Losing weight isn’t just about following a plan blindly; different plans work for different people, and it takes time to learn how your body responds to different plans. People who try a weight-loss program or exercise usually hope for rapid results. The thing is, since the way a body reacts isn’t a constant from one person to another, it can be very difficult to predict a meaningful time estimate. How you keep track of your weight can often throw you off the trail, too. Let’s say that you come home on a hot day, and you feel like digging into that big juicy watermelon in the fridge. When you’re done with it, your body has actually gained a couple of pounds in the weight of the fruit you ate; if you were to step on the scale, you’d be alarmed at how much you gained over the course of a few minutes. And it works the other way around, too. If you’ve been sweating it out on the treadmill for a couple of hours, you’ll find at the end that you’ve lost a couple pounds. Either weight, however– gain or loss– from these examples is just water. Actually, this is why most diet plans will recommend lots of fruit and vegetables; they really fill you up with all their water content while not really adding any pounds to your frame. And we need that water to stay healthy and avoid stressing our kidneys and other organs; after all, our bodies are 86% water.
A low-calorie diet or a low-carbohydrate diet often achieves its effects through water loss. You might think that you haven’t been drinking any more water than before, and all the pounds you’ve lost are all pure fat. If you look at your scale after a couple weeks and you find that you’ve lost ten pounds, perhaps eight of those pounds could just be water loss. When you use your bathroom scale, go with your average weight, on an empty stomach, over a considerable period of time. If the general trend tends toward weight loss despite temporary rises and falls, you’ll know that your plan is working. In general, with regular dieting and exercise, you wouldn’t lose more than half a pound a week. If you lose more than 2 pounds a week, that weight will most likely come back and be doubled; that’s how people get into yo-yo dieting, an unhealthy habit of repeated weight loss and gain.
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Gaining weight does not happen overnight. Losing weight correctly is also a slow process. For example, should you go on a binge and eat too much of food one day, you’re not going to gain weight right away. The following day, you may experience a loss of appetite. Eating a large amount of food greedily but only once isn’t really going to cause you concerns. Things will change, however, if you regularly eat a large amount of food. Dieting also works better with exercise. The more you exercise, the more fat your body will burn. Your chance of achieving your weight loss goal increases with exercise, but avoid overdoing daily exercise, which causes burn-out and can be just as unhealthy as yo-yo dieting. Balance is key.
In general, any dietary plan should show some results within three months. The body takes about this long to begin to change the amount of fat it stores. If you think about it, learning how to lose weight can be pretty simple; keep your food intake moderate and your exercise levels steady. It seems we keep running after every new diet fad or exercise program, since our culture pushes us to look for quick solutions to every problem. Leave the body to its own devices and give it time to lose or gain weight. Perhaps you don’t have to find out which ‘diet plan’ excels. Moderation works best, and you won’t even have to test it. Don’t fret with daily measurements or scales, either–that can be counterproductive and frustrating. It does help to keep a record of what you eat, in order to learn how much is too much. Read ingredient labels and try to avoid sugar, which is added to all processed foods and many so-called healthy ones, such as yogurt. Skip sodas and limit juices; replace those with water (a squeeze of lemon slice adds interest) and whole fruits, which provide fiber. Go with whole grains rather than foods using unbleached or white flours, and replace white rice with brown.
Once you know what moderation means for your body and how to stick to it without too much variation, the best measurement of success will be in how you feel as your clothes begin to be too loose. Use a full length mirror to see your results, and have your good clothes tailored to fit. John Lennon (of Beatles fame) had two wardrobes, one fat, one thin–don’t do that. Keeping your clothes in trim is a great incentive for you to stay at your goal weight, too!
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