Weight loss can be a slippery slope and it is a process that is not the same for everyone. Nowadays, people tend to look for a quick fix or the fastest way to lose as much weight as possible and although these trendy diets might work short term they will never result in the end goal of losing weight and keeping it off.
The truth is, there are no bad foods that should be eliminated from your diet, nor are there any miracle foods that will magically make you lose weight. So what is the secret to weight loss and keeping it off for good? Check out these 12 hidden secrets that might make all the difference for you.
1. Watch out for hidden ingredients
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An important component of maintaining a healthier lifestyle is to be your own personal detective when it comes to reading nutrition labels.
More often than not, manufacturers have one goal in mind: to sell you their product by writing enticing phrases such as “fat free”, “sugar free” or “no added sugar” on the front of the package in big letters. Yet, did you realize that when you opt for a fat free product, you might well be getting a product with a lot more sugar?
Fat and sugar both work to create a tender, moist, smooth and flavorful food. When manufacturers reduce the amount of one, they have to increase the amount of the other. Therefore, a lot of products that might be labeled as “fat free” have a high sugar content to compensate for the lost fat. The same goes for products labeled as “sugar free” or “no added sugar”.
Take down the sugar in a product and up goes the fat. Always read the Nutrition Facts Label and look for products low in saturated fat and zero trans-fat. In addition, you must always read the ingredient label to look for unhealthy fats such as partially hydrogenated oil and palm oil.
Be aware of foods like granola bars, cereal bars, 100 calorie snacks, frozen desserts and yogurts that often have a lot of unexpected sugar. Foods with hidden fat include crackers, breakfast bars and sugar free cookies and cakes.
2. Shop on the perimeter of the supermarket
This is a useful trick to help you fill your cart with the most healthful items in the supermarket. Start at the produce aisle and fill your cart with a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables before heading to the middle aisles for shelf stable items such as rice, canned beans and bread.
Be wary of the center aisles where the processed foods and snack foods are. Continue around the perimeter of the store to the meat and poultry section, dairy, and frozen foods.
3. Practice stimulus control
Stimulus control is a component of behavior modification that allows you to make healthier food choices simply based on what you are exposing to yourself to. A stimulus is something like keeping a jar of cookies out on your counter or walking past your favorite pizza place every day on your way home.
If you can alter the stimulus that is causing you to make unhealthy food choices, you are training yourself to be in control of the foods you eat. Try leaving out a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter or finding an alternate route home so you don’t have to feel pressure to give into that tantalizing pizza aroma.
4. When in doubt, write it out
Keeping a food journal is one of the most effective weight loss tools, as it really helps you track what and how much you are eating on a daily basis. It may seem redundant at first, but studies have shown that food diaries are the most powerful predictor of weight loss and weight maintenance.
When keeping a food diary, keep a log of what foods you ate, how much of those foods you ate and what time you had that meal or snack. It is also helpful to also write what your trigger was for eating that meal, such as hunger, stress, certain time of day, boredom, and so on. You can then look back on all that you ate and see patterns in your eating to help you figure out what might be contributing to your inability to lose weight.
5. Vary your workout
Variety isn’t only important when choosing your foods. If you feel like you are at a standstill with your weight loss, you may want to try switching up your workout routine.
There is a lot of truth behind the benefit of HIIT (high intensity interval training) as opposed to steady cardio for weight loss. Twenty-five minutes of HIIT training will get you a better burst of calorie burn than forty five minutes on the treadmill at the same incline and speed. Varying your workout routine will also help you lose weight if you are at a standstill.
Muscles have a memory. What once gave you great results is no longer doing the job. Change it up, add new exercises, up your weights, add Pilates and stretching and your body will respond once again.
6. Be mindful
Mindful eating refers to the way in which you eat each meal. Being a mindful eater means that you chew your foods thoroughly, really focus on the flavors and textures of each bite, and develop an overall appreciation for the food on your plate.
Some ways you can practice being mindful is designating time just to eat. In other words, don’t eat while you are distracted and doing other things so you can tune into your hunger and satiety signals.
7. Listen to your body
When you are tired you go to sleep and when you feel pain you stop what you are doing that is causing the pain. These are ways you use your internal signals to guide your choices. Do you do the same when you are eating?
Focus on eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. If your body is craving a food, allow yourself to have it. Don’t deprive your body of what it needs and/or wants – you just have to make sure that you are in control of food, rather than food being in control of you. This is something that takes practice and is one of the most effective tools you can have to keep the weight off for good.
8. Sleep matters
There have been a number of studies connecting sleep and weight loss. Sleep deprivation has been linked to increased food cravings, late night snacking and larger portion sizes.
The reason is because insufficient sleep impacts hormones that control hunger and fullness. When you’re sleep eprived, your body makes more ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and less leptin (the satiety hormone). To lose weight and keep it off, start focusing on getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
9. Know your emotional triggers
Do you eat when you are bored, stressed, sad or happy? It is important to become tuned in with yourself, know what triggers you to eat certain foods at certain times. This is one of the reasons why food diaries can be so useful. It forces you to think about why you are eating at that very moment and hopefully, learn to find alternative ways to cope with your emotions other than with food.
10. Have a healthy support system
You might be the only one in your family or group of friends who is making healthy lifestyle changes to lose weight, but other people in your life can help or hinder your progress.
You want to surround yourself with people who are supportive of the changes you are making and want to see you successful and healthy. If you have friends who constantly make judgmental comments about your healthy eating or a family member who taunts you with unhealthy foods you should consider having a talk with them. You want people who are on your team and support your success.
11. Don’t strive for perfection
Strive to be the healthiest version of you, not the person next to you. This is something that can really inhibit you from meeting your goals. If you have the mindset that if you make a poor food choice then you are a “failure” you’d probably just give up.
Rigidity and perfection does not work when it comes to eating because there are so many factors that contribute to why you eat, when you eat or what foods you crave. Focus more on the successes you have on your weight loss journey rather than your slip ups, because a huge part of weight maintenance is finding a time and place for the foods you love.
12. Reassess you goals
Success comes when you have set realistic goals for yourself. If you find that you finally got down to your goal weight but in a month you gain it back, it might be that your goal weight isn’t the weight that is healthy for you. Make sure that when setting goals for yourself, they are goals that are attainable and maintainable.