Sometimes it seems like losing weight has replaced baseball as the great American pastime. Millions of people are always starting diets. They lose some weight, but then gain it back. Then they go on another diet, but the weight never stays off. If you can’t seem to get rid of unwanted pounds once and for all, start with the basics of healthy weight loss. Here’s a list of things to avoid if you really want to lose weight.
Avoid empty calories. “Empty calories” refers to drinks and food with little or no nutritional value. Soft drinks with a load of sugar are empty calories. The same is true of most candy, cookies and a lot of those junk food snacks in you office vending machine. Never forget that your body stores those extra calories as fat. That’s where unwelcome pounds come from.
Avoid excess fat and sugar. Most Americans consume too much fat and refined sugar. Your body needs some fat because it’s essential for some metabolic processes. Make a special effort to avoid saturated fat and transfats, which have been shown to contribute to high blood pressure and other health problems. Avoiding fat is easier said than done because grocery store shelves and restaurant menus are full of foods with lots of fat. Always read food labels, and choose low fat or fat-free products when you can. When it comes to meat, stick to fish or chicken (preferably white meat). Beef and pork have more fat. Watch out for sugar. Refined sugar doesn’t do anything but add empty calories, so select foods and drinks with no sugar added.
Cut down on excess carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are sources of energy, which means sources of calories. Limit your consumption of breads and pasta. To add nutrition and fill yourself up, substitute fresh vegetables and fruit. Carbohydrates can add pounds another way as well. They help the body retain water. If you want to shed “water weight,” reducing those carbs will do the job.
Avoid skipping breakfast. If you don’t eat a healthy breakfast, you will start the day hungry. Research suggests you will end up eating more calories the rest of the day, and you are likely to eat fewer low calorie fruits and vegetables. “Healthy” doesn’t mean a stack of pancakes (sorry!). Try a lean piece of meat, juice and fresh fruit instead.
Avoid fad diets. There are hundreds of fad diets around. Can you use them to lose weight? Sure — for a while. Then the diet is over and the weight comes back, and often with even more extra pounds. The reason is simple. Fad diets work by deprivation, one way or another. Some call for trying to get by on a few hundred calories a day. Others eliminate whole categories of food and nutrients that you need. When you go off the diet, you tend to eat too much to make up for the deprivation. There are healthy diets that will help you lose weight for good. The Mediterranean and South Beach diets are two examples. Go with a healthy, balanced diet and skip the fads.