1) Water, Water, Water!
Drink to live! Drinking water is the best thing you can do for your body, whether you are trying to lose weight or not. It keeps your system flowing, carrying essential vitamins and nutrients, and flushes out toxins (and sometimes fat!). Drinking water helps you feel fuller throughout the day. It does amazing things for your skin. Water is also naturally calorie free, so consider replacing some of those calorie-loaded sodas, lattes, juices, and cocktails with a big glass of water. Don't like water? Try harder! Get a Brita, buy a large liter bottle every day before work, or try different kinds of sparkling water. For a little pizazz, try adding a slice of lemon, lime, or cucumber. I approach everyday with one mission: drink my 8 glasses of water. And if I am drinking (which I am apt to do), I make sure to have one extra glass of water for each alcoholic beverage I have. Sure this makes me pee a lot, but it helps your body handle happy hour better and leaves you hangover free (well most of the time) come morning. Be sure to add that extra water glass to your next table setting.
2) Get Active!
Move! It's the only way to burn calories and jump start your metabolism. Join a gym, find an exercise you like, try a sports or intramural team. Too busy to commit to 'gym time?' Split up your active hour: take short walks during the day, play with your kids, fold the laundry, vacuum, do the dishes, walk the dog, and take the stairs (your ass especially will thank you for this one). Try yoga, water aerobics, lifting, walking, running, biking, pilates, swimming, dance, it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you get moving. Not only are you burning more calories, but you will rev up your metabolism, making you feel like a fat-burning machine all day. Read that magazine or book on a bike, find ways to sneak in exercise and/or multitask. Take a walk while your kids are at practice/preschool, stretch during the day, if you can, walk to work or school. You don't have to embark on all-or-nothing death marches at the gym, but rather adding any activity is going to help you beat the bulk. And don't forget, Skechers has come out with those new Shape-Ups.
3) Eat Breakfast!
It truly is the most important meal of the day. It jump starts your metabolism and evens you out for the rest of the day. We are meant to eat 3 (or 6 if you are a real health nut) meals a day, not splurge all of our calories at once. Spread out your meals; let yourself get hungry, not starving. This helps maintain a steady blood sugar and fuels you for an entire day.
4) Add a Flourish of Color!
Aim to eat the most colors as possible each day. And I am not talking about snow cones, bubble gum, or cotton candy. A beige, plain plate will leave you feeling blah. A colorful plate not only looks good, but is more than likely going to contain more nutrients and different kinds of food. Experiment with purple potatoes, eggplant, deep leafy greens (my favorite), pink salmon, apricots, blueberries, sweet potato fries, roasted red bell peppers, and tomatoes. Garnish with some salsa or micro greens. If you aim to hit all the colors of the rainbow during the day, you are probably getting all of your essential nutrients and doing well by the food pyramid.
5) Fiber Please!
You've got to get your fiber. Besides, keeping you 'regular,' it helps you feel full, and takes lots of toxins (and sometimes fat!) away from the body. Breakfast is a great place to begin the fiber load. Start the day with a multigrain cereal, homemade oatmeal, or a piece of fresh fruit. Trade out that regular pizza crust for multigrain, white bread for wheat (they even have some brands with Double Fiber or Double Protein), brown rice for white rice, regular pasta for whole wheat, and make sure to serve your potatoes with skins in tact (or serve sweet potatoes). All those 'white' foods add up to white sugar (= bad), a.k.a. empty calories that spike your blood sugar then leave you feeling hungry later. Pack in the veggies and fresh fruits. Fiber helps fill us up, so we don't each as much, and keeps us fuller longer. As a last resort, perhaps go the Metamucil or Fibercon route (though I'd rather get my fiber from real food than a pill).
6) Snack Smarter
You've seen the Emerald Nuts commercial. Afternoon hungry can strike you unawares, and if you are not prepared, your ship is sunk. Replace vending machine purchases and overly processed foods with dried fruits and nuts. These will help you feel fuller longer and actually supply things like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein. Sure nuts have fat, but their fat comes from plants, not factories or animals. Most nuts, especially walnuts and almonds, pack major antioxidants. Try adding nuts or seeds to your next salad. Create your own trail mixes with your favorite nuts and dried fruits (there's more than just raisins and prunes out their nowadays). Veggie sticks make a wonderful snack. With virtually no calories, you can get those lips a smacking without spoiling your dinner. Pull out a small apple or baggy of grapes. And don't underestimate yogurt. Ask Jamie Lee. Yogurt comes in all varieties, goes great with fruit or granola, and is usually low(ish) in calories and high in nutrients. Its digestive and probiotic properties have also been shown to aid weight loss. The important thing is to find foods you actually like that are at least somewhat good for you. Doritos, cookies, and candy are not going to get the job done.
