Since fad diets do not work in the long run, weight management needs to be looked at differently from how we have over the last few decades. Essentially, the only thing that does work is to change eating and exercise patterns. Permanent lifestyle changes are the only thing that will guarantee weight loss maintenance. The benefits of healthy eating and regular exercise are endless. People will reduce their risk of heart attack, stroke and other medical problems. They will feel more confident, have more energy, and sleep better.
A basic, healthy diet should include at least 3 nutritious meals a day and 1 or 2 snacks. A well-balanced diet is made up of carbohydrate-rich foods, protein, and some fat – but not too much. No foods have to be completely eliminated for a balanced diet. You can still enjoy high-fat, high-sugar foods in moderation. Healthy living is about not denial and deprivation but balance. Health Canada has a guide called Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide that is a good reference for balanced eating.
A person who decides to get involved with a weight-loss program or would like the help of a dietitian should select a program or dietitian that:
- recommends gradual weight loss (no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week)
- follows Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide
- recommends a safe exercise program
People who want to change the way they eat can start by taking the same food plan they have now and make some adjustments, for example reducing some of the fatty foods and eating smaller portions (about 20% smaller). Increasing the amount of vegetables, fruits, and fibre in the diet is also helpful.
Healthy living also involves keeping active. Keeping active helps to keep the body's metabolism (the rate at which your body uses food energy, i.e., burns calories) higher. For people who include muscle toning/building exercises in their exercise program, there are even greater benefits. Muscle has a higher metabolic rate (that is, it burns calories faster) than fat. So those who build some additional muscle will increase the rate they burn calories. Regular exercise will also help increase energy and confidence. Try to find a form of exercise you enjoy. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Here are some useful tips for healthy living:
- Don't diet – adopt healthy eating habits.
- Accept your body. Focus on measures of success other than weight. These measures can include having more energy, feeling more confident, having a lower stress level, and sleeping better.
- Make gradual changes, not drastic ones.
- Start your day with a nutritious breakfast. People who skip breakfast actually eat more during the day than those who eat a good breakfast.
- Try to eat something every 3 to 6 hours. If you leave it too long, it could lead to overeating.
- Take your time eating. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for a "full" signal to reach your brain.
- Do not do other activities while you are eating. This can distract you from your internal "full" cues and may result in overeating.
- Try to understand how emotions and feelings affect what you eat and when you eat.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, and fibre.
- Don't be fooled by low-fat foods. Although they contain less fat, manufacturers usually add more sugar to make up for taste lost when fat is removed.
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