6 Easy Weight Loss Habits
Did you know that, according to the CDC, over 73% of Americans aged 20 years and over are either overweight or obese?
Not only does excess adipose tissue, more commonly referred to as “fat”, lead to decreased mobility and mental health issues, it also increases your likelihood of developing more serious and even life-threatening issues.
Diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome are just a few comorbidities linked with being overweight/obese. Losing even as little as 5-10% of your body weight can significantly decrease your risk of developing these health issues.
How can I lose this weight, you ask? Let’s go over five simple habits you can implement into your life to kick off your weight loss!
1. Consume Less SSBs
The first thing I want to address is sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). Sugar-sweetened beverages include things like sodas, juices, sugary coffees, and lemonades.
These beverages contain an extreme amount of sugar and offer little to no nutritional value. They are essentially just empty calories that are flavored to taste sweet.
Soda is probably one of the worst things you could be ingesting. The average can of soda has around 40 grams of sugar in it along with some sodium, neither of which provides your body with any sort of health benefits. Not to mention, soda is extremely damaging to your teeth!
If you must drink soda, try switching to diet sodas that are zero calories and sugar-free. You can also try sugar-free seltzers, so you can still experience the bubbles and that familiar fizzy feeling! The food technology we have now is incredible, there are so many options out there that do not contain any sugar and still taste delicious!
Water is of course an easy, healthy option, but I know that many people do not enjoy drinking plain water and that is okay. However, you can add things to your water to give it more flavor and make it more appealing to yourself.
Some common examples are adding fresh fruit (such as lemons or grapefruits), crystal light flavor packets, MIO droplets, and the list goes on! There are so many sugar-free flavors available, you are bound to find one that you love!
Gatorade is another SSB I find that many people are consuming. This beverage was originally created for high-intensity workouts or athletes. This drink contains electrolytes and macronutrients that are meant to be consumed after and between workouts/games to replace nutrients lost during intense activities/exercises.
If you are not an athlete and not working out intensely, you should switch to Gatorade Zero or one of the options listed above. Remember, it only takes 500 extra calories a day (above your recommended total daily caloric intake) to gain one pound.
Calories from SSBs add up quickly and are not even providing your body with nutrients, let alone satiety.
2. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
A second easy habit to incorporate into your day-to-day life is to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Fruits and vegetables provide your body with fiber and many needed micronutrients (minerals and vitamins).
Our micronutrients are often overlooked, as carbohydrates have become one of the most talked-about topics in nutrition (we will circle back to carbohydrates- they are our friend! Not our enemy!). However, micronutrients are so important! Our micronutrients help our immune system, energy levels, blood clotting, and so much more.
Different colored fruits and vegetables offer different levels of micronutrients, so try and make your plate as colorful as possible! Many of our fruits and vegetables require little to no preparation, so you can easily take these foods with you on the go! Feel free to cook or consume raw.
And remember, fruits and veggies do not have to be fresh to be healthy. Frozen options are great because they are often cheaper, offer less waste, and they are frozen at their ripe point, so they will always be of great quality which takes the guesswork out of picking the best one out from the produce section. Canned options can be good too, just be mindful most of our canned options are higher in sodium and sometimes sugar too.
3. Eat Plenty of Protein
Protein is one of our macronutrients. Our body needs protein to survive! Protein helps support our muscular system and it also provides satiety. When you are trying to lose weight, it is best to increase your protein consumption a bit especially when pairing calorie deficits with exercise.
Our body must work harder to break down and digest protein to use within the body, so you actually use energy when consuming protein! We also need protein for muscle growth and repair.
When we work out, especially when lifting weights, we are causing micro-tears in our muscles. The protein we ingest will partially be used to repair these small damages.
Over time and after repetitive and regular exercise, your body will start building more muscle and replacing the fat you lose with muscle. In order to achieve these goals, you must consume enough protein. Many people automatically think about meat when we talk about protein, which is great because meat does offer a substantial amount of protein! But some meat choices also contain high fat, especially saturated fat. We need to be mindful about how much we consume.
You should try incorporating protein from other food sources, such as plant-based proteins or dairy products. Food like beans, edamame, Greek yogurt, milk, cheese, and nuts/nut butter also contains high amounts of protein and usually a lower amount of fat.
