As a self-proclaimed weight management expert, people always expect me to TELL them how to lose weight. Well, when I started my nutrition education at Colorado State University I also expected to learn what to TELL people when the came to me with this question, and I kind of did, but the answer, as many things in health-science are, is not exactly clear cut.
In short, the best answer to this question is "whatever works for you". If you poke around and do some research, I am sure you will find experts and researchers in the field of weight management or obesity treatment and prevention that believe they know THE right way people can lose weight, and believe me, they will try to sell you on it. Paleo, low-carb, gluten free, high protein, low fat, high fat, macros, cross-fit and the list goes on, and on.
The reason my answer is "whatever works for you" is because there are a number of ways to improve your health. All that really matters is that you participate in healthy behaviors consistently. Time is either your best friend or worst enemy as the choices you make over time will compound over time- for better or worse. Look up how much weight one soda per day can cause you to put on as an example.
Okay, I will give you a little better answer than "whatever works for you". This is very simplistic as various factors such as knowledge of weight loss and nutrition is vital. "Healthy food" is a general term; if it comes in a package or wrapped, it is probably not that healthy. Furthermore, if the package tells you it is healthy, it is probably even worse for you.....this is a topic for another day. In general, stick to "whole" unprocessed foods (shop the perimeter of the store). It is hard to have too many vegetables, and 3-5 servings of whole fruit per day is probably fine. Nuts, beans, seeds are great, as are small servings of whole-grain foods and small portions of lean proteins. Fish is awesome in most cases. Drink water.
Once you have your achievable, specific goal. (Look up SMART goals)
First: It is important to UNCOVER your motivation (why do you want to lose weight? ...This is your driver. This is what will help you PRIORITIZE healthy choices over taste alone, and chose a brisk walk over plopping in front of the tv.
Second: DISCOVER ACHIEVABLE goals. What can you do to make the healthy choice the easy choice? These are often the action steps, or action steps that support the action steps. I like to focus on environment with my clients as environment drives a lot of what we do. Start with an achievable action that is evidence-based to improve health and maintain a healthy weight- Overarching goal: eat more vegetables, for example. In order to eat more vegetables, you first have to have vegetables to eat, right? Action Step #1 Keep vegetables at home. Supportive Action Step: Frequent a farmers market or grocery store regularly.
Do you ONLY eat at home? No, right, a good portion is spent at work or in your car. Action step #2 Invest in a mini-fridge, or maybe a lunch box with Tupperware to store healthy food at work. Action Step # 3 Keep healthy snacks in the glove compartment or in your purse so you aren't tempted to stop at a drive-thru on the way home.
Third: orchestrate a good support system. A person or network that can support (or sabotage) your goals. Inform these people of what you are trying to achieve, and it will make your goal even more real; you will also solicit support and encouragement. You should have a partner or a system that can hold you accountable. A secondary result is that you will often inspire people in your support network.
The things that I have found that work for people, are very unique to individuals- even amongst the families and couples I have worked with, each person is a little different. For example, some people are ready to tackle nutrition and others may be ready to take on physical activity; One person may be ready to change "whatever it takes( just tell me what to do)" in their eating plan, while others come right out and say "I'm not going to give up soda (lets work on everything else)" . Likewise, alcohol may be a significant contributor to excess calorie intake for some, while portion sizes are the mail culprit of excess calories for others. My job is to work with my clients and ask the right questions to figure out high-impact, yet achievable, areas of focus. Then to support and empower the client with fluid strategies to achieve our goals and objectives.
The journey to a healthy weight and optimal health isn't easy. It takes trial and error, and sometimes relapses to achieve success. Addiction plays a significant role in health behaviors. Often times, just like life, people's road to success is not without failures. These failures though, should not be viewed negatively, but rather as a learning experience with which you can assess what factors contributed to the relapse and take steps to ensure success the next time around. Each day, each meal, each choice is an opportunity to succeed. The only thing that matters is that you make an effort to improve your health. If you fail, you are no worse than you were prior to trying; in fact, you are much better off because of the confidence you gain and the lessons you learn. ,
Check out my evaluation form under the "forms" tab, and discover some questions that can help you discover insight into motivation (the driver of action;action drives change), help you set some reasonable goals, and get started on a plan to achieve weight loss. Be sure to contact me with any questions!
Personal Life Coach