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Protein-rich foods increase satiety, which is beneficial for weight loss.
Losing an extreme amount of weight such as 50 pounds or more can seem like a daunting challenge when you're first facing it. The temptation is to try to get all of the extra weight off as quickly as possible. Sometimes this is necessary if obesity is actively and immediately threatening your health. In that case, your doctor might supervise you on an extreme low-calorie diet of 800 calories per day. If you're losing weight on your own, you need to make sure you're not further risking your health by starving your body of nutrients. The best way to do this is to stick to a plan calling for 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day for women and 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day for men.
Understand Basic Calorie Facts
Calories are simply units of energy. When your body breaks down fats, proteins, carbohydrates or alcohol, the heat released is what gives you the energy for basic metabolic functions and to keep you moving throughout your day. Fats contain 9 calories per gram of weight, proteins contain 4, carbohydrates contain 4 and alcohol contains 7. If you're consuming more calories than your body can efficiently burn, the extras are stored as fat.
Figure Out Your Calorie Count
One of the most frustrating things about losing an extreme amount of weight is that it's a marathon and not a sprint. Cutting your calorie count much lower than 1,200 calories per day for a woman and 1,500 calories per day for a man will result in a rapid weight loss for the first week or even two, but eventually your body will figure it out. Your metabolism will panic and start storing calories even though you're starving. Since it's not healthy or pleasant to try to subsist on 500 or 600 calories per day, you're stuck.
Rather than getting caught in a negative feedback loop, it's much more effective to start out with a reasonable amount of calories. Exercise for at least 30 minutes, 3 to 5 days per week to burn any extra calories you're taking in. You don't have to start off with a triathlon. Walking 15 minutes out and 15 back is a small start, but if you go a little farther and a little faster every time, you'll increase the number of calories you're burning. As your health and stamina improve, you can add weight training and other forms of exercise to help build muscle. The more muscle tissue you have, the more calories you burn at rest.
Why Junk Food is Junk
All calories are not the same. If your diet consists of nothing but starchy carbohydrates and fat, your body will tend to burn the carbohydrates for quick energy and store the fat for later. This can result in a sudden spike in blood sugar, followed by a spike in the amount of insulin needed to process it. When your blood sugar drops again, your brain signals hunger even though you have actually taken in enough calories for the moment.
That's why eating a diet based around starchy carbs like white bread, white rice, potato chips, snack crackers, pastries, cookies, cakes and other high-carbohydrate, high-sugar foods will keep you overweight even if you're counting calories.
Diet soda is also a poor choice if you're trying to keep your calorie count low. While more studies are needed, preliminary research suggests that when your brain recognizes a sudden influx of sweetness, it expects a lot of calories and wants to signal satiety. Human tests are inconclusive, but the connection, according to Columbia University's "Go Ask Alice!" health-advice site, has been confirmed in rats. The prevailing theory is that the sweetness of diet soda without the corresponding calories confuses your brain, so it signals hunger to bring in those missing calories. Hunger is your worst enemy, especially if you are trying to lose an extreme amount of weight. So, it's not only the number of calories you take in, it's the kind of nutrition they contain.
Why Healthy Food is Healthy
Lean protein, low-fat dairy, whole grains, fruits and vegetables contain nutrients. This is why sugary treats are said to have "empty calories." They provide a quick, short burst of energy and nothing else. Healthy fats, such as those found in fish and avocados, also contain powerful antioxidants which can help fight certain cancers and lower your risk for heart disease and diabetes. They also fight the effects of aging.
Whole grains, fruits and vegetables not only contain all kinds of vitamins and minerals, they're packed with fiber, which can help you feel full. Nuts have a satisfying crunch and low-fat dairy, in addition to the calcium and vitamin D it provides, can soothe your craving for creamy treats.
Base your diet around vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy. If you plan your meals to include a wide variety of colors, textures and tastes, the recommended calories will feel like a feast, keeping you on the right track no matter how long it takes to reach your goal.