7) Daily Vitamin
Just pop one in! It helps to guarantee you get all your essential nutrients. There are some vitamins even catered to weight loss, men's/women's health, or with additional herbal supplements. Choice wisely, take often.
8) Become a Wino!
Well, maybe not a wino, but if you are going to drink, drink smarter. Wine, especially red wine, has been toted for its antioxidant power, supposedly lowering the risk of heart disease. Enjoy it as part of your meal, equally important as the things on your plate (and that big glass of water). Opt for dry red and white wines, and if you must, go for light beers and clear spirits. Steer clear of sugary mixers: one margarita can ruin a whole day's good work. Opt for club soda, straight up, on the rocks, or with just a splash of juice and soda (if you think the juices bars are serving you are good for you, think again). Experiment with cooking with wine. It'll make your food taste better and create more satisfying dining experience. And remember, wine is meant to be sipped and savored (it's encouraged to even discuss its flavor, how it makes you feel, etc), not chugged.
9) Veggies, Veggies, Veggies
You have to eat your (fruits and) vegetables! They are your greatest weapon in weight loss! Say you don't like veggies, try again! Experiment with different cooking methods and different types of vegetables. Swap out pepperoni and sausage for veggies on your pizza, fill your omellettes with spinach or mushrooms and peppers instead of cheese and bacon, load up your Chinese order with veggies, and pile them high on your sandwich. When going out to eat, opt for a salad (don't go crazy with the dressing) and a vegetable side dish, instead of potatoes (since you are probably already dominating the bread basket). Roast them, steam them, sauté them, put them into soups and salads. Instead of just settling for mashed potatoes every night, experiment with cauliflower puree, smashed sweet potatoes, or mashed celery root, parsnips, or rutabagas. One of my favorite meals is a good helping of black beans & rice, a side of kale, swiss chard, collard greens, and a glass of red wine. A package of frozen spinach or can of mushrooms (fresh are better of course) can do wonders for a casserole. Veggies are very low in calories, carry huge amounts of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and aid in digestion (they are a good percent water). As long as they are not overburdened with cheese, butter, or dressing, you cannot go wrong with vegetables and not eat too much of them. Hungry for dessert? Experiment with fruit-based desserts. Pears poached in wine are a delicious end to the meal without packing on the calories of a chocolate cake or coconut cream pie.
10) Tea, Tea, We Love Thee!
Although we don't drink much of this baggied beverage in this country (unless it's chilled and highly sugared), tea is an excellent addition to your diet. Coming in a myriad of varieties (black, green, white, herbal, red, darjeeling, oolong) and flavors, tea boasts a plethora of antioxidants and health benefits. Most teas, especially green and black, are loaded with antioxidants, and green tea has been known to boost your metabolism (i.e. help you lose weight). Try to swap out a cup of tea for your morning coffee, or better yet, replace that afternoon soda, juice, latte, or milkshake with a nice cup of tea. Most teas can be enjoyed solo or with a bit of milk and honey, avoiding the huge calorie punched by sugary sodas or creamy lattes. Most teas act as a diuretic and help cleanse your system. For a great way to end the day, try different herbal teas (no caffeine) before bedtime for some peace of mind (getting ample sleep is extremely important in order to lose weight).
Bonus: Take your time.
Breath and Relax. Rome was not built in a day. Instead of focusing on drastic changes, find little things you can do to improve your health. Create time for both eating and exercise. Enjoy and savor your meals. Dinner table conversation is actually good for your waistline! Finding one thing you can change week and actually stick with is worth a hundred you'll never be able to adjust to. And just one more note, though it's been said before: fish and chicken. You can't go wrong (well battered and fried, yes you can), these lean proteins helps you feel full without all the fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol of beef and pork. Especially in the case of fish and shellfish, the ocean provides us with so much variety, there is no need to settle for the same old boring things (you all know how I feel about a good steamed mussel or fresh oyster). Good luck, be brave, and bon apetít!