Setting Achievable Weight Loss Goals: A Clinical Dietitian’s Guide
With the new year upon us, a lot of us have set goals to lose weight, get fit, and ultimately, feel great. However, many of us set goals which are too difficult to achieve. While it is great to challenge ourselves, setting unrealistic goals usually leads to us giving up on achieving those goals quicker than we had planned to. In this article, Awazen Medical Center’s clinical dietitian, Ola Mezher, shares eight simple tips on how set achievable weight loss goals for 2017.
Start with a blood test. Sometimes, there could be an underlying medical reason as to why you are finding it difficult to lose weight. Identifying this reason and treating it could help you achieve your goals quickly, and more easily. For instance, hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, and vitamin D deficiency have been linked to weight gain in various studies. So, before going ahead with your weight loss plan, make sure you are physically able to achieve your goals by taking a simple blood screening test. Awazen Medical Center offers consultation and blood screening services within its Family Medicine Department.
Make wise choices when eating out. You may be on the right track in terms of cooking and eating the right meals at home, but unhealthy meal choices while dining out could sabotage your efforts! Many restaurant foods are prepared using unhealthy cooking methods, and contain ingredients which are packed with calories. Avoid anything sautéed, fried or deep fried, creamy, and stick to grilled, boiled items prepared with lighter dressings consisting of olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice.
Buy a reusable water bottle. Staying hydrated is essential to achieving your weight loss and fitness goals; the average person should drink minimum of 6 to 8 glasses of water a day to support important functions of the body such as digestion, energy exertion, and the immune system, to name a few. Having a high-quality, reusable water bottle handy with you wherever you go will ensure that you drink the right amount of water to keep you going, and keep your new lifestyle on track! Try infusing your water with lemon and strawberry slices for an extra kick.
Exercise at a time that is convenient for YOU. While many people view exercising as optional while they are on a diet, in fact, exercising regularly is key to achieving sustainable weight loss goals. While cardio exercises will promote fat loss, strength exercises will build up your skeletal muscle mass, which will help you burn more calories while exercising, and keep off excess weight in the long run. Therefore, we recommend a combination of cardio and strength exercises as part of any weight loss plan
Once you’ve set up your exercise plan, how will you make sure that you stick to it? One way to do this is to plan to exercise at a time that is comfortable for you and fits into your existing schedule easily. For example, if you are not a morning person, there is absolutely no reason to force yourself to wake up at 5 am and hit the gym! Trying to dramatically change your existing lifestyle to accommodate your new exercise schedule will reduce your chances of sticking to it. Instead – change your lifestyle one step at a time. Take a look at your usual daily schedule. When is it easiest and most convenient to fit in an hour of exercise into your day? In the morning, before work? After work? During your lunch break? Book this slot for exercising; if it is convenient for you to exercise at this time, you are more likely to do this regularly.
It’s not all about steamed broccoli and chicken breasts. Being on a weight loss journey does not mean you need to restrict yourself to eating what is commonly perceived as “diet food”. Of course, grilled chicken and steamed broccoli make a great lunch option, but so would an appropriate portion of chicken “Majboos” that has been prepared in a healthy way! The key to transforming the way you eat is not to eliminate your favorite things from your diet, but rather, to adapt those very things to your new diet by knowing the right portions for your body, and preparing your meals using healthy cooking methods.
Life can still be sweet. Yes, it is true; eating sugar and carbohydrates in excess is usually the leading cause of excess fat in our bodies. If you are trying to shed those extra kilos, reducing your sugar intake is crucial. However, there is usually very little need to cut out sugar completely from your diet. Most patients who attempt to do this find it very challenging and experience severe withdrawal symptoms, including dizziness, shakiness, and nausea. To avoid these symptoms, which can easily demotivate you and derail your weight loss efforts, we recommend reducing your sugar intake gradually, or as advised by your dietitian, rather than all at once. Additionally, snacking on a fruit once or twice a day can be very beneficial in curbing your sugar cravings, as fruits contain natural sugars, and will allow your body to reap the nutritional benefits of fruits at the same time!
Have three to five meals a day – and don’t skip breakfast. Many of us equate losing weight to eating less. While we definitely need to control our portions to avoid overeating, under-eating also has its own negative effects on your weight loss efforts. Not eating the right portions at the right time (especially skipping breakfast) can lead to a slower metabolism, binge-eating, and eating junk food. To avoid feeling extreme hunger and to keep your healthy eating habits on track, we recommend eating three full meals a day, plus two mini meals or snacks, to keep your body fueled and your metabolism up.
Sleep well. Studies have repeatedly linked lack of sleep to weight gain & obesity, stating that not getting enough sleep upsets your appetite and could cause you to overeat during the day. An average adult requires 7-9 hours of of sleep per day; stick to this number every night to avoid eating in excessive amounts during the day.