For most women who are overweight or obese, the safest and effective way to lose weight, as advised by experts is to eat less and exercise more. However, effective weight loss plans include several parts.
Healthy meals for weight loss
Smart dietary guidelines
The American Heart Association recommends the following dietary guidelines, which are suitable for most women adults:
• Eat five or more fresh fruits and vegetables each day.
• Eat six or more servings of grains (preferably whole grains) a day.
• Eat fat-free and low-fat dairy, legumes, seafood, and lean meats.
• Avoid foods with more than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving.
• Balance your caloric intake with your energy expenditure.
• Limit junk food, which is high in simple carbohydrates and low in nutrition.
• Limit foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Eat less than 6 grams of salt each day.
Food preparation and meal planning tips:
• Try to eat servings of fruits and vegetables at every meal. Besides being delicious, they are full of nutrients and fiber. They may even help prevent certain cancers.
• Boil, steam, bake, roast, or broil foods rather than frying in fat.
• Use unsaturated fats, such as vegetable oils, rather than saturated fats such as butter.
• Use olive oil spray rather than cooking oils to prepare foods.
• Eat white meat chicken or turkey, lean meat, fish, or seafood. Trim the skin from poultry.
• Use low-fat or nonfat dairy products.
• To season foods, choose lemon or lime juice, vinegar, low-sodium soy sauce, plain tomato sauce, salsa and other sauces low in fat, or mustard.
• Use garlic, onions, ginger, and herbs and spices to flavor foods.
• Avoid high-fat and high-calorie condiments such as mayonnaise, oil, ketchup, salad dressing, or prepared sauces.
• Drink water, caffeine-free soda, tea, or coffee with meals.
• One cup of juice or fruit.
• Egg whites or an egg substitute scrambled or prepared as an omelet in olive oil spray.
• Oatmeal or any sugar-free cereal with 6-8 ounces of skim milk.
• Low-fat cream cheese, low-fat cottage cheese, or nonfat yogurt.
• Caffeine-free tea or coffee.
• ½ cup of cooked vegetables, such as peas, string beans, asparagus, broccoli, summer squash, escarole, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, or carrots.
• ½ cup of a leafy vegetable, such as spinach, kale, or chard.
• Green salad, plain or seasoned with fat-free dressing, vinegar, lemon, or any combination of these (non-oil products). Include green and raw vegetables such as tomato, cucumber, sprouts, radish, onion, cabbage, mushrooms, and celery.
• ½ cup whole-grain pasta in meat-free tomato sauce.
• Sandwiches made of whole-grain or sourdough bread.
• 2 ounces of water-packed tuna or salmon.
• Two slices of a low-fat cold cut or deli meat.
• 1-2 ounces of low-fat cheese
• ½ cup of cooked vegetables, such as peas, string beans, asparagus, broccoli, summer squash, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, or carrots.
• ½ cup of a leafy vegetable, such as spinach, kale, or chard.
• Green salad, plain or seasoned with fat-free dressing, vinegar, lemon, or any combination of these (non-oil products). Include green and raw vegetables such as tomato, bell peppers, cucumber, sprouts, radish, onion, cabbage, mushrooms, and celery.
• ½ chicken breast, baked, or four slices of turkey, skin removed.
• White fish, such as snapper or fillet of sole, baked or steamed in plain tomato sauce, lemon or both.
• Two slices of whole-grain or sourdough bread or ½ cup of a whole grain such as brown rice.
• 1/3 cup (or less) of fat-free yogurt or fat-free sour cream.
• One small slice of cake or one cookie which is low-fat or fat-free and cholesterol-free.
• ½ cup of fat-free ice cream or fat-free frozen yogurt.
• Fresh fruit.
• To satisfy hunger between meals, eat unlimited quantities of celery, lettuce, mushrooms, green or red peppers, asparagus, cauliflower, cucumber, and broccoli.
Eating away from home
• When eating in a restaurant, plan ahead. Think about ordering low-fat, low-calorie foods. Remember that most restaurants serve portions much larger than an accepted serving size.
• Ask for a doggy bag or take-out container when you order. As soon as the food comes, set aside half (or more) for future meals. Then eat what is left on your plate. This will help keep you from overeating.
• Skip the breadbasket and the appetizer.
• Ask for foods to be prepared without frying or sauces.
• Avoid high-fat side orders such as French fries, coleslaw, and garlic bread.
