Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Monday, May 3, 2010

Healthy Ways to Lose Weight

Fad diets, weight loss supplements, and quick fixes have been promising fast, easy weight loss for years. The reality is, taking a pill or eating one special food will not magically transform your body into the one you have always dreamed of. It is even simpler than that. Eat a healthy, balanced diet and exercise to shed unwanted pounds. Sure, it may take a little longer but the weight loss will last, along with your new healthy habits that can affect you in more ways than just what the scale says. Before you decide to try a weight loss program, talk with your team physician, sports nutritionist and athletic trainer (or your regular physician) to make sure that weight loss is a smart choice for you and that you are healthy enough to exercise.

Before considering weight loss, please remember there are things about our bodies over which we have no control, or that we cannot change like height, body frame, and body shape. On the other hand, there are variables like fluid content of the body, muscle mass, and body fat, that you can change with a goal to positively affect performance and health. If you still choose to start a weight loss program, make sure you are doing it for yourself and not someone else. Set realistic and achievable goals that you can maintain over your lifetime.

Tips for healthy weight loss:

One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. To lose a pound a week, you need to create a calorie deficit of about 500 calories a day. It seems pretty simple when you look at it this way, but most people grossly underestimate the calories they take in each day or the amount of calories they need in a day.

To estimate how many calories you are currently consuming, eat as you have been normally and keep a food journal, writing down everything you eat or drink for a whole week (including the weekend). Be sure to include even very small snacks, like a handful of pretzels or a cookie. Use an online calorie counter, like the one at MyPyramid.gov, to help you find your calorie intakes for each day. Get an average of your calories over the seven day period. Use that as your current caloric intake.

To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit by cutting calories and adding in exercise (Athletes DO NOT need additional exercise on top of their current workout or practice routine). Small changes in your dietary habits can help you cut 500 calories a day. Here are some tips for cutting back calories while still eating plenty of foods:

1. Be aware of portion sizes. Measure out your portions for awhile until you get used to their look and feel. A serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.
2. Eat slowly to allow your body to process the feeling of being full. Get rid of the “clean your plate” mentality.
3. Try to only get 250 calories from beverages a day. This may mean cutting down to one soda, coffee, or juice a day. Drink more water.
4. Eat a vegetable with every meal and eat it first, before meat and dessert.
5. Pack dried fruit and oranges, apples, or bananas in your work or school bag each day. Between meals, snack on these instead of going to the vending machine.
6. Choose a salad instead of French fries for a side at fast food restaurants.
7. Eat breakfast; this will help you eat more successfully the remainder of the day. Research has shown that people, who eat breakfast, manage their weight better than those who do not eat breakfast.
8. Eat whole grains such as whole-grain bread, brown rice, oatmeal, etc. They offer essential vitamins, minerals and fiber.
9. Eat healthy fats (olive oil, vegetable oils, avocados and nuts) that are more heart healthy in small amounts.
10. Alcohol provides empty calories. If you are trying to lose weight, cut back your alcohol intake.

Keep a food journal as you start to change your eating habits. This will help ensure that you are making good choices most of the time. You don’t have to cut out your favorite foods, just eat less of them and balance them with other foods throughout the day. Can’t get enough cookies? Place servings in separate bags and grab one serving out of the cupboard. Better yet, don’t keep sweets in the house so that you have to leave the house to indulge. You will still have your favorite foods, just less often.

The other side to losing weight the healthy way is adding in exercise. Add exercise in slowly. For example, don’t jump on a treadmill and try to run five miles the first time out. Start with a 30 minute walk and slowly increase speed and time. Most importantly, find physical activity you enjoy doing. Ride bike, elliptical, swim, run, join step aerobics class, etc. Whatever it is, the more you enjoy it the more likely you are to actually do it. Shoot for 30-60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. (Athletes DO NOT need additional exercise on top of their current workout or practice routine.)

Strength training can help speed metabolism by converting fat to lean muscle tissue. This can help you burn more calories throughout the day. Again, don’t overdo it. You should be lifting weight heavy enough to be difficult but not to the point where you are in pain doing the movement. Gains in strength and muscular endurance come slowly. Lift 3-4 times a week but don’t lift the same muscles two days in a row. (Athletes DO NOT need additional exercise on top of their current workout or practice routine.)

If you are not eating enough, and calories expended during exercise are too high, the end result may be a decrease in muscle mass in addition to body fat. This may result in a decrease in strength, speed and endurance. The body needs fuel to support exercise. If you starve your body, it will try to save whatever calories it can as fat in preparation for starvation. Keep this in mind, especially if you are an athlete trying to decrease body fat.

A final word of advice: Set goals for yourself that are more than just a number on the scale. Weight can be deceiving. Keep track of how your clothes are fitting. Set a goal to run a 5K or participate in a Walk for MS. These small goals will shift the focus off of just losing pounds to maintaining a healthier lifestyle and achievement.


  1. The REC does not promote the use of dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are under-regulated and have been the cause of several adverse reactions and positive drug test for athletes. We advocate the use of FOOD before any dietary supplement is considered. We also recommend speaking with a sport nutritionist and your doctor to reach your health and nutrition goals.

  2. Yes, we can lose weight in so many healthy ways... we have where to choose from. The tips from the article are really useful for those people who want to get rid of their extra pounds! I'm thinking to follow a weight loss Toronto program, about which I've heard only great things... I'm sure that I will have my desired results!