Lose Weight by Changing Your Diet

Five simple tips that can help you alter your diet to lose weight and keep it off.

Lose weight

It's true. You can eat and lose weight. Don't believe me? I've done it, and you can too.

No one wants to starve and follow some crazy weight-loss program. Going to extremes is a major reason why people "fall off the wagon" and fail to reach their weight-loss goals. (Discover 10 tips to lose fat fast.)

Some people may disagree, but that's because they haven't found their way yet. They are probably still following the latest diet fad, expecting quick results. If they do reach their desired weight, there's little chance it will last long with unsustainable eating habits.

To date, I've lost 85 pounds simply by eating healthy food. To have similar results, you only need to make small changes to your diet. You have to eat to live, and if you want to live a productive life, you should have a healthy diet.

The Weight Loss Formula

There is no magic trick when it comes to losing weight. There is one simple recipe: reduce intake and/or increase output. In other words, eat less and be more active. This formula works for everyone, including old, young, tall, short, pear-shaped, oval and round. (See also Control your portions at restaurants.)

Our weight is largely determined by the amount of healthy food we consume every day. According to researchers at UC-Berkeley, more than 25 percent of our daily diet comes from sweets, soft drinks, salty food and alcoholic beverages. Imagine how much weight you could lose if you cut some of those foods out!

In September of last year, The New York Times posted an article about New Yorkers who lost weight by giving up soda. One person, a 64-year-old actress named Sally Sockwell, reported that she used to drink two or three cans of Dr. Pepper each day. She lost 11 pounds by replacing Dr. Pepper with healthier drinks such as homemade iced tea sweetened with Splenda. (Learn why soda is a poor fluid source.)

It's not complicated. You need to identify your issues and replace unhealthy items with quality foods that will keep you healthy, full and energized. Follow these five guidelines to help you achieve your goal for sustained weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.

1. Record

Before making any changes to your eating, take some time to record what you eat. In the beginning, do it physically by writing it down. After a time, just record it mentally. Record what you eat, where and when you ate it and why you ate it. You can take this habit one step further by noting how you felt afterwards.

2. Review

Review what you recorded about your food. Do you overeat at lunch? Do you skip breakfast? When do you get hungry? What food do you eat the most? Do you eat late at night? You will be surprised by what you learn about your eating habits.

3. Replace

Replace all the unhealthy foods you eat with healthy food choices. If you eat processed food five times a week, replace it with healthy food twice a week. The more comfortable you become with replacing unhealthy food with healthy food choices, the more you'll be able to do it. You have to start slow, but start now.

4. Reduce

Now that you have this information, it's time to reduce your intake. If you discover that you often eat an extra helping of mashed potatoes, try avoiding the extra serving or only eat half. You'll live on less.

5. Reflect

Whenever you make changes in your diet or lifestyle, it is important to reflect on your progress, but also to continue to move forward, even if you make a few mistakes. Think about how much you've accomplished. If you replaced one day of unhealthy eating with one day of healthy eating, that's a winner.

Finally, don't stop and don't be too hard on yourself. Small changes are a big deal. Eventually, what used to be painful will become the norm, and eating healthy will become a lifestyle.

Bonus Tips

1. Avoid Processed Foods

Processed and refined foods, such as canned fruits and vegetables, boxed meals and breakfast cereals, are extremely convenient, and last longer on the shelf. However, you pay a price for the convenience. Extra helpings and daily servings of these foods cripple weight loss.

Highly processed or refined foods are deprived of their original nutrients. The refining process strips out critical vitamins and minerals, replacing them with trans-fat, sodium, sugar, preservatives and fillers and leaving you with an unhealthy and calorically dense food. Also, they are harder to digest, leading to potential digestive problems.

2. Eat Fresh Foods

Stick to high-quality foods that are high in fiber, such as vegetables, proteins, grains and certain fruits. (Discover the benefits of fiber.) Fresh foods are healthier and more nutritious because their nutrients have not been stripped away. The fiber will fill you up faster and keep you full longer, preventing overeating. And, your cravings for sugar and unhealthy fats will gradually fade over time.

3. Common Food Swaps

Unhealthy item / Healthy item

  • Swap chips with air popped popcorn / Fresh vegetables with a side of hummus
  • Sugary cereals / Greek yogurt and granola
  • Soft drinks / Water and a slice of lemon
  • Candy / Nuts, berries, apples and grapes
  • Sugar / Raw honey
  • White bread / Whole-grain bread

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