In addition to improving your health, maintaining a weight loss is likely to improve your life in other ways. For example, a study of participants in the National Weight Control RegistryExternal* found that those who had maintained a significant weight loss reported improvements in not only their physical health, but also their energy levels, physical mobility, general mood, and self-confidence.
Eating less does more for weight loss than exercising more. Consider putting the money you’d spend on a gym membership toward healthy groceries, instead. “Trying to exercise your way out of your weight problem is very difficult (because) it’s very hard to exercise that much,” explained Dr. Aronne. Burning about 3,500 calories equals one pound; someone weighing 150 pounds walking for an hour would burn around 250 calories. “You really need to cut down on calorie intake to lose the weight. Exercise is better at preventing weight gain.” The recommended daily diet is around 2,000 calories, but if you want to lose weight, Dr. Avigdor Arad, the director of the Mount Sinai Physiolab, suggests that women consume between 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day on average, and men between 1,500 and 1,800 calories. But visit your doctor to see how your own metabolism, family history and any medications you’re taking could be influencing how easily you gain and lose weight, and what your nutritional needs are. “There is a lot of variation,” he said.
Have Protein at Every Meal and Snack. Adding a source of lean or low-fat protein to each meal and snack will help keep you feeling full longer so you're less likely to overeat. Try low-fat yogurt, small portion of nuts, peanut butter, eggs, beans, or lean meats. Experts also recommend eating small, frequent meals and snacks (every 3-4 hours), to keep your blood sugar levels steady and to avoid overindulging.
Mindfulness matters. “If you slow down and stop just mindless eating, you often realize you don’t need to eat as much as you thought you did; you’re already full,” said Dr. Steinbaum.” Part of this is watching portion sizes, which have ballooned in restaurants over the past 40 years, leading adults to consume an average of 300 more calories per day now than they did in 1985. Did you know that one serving of bread is actually just one slice? Or one serving of pasta or rice is just half a cup? And a serving of cheese is only two ounces, or the size of a domino? You’re probably eating much more than you realized. “There have been multiple studies that see keeping a food journal is effective,” said Dr. Steinbaum. “When you start paying attention, you can really see what you’re doing.”
Skimp on fluids, and your body will release an antidiuretic hormone that leads to water retention that could affect the scale, Dr. Setlzer says. While this sneaky effect is one reason why the scale is a poor measure of body mass loss, you can outsmart it by drinking more—particularly if you fill your glass with water or non-calorie alternatives like unsweetened coffee and tea.
In a way, moderate-intensity physical activity is that "magic pill" a lot of people are looking for, because the health benefits go beyond keeping your waistline trim: Not only can it reduce your risk of cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart attacks, but studies have shown that physical activity can significantly improve the moods of patients with major depressive disorders.