So many women struggle to reach a healthy weight – one that helps them feel good about their bodies. More than half of American adults are overweight, and most women find it difficult to lose weight and stay at a healthy weight. And although I absolutely do not believe that a woman has to be thin in order to be attractive and sexy, being overweight does affect the way many women feel about their bodies and often reduces their confidence and self-esteem. For that reason, reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is one of the key things women can do to look and feel their best.
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Losing weight is hard, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. I want to suggest five steps you can take, starting this week, to lose weight. Whether you want to lose 10 pounds or 50 or even more, these steps can help you move in the right direction.
5 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Weight
• Decide that you are worth it. Losing weight takes some time, energy and commitment, but it pays off in terms of better health, more energy, and increased body confidence. So decide that you’re worth whatever time you need to invest, energy you need to expend, and commitment you need to make. Because you are. Make changes in your schedule if necessary or say no to activities that will keep you from reaching your weight loss goal. Prioritize your own health and peace of mind for a period of time, even if it means letting go of some other priorities.
• Eat foods in their natural or near-natural state. Foods in their natural state (real foods and whole foods) contain more nutrients and fiber and fewer added sugars, starches, fats and chemicals than processed foods. Often (although not always), they’re lower in calories. Very often, they’re more filling. So whenever possible, eat foods in their natural or near-natural state – whole wheat bread rather than white bread, whole fruit rather than fruit juice, fresh vegetables rather than vegetables with cheese sauce, peanuts rather than packaged peanut butter crackers, grilled chicken breast rather than deli chicken salad – you get the idea.
If you tend to rely on prepared or packaged foods to feed yourself and your family, pick a few foods you eat regularly and move toward eating a more natural version – vanilla yogurt with fresh fruit instead of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, grilled fish rather than breaded fried fish, whole wheat pasta with real cheese rather than packaged macaroni and cheese. Or start with one meal – I fix extras of some foods (grilled chicken, brown rice, stir-fried vegetables, whole grain pasta, salads, etc.) so my husband and I can take leftovers to work for lunch, rather than eating a frozen dinner or fast-food sandwich. Do a few minutes of food prep on the weekend. Start with a few changes and when you’re comfortable with them, make a few more. In addition, make sure to include some healthy real fats, like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and avocado, in your diet and avoid processed oils and trans fats. And stay away from “low fat” manufactured foods.
(For more ideas on how to add healthy foods to your diet, without spending hours in the kitchen, download my free ebook – 24 Quick and Healthy Real Food Meals.)
• Move your body every day. There’s no way around it – we all need to move our bodies and be physically active in order to maintain or reach a healthy weight. And we need to do it very day, or almost every day. So pick something you enjoy and start doing it. Walking is great. You can walk throughout the day and accumulate a lot of physical activity by the end of the day – you don’t have to do it all at once. Wear a monitor that helps you keep track of your activity – anything from a simple pedometer (like this one) to a fancier fitness monitor (like the FitBit Charge 2 or FitBit Alta HR). I used a simple pedometer for years, but my husband just gave me a FitBit Alta HR for my birthday and I love it! Work up to about 10,000 steps per day. And you don’t have to walk – you can bike, jog, hike, play soccer with your kids – anything that gets your body moving. In addition, do strengthening exercises 2 or 3 days a week to tone muscles and build strength – you can find hundreds of workouts online. (Here are some tips for fitting exercise into your busy schedule.)
• Eat less. As much as I love exercise, I know that exercise alone won’t result in significant weight loss for most women. For most of us, we also need to change our eating habits and consume fewer calories. So figure out how to do that in a way that works for you. For some women counting calories works well – this article can help you figure out how many calories you need. For others, following a point system or specific diet will be the best approach. But it can also be as simple as cutting portion sizes, eliminating junk food and liquid calories, and cutting out mindless snacking.
• Drink more water. Ditch the sodas (even diet) and limit the number of “liquid calories” you consume. Take water with you everywhere and drink it throughout the day. No one seems to know exactly how much water women should drink every day (I have read articles that recommend 8 or even 9 8 0z. glasses per day), but most of us need to drink more. Water helps you feel full, helps your body function well, reduces fatigue and helps your skin look beautiful.
What strategies have helped you lose weight or maintain your weight? Where do you run into the most difficulty when it comes to losing weight? Please share your thoughts in the Comments – I would love to hear from you.
(Important note – If you have any kind of health or medical problem that could be affected by changing your diet or losing weight, talk to your doctor before beginning any weight loss program.)