Achieving effective weight loss

Keeping in mind the following proven weight-loss “basics” will help ensure a successful – and healthy – weight-loss experience:

1) Eat less and exercise more.

Effective weight-loss comes from a combination of proper eating and exercise – not dieting alone. The goal is to strike an energy deficit – your body needs to bum more calories than it consumes. Restricting calories is one component, but exercise helps burn calories and increase the body’s metabolism so that you bum more calories all of the time, even at rest.

A moderate exercise program should consist of three to six sessions per week of 30 to 60 minutes of continuous aerobic exercise at 60 to 75 percent of your target heart rate. The best exercise for weight loss – and overall cardiovascular fitness  – is total-body exercise; i.e. exercise that uses all of your body’s major muscle groups, including your arms, legs, chest, shoulders, abdomen, back and buttocks. Studies show that you bum a much higher number of calories when performing total-body exercise, versus lower-body only exercise.

The best forms of total-body exercise include cross-country skiing, rowing, and walking briskly on a treadmill that provides an upper-body exercise component.

2) Know how much to lose and set realistic goals.

The recommended safe level of weight loss is one to two pounds per week. This will help ensure that unwanted body fat is lost, not lean muscle tissue.

Your goal should be achieving a lifelong behavior change in the way you eat and exercise.

3) DON’T count pounds alone to measure your success.

The most important change to monitor is not number of pounds lost, but rather the change in your body fat percentage, which reflects the relationship between the amount of fat and muscle in your body.

The ideal body fat content for men should be between 15 and 20 percent; for women, between 20 and 25 percent.

Regular exercise will ensure that you decrease the amount of fat in your body, and increase the amount of muscle.

However, remember that muscle actually weighs more than fat (about two and-one-half to three times as much), so even if you lose fat and tone and shape up, your scale weight may appear about the same. The true measure of your weight loss success should not be how many pounds you lose, but how you look and feel.

4) Do count your calories and fat intake.

Be careful never to consume too few calories, or you may jeopardize your health by not getting the daily nutrition that you need. Men should eat at least 1,500 calories each day and women should have no less than 1,200.

Aim for your fat intake to contribute no more than 20 to 25 percent of your daily caloric intake. Fat contains nine calories, which is more than twice as many calories as are found in proteins or carbohydrates.

Thus, watching your food choices carefully can really make a difference: if you plan a 1,500 calorie-per-day diet that is composed primarily of high-energy carbohydrates and proteins, you’ll actually be able to eat twice as much as you would if you were eating high-fat foods. You’ll feel more “full” after eating, and won’t crave additional calories to get you through the day.

5) Capitalize on the power of muscle.

In addition to total-body aerobic exercise, a moderate program of strength training can be a powerful component of a weight-loss program. Lean muscle helps you bum more calories; in fact, research shows that every pound of muscle you add can help you bum an extra 30 to 50 calories per day.

6) Keep track of your progress.

Record your eating and exercise habits to help you determine patterns and make adjustments to your program as needed. Most importantly, keep a log of changes regarding your body composition, inches lost, pounds lost, cholesterol/blood pressure improvements and overall feelings, to keep yourself motivated.

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