New Year, New You: How to Win at Losing Weight

One of the most popular New Year's resolutions is to lose weight. Beyond wanting to look and feel better about yourself, losing weight has many health benefits. In addition to increased energy, fewer joint and muscle pains and better sleep patterns, losing weight reduces your risk for heart disease and related risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes.

How Much Weight Should You Lose?

The many benefits of losing weight make it a great New Year's resolution. To help you succeed in your goal, make sure you know what's a healthy weight loss for your body. Don't just randomly pick a number of pounds you want to lose—it could be too much or not enough. 

First, find out if your Body Mass Index (BMI) puts you at risk for being overweight or obese. Use the BMI Calculator from the American Heart Association to check your BMI. Then, determine how much weight you need to lose.

The simplest and most effective goal is to lose 10% of your current body weight, at a rate of 1-2 pounds per week. After losing 10% and maintaining it for a few months, your body "resets" and you are better able to lose additional weight, if needed.1

Tips for Losing Weight

To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in. That means your weight-loss plan should include diet and exercise. Sounds simple, right? Well, it's sometimes easier said than done.

To help you meet your weight-loss goals, keep these tips in mind:

  • Eat portions smaller than your fist. To avoid overeating, reduce your portion sizes. A reasonable portion for most foods is ½ to 1 cup – which about the size of a woman’s fist. Exceptions to the rule include meat (portions should be smaller, about the size of a deck of cards) and plain vegetables (eat as much as you want of these low-calorie fillers).
  • Combat hunger with filling foods that are low in calories. Foods such as soup, salad, fruits and vegetables can help satisfy your hunger without adding excess calories. Try to fit in more high-fiber foods; they digest slowly and will make you feel fuller longer.
  • Keep a weight loss diary. Write your weight loss and activity goals down to make them real. Keep track of what you eat and how much activity you get each day. When you make a record of your daily food intake and exercise, you're more likely to meet and maintain your weight loss goals. Use your diary to reassess your progress every six weeks and make changes accordingly.
  • Make "trade-offs" to cut calories. You don't have to completely cut out favorite foods that are high in fat, sugar and calories. Instead, learn to make trade-offs. If you want to indulge in dessert, eat a lower-calorie meal. Planning to eat a "fancy" dinner at a local restaurant? Fill up on a big salad without dressing for lunch. Another trade-off is to increase your daily exercise when you know you'll be eating more calories than usual.
  • Get more physical activity. Regular physical activity is important for keeping your heart healthy. Increasing it may help you lose weight and strengthen your heart at the same time. At a minimum, make sure you get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per day. 
  • Cut yourself some slack. If you stray from your plan for any reason, be careful not to indulge in negative self talk. Rephrase it with a positive message to start fresh the next day. If you're stressed about going to a party or out to dinner, plan ahead how you will handle challenges to your healthy eating habits. Eat the best foods you can from the choices available. 

Source content for this article was provided by the American Heart Association. Learn more at heart.org.

1 Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD. "Ideal Weight or Happy Weight?" WebMD feature. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/ideal-weight-or-happy-weight. Accessed February 2014.

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