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Bettendorf Y

Bettendorf Family Y members work out and walk the track in January at the facility, which will undergo an expansion this summer.

I stepped on the scale at home this morning and got a little bit concerned.

The scales showed about a 5-pound weight gain, and this is just a few weeks before the warm weather will (should) start.

It was 2005 when I was assigned as the health report, and I subsequently decided to lose about 30 pounds (as I've written about before.) Basically, my husband and I got into the habit of working out and eating a healthy diet.

Nevertheless, I do love potato chips and Hershey's chocolate, not to mention Girl Scout cookies and jelly beans.

I think it's okay to enjoy treats, but obviously I've been over-doing it. So I looked for some tips, which are printed, below.

The simple common-sense suggestions are from the SlimPlate system, a South Carolina-based business founded by three physicians. (I like the emphasis on portion control, #4.)

1. Drink 8 eight-ounce glasses of water a day

Although it may seem difficult to drink 64 ounces of water a day, it’s really simple. If you eat every 3-4 hours (see step 3), then have a glass of water with each meal. Then have an additional glass of water after three meals, and you will have successfully drank 8 eight-ounce glasses. If you follow this guideline, you will feel fuller and more satisfied, thus making it easier to limit caloric intake. It’s okay to have drinks other than water, such as coffee, milk, or tea, but limit these to two cups per day. Drinking water is crucial to weight loss; it can help regulate your metabolism and increase your metabolic rate.

2. Eat breakfast every day and within one hour of waking up

This important step will prevent your body from switching into fat-saving mode after a long night of fasting. Eating within one hour improves metabolism and increases calorie expenditure. Even if you have to take it on the go, make sure you do not skip breakfast. Some breakfast foods that are easy to make and good for you include smoothies, eggs and toast with bacon or sausage, or waffles—just be sure you consider portion sizes (see step 4).

3. Eat every 3-4 hours or five times a day

Every day, eat properly portioned food five times a day. By preventing your brain from thinking there is a scarcity of food and switching into fat-saving mode, you can be more successful in your weight loss plan. The five meals include breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks. The snack times can vary from person to person. For instance, if you like to stay up later, you can have a snack after lunch and then have your second snack after dinner. Likewise, if you’re an early bird, your snack times may be after breakfast and after lunch. Snacks can include 10 large nuts, 20 peanuts or pistachios, or a small bowl of fresh fruit or chips.

4. Portion control

Perhaps the most important step is understanding portion control. Eating too much can prevent weight loss, but eating too little is also bad, as it switches your body into fat-saving mode. Portion control helps you get just the right amount. An example of a well-balanced, well-portioned meal is a six-ounce chicken breast, one cup of steamed broccoli, and ¾ cup of wild rice. But remember portioning one meal a day is not enough, portioning once in a while is not enough. Portioning daily and every meal is the way to go.

5. Avoid artificial sweeteners and limit sugar intake

Sugar gets a bad rep, but it’s not sugar itself that is bad, it’s the amount of sugar people take in. Limiting yourself to 18 grams of sugar or less per snack won’t sabotage your weight loss. If you want a candy bar, just check the sugar; if it has 36 grams of sugar, eat half of the bar now, and eat the other half later. You really just want to limit the amount of sugar you’re consuming at one time. If you take in too much at one time, your blood sugar will spike, and your body will start saving fat rather than burning it. Artificial sweeteners should be completely avoided, as they are known to cause rebound cravings of sweets and calories and damage your metabolism.

6. Eat real food

This step sounds simple enough. Instead of eating protein bars or shakes as meal replacements, just eat a regular meal. Although these items start off with a lower count than a meal, your body doesn’t have to do much to digest these foods, and thus doesn’t burn calories during digestion. Essentially, you end up with more calories. You can also make the following subtle changes to commonly used items for an added health boost:

• Change your dairy products to 2% or less fat. This includes yogurts, cheeses, and milk.

• Change your cooking oil to olive oil or vegetable oil with no cholesterol, and remember that a little bit goes a long way.

• Change your white sugar to brown sugar.

7. Activity of 30 minutes a day

Exercising for 30 minutes every day promotes metabolism, burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and builds muscles. You should think about what kind of exercise you’re likely to stick with and that you will enjoy. You can play tennis, go for a swim, or enjoy a walk. However, don’t expect to doing a daily exercise will equal to losing 10 pounds in three months. You don’t lose weight from exercise alone. A combination of exercising and eating using the first six steps will ensure you meet your weight loss goals.

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