Top 5 Weight Loss Tips for Women

Woman Exercising to Lose Weight
Exercise Is Essential For Weight Control. Mache Seibel

From Thanksgiving till New Years "'tis the season." And most people manage to add on a few pounds. And once the light falls at Times Square, most of those folks are looking to shed pounds. There are many ways to go about it. To help you keep weight off  I spoke with Sherry Pagodo, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School on the subject of how to keep weight off.

If you incorporate these 5 things, according to Dr. Pagodo, it's doable with minimal pain.

1. Think long term.

Diets work great for losing a quick 5 or 10 pounds, but it's a short-term fix. Most gain in back and then some. To keep weight off, think of your weight loss as a destination – a new you. Decide how much weight you are going to lose, and think how much younger, happier, sexier and healthier the new you is going to look and feel. Visualize it and set an intention.

Be sure to keep that new destination realistic and achievable, make changes that are sustainable and not too great a stretch. Start with saying you will lose 5 or 10 pounds, not 50 or 100. Saying you are not ever going to eat dessert again or that you will keep your daily intake to only 1200 calories isn't something you will keep doing. But not eating seconds, or only eating dessert 3 times per week or only half of dessert is something you can do.

Making a few healthy substitutions is also doable: brown rice for white rice; whole grain for white bread or white pasta; eliminating sodas or sugary drinks for water with lemon or lime. Also eating slower allows time for your stomach to know you are full and tell your brain to stop eating. In other words, put down your fork and knife and chew your food.

These are all things you can easily do and sustain.

2. Stay away from food cues.

Have you ever been at a meeting and someone walks in with your favorite donut or handed you a bowl of chocolate covered almonds? – It's tough to say no even if you are not hungry. So avoid the cues away. Ask the waiter not to bring you the yummy hot rolls. Stay away from a fast food restaurant if the smell of French fries drives you crazy. You may never make it to the salad bar. It's too hard to resist them, so stay out of there. Drive past, don't drive through. Buffet tables can also be a challenge, especially if they are all you can eat restaurants. Sugar, fats and salt are the most addictive components of food that make the reward center of your brain light up like an alcoholic's or drug addict's reward center when they get their fix.

It's a new year. Go through your cabinets and the refrigerator and clear out the processed foods (the ones in packages, bags or cans). You are much less likely to eat a box of Oreos or the carton of ice cream if they don't exist in your home to cue your brain into desire.

3. Track your intake.

Today, it's easier than you think. Get a food intake App. They are part of most exercise trackers like Fitbit and many Apps can be downloaded for between free to $39.99 annually. Doing so will change your habits and that can take 3 weeks to 3 months, so don't be surprised if nothing seems different in a week or two. But if you are persistent, you will create new habits that help you plan a long-term weight loss and avoid food cues. You will reset your food thermostat and make it easier to say yes to healthier food choices.

4. Exercise.

It seems intuitive but exercise is an essential part of maintaining weight loss, especially in menopause. And the approach that works best is to view your exercise with the same eye as a trainer. Focus on three areas over time:

Endurance – Exercise longer

Distance – Exercise further

Intensity – Exercise harder/faster

By continuing to up the bar, you increase the value of your exercise. That doesn't mean that the goal is to run in a marathon. But if you walk for half an hour, try to walk either a little longer or a little faster each week. That will help you to continue to both burn calories and increase muscles mass. I also like to suggest burst exercising. With that approach you start doing an exercise for as fast or hard as you can for only one minute, then rest for two. Continuing that cycle for a total of only 10 to 15 minutes can do as much as much longer workouts done at a slower pace.

5. Lower your stress.

Stress gets to your "bottom line" in two ways. One, it changes your hormones and tells your body to store fat, mostly in your belly. Second, it can be a cue to eat in order to lower your stress. As John Lennon wrote, "Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans." Stress increases the adrenal hormone cortisol, which elevates blood sugar, increases heart rate, breathing and blood pressure and lowers immunity. When the blood sugar drops after a stressful experience, we get hungry again. Chronic stress also leads to depression. Over time, stress becomes a cue for eating.

One common stress is being over committed. You may get up at 5:30 am to get your kids ready for school, take them there, work all day, stop off to visit your mother on the way home and then at 8:30 gets home to the kids who need to get into bed to start the entire routine over again. And being that stressed and overbooked makes it very hard to lie down and feel relaxed and drift off to sleep.

Putting too much "life on your plate" is like the person who puts too much food on their plate – your plate is "too full." To deal with the stress you have to "take something off your plate" to have time to decompress your stress.

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