If you have ever tried to lose weight before, you probably already know that to achieve your goals, you need to make exercise a priority (at least 150 minutes per week) and ditch the processed chips, crackers and cookies and in favor of more fruits, vegetables and lean protein.
“Nutrition is the most important factor for losing weight, and exercise is what helps you maintain your weight loss,” said Natalie Klawonn, M.D., of Carilion Clinic’s Obesity Medicine department.
But what you might not know is that there are several other lifestyle changes that can help with the number on the scale. In the list below, Dr. Klawonn shares a few things that might help you kick your weight loss up a notch (or two):
When you are sad, happy, stressed or bored, do you tend to eat more unhealthy foods? Emotional eating can be a barrier to weight loss because it is about making you feel better or rewarding yourself, not about hunger.
Food’s purpose is to nourish our bodies, so it is important to find other ways to feel emotionally nourished. Spending time with friends or in the outdoors, enjoying a hobby or just having a few quiet minutes alone can fulfill you more healthfully than food.
2. Be Patient
It can take 10 minutes or more for your brain to know that your stomach is full. If you start with just one helping of food on your plate and slow down your eating, you may be surprised how much less you eat.
Overeating is easy when you eat quickly or on the run. On a fullness scale of one to 10, where one is you’re so hungry you’d eat anything, and 10 is you are stuffed and uncomfortable, aim to finish your meal between a three and a six.
Not only does water not have any calories, it can help fill you up and even decrease your appetite. Staying hydrated is important for your body to function properly, but don’t wait until you feel thirsty to visit the water cooler—by that time, your body is already feeling the effects of not having enough water.
If you don’t like the taste of water, adding fruit can help liven it up so you can drink more throughout the day.
One of the most important pieces of the weight loss puzzle is sleep. When you are sleep deprived, the amount of the stress hormone cortisol increases in your body and that can increase your appetite. You may not think you are sleep deprived, but adults age 18 to 64 need seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
Besides needing energy to maintain healthy habits during the day, getting enough sleep keeps hormones that effect weight loss in check, so be sure to log enough z’s.
When you are chronically stressed, it can be much harder to lose weight. Your body releases hormones that can make you hungry for foods that aren’t very diet friendly, and you can actually burn fewer calories and store more fat.
Try some stress-busting tactics each day, like spending a few minutes focusing on your breathing, getting outdoors for a walk or just have a good laugh with a friend.
How many of your medications have weight gain as a potential side effect? Be sure to talk to your doctor about how your prescriptions could be affecting your weight loss efforts.
It’s also a good idea to have regular labs done to check your thyroid, electrolytes, vitamin D and sugar levels to be sure that your health is in line to help reach your goals.
Focusing on your eating habits, exercise routine and these other parts of your day takes commitment, but the results will speak for themselves!
NOTE: Before beginning any weight loss or exercise program, talk with your doctor.