Expert Blogs | Heart Health
How to Get Started With Weight Loss

Just thinking about weight loss can be so overwhelming that you never try. Trust the process. Patience and perseverance are key to better eating habits that benefit heart health and overall wellbeing. Taking these small steps can lead to big results.

Adjust your attitude. If you have a lofty weight loss goal in mind that seems unreachable, it’s good to know that relatively small amounts of weight loss work to your advantage. One study found that losing just 5 to 7 percent of body weight (10 to 14 pounds for a person weighing 200 pounds) with a healthy eating plan and at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly greatly reduced the risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes contributes to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and many other health issues. 

Choose a reasonable eating plan. You can lose weight on any diet that limits calories, , but it’s important to shed pounds safely with an enjoyable, balanced eating plan that you can live with in the long run.  Extreme diets that cut carbohydrates, such as the keto plan, tend to be high in saturated fat and lack potassium, fiber, and phytonutrients for your heart, gut, and brain health.  Severe calorie cuts can lead to quick weight loss, but it’s easy to regain the pounds when you return to your regular eating habits.

Avoid the “cheating” mindset. It’s tempting to restrict calories Monday through Friday and have a cheat day (or days) on the weekends. However, if you feel the need to cheat on your eating plan, it’s not the right one for you -- and it won’t last. Take a more moderate approach to weight loss. Plan to include a small portion of a daily treat, such as 1 ounce of dark chocolate, a glass of wine (5 ounces), or 1 ounce of snack chips. 

Focus on inclusion. Add more nutritious and satisfying whole and lightly processed foods -- such as fresh fruits and vegetables -- to your eating plan. Soon they’ll crowd out higher-calorie, low-nutrient foods that can hamper weight loss. For example, snack on peanuts instead of candy, enjoy a baked sweet potato instead of French fries, and double up on roasted or steamed vegetables at meals.

Set yourself up for success. Plan to make delicious meals and snacks ahead of time. Figure out which ingredients you’ll need and grocery shop on a regular basis for a well-stocked kitchen. Meal prep doesn’t have to be elaborate to be healthy and delicious, and you don’t need to spend hours making meals on the weekends, either. 

Here are some quick meal and snack ideas for weight loss that you can assemble with ease:

  • Oatmeal prepared with dairy milk or soymilk and topped with berries
  • Tuna fish sandwich on whole wheat bread with lettuce and tomato, baby carrots, and an apple
  • Cooked chicken, frozen thawed broccoli with olive oil, and a crusty whole grain roll
  • Snacks: Low-fat mozzarella stick and whole grain crackers; ½ cup edamame (roasted soy nuts); hard-cooked egg and whole wheat roll 

Eat earlier. While a balanced, enjoyable diet is vital for many reasons, research suggests that when you eat may be as important as what you eat for weight loss. One study showed that consuming most of your daily calories within 2 hours of bedtime increased the risk for being overweight as compared to eating the majority of calories within 2 hours of waking up. Limited nighttime eating also helps to keep levels of artery-clogging cholesterol within a normal range. If you eat a large dinner and snack at night, shift half of those calories to lunch and breakfast and snack in the afternoon instead.

 

 

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Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN

Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN

Registered dietitian nutritionist

Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN, is an award-winning nutrition communicator and dietitian based in Boston. She is the author of several books, including The Menopause Diet Plan, A Natural Guide to Hormones, Health, and Happiness (co-author), and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy.

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