Healthy weight loss doesn’t happen overnight and is possible with the help of a balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate hydration and a consistent sleep schedule. When focusing on all of these aspects to improve your health, dietitians say there is one handy rule or tip to follow before preparing your meals that can help make your diet more weight-loss friendly. Read on for insight, advice, and suggestions from Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, senior dietitian at UCLA Medical Center, Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements, and Lisa Richards, registered nutritionist and creator of the Candida diet.
Essential tip: Plan meals with a food diary
While you may have an idea of what you want to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as you prepare for the day ahead, using a food diary can help you keep track of not only exactly what you eat, but also to keep track of portion sizes and quantities. Keeping organized, detailed lists that you can refer to can greatly aid your weight loss journey by helping you get more on track, says Richards. Plus, this can also help you find the foods that make you feel best after eating, and others that may not.
Richards explains that “when you are tempted to fall back into old habits”, it can be helpful to have “something to look back on as a reminder”. This doesn’t have to be a classic journal, she says, as it “could be a note, a photo, or something else that reminds you why you put your health first through your diet.” This can also help you avoid “fad diet pitfalls that result in rapid weight loss,” she notes. Rebound weight gain, she adds, is a “major hurdle for those who want to lose weight initially.” A diet “focusing on whole foods with the most common allergens removed can help boost metabolism and the rate of sustainable weight loss,” she continues, and keeping a food diary can help you achieve this.
A food diary can also help your relationship with food become healthier, Best says, because it can help you gain a better understanding of your own needs and goals. “Mental health approaches to weight loss are almost, and in some cases, more important to the treatment and prevention of obesity than traditional medical treatments,” she says. Best adds that “talking to a mental health provider about the topic of diet and weight may be the best first step toward treating obesity,” and many will suggest keeping a journal.
“Conscious eating, also known as intuitive eating, can be a necessary exercise to integrate into your eating habits, too,” continues Best (and you can add this advice to your journal!) Your stalled weight loss, she points out, could be ” a result of eating when you are not physically hungry, eating past your hunger, or any of the other principles that conscious (intuitive) eating shares.” Mindful eating is all about eating when you’re really hungry, says Best, and keeping track of this will help you understand your own metabolism, hunger pangs, etc.
Hunnes emphasizes that when it comes to weight loss, she “doesn’t believe in deprivation” as “walking around hungry is no fun and is a failure.” She recommends “think of nutrition as a lifestyle you want to follow for life, because it takes you out of the mentality of yo-yo dieting or crash dieting and then returning to your former way of eating.”
When making notes to yourself in your journal, Hunnes says, “When you switch to an all plant-based diet, you get an abundance of healthy nutrients, fewer calories and more water (anti-inflammatory foods) and it is low in salt and higher in potassium (whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, vegetables). This switch, she notes, “can result in several pounds of water weight loss and is healthy and a lifestyle change that is sustainable for weight loss and maintenance that doesn’t have you walking around hungry.”
In general, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to weight loss, Richards concludes, as “sustainable weight loss methods typically result in a loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week.” It’s important to focus on “sustainable weight loss methods,” because extreme methods that may be effective at first “will eventually result in rebound weight gain,” she warns. “Some of the best weight loss approaches don’t require significant calorie restriction, long periods of exercise, or cutting out major food groups or macronutrients,” adds Richards, pointing to a food diary as a great next step for your journey.