If you want to lose weight, you probably want to lose it quickly. But research shows that people who shed pounds gradually and steadily, about 1 to 2 pounds per week, keep weight off more successfully. Plus, rapid weight loss or a too-restrictive diet can cause fatigue, disturbed sleep, physical weakness, and stomachaches. Here, three experts weigh in on the healthiest ways to lose weight through holistic nutrition, fitness, and Chinese dietary therapy.
Create a healthy lifestyle.
The mind, body, and spirit connection is a web with health at the center; no individual string is isolated. Make sure to get enough sleep, manage stress, and maintain positive mental health so you don’t undermine good nutrition or give in to unhealthy cravings while dieting.
Eat more whole foods.
Focus on nutrient-dense whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid most processed and packaged foods, especially those with 135 mg or more of sodium per serving and 5 grams or more of sugar. Connect with food’s flavors and textures, and chew fully. This will make you more mindful of good portion size, which is about one recipe serving size, a handful of a snack, or a small plate for a meal.
Adopt habits gradually.
Make small, manageable changes. Start with daily nutrition fundamentals: five servings of fruits and vegetables, low-glycemic carbs to stabilize blood sugar, and eight to nine glasses of water. Healthy diets should increase energy. New habits, such as getting more sleep or working out regularly, take about 21 days to form, so add a new one each month.
–Rebecca Bilodeau, RD, Creator of 21 x 12 Wellness Challenge, New Brunswick, Canada
Set a fitness goal.
Instead of focusing just on weight loss, set goals such as lowering healthy body-fat percentage (women, 15 percent to 20 percent; men, 10 percent to 15 percent), running a marathon, or simply feeling more energized. Use a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) chart to determine how hard you worked on a one-to-ten scale. Aim for the seven to eight range, which should feel like you’re on the verge of becoming uncomfortable and are short of breath but can still speak easily.
Create a personalized program.
To stay active and lose weight, develop a program around physical activities you enjoy. Assess injuries, potential limitations, and how much time you have for exercise. Use a heart rate monitor and a RPE chart to gauge performance; a higher heart rate and increased activity level means you’re burning more fat.
Mix strength and cardio.
While most cardio training improves your aerobic system, strength training improves your ATP-PC system (an energy system that helps with short bursts), ideal for weight loss because it burns the most calories. The muscle you form even helps burn calories throughout the day. Use at least two muscle groups for each exercise to raise your heart rate and burn more calories. Aim for 45 minutes of strength training three days a week and 30 to 45 minutes of cardio two days a week; then rotate the next week.
–Jason Gerhart, Appetite for Healthy Living, New York
Eat warmer foods (steam, roast, grill, or bake foods to heat them) during fall and winter when your body is colder, and cooler foods during spring and summer when your body is warmer. This keeps your digestive function warm, which is the best way to absorb nutrients. When your body is nutrient-starved, it retains extra weight.
Incorporate herbs and spices.
Warm your foods with hot or spicy herbs and spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and garlic to create temperature balance and warm your digestive system. Many people are stressed and depleted while trying to lose weight; try holy basil (also known as tulsi) tea or supplements to relieve stress and increase energy.
Drink green tea.
Sipping at least one cup a day will help dredge out dampness in the body, which in Chinese medicine refers to weight, heaviness, and bloating. Green tea also boosts metabolism, inhibits fat absorption, and replaces a morning calorie-filled coffee drink. For best quality, buy organic teas and look for matcha—the purest green tea available.
–Elizabeth Trattner, AP, DOM, Miami