Maybe you're aiming to lose those last 10 pounds to reach your perfect feel-good weight or maybe a little more to improve wellness and feel your best. No matter your goal, there's going to be some hard work and commitment involved, but with a little know-how you can healthily lose the weight and keep it off.
As a dietitian and athlete, I counsel hundreds of people each year on ways to improve their nutrition status and day-to-day diet. Here are some of my go-to tips that can be used all year to turn a healthy lifestyle into second nature.
Get Mentally Motivated
The goal is to make a long-term change that is sustainable for your life and schedule. Instead of tasking yourself to "lose weight," follow an achievable plan that works for you; it will feel so much less daunting!
My best tip here is to pay attention to an organ that plays a big role in hitting those weight loss goals: your brain. Prioritizing sleep and making time for self-care practices can help you de-stress and relax, stay mentally strong and quiet any defeatist thoughts that pop into your head. Your brain is a powerful tool, and a little adjustment to your outlook can go a long way toward navigating setbacks and hitting your goals.
Power Up With Protein
There are plenty of reasons to focus on protein if you're aiming for weight loss. Research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that doubling your protein intake (2x recommended daily allowances as recommended in the study) helps to build muscle, burn fat and cut calories.
Aim to get 30 grams of protein at every meal, ideally spread throughout your day. Protein takes longer to digest but it also keeps you full for longer. There are plenty of ways to get your daily protein, including from poultry, pork, fish, eggs and beef. If you're on the go a lot, try protein shakes like AdvantEDGE Carb Control shakes which can give you the protein boost you need without all the extra calories.
Blend Cardio and Strength Training
The rumors are true: your body needs cardio to burn fat and lose weight. Raising your heart rate will help maximize calorie burn during the workout itself and even afterward if you exercise at a high enough intensity.
The treadmill is great, but there's another key to shedding extra pounds. Strength training helps to activate muscles and increase lean muscle mass to create a toned look while burning more calories at rest. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so building muscle helps keep your metabolism elevated for longer periods during the day than if you focus on cardio alone.
Finally, don't underestimate the importance of consistent workouts, and remember to track your results. Working out three to five times a week is typically a good goal for weight loss. For cardio, aim for a 10 percent improvement in performance each week. This can help you lose weight at a healthy rate.
Get Cooking in the Kitchen
Ditch the takeout and get comfortable in the kitchen. Making time for healthy cooking and meal planning will help you stay on track with your goals — plus, you'll have more control over what goes into your balanced diet.
Load up on protein to support muscle growth, good fats for better nutrient absorption and different spices to add flavor. Like protein, fibrous foods will help keep you fuller for longer. When in doubt, opt for nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, broth-based soups, lean proteins and lots of water. Water not only keeps you hydrated, it also helps to banish bloat caused by eliminating excess salt in the body.
Check in Regularly and Be Positive
It can be helpful to check your progress on a scale once or twice a week, but remember that your health is about more than just numbers. Your body weight can fluctuate based on electrolytes, sodium, post-workout stress and other factors. For the most accurate results, try to weigh yourself at the same time of day, on the same day or two of the week.
Healthy weight loss is as much about mindset as it is about developing good habits. Focus on establishing a balanced diet and a regular exercise routine and you can reach your health goals before you know it.
Pamela Nisevich-Bede, MS, RD is a sports dietitian with Abbott's EAS Sports Nutrition, a 21-time marathoner, book contributor and regularly writes a column, "Fuel School," published by Runner's World magazine.