In “Weight Loss Tips – Developing an Effective Strategy (Part One)” you learned about implementing an action plan for physical activity and exercise that will not only help you to reach your weight loss goal, but maintain a healthy weight for life. Although increasing the amount that you move and expend energy is important, it is only one side of the equation. It is recommended that adults move a minimum of 150 minutes per week (approximately 22 minutes per day) for good health. For the remaining 1,418 minutes in the day we need to be aware of how we fuel our bodies through the food and drink that we consume.
Weight loss, and maintaining a healthy weight, is 70% what you eat and 30% what you do. Long term weight loss can’t be done effectively with exercise alone. It also can’t be done by simply changing your diet or eating habits. But … if you were to choose between incorporating a healthy diet or implementing an effective exercise program, a consistent change in diet alone will produce faster results. Don’t get me wrong here! The best strategy will always be the combination of the two, which will provide faster results that can last a lifetime.
This article focuses on developing strategies to effectively incorporate a healthy, well-balanced diet into your every day life.
Determining Your Caloric Needs
It’s pretty simple. We need food to stay alive. The calories and essential nutrients found in food provide fuel for our cells and organs to survive and function properly. Our body uses the energy it needs and stores the energy that is left over (in the form of fat).
The first step in developing an effective nutrition strategy is to understand how many calories your body requires each day (for work, rest and play). Everybody’s energy expenditure varies due to height, weight, age, gender and activity levels. To effectively determine your approximate energy expenditure you can use the Harris-Benedict Equation (www.bmrcalculator.net).
The Harris-Benedict Equation tells you approximately how many calories per day you need to consume to MAINTAIN your current body weight. In order to lose weight you need to take in fewer calories than you use each day.
Your Current Dietary Habits
Now that you know how much energy you need each day you need to understand what your current diet looks like before you can make the right long term changes. To begin, ask yourself the following questions:
- How many calories do I currently take in on an average day?
- What foods do I currently eat that should remain in my healthy diet?
- What foods do I currently eat that would not be good additions to a healthy diet?
- At what time am I eating breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks?
- Am I getting enough hydration throughout the day?
Completing a three day food journal is a great way to determine the answers to the questions above. Choose two days during the week and one day on the weekend to provide a good indication of what you eat in an average day. Be sure to include:
- A description of what you eat/drink and how much (quantity, cup, ounces).
- The time of day (am/pm).
- The number of calories in each item (using food labels).
Good Nutrition and a Healthy Diet
We all know that we need food to survive but … it gets complicated. Human beings are driven by the “pleasure principle”. We do things that induce pleasure and avoid things that cause pain. Food manufacturers over the last few decades have mastered the art of “pleasure through food”. There are more appealing food choices and a wide variety of options that appeal to varying appetites.
When people think about losing weight they feel that they have to change everything about their current diet. Visions of rice cakes, celery and cottage cheese come to mind (all of which are the farthest thing from a juicy hamburger or creamy cheesecake). A healthy diet is not meant to be torture, but it does require conscious thought and some degree of compromise.
If you are serious about losing weight and incorporating a nutrition strategy for long term health and well-being, a Registered Dietitian is a great resource to give you the tools for success. A Registered Dietitian is knowledgeable in the science of nutrition. They are able to look at your medical history, current symptoms, medications, supplements, exercise routine, weight and eating habits and give ongoing advice to help you reach your weight loss goals. Unfortunately, the services of a Registered Dietitian can be costly and may not fit into your budget.
For those of you who are looking at a self-directed route, there are lots of great tools and information resources available that provide credible information, nutrition and supplement guidance and meal planning that can be tailored for your needs.
- dotFIT Armband and online program (www.dotfit.com)
- Fitbug and online program (www.fitbug.com)
- Fitbit Tracker and online program (www.fitbit.com)
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website (www.eatright.org)
- USDA Food and Nutrition Services (www.teamnutrition.usda.gov)
- MyPlate – Food Diary & Calorie Counter (www.livestrong.com)
In “Weight Loss Tips – Developing an Effective Strategy (Part Three)” you will learn about the importance of a support team and coping strategies to help you throughout your weight loss journey.