If the holidays gave you a gift of a few additional pounds, you're in good company. Not only do many of us naturally gain weight in the cold, dark winter months, but the holiday season frequently spells disaster for even the best-laid eating plans. Instead of going on a drastic diet to make good on your New Year's resolution to lose the extra pounds, head for the gym.
Researchers at Baylor University in Houston studied the effects of three slimming strategies for two years. A total of 127 adult men and women who were at least 30 pounds overweight were assigned to one of three weight loss groups: diet only, diet and exercise, and exercise only. While the exercise alone group had smaller weight losses than the groups that dieted, exercisers had better long-term maintenance. The diet only group actually regained more weight than they had lost to begin with.
The take-home message? The secret to weight loss success is exercise combined with healthy eating, rather than strict dieting. Regular exercise can boost your metabolism and help you burn calories at a faster clip. Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of cardiovascular exercise combined with weight training. Of course, it's still important to eat healthfully, by incorporating lots of fruits and vegetables into your meals and cutting back on saturated fats. To help you stay on track, heed these tips:
Sure, it's the oldest dieter's trick in the book, but it works. According to eating behavior expert, John Foreyt, Ph.D., of Baylor University, we often eat in response to thirst as well as hunger. Drink a glass of water (or other low-calorie beverage) before you eat a meal—it's a good bet that you'll eat at a slower pace and consume fewer calories. In addition, when hunger strikes, try to drink a glass of water before you start eating. If a glass of water takes the edge off your hunger, you just may have been thirsty.
If you are truly committed to losing weight, write down everything that you eat and drink for at least three days. This strategy will help you to identify foods and situations that cause you to overeat. Work to re-route your behavior in order to better manage your eating. Always have healthy fall-back foods on hand (such as fresh fruit and ready-to-eat veggies) to deter temptation, and try to plan other activities to fill those times of the day or night that have become problem-eating situations.
Out with the Old.
Get rid of the leftover holiday treats. It's no sin to discard uneaten chocolates, fruitcake or cookies. Clear out those high-calorie temptations and stock up on nutritious snacks.