4. Don’t Fear Carbs – They Are Your Friend
Now, back to carbohydrates. Over the years, carbohydrates have become feared and even avoided completely. “I stopped eating carbs because they make people fat”, “I’m keto now”, and “I am on a low carbohydrate diet” are things I see and hear all the time now.
Can excessive carbohydrate intake lead to weight gain? Absolutely! But almost anything in excessive amounts can lead to weight gain. Carbs are not the direct cause of weight gain. They are actually our body’s preferred source of energy! We use carbohydrates to regulate our blood glucose levels, brain function, and above all else they usually offer a good amount of fiber.
There are simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. While both offer the body a source of energy, simple carbs usually do not provide energy for very long.
Simple carbs provide a quick burst of energy since they can be broken down and used much faster than complex carbs. Complex carbs usually spike our blood glucose levels a bit more slowly and keep them elevated for longer, which provides our body with longer-lasting energy.
This is not to say simple carbs are “bad”, as they are found in foods like milk and fruits. Complex carbs are higher in fiber which helps keep us full, regulates bowel movements/gut health, and regulates blood glucose levels.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be broken down or “used” (directly) by the body. This is why high fiber carb sources are great; it is fewer calories and usually less sugar. Speaking for the healthy general population, most people should be getting 45-65% of their total daily calories from carbohydrates.
Looking for “whole grain” on labels and packages is a great way to tell if something is a complex carb or simple carb food. It is best to try and make at least half of your grains, whole grains or “complex”. Do not fear carbs, they are one of the best things you can consume!
5. Moderate Your Fat Intake
Let’s talk about fats. Fats often get a bad rep as well, and for good reason. Consuming fats in excess amounts greatly increases your chances of becoming hypertensive (high blood pressure), overweight, and puts you at risk of experiencing a cardiac event.
However, our body still needs fats in moderation. Fat helps us regulate body temperature, protects our organs, and allows us to store energy. There are a few different types of fats, saturated, unsaturated, and trans-fat.
Trans fat is extremely dangerous and has been essentially banned in the US in high amounts. It is not commonly found in foods that you buy from your grocery store. It is most commonly found in hydrogenated oils.
Saturated fats are needed in very small amounts. Less than 10% of your calories should be coming from saturated fats. They are linked with high cholesterol when consumed in high amounts. Common food sources are butter, cheese, meats, and certain oils.
Unsaturated fats are our more beneficial fats, and these are found in olive oil, avocados, certain nuts, and certain types of fish. Our body cannot produce “essential fatty acids”, called omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. That is why it is necessary to consume certain fat sources twice a week.
You can incorporate these omega-3 fatty acids into your diet by consuming fish like salmon, shrimp, sardines, or trout twice a week. Omega-6 fatty acid is usually already consumed by most but can be added by using some vegetable oils in small amounts. All in all, everything in moderation is key! Don’t fear food groups!
Lastly, let’s talk about exercise! Exercise is very beneficial to the body, especially when it comes to weight loss.
When you are exercising, you are burning calories. By burning extra calories, you are eliminating the chance of those extra calories being stored in the body as fat.
Exercising also allows you to make a larger caloric deficit, which means you do not have to eat at such an extreme caloric deficit. Nobody should ever really be consuming less than 1200-1400 calories daily. It is not healthy and your body needs these calories just to stay alive!
Let’s say you want to lose ten pounds. In order to lose this weight, your medical provider says that you need to consume 600 calories less than your basal metabolic rate a day. Let’s say your basal metabolic rate is 1,700 calories a day. That would mean you can only eat 1,100 calories a day. Could you do it? Probably, but you would be extremely exhausted and would not be able to do this long term. By adding exercise, you could still consume 1,400 calories a day and exercise to burn the extra 300 calories off. Exercise also helps keep your heart healthy, decreases your chances for other health issues, strengthens your bones and muscles, and so much more! Even just 30 minutes a day, five times a week can provide you with so many benefits. Take the stairs, park farther away in the parking lots, try to get 10,000 steps in a day, go for a walk, lift some weights, ride a bike, swim…. there are so many options outside of a gym.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle does not have to be hard. It does not have to consist of going to the gym for two hours daily, eating only salads or rice, or giving up your favorite foods completely. Remember, baby steps! You are not going to lose ten pounds overnight, or even in a week. It takes time. Change is hard and you do not want to overwhelm yourself, but by slowly adding these five tips into your daily routine, you are bound to see positive changes! And if you’re truly hungry, eat! Listen to your body!!