July 24, 2000 -- For people who are overweight or obese, one of the biggest obstacles to losing weight may be the notion that it's an all-or-nothing struggle requiring drastic changes to achieve any real health benefit. After all, why bother losing just a pound or two?
"People who are overweight and lose as little as one or two pounds a year dramatically decrease their risk of developing hypertension and diabetes," says Lynn Moore, DSc, an epidemiologist and assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.
So what's the best way to get started? Here are 10 simple steps to get you in shape -- and help you look and feel better to boot.
1. Eat breakfast. When you skip it, your chances of overeating at lunch increase as much as 50%, according to a study published in the September 1990 issue of the International Journal of Obesity. If time is an issue, a cup of low-fat yogurt topped with low-fat granola and banana slices takes just a minute to prepare.
2. Gradually switch from whole milk to skim. You won't miss it, and you'll consume a whopping 70 fewer calories per cup. By drinking skim milk, you'll spare your heart 5 grams of saturated fat (the kind your heart doesn't like) per 8-ounce serving of whole milk.
3. Find physical activities you enjoy. You don't have to pump iron at the gym or run marathons. Do whatever you enjoy, whether it's taking long walks, gardening, or playing Frisbee. If you begin a new exercise program and are not accustomed to physical exercise, or if you have health problems, check with your doctor before starting.
4. Sneak exercise in throughout the day. Taking the stairs to your office instead of the elevator can burn a lot of calories if you do it daily. So can walking, rather than driving, to a store that's 10 minutes away.
5. Lay off the fast food. Most of it is extremely high in fat and calories. When you do give in to the craving for a cheeseburger or other fatty treat, order it kid-sized. Ordering large or "super" sizes can increase your intake by hundreds of calories, many of them from fat.
6. Manage your stress. "Many of us use food to cope when we feel anxious, unhappy, or bored," says Mindy Hermann, RD, a nutritionist and Men's Health writer. Instead of eating when you're stressed, write in a journal or talk with friends, family, or a therapist. Exercise may also help.
7. Break your "tired" cycle. Many of us don't work out because we're too tired. But not getting enough exercise can actually make you feel less energetic, according to John Foreyt, PhD, and G. Ken Goodrick, PhD, authors of Living Without Dieting. As you get in the habit of exercising, your energy is likely to increase.
8. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Nearly every major healthorganization makes this simple suggestion, since most fruits and veggies are nutritious and naturally low in fat and calories.
9. Cut down on soda and other sugary drinks. Soft drinks provide a lot of hidden calories without making you feel full. For every cup of soda you replace with water, you'll reduce your caloric intake by about 100 calories.
10. Keep track of your progress. People who keep records of theirachievements are more likely to succeed, according to Jane Kirby, RD, author of Dieting for Dummies. Take time to celebrate not just every pound you lose, but every healthy decision you make.
Glenn Michael Gordon is a senior producer at iStash.com. He has written for YM, Twist, Child, and Time Out New York magazines.