Three Tips For Weight Loss
By Brandy Buro, RD, LD
September 12, 2023
So, you’ve made the decision – you are ready to embark on a wellness journey. You are motivated to make lifestyle changes to improve your health and maybe lose some of the weight that’s been creeping up over the last decade. You signed up for a class and scheduled your first counseling appointment, but the start date is still a few weeks away. It can feel like you’re in limbo. You want to start making progress NOW, but where do you begin? Here are a few steps you can take today to build a solid foundation of wellness and prepare your body for sustainable weight loss.
Tip #1: Drink water.
Even if everything else in your routine remains the same, drinking enough water will support metabolism and can help you lose weight. We recommend aiming for about half your body weight in ounces of water every day; for most people, that’s 75 oz or more. How close are you to that goal right now? By focusing on water as your beverage of choice, you may naturally eliminate many drinks that slow metabolism or contribute to dehydration. Things like soda (regular or diet), sugary coffee drinks, energy drinks, fruit juice or “juice like” drinks, slow metabolism and can lead to weight gain.
Drinking enough water to hydrate your tissues and support kidney function is critical to support healthy metabolism. If you are dehydrated, your kidneys can not function properly, which means the liver needs to pitch in and help do some of the kidneys’ job. When the liver is working overtime by helping the kidneys, it is not able to focus as much on metabolizing nutrients and burning fat.
Additionally, when you’re dehydrated, the body will try to hold on to whatever water it does have, which can lead to water retention and a few extra pounds on the scale. Water retention also means your body is not effectively flushing out toxins through urine, which can leave you feeling sluggish, tired, and inflamed. Don’t let dehydration hold you back!
Start with small increments of water:
If you’re realizing that you have a way to go to hit your daily water goal, don’t sweat it. This is the perfect place to start on your wellness journey and it’s something you can gradually work towards. Start with small increments of an extra glass per day each week. For example, if you’re currently drinking 20 oz of water a day, focus on hitting 30 oz of water per day this week. Next week, aim for 40 oz per day.
Try "jazzing up" plain water:
If you need a little something to “jazz up” plain water, try infusing water with mint/herbs, citrus, cucumber, and/or berries. A scoop of the Key Greens & Fruits drink mix is a great way to transition out of sugar-sweetened or artificially-sweetened drinks and provides a boost of antioxidants. Iced herbal tea is also a fun way to switch things up.
Electrolytes seem to be all the rage these days, especially for hydration. Not everyone needs an electrolyte drink, but it could be helpful if you sweat a lot during exercise or in hot temperatures. When you sweat, you lose some of the natural electrolytes, like sodium, magnesium, and potassium, that help maintain fluid balance in the body. An electrolyte drink can help replace what is lost through sweat.
There are so many electrolyte drinks on the market, so use caution when selecting one. Read the ingredients label and look for one without added sugar (or sugar by any other name), artificial sweeteners, or dyes. Some of the most popular electrolyte drinks are no better than soda sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. Be careful about added caffeine as well; it is a common additive in sports drinks, even though it is dehydrating. Some of our favorite electrolyte drink mixes include Synerplex, LMNT, Dynamic Hydrate, and Nuun.
Tip #2: Eat real food. Avoid factory foods.
Choose foods that you can name the plant or animal it came from. Our bodies understand what to do with real, natural foods, but foods that are refined and processed with artificial ingredients “do not compute” with our body’s metabolism. The phrase “you are what you eat” rings true in this sense, as everything we consume is used to build all our body’s cells. When we build our cells from processed, damaged foods, our cell structure is weakened and cannot efficiently execute our metabolic processes.
Where to start making the switch to real food?
Start by taking inventory of how much of your daily food choices are processed: does it come from a bag, a box, or a window? If you find yourself reaching for something with a label, read the ingredients list to check if you can pronounce everything in it. The longer the list, the more processed. Ignore the marketing on the front; labels are often designed to convince you that you’re making a healthy choice.
Shift from pre-packaged foods to real foods as often as you can. Don’t get hung up on how much to eat at this point; eat until you’re satisfied. Making the switch to real food and reducing processed foods is already doing you a world of good for your health and metabolism.
Choose proteins like meat, fish, eggs, yogurt, or cheese. Pick carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, beans, and grains. Add in natural fats like olive oil, butter, cream, avocado, nuts, and seeds.
Sometimes the shift to real food can feel like a complete overhaul, which can be overwhelming and discouraging. However, you don’t have to throw away your entire pantry all at once. You can think of this as a transition period, where you gradually upgrade to real-food choices and swap out some of the old products you’re used to for those with real-food ingredients.
For example, once the low-fat, sugar-sweetened yogurt in your fridge is gone, you can shop for full-fat, plain yogurt on your next grocery trip. When you get to the bottom of the tub of margarine, switch to real butter – one ingredient, natural, and delicious. Instead of chips for your afternoon snack, munch on some crunchy carrots and cucumbers with cream cheese.
Tip #3. Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast.
The calorie counting diet culture may have you thinking “less is more” for weight loss, but skipping meals will actually slow down your metabolism over time and make weight loss very challenging. Eating every few hours will keep your metabolism revved up all day and help combat cravings for processed foods. Breakfast is an especially important meal to prioritize, as it will kick your metabolism into gear for the day and stabilize your blood sugar immediately.
A solid breakfast can help prevent those mid-morning cravings for the muffin in the breakroom or the afternoon slump that drives you to the coffee shop for mocha latte. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate meal; it could be as simple as a few hard-boiled eggs, a small apple, and a handful of nuts. It doesn’t even have to be “breakfast food” – a leftover hamburger patty and sweet potato with butter will do the trick nicely. Just getting into the routine of including this meal more often, if you are historically a breakfast skipper, is progress.
Little Changes Over Time
Throughout this journey, remind yourself that you are working towards “progress, not perfection.” Taking these few steps before you’re able to get that individualized support will lay the groundwork for success. There’s so much nutrition information out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the actions you could take. If you focus on these foundational pieces, you’re off to a great start and will be ready to take the next level in your weight loss plan.
Start by drinking enough water, eating more real foods instead of processed foods, and practice eating all your meals, including breakfast! Change takes time, but little by little you’ll notice how your efforts pay off.