Congratulations on taking the first step in losing weight and getting healthy! Let's crunch some numbers to figure out the science behind losing weight. The US Departments of Agriculture and of Health and Human Services (USDA) recommends aiming for around a two pound/per week weight loss. One pound has 3500 calories, so to lose 5 pounds you need to burn 17,500 calories, which the USDA recommends doing through both diet and exercise.
You first need know how many calories you need to maintain your current weight by using this online calorie calculator.
Once you have this number, aim to decrease calories per day by around 200-300 and increase activity level each day for a healthy weight loss. "The first rule of thumb is under no circumstances dip under 1200 calories/ day," says Dr Elizabeth Trattner, a specialist in women's health, weight management and a nationally board certified acupuncturist.
First of all, start limiting the "junk foods" in your diet. Next, go to the grocery food and stock up on low-calorie, high nutrition foods, or buy healthy frozen meals so the portion size is already set. You don't need to spend all day counting calories, but you must be mindful of portion sizes and how many calories are in food.
Use this online calorie calculator from the USDA or download a calorie counter app, such as My Fitness Pal, on your smart phone. After doing this for a couple of days, you will have a good idea of how big a portion size is. Keep a food journal to keep track of what you are eating.
"Focus on eating 5-6 small meals throughout the day that consist of 3 oz lean protein (about the size of a deck of cards), lots of veggies and good fats, such as olive oil, nuts and avocado," says Stacy Berman, certified nutrition specialist and sports fitness specialist.
Once you have your plate of healthy food, turn off the TV and eat purposely. "Eat more slowly. The longer you take at a meal, the less you're likely to eat and the more satisfied you'll feel," says bestselling author of The New Sonoma Diet: Trimmer Waist, More Energy in Just 10 Days Dr Connie Guttersen, RD, Ph.D. "Skimp on your plate filling. Portions just a tiny bit smaller will pay off over the long run."
To lose weight, aim for one hour (or two 30 minute sessions) of exercise per day that gets you sweating and breathing heavy. Fitness experts (and twin sisters!) Kimberly and Alexandra Williams talk often about weight loss on their radio show, Fun and Fit – and they say the key is alternating high intensity exercise with recovery or rest time. "I suggest alternating 30 seconds of high intensity with 60 seconds of work recovery. Aim for half an hour of this so you have the energy to truly go for it in your 30 second interval,"' says Williams. "Guess what? You will need to perform two such sessions per day to meet your goal. And you can! Just remember, you are only 14 days from a 5 pound loss!"
High intensity exercise is exercise to the point where you are breathing heavy and can't talk comfortably. If you can easily hold a conversation, you need to push yourself for maximum calorie burn. Make sure you get cleared from your physician to exercise, and then go for it!
How can you fit in the time to exercise each day? Global fitness consultant Sara Haley, who was recently featured on the Today Show, says to make simple adjustments each day. "If you only have 15 minutes, push yourself so it becomes harder to breathe sooner. You can even exercise while watching TV, using each commercial to work a different body part. One commercial for push-ups, the next for squats to work the legs, followed by dips for triceps and the last is sit-ups for the abs," she says.
Dr Trattner says to eat every 2-3 hours. This will keep your metabolism revved up and will prevent you from feeling hungry. Prepare to have healthy low-calorie snacks available (around 100 calories) so you aren't tempted to splurge. Some great options include low-fat yogurt, low-calorie granola bars, string cheese or an apple.
"Stop eating 3 hours before bedtime or by 8 pm," says Dr Trattner. If your stomach starts to growl before bedtime, make yourself a cup of caffeine-free herbal tea to help fend off cravings. Keep yourself occupied and go to bed before you start munching.
"After about 4 days, patients will notice their weight drop," says Dr Trattner, who recommends weighing yourself in the morning. "It takes about 2 days to physically remove junk food and chemicals from the body. I suggest patients actually wait to weigh themselves until day 5 for this reason."
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