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Wait, what? You’re struggling to lose weight? 7 tips to consider

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By the time women turn 40, most either have tried to lose weight or are currently trying to lose weight. There is an excess of diet information out there that can lead to confusion and frustration. Despite the latest diet trends, the truth is, there is no magic formula. Each person is different, and therefore must figure out what works best for them. Although your friend or sister may have had excellent results on a particular diet, that does not mean you will see the same results. Still, there are actions we can all take that support improved weight loss and weight maintenance.

1. Consume less energy than you burn

The No. 1 most important factor for any weight-loss program, regardless of diet type, is creating an energy deficit, aka calorie deficit. The amount of energy consumed must be less than the amount of energy burned to lose weight. There are online calculators you can use to calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), such as TDEE Calculator. This gives you an idea of how many calories you need to consume to maintain your weight at your current activity level. You can create a calorie deficit by subtracting from this number. Typically, eating 500 calories less each day should result in about a 1-pound weight loss each week, but results can vary.

2. Track your factors

Regular self-monitoring is strongly associated with improved weight-loss outcomes. This includes regularly tracking food and caloric intake, physical activity, and body weight. Although this can be done with pen and paper, technology has made it easier to track with apps like MyFitnessPal and Lose It, which have large food databases. Programs like WW (formerly Weight Watchers) and Noom rely on tracking because regular tracking creates awareness of dietary and activity habits, which promotes positive lifestyle changes, goal setting and accountability.

3. Move more, sit less

Physical activity is an important component of weight loss and weight maintenance. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week. Luckily, these can be broken into segments that are more feasible for our schedules and still provide similar benefits. For example, breaking up a 30-minute workout into 10- to 15-minute intervals spaced 2 to 3 times throughout the day may be easier and more effective for some individuals. Try to incorporate muscle strengthening activities, such as resistance or weight training, two or more days a week. This increases lean muscle mass, which increases metabolism. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) — alternating short intervals of high-intensity exercise with lower intensity exercise or recovery periods —also has been associated with increasing metabolic burn, decreasing fat mass and promoting weight loss.

4. Take fiber to the next level

A high fiber intake has many benefits, including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but did you know it also enhances weight loss and helps you feel fuller faster? Women should consume 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily. It’s likely you’re not getting enough daily fiber, as most women in the United States only get about half this amount. Increase your fiber intake by avoiding or minimizing ultraprocessed foods and added sugars and increasing your consumption of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and legumes.

5. Take breaks from eating

Time-restricted feeding, one form of intermittent fasting, consists of consuming your total daily calories within an 8- to 10-hour window or less. There have been a few small studies showing that restricting the eating window results in a reduction in daily caloric intake and can lead to modest weight loss and significant reduction in body fat percentage. Study participants also said they experienced improvements in sleep, less bedtime hunger and increased energy. Some individuals may find this easier to follow than chronic calorie restriction, which requires regular tracking and measuring. It’s important to maintain healthy food choices, as the overall calorie load still matters.

6. Eat at home

Eating out at restaurants has become a regular occasion for many Americans, increasing steadily over the past several decades. Unfortunately, this does not bode well for our waistlines, as calorically dense foods and oversized portions easily lead to weight gain and make efforts for weight loss and weight maintenance more difficult. Although cooking and eating at home is usually a healthier option, there are some good restaurant tips to support your weight management goals:

  • Order one or two small plates or appetizers instead of an entree or split an entree with a friend or significant other.
  • Avoid extra calories from added sauces and dressings and ask for these items on the side for dipping instead.
  • Order foods baked, grilled or broiled instead of fried.
  • Opt for healthier sides such as a salad or veggie instead of fries or other starches.
  • Beware of the bread basket!
  • Check out the CalorieKing website which contains a database of fast food and restaurant chains and food and beverage items with calorie and nutritional content.

7. Frontload your calories

Lastly, there is an important old saying that goes, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” Try eating a higher portion of your total daily calories earlier in the day and a significantly smaller portion of your daily calories for dinner. This has been associated with improved weight loss and decreased fat mass.

Hannah Hakes, P.A.-C, M.S.

Hannah Hakes, PA-C, MMS, is a Physician Assistant at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. She practices in Women’s Health Internal Medicine and has a special interest in obesity medicine and weight management.

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