If you’re struggling to lose weight, Christine Spiroch, PhD, has five tips to help you achieve success.
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1. Don’t skip breakfast
Eating a balanced breakfast — including protein, fat and carbs — will give you the energy you need for the day. “If you skip breakfast, you’re starting the day on a dead battery,” says Dr. Spiroch, of the Center for Integrative Medicine.
Skipping meals can make your body think it is in starvation mode. “Think of Sumo wrestlers. They eat little or nothing all day, then eat a big meal late in the day — hence their size and high fat-to-muscle ratio,” she says.
2. Eat small meals often
Take your pick: three meals a day with two or three snacks, five or six small meals a day, or eating every three to four hours. Each of these approaches will keep your metabolism even — and your blood sugar levels stable.
Balance will help your body function at its best and will help you avoid weight gain. “You don’t want your blood sugar to rise and fall as if you’re on a roller coaster. That will make your energy levels fluctuate and all your body processes work less efficiently,” Dr. Spiroch says.
“It’s better to have blood sugar levels mimic a kiddie roller coaster. It may seem less exciting, but it won’t throw off your metabolism as much.”
3. Exercise moderately
An intense workout regimen is great if you‘re happy with your weight and are in good health. But if you’re struggling to shed pounds, a moderate exercise program will work better for you. Walking 30 minutes on a regular basis will benefit you more than an intense 90-minute routine you can’t maintain.
“Moderate exercise is especially important if you have problems with blood sugar. An intense workout will add more stress to your body by making your blood sugar spike and then fall,” says Dr. Spiroch. She adds that setting goals too high and failing to meet them will keep you from feeling successful. “It’s better to set small goals and surpass them.”
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4. Fill your plate with the right portions
Too many of us don’t pay attention to the portions we’re putting on our plates. Carbohydrates (including grains and fruit) should fill just 25 percent of your plate. Protein should fill another 25 percent. Vegetables should fill 45 to 50 percent of your plate. And fat should fill just 5 percent.
“If you’re an average person trying to lose weight, carbs should not fill half your plate,” says Dr. Spiroch. “Vegetarians need to balance brown rice with beans and vegetables. And I warn people never to eat fruit alone, or your blood sugar will spike and crash.” Pairing fruit with a fat like peanut butter or a protein like nuts will help bring your blood sugar back to baseline.
5. Be aware of ‘emotional eating.’
If you eat when you’re stressed out or starved for comfort, awareness is half the battle. “Many people get frustrated because they’ve gone to Curves®, they’ve joined Weight Watchers®, they’ve done everything right. But they just can’t seem to lose weight,” says Dr. Spiroch.
She says people should consider using hypnosis, meditation, holistic psychotherapy and supplements to help them let go of old eating patterns, such as eating for comfort and not out of real hunger.
“People realize, ‘wow, I eat when I’m not that hungry,’ or ‘I remember how apple pie at grandma’s would comfort me when I was little. That’s what I’m thinking of when I want comfort today,’“ says Dr. Spiroch. After letting go of eating patterns that no longer serve them, people often find themselves fitting into clothes they haven’t been able to for years.