"Exercise more often" is often at the top of a to-do list for losing weight. According to Lauren Elliott, a wellness education specialist at Sharp Rees-Stealy, successful weight loss requires balance — and your diet may hold more power than you think.
"Obviously, both diet and exercise are vital components to maintaining a healthy weight, but diet can make a bigger impact for many people when it comes to weight loss," says Elliott.
In order to lose one to two pounds a week, she recommends a 500 to 1,000 calorie-deficit per day. This can be done with a combination of exercise and diet. "The caloric value of certain foods is so astronomical that it takes a lot of sweating at the gym to burn it off," reminds Elliott.
She also warns not to dip below 1,200 calories per day. "It can be difficult to obtain adequate nutrition on a diet below 1,200 calories without the supervision of a health professional," she says.
Elliott offers a simple chart — based on a 150-pound person — to see just how much exercise is needed to burn some popular food options that should not be included in a healthy diet.
"It's hard to find that kind of time," says Elliott.
Elliott offers that any new habit takes practice before it becomes routine. "Starting with smaller goals, such as having one serving of vegetables at lunch or walking for 10 minutes in the morning, is much easier to stick with and build momentum," says Elliott. "Having the support of a group and a compassionate health coach or dietitian on your team can make all the difference."
Exercise is good for more than just weight loss. "Being active is an important part of maintaining a healthy weight, but exercise has many other benefits including improved mood, decreasing depression, reducing chronic pain and fatigue, improving heart health, and reducing risk of diabetes," says Elliott.
For weight loss, the recommended amount of exercise is 60 minutes per day. "Moderate-intensity workout for 150 minutes per week is recommended to maintain your weight," adds Elliott.
Eat every three to four hours to prevent becoming overly hungry. "Having three medium-sized meals and two to three snacks per day is very supportive," says Elliott. "For snacks, think produce and protein." Produce, such as an apple or carrots, offers quick energy, water, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Protein, like almond butter or a hard-boiled egg, prevents blood sugar spikes and crashes, as well as promotes satiety.
Everything in moderation is a great approach to food and healthy living. "With fruits and vegetables, especially non-starchy vegetables, having more is better," says Elliott, reminding those with diabetes to exercise caution with fruit. "It's a good idea to have a serving of fruit or vegetables at every meal or snack to work up to at least 5 servings per day."
Elliott suggests that filling half of your plate with fruit or veggies is a good rule of thumb to add water, fiber and volume to your meals. Plus, you will increase the feeling of fullness without adding many calories.
Find more health and wellness resources from the Sharp Rees-Stealy Center for Health Management.