Almost everyone at one time or another has felt the need to diet to improve their appearance or improve their overall health.
Although losing weight can be a daunting task, those who are determined to reach their goals will be pleased to know that permanent weight loss can be accomplished without resorting to unhealthy diets or dangerous pills.
Over 60 million Americans are enrolled in weight loss diet programs at any given time, but merely five percent are successful in their endeavors.
Many people fail to understand that long-term weight loss requires patience and a commitment to making permanent, positive lifestyle changes.
Eating healthy foods and exercising are the only proven ways to lose weight and keep it off. Below are some essential facts that one must understand in order to enjoy success with any diet or exercise program:
Creating a calorie deficit - consuming fewer calories than one burns - is essential for the success of any weight loss diet. Most diet and fitness experts recommend a combination of calorie reduction and regular exercise, as this will ensure that such a deficit is created.
The Sources of Calories
There are three sources of all calories: fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Proteins and carbohydrates contain four calories per gram of food, while fats contain nine calories per gram.
Therefore, a high-fat diet naturally contains more calories than a diet that is low in fat. Nevertheless, certain fats are healthy and should not be eliminated from one's diet.
Omega-3, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthy fats and are found in foods such as nuts, oily fish like salmon and mackerel, avocados, and olive oil.
Carbohydrates can also come from healthy or unhealthy sources, a fact of which some people are unaware. Many believe that because a food does not contain fat, it is automatically healthier than its fat-containing counterparts.
However, carbohydrates that contain white flour and white sugar typically have little or no nutritional value.
Rather, the excess sugar that one's body does not need is eventually stored as fat, making such carbohydrates a poor choice for someone who wants to lose weight.
Most foods that are comprised of pure protein are generally considered healthy, such as eggs, fish, and lean meats.
Slashing Carbohydrates to Burn Stored Fat
One effective way to lose weight is to follow a high-protein, low-carbohydrate weight-loss diet. All carbohydrates are not bad; however, those containing white flour and sugar are the worst saboteurs of any diet.
This is due to the way the human body is programmed to process calories and fat. Simple carbohydrates, such as those that contain sugar and white flour, can be quickly broken down and stored as fat.
Very few individuals require 500-600 grams of carbohydrates per day, which is the amount the average American consumes.
Those who shun simple carbohydrates in lieu of lean meats, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits will significantly enhance the rate at which their bodies burn stored fat.
The human body needs carbohydrates to feed its cells and organs, as well as for energy to function efficiently throughout the day.
When a person slashes carbohydrates, his or her body begins to break down its excess fat stores in order to replace the missing carbohydrates.
This is what makes a high-protein diet unique: the body is forced to use its own fat stores as its primary source of calories.
For this reason, jump-starting a diet by severely restricting carbohydrates often helps individuals to achieve success.
In addition, those who permanently change their eating habits and do not revert back to a diet high in starch will find that the unwanted weight will not return.
The Importance of Protein
Protein is an essential nutrient that all humans need to remain healthy. It also plays a vital role with regard to appetite control.
Foods that are high in protein send a fast signal to the person's brain that he or she has eaten an adequate amount of food.
For example, if an individual consumes a plate of grilled chicken and a large serving of vegetables sautéed in olive oil, he or she is unlikely to immediately crave another plate of grilled chicken and vegetables.
However, when one considers how easy it is to have "room" for a second helping of pasta, bread, or pie, it is not difficult to see that the body reacts differently to high starch fare.
As a result, those who opt for protein-containing foods instead of pasta, white bread, and sweets, typically find it much easier to avoid overeating, as the constant feeling of hunger that refined flour and sugar create will be eliminated.
Fruits and Vegetables
Those struggling with excess weight should make every effort to follow the five-a-day rule and consume five servings of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Most fruits and vegetables are rich in water and fiber, but low in calories.
Not only are these foods rich in essential antioxidants and vital nutrients, but they are also imperative to digestive health.
In addition, many fresh produce items contain natural appetite-suppressing substances that help dieters avoid the cravings that lead to excess snacking.
Also, because such foods are what dietitians refer to as "bulky," they give one a feeling of fullness, which also combats the urge to snack.
The Role of Water in Weight Loss
It is in the best interest of every dieter to consume at least eight to ten, eight-ounce glasses of water each day.
Staying adequately hydrated not only encourages one's metabolism to function at an optimal level, but also helps dieters to avoid snacking when their bodies are actually signaling thirst. This is a common occurrence of which many people are entirely unaware.
It is important, however, to avoid the frequently heard myth that consuming a glass of water before each meal will help an individual eat less.
Although this action may create a feeling of fullness, it is bad for one's digestive system. The digestive enzymes found in the human stomach can become excessively diluted when a full glass of water is consumed immediately before eating.
This in turn disturbs the digestive process. Instead, small sips of water should be taken throughout one's meal, and full glasses consumed between meals.
Avoiding Crash Diets
Many people blame a slow metabolism for their excess weight; however, since a person's metabolism is a natural process of the body, it will typically balance itself appropriately in the absence of certain medical conditions such as Cushing's disease or hypothyroidism.
It is for this reason that diets that severely restrict calories cause the dieter's metabolism to slow down in an attempt to conserve calories for survival.
This is an involuntary bodily function and there is little or nothing the dieter can do to prevent it, except avoid crash dieting.
Another problem with crash diets designed for excessively rapid weight loss is the fact that when the desired amount of weight is lost, the dieter usually returns to his or her typical eating plan, at which point the lost weight will be regained even quicker than it was shed.
This is because the person is now burning calories at a slower rate due to the metabolic adjustments made during what his or her body regarded as the "starvation" period.
Adding an exercise program is a wise activity for essentially any dieter. Exercise will not only help burn calories, but will also improve circulation, and cardiovascular health, and strengthen one's immune system.
A combination of strength training and aerobic activity is the best option for any healthy individual.
Finally, it is wise to research a weight loss diet in which one plans to participate to be certain the plan is sensible and healthy. It is also wise to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional prior to beginning any new diet.