• Order salad dressings on the side and dip your fork in the dressing, then spear the salad.
• Drink plenty of plain water.
Increasing your activity level
• Moderate physical activity, such as walking, helps you lose weight and keep your weight down. At least 30 minutes of exercise a day is recommended.
• Try to exercise at least five days a week.
• Not exercising will sabotage any weight loss plan. Add movement, even in short 10-minute bursts throughout your day to get in 30 minutes a day.
• Simple measures such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator eventually add up to help you lose weight.
• Exercise strengthens your muscles and improves the function of your heart and lungs.
• If you are obese, particularly if you are inactive or have medical problems, check with a health care professional before starting an exercise program.
• When walking for weight loss, distance is important, not speed. Wear a pedometer to measure your steps and then find ways to add steps during your daily activity.
• To exercise, walk at a pace and distance that puts no strain on the body. Set reasonable goals. If you walk until you become tired, you will be exhausted when you stop.
• Walk with smooth, rhythmic motions at an easy pace.
• Each time you walk, walk slowly for the first five minutes to warm up. After five minutes, walk for 10 minutes at a faster rate if you can. Do not overdo it. You may stop to rest at any time.
• When you have walked for 10 minutes without stopping, your first goal has been reached. The new goal should be to walk for a little longer (say, 12 minutes). Continue to set new goals without overdoing it. It is important not to walk too fast or too long.
• To let your skin breathe during workouts, wear loose clothing. Wear comfortable jogging shoes or sneakers.
• Drink plenty of water before and after exercising. This will replace water lost by perspiration and prevent dehydration. If you want to carry a water bottle, you can drink while exercising.
• Check your pulse rate frequently (every five minutes) while exercising.
• Normal resting pulse rate may vary between 60 and 90 beats per minute.
• Your pulse should increase somewhat while exercising. The pulse rate may increase up to 120. It is normal to become somewhat short of breath. If you are so short of breath that you cannot speak comfortably, stop for a rest and then continue at a slower rate.
• While exercising, make it a point not to hold your breath. Holding your breath deprives the body of oxygen. Inhale with one movement, and exhale with another.
• Do not continue exercising if you feel pain. Stop and take a break. If you continue to feel pain, talk to a health care professional.
• Keep a record of your activity. You will see progress over time.
Changing your habits
• Eat slowly and chew your food well. This helps you feel satisfied with less food.
• The amount of food you eat is more important than the type of food. Think portion control. Familiarize yourself with official serving sizes, and measure and weigh foods accordingly.
• Keep a record of when you eat, what you eat, and how much you eat. This will help you spot situations in which you tend to overeat.
• Avoid or limit comfort foods which are easily eaten foods (such as macaroni and cheese, ice cream, chocolate) that are used to modify your mood.
• Don't give in to food cravings. These are typically foods with a high sugar content that cause your brain to release hormones that temporarily make you feel happy. These foods have addictive properties, so once you start eating them, it's difficult to stop.
• Do not skip meals, especially breakfast. You will just be hungrier and more likely to overeat at the next meal.
• Do not read or watch television while you eat.
• Reduce your appetite by drinking one glass of water 30 minutes before each meal. If your stomach is not empty, food does not look as appetizing.
• Drinking tea (especially green tea, white tea) has also been suggested as a weight loss aid.
• Stock your refrigerator with healthy, low-calorie food. Don't keep high-fat snacks around the house.
• Reward yourself for specific achievements, such as exercising longer than you had planned or eating less of a tempting food. Of course, the reward should not be food.
• People often set unrealistic goals for themselves, only to feel guilt when they cannot stay on a diet or exercise program. Make changes in small steps. Look for small gains (that is, weight losses). Losing 1 pound a week is a reasonable goal.
• Losing even 10% of your excess body weight can significantly lower your risk of obesity-related health problems. This is a good goal to start with.
• Do not weigh yourself too often. Weigh yourself only once a week in the morning. An increase in weight of 1 pound or 2 may not be a true weight gain. It may be the result of water retention.
• It is perfectly normal to go off your plan on occasion. Don't be too hard on yourself, and don't quit! Get back on track the next day.
About the Author
Dr. Tasaduk Hussain Itoo
Kashmir-based physician/Renowned Educator/Prolific Columnist
Founder/Director: Jammu and Kashmir Innovative Foundation for Transforming Society (JKIFTS)
Founder/CEO: Dr. Tasaduk's Medical Foundation (TMF)