Weight loss is a common goal for many people. If it’s so common, why isn’t there a clear-cut way to lose weight? When you look online or ask your friends, weight loss methodologies vary from extreme diets to complete lifestyle changes.
Are extreme changes the best way to lose weight? As a Registered Dietitian, I find that the most successful clients lose weight (and keep it off) by mastering 1-2 changes at a time. Here is a list of the most effective weight loss tips for beginners. As a weight loss newbie, you can start with 1-2 of these tips, master them, and then try another:
1. Set Weight Loss Goals
The most important (and often overlooked) tip to losing weight is setting goals – which is especially important for a weight loss beginner. Know your current weight and goal weight. Calculate how long it will take to reach your goals if you lose 1 pound per week. This is a sustainable rate of weight loss.
2. Set SMART Goals
While a “goal weight” is a great way to motivate yourself, give your weight loss plan structure by setting “SMART” goals:
- Specific: Identify specific actions to reach your goal.
- Measurable: Know what you have to do to “complete” the goal.
- Action-Oriented: You must take action to reach the goal.
- Realistic: Be practical.
- Time-Based: Identify a specific time frame to reach your goal.
Here’s an example of a SMART goal with the acronym included so you understand the different components:
“I will limit soda (S, A) to no more than 4 cans (R,M) per week (T).”
3. Get Active
Exercise is essential for achieving a healthy weight. According to the American Heart Association, adults need at least 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week for weight loss. For long-term success, split up your exercise minutes over 5-7 days.
4. Get Active When You’re Not Exercising
We burn calories all the time! Even when you’re not exercising, you can still burn calories to lose weight. Simple acts like taking the stairs and converting to a standing desk are ways to burn extra calories.
5. Know Your Calorie Needs
While you may think that fewer calories consumed equate to more weight loss, think again. Yes, if you want to lose weight, you will need to reduce your calorie consumption, but make sure you do it right. According to Harvard Medical School, women should consume no less than 1200 calories per day. Men should consume no less than 1500 calories per day (1). Consuming less than these thresholds may actually deter weight loss. This is a major weight loss rookie mistake!
6. Follow an Effective Weight Loss Plan
Fad diets are everywhere. However, there are some diets that are actually effective and sustainable.
- Mediterranean diet
- Slim Fast
- TLC diet
- Weight Watchers
7. Use the Plate Method
The plate method has replaced the traditional food pyramid and emphasizes fruits and vegetables. Learn more here.
8. Avoid Skipping Meals
Skipping meals can make you eat more. Have you ever been super hungry at dinnertime when you skipped lunch? Skipping meals leads us to consume far too many calories from excessive hunger – another weight loss rookie mistake! Strive to eat every 4 hours while awake to avoid overeating.
9. Eat Mindfully
Mindful eating encourages chewing your food well and taking at least 20 minutes to consume a meal. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s full.
10. Limit Distractions During Mealtime
Turn off the phone, TV and/or computer. Focusing on your meal can help you feel satisfied with fewer calories.
11. Choose Whole Grains
Whole grains are fiber-rich! Fiber helps us feel full over several hours (plus it keeps you regular). The first ingredient in your grains should be “whole wheat flour.”
12. Get Your Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and veggies contain fiber and water to keep you feeling full. Along with essential vitamins and minerals, they are also low in calories! Great for weight loss and a snack for weight loss beginners!
13. Choose Lean Proteins
Lean proteins contain lots of protein with minimal fat and calories. Examples of lean proteins include:
- Lean, skinless poultry
- Lowfat and nonfat dairy
14. Try Plant-Based
Research shows that having a few vegetarian-style dishes each week is heart healthy. Likewise, many plant-based protein sources tend to be lower in calories than animal-based proteins. Here is a list of plant-based proteins to try
- Soy (i.e. textured vegetable protein)
15. Know Your Hunger Cues
It’s important to know when you’re full and when you’re hungry. Avoid overeating and/or waiting to eat until you are ravenous. In both cases, you will probably consume too many calories.
16. Avoid Drinking Your Calories
Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, sports drinks, juice and loaded coffee/tea drinks pack in lots of sugar and calories. Choose low or no-calorie beverages like water, sparkling water and unsweetened iced tea.
17. Stay Hydrated
Drink enough water so that you feel full and refreshed. A good way to tell if you’re hydrated is to check your urine. Your urine should run light yellow or clear if you are adequately hydrated.
18. Choose Healthy Snacks
Keep healthy snacks on hand. Examples include:
- Air-popped popcorn
- Fresh fruit/vegetables
- Lowfat string cheese
19. Reduce Your Fat Intake
Fats contain lots of calories in small amounts. Choose lower-fat cooking methods like grilling, baking and steaming. Avoid frying your food.
20. Control the Alcohol
Limit alcohol consumption to no more than 200 calories per day. Treat alcohol like a dessert.