To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. Every good weight-loss plan has the same two parts: food and physical activity. Wise food choices can help you eat fewer calories and daily (or almost daily) physical activity helps you burn off some of the calories you consume. You lose weight more easily and you’re more likely to keep it off, too.
- Keep portions smaller than your fist. It’s easy to overeat when you have too much food on your plate. Smaller portions help prevent overeating. Overeating can make health problems worse, especially if you have diabetes. One way to control overeating is to reduce portion sizes when you eat. For most foods, a reasonable portion is ½ to 1 cup – about the size of a woman’s fist. Even if your fist is larger than that, it is still a handy measuring tool that goes everywhere you go. Just keep your portions smaller than your fist. See our Suggested Servings from Each Food Group and Healthier Kids portion sizes. Not all foods fit the “fist” rule.
The two most common exceptions are:
- Meat, chicken and fish. For these foods, keep portions the size of a deck of cards (about half the size of your fist.)
- Plain vegetables, including salads without dressing. You can have as much as you want because these foods are filling and low in calories.
- Control your hunger with filling foods that are low in calories. Foods such as soup, salad, fruits and vegetables can help fill you up without adding a lot of calories. These foods will satisfy hunger and help you lose weight. Research shows that people feel less hungry when they eat a certain volume (amount) of food. High-fiber foods, such as fruits and vegetables, can provide a feeling of fullness and also digest slowly. That helps you feel satisfied longer so you eat less.
- Keep track of what you eat. When you keep track of what you eat, you’re more likely to meet your food goals. Studies show that keeping a food log or diary helps people lose weight and keep it off.
- Make trade-offs to reduce how much fat and sugar you eat. Foods high in fat and sugar are usually high in calories, too. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite foods. Learn to make trade-offs instead. If you want to indulge in your favorite dessert, eat a lower-calorie meal.
- Enjoy more physical activity. As you already know, regular physical activity is important for keeping your heart healthy. Increasing physical activity may help you lose weight and strengthen your heart at the same time.
If you feel you need extra support to lose weight, look for a weight-loss program that’s been proven safe and successful. Look for a program that:
- Stresses a healthy eating plan (low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium, with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean poultry, meat and fish, and fat-free or low-fat dairy).
- Includes daily physical activity.
- Gives you personal support from a group, buddy or dietitian.
- Does not deprive you of the foods you enjoy.
- Has a system to help you keep track of what you eat and drink.
- Recommends a gradual weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week until a healthy weight is reached.
- If you’re insulin-dependent, does not conflict with your diabetic diet. Talk to your doctor or diabetes educator if you have questions.
|Instead of …||Try …|
|Counting every calorie and fat gram||Keeping a food diary. Once you know what you are eating you may be able to reduce the amount without having to count every calorie. Try eating ½ portions.|
|Eating dessert after dinner||If you feel like you have to eat dessert, try eating dessert only after lunch, and choose a low-calorie dessert like fruit. The earlier in the day you eat high-calorie foods, the more time you have during the day to burn off those extra calories. (That doesn’t mean eat dessert after breakfast.) Refer to the “make trade-offs” section above.|
|Skipping meals to lose weight||Eating 4-5 smaller meals during the day. Eating every 3-4 hours helps control hunger. Just make sure that your smaller meals do not exceed your daily total calorie goals.|
|Starving between meals||Planing ahead and bringing healthy snacks with you wherever you go so you won’t be tempted to pick up something unhealthy on your way. Drink a tall glass of water to get you through a craving.|
|Tasting food while you cook||Resisting eating the food you are making until you are sitting at the table with a plate and proper portion sizes in front of you.|
|Stopping at the grocery store on the way home||Shopping after you eat. Never go to the store hungry or you’re asking for trouble. If you must go to the store before eating a meal make sure you have a healthy snack (see above) to eat before you get there to curb your appetite and reduce the likelihood of binge-buying.|
|Weighing yourself every day||Weighing yourself once a week. We recommend choosing the schedule that works best for you. If you have heart failure, you must check your weight every day to look for sudden changes.|