competing with anyone! Run your healthy weight loss race at your own pace!

Think Long Term

So today, start making changes to your eating and physical activity habits. These changes should be such that you envision maintaining them for the rest of your life.

Remember that it is important to set realistic long-term healthy weight loss goals. They should be both achievable and based on healthy eating and being active.

This way, you can lose weight, keep it off, and boost your health for a lifetime.

Once again, remember that irrespective of how you kick-start your healthy weight loss journey, the best way to keep the weight off is through these long-lasting lifestyle changes to your eating plan and physical activities.