a person writing their goals for healthy weight loss in a journal

The Key to Healthy Weight Loss

Healthy Weight Loss

Being overweight can decrease quality of living and lower life expectancy. It’s a risk factor for just about every type of chronic disease including diabetes, heart disease, cancer and others.

With more than two out of every three adults struggling with being overweight or obese, there’s never been a more important time to learn how to master healthy weight loss.

Unfortunately, a plethora of fad diets, gimmicky "crash and burn" style approaches, and ineffective strategies have flooded the health and diet market; so, it’s critical to make smart choices about healthy weight loss. While these "fad" approaches might result in initial weight loss, they’re rarely sustainable or healthy long-term.

The Basics of Weight Loss

Achieving healthy weight loss can take time and dedication and is certainly not an easy feat. But it is a critical step to ensuring an improvement in day-to-day function, health and longevity.

Some of the pieces of the healthy weight loss equation are exercise, a clean diet, prioritizing whole foods, watching overall caloric intake and addressing any medical causes.

Take a Sustainable Approach with Moderate Goals

Almost everyone will go on a diet at some point in their lifetimes, but a far smaller number of people will see true, sustainable weight loss from these. That’s because many diets focus on slashing calories or food groups or have other deprivation-based approaches that are rarely possible and enjoyable to keep up.

Your best approach for healthy weight loss is one that focuses on moderate changes which can be maintained long-term. This means that you shouldn’t introduce too many drastic changes too fast.

A good rule to ensure sustainability is to lose no more than 1-2 lbs per week; this is a healthy, safe and sustainable range.

To begin, think of small changes you can make — like adding in a 15-minute walk 3 times per week or eating an extra serving of veggies each day.

Focusing on these small, measurable and specific goals will keep you moving in a forward direction and prevent a feeling of overwhelm.

Add Moderate Exercise

A common misconception exists that to drop pounds you need to struggle for hours at the gym. Not so.

In fact, simply adding a daily 20 to 30-minute walk or a moderately strenuous workout 3 times a week can make a huge difference. Focusing on standing more and sitting less provides health benefits, so start where you can.

Healthy adults should aim for at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) per week of moderate-intensity exercise. Although, for more health benefits, you can certainly do more. Focus on getting a blend of muscle-strengthening and cardiovascular type exercise each week.

Monitor Your Calories

While it may be tempting to slash calories and assume that simply eating less will result in weight loss, be careful; slashing calories too far or giving up all "fun" foods may result in a few pounds lost right away, but this is rarely sustainable.

Eating too little can also cause our metabolisms to adapt to this new normal, and this can actually make it harder in the long run to see the scale move.

The basic equation for weight loss is to take in less calories than we’re burning each day. To begin this process, track what you’re currently eating in an online app or log for a week and note the average number. Once you have this number, you’ll know your starting point and can then moderately decrease your calories. Start by a reduction of just a couple hundred calories per day from what you were eating.

Working with a dietitian, nutrition coach or other professional who can help you make informed decisions about how many calories your body needs and how to balance your macro-nutrients can be very helpful.

But if this isn’t an option, simply focus on eating a variety of fresh and unprocessed foods. Load up on fresh fruits and veggies, unrefined carbohydrate sources (like oats, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, quinoa and sweet potatoes), lean protein sources and healthy fats (such as nuts, seeds, avocado and minimal amounts of oil).

Reduce Intake of Processed Food

Unfortunately, much of the food that makes up the standard modern diet is a direct enemy of healthy weight loss. Heavily processed options have been taken from their original form (for example, a potato), and are then manufactured into a different product (like potato chips). This often involves the addition of large amounts of oils, sodium, sugar, preservatives and artificial flavors. The end result is a food product lacking in its original nutrition and packed with calories and ingredients that contribute to our expanding waistline.

By simply steering clear of processed options a few times a week, instead reaching for fresh and whole foods, you can easily remove calories and unhealthy ingredients from your diet (without feeling like you’re making a daunting change).

For example:

  • Instead of potato chips, snack on sliced carrots, zucchini, and broccoli.
  • Instead of a sugary energy bar, enjoy a handful of nuts, raisins, and pumpkin seeds.
  • Instead of a frozen burrito, make your own with tortillas, cooked rice, beans, salsa, cheese and veggies.

When to See a Doctor or Professional

While these tips are a good place to start, whenever you’re making a lifestyle change, it’s important to involve your doctor and professionals who can take your entire health situation into consideration.

Underlying health conditions such as autoimmune issues, deficiencies and other conditions can hinder or slow weight loss. So, it’s important to speak with your doctor, a nutritionist or a functional/integrative doctor who can look at your holistic health and any issues that could be affecting your weight.

Healthy Weight Loss: The Bottom Line

As with issues regarding our health, weight loss is complex and multi-faceted. There is no quick fix or guaranteed solution.

Everyone’s body is different and our medical conditions, age, activity level, genetics, lifestyle and dietary styles all must be taken into consideration when creating an effective plan.

Starting with these tips though, you’ll be on a good path to sustainable and healthy weight loss.

Article Resources