If you are like most American women, you have shunned your bathroom scale since Thanksgiving — that gateway to holiday overeating. Well, the holidays are over and it’s time to talk turkey.
You’ve probably put on a few extra pounds.
Don’t bother dusting off the scale to see how many — you won’t like what it says. Besides, the straining zipper on your favorite jeans is a dead give away.
So now what?
Most parts of the country have already moved into the chilly weather doldrums — that sedentary time when we long to slip into a big, baggy pair of sweat pants and wait around for spring. We will put on a few more pounds and get a good case of the winter blahs in the bargain.
Well, let’s not. This winter, let’s shake it up. Looking more attractive, feeling fit and promoting better health is easier than you think. And it will give you something positive to do until spring — when you can toss those big, baggy sweat pants.
There is no trick to losing weight. It is accomplished by diet and exercise — eating controlled amounts of healthy food and getting a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day.
Losing as little as two pounds can lower blood cholesterol in some people and losing seven pounds can lower high blood pressure, according to the American Dietetic Association. The key is to lose weight slowly. In fact, the recommended rate is only about one-half pound to one pound per week — and you shouldn’t shed more than two pounds in a week. It took time to put it on and it takes time to take it off.
So, forget about trying to look like a supermodel. Instead, pick a realistic goal, say, five or 10 pounds. Studies show that even a little weight loss combined with regular physical activity can deliver big results.
Ten Ways to Lose 10 Pounds
Let’s Start With Diet
First of all, take a look at what you like to eat and what you consider a satisfying portion. Then take a look at what the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends in their nutritional food pyramid, which is based on a 2,000-calorie diet and gives a range of serving amounts.
“It’s a very common misconception that a serving size is whatever fits into your bowl or on your plate,” says Cindy Moore, M.S.R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and the director of nutrition therapy at Cleveland Clinic Foundation, a nine-hospital facility with both inpatient and outpatient services.
“The key to knowing how much to eat is getting in tune with your body. It takes time, but your body gets accustomed to using a certain amount of food. It lets you know how much it needs and when it’s had enough,” Moore says.
For most American women, a balanced and healthy diet of 2,000 calories a day is the magic number. At that rate, your weight stays fairly constant. So if you want to lose weight, you have to do something about those calories. “You need to create a calorie deficit,” says Moore. “You do that by consuming fewer calories — eating less nutritionally dense food and increasing the number of calories you burn through physical activity. It’s easier than you think.”
Let’s check out that pyramid again. It gives a range of servings? If you eat only the bottom number of the range, Moore says, you will actually consume only about 1,600 calories per day. That means, eat the following amounts and you will have a deficit of 400 calories:
- six servings of bread, cereal, rice or pasta a day
- three servings of vegetables
- two servings of fruit
- two servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs or nuts
- two servings of milk, yogurt and cheese (low-fat and skim are better)
- Combine that with 30 minutes of moderate physical activity — such as fast walking — for an additional deficit of 130 calories and you are operating at a deficit of 530 calories for the day.
“One pound of solid fat is 3,500 calories, so if you operate on this level — a deficit of 500-plus calories per day — you can lose one pound per week,” says Moore. “You can take it from there by choosing to eat more one day and then burning more calories through exercise. The more calories you eat, the more you must burn to lose weight.”
The Other Part of the Equation
That leads us to the second — and more fun — half of this weight-loss equation: physical activity. This is the stuff that gets our motors running. If you do not like the kind of exercise that means classes and machines, don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to incorporate physical activity into your day at home, in your neighborhood or out in nature. And you will not have to set foot in a gym unless you want to.
Give these 10 simple, 30-minute physical activities a try:
- Ride a stationary bicycle at home while watching a good movie. Be sure to maintain a moderate clip (12 to 13.9 miles per hour). The movie will keep you interested. Since you will only get to watch part of it, tell yourself the only way you can finish it is to get back on the bike. You will burn about 250 calories.
- Walk fast in your neighborhood or at the park. Set your pace at about 4 miles per hour for a level surface. Swing your arms. You can walk alone, with a friend or with your dog. Push your child along in a stroller, pull him or her along in a wagon, or walk as he or she pedals along on his or her bicycle. Too cold, you say? Bundle up a bit — it will give new meaning to a brisk walk and it will warm you up. You will burn about 130 calories.
- Dance, dance, dance. Slide in a CD and shake it — forget about style and form; just get moving for 30 nonstop minutes. It’s fun, and really good music can send your spirits soaring. It also builds stamina for dancing the night away at weddings, parties or anytime there’s a reason to dance. You’ll burn about 190 calories.
- Swimming laps free-style. This is an excellent exercise — especially if you have bad knees, since there is no impact. Swim at a moderate rate and you will burn about 250 calories.
- Ready for a jog? Work up to it — it’s worth the effort. A moderate jog can burn about 225 calories. Remember to wear layers of clothing when jogging in cold weather so you can unzip jackets, etc., to keep comfortable as you warm up.
- Jump rope. This can be done almost anywhere. Get a good jump rope — one with free-rotating handles — that is a good length for your size and get jumping. Moderate rope jumping for 30 minutes burns about 300 calories.
- Cross-country skiing. This is great exercise for the entire family once the snow flies. Make sure to wear nonbinding clothing. Ski for about 30 minutes and you will burn about 245 calories. At this rate, you might actually look forward to playing in the snow.
- Tennis, anyone? You can mix the business of exercise (indoors in inclement weather) with the pleasure of someone else’s company and burn about 225 calories.
- Clean up. It sounds silly, but 30 minutes of vigorous cleaning, such as mopping, vacuuming, washing and waxing your car, can burn about 140 calories. It’s also quite an accomplishment.
- Play with your kids. Running around and playing active games like tag and dodge ball is quality time with your kids. It also burns about 130 calories. (All calorie estimates are based on an average weight of 135 pounds.)
As you grow more physically fit, you may choose to move up to longer sessions of activity or up to a more vigorous level. The only things you have to lose are pounds, flab, health risks and those big, baggy sweatpants.
Here are a few tips to get you started on your journey of loosing pounds:
Don’t take on too much at once. Pick one or two simple improvements and put them into daily practice — like eating an extra piece of fruit and parking your car in the spot farthest from the mall or office entrance. The goal is to make gradual changes you can stick with — not to start out like gangbusters then fizzle out.
With exercise, start slowly and build up to your desired level of activity. This gives your body time to adjust and helps prevent soreness, injury and the desire to chuck it all in and eat a big bag of chips.
You don’t have to strain or exhaust yourself to improve your fitness level. Maintain a regular, reasonable training schedule, mixing in different routines and changes in scenery to keep things from getting boring.
Drink lots of water. Your body is about 80 percent water, so drink plenty of fluids — at least eight to 12 cups of liquid a day to keep from getting dehydrated during exercise. Drink a little more if you drink caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea or soda.
Choose activities that use as large a muscle mass as possible — like fast walking with arms swinging, jogging, cycling, swimming, stair-stepping or cross-country skiing.
Don’t expect to shed pounds right away. A gradual weight loss is easier to maintain than a fast one.
Lay out or pack up your workout clothing the night before. Having everything handy saves time and makes it harder to come up with an excuse not to exercise.