If you’re carrying extra pounds, there’s no question that losing weight will benefit your heart and overall health. Achieving a healthy weight can lower your blood pressure, reduce inflammation, lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, prevent diabetes, and more.
The goal with any weight loss program is to gradually and consistently lose, because if you lose any more than one to two pounds a week your body will be shedding lean muscle mass rather than fat, and that's not good at all. Instead, follow my heart-healthy weight loss tips for success.
1. Get Your Diet in Balance: To lose weight, eat a heart healthy Pan-Asian Modified Mediterranean Diet (PAMM)—with these specific modifications. Get about 40-45 percent of your calories from complex carbohydrates such as chick peas, lentils, and beans. Thirty-five to 40 percent of your diet should come from healthy fats, such as avocado and olive oil. And 20 to 25 percent of your daily intake should come from high-quality protein such as wild caught salmon.
2. Eat More Omega-3s: There are two primary types of fat in the body, “white fat” and “brown fat.” White fat is stored as body fat, while brown fat is metabolically active so it helps you burn more calories. Plus, there’s a third type of fat called “beige fat” that acts like brown fat, helping to boost weight loss. The best way to increase your beige fat is by eating foods rich in omega-3s, such as wild caught salmon, flaxseeds, and walnuts. Not only will these foods help you take off the pounds, they support healthy blood pressure and help to lower your triglycerides.
3. Limit (or Better Yet Eliminate) Sugar: Sugar is the enemy of weight loss and heart health. That’s because eating sugar or simple carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, etc.) can raise your blood sugar too high, too quickly. This triggers your body to release a large amount of insulin to bring your blood sugar back down, causing your sugar levels to fall too low. This leads to more sugar cravings, overeating, and weight gain. Plus, sugar can cause inflammation in your arteries—and sugar, not cholesterol, is a major cause of heart disease.
4. Think High Fiber for Weight Loss: The average American eats 11 to 17 grams of fiber a day. But you really need to eat a high fiber diet for weight loss. Strive for 50 grams (or more) of fiber a day. Some of the best sources of fiber include legumes, chickpeas, lentils, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and organic flaxseed.
5. Go Crazy with Greens: Vegetables and weight loss are a perfect combination. And greens specifically—such as kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and broccolini—are quite low in calories. Plus, they contain chlorophyll, minerals, and fiber. For weight loss, try to eat at least one to two servings of greens each day.
6. Drink More Water: Water flushes toxins through the kidneys, keeps your body hydrated, and aids weight control in several ways. Specifically, water swells the fiber in your stomach, which makes you feel fuller. In addition, water can help reduce the number of fat stores in your body. Strive for at least 8 glasses of water a day.
7. Get Moving: If you’re sedentary now, take heart that any type of exercise will help to move you toward your weight loss goals. Walking the dog, playing tennis, bowling, and going skiing will all help to burn calories. But the best exercise combination for weight loss is pairing an aerobic activity (like walking or dancing) with strength training. Together, these exercises rev up your metabolism and build muscle mass, so you burn more calories even at rest. Plus, they’re good for your heart!
8. Boost Your Metabolism with Green Tea: The catechins in green tea help to inhibit the enzyme that breaks down norepinephrine, so it stays in your system longer—keeping your metabolism revved up so that you burn more calories.
9. Listen to Your Stomach, Not Your Head: Emotional or “stress eating” can increase your body’s insulin response, leading to a cycle of foods cravings and overeating. Instead, you want to listen to your stomach and eat when you’re truly hungry, not when you’re emotionally craving food.
10. Reduce Stress: Not only can stress trigger emotional eating, it can impede weight loss. That’s because when you’re stressed your body releases cortisol, the “stress hormone”—and cortisol can cause your body to store fat. In addition to reducing the stressors in your life, it’s important to release stress through exercise, T’ai Chi, meditation or yoga. Taking ashwagandha can also help to reduce stress and support weight loss.
11. Enlist the Help of Others: Losing weight can be a very lonely proposition. For my patients with heart disease who needed to change what they eat, I always asked the spouse to follow the same healthy weight-loss weight loss tips because it's good for them, too. That way the patient is more apt to stick with the new diet and lifestyle changes. A friend or family member who wants to improve their eating habits can also be a good partner for your weight loss efforts.
12. Avoid the Takeout Trap: When you’re busy, it can be tempting to hit the drive-through rather than cooking dinner. But fast food, and even packaged “grab and go” meals from the grocery store, can be filled with extra calories, salt, and trans fats which aren’t good for your health or losing weight. Instead, use these 10 secrets for putting a heart-healthy meal on the table when you’re short on time.
13. Serve Your Meals "Restaurant Style": When we are served our meals family style, with large serving dishes placed on the dining table so that everyone can help themselves, we tend to eat more. Instead, prepare your plate at the stove and sit down to a single serving of food. If you're truly hungry, you can always go back for seconds.
14. Get More Sleep: Many studies have found that there's a strong link between sleep and weight control. More specifically, sleep deprivation causes real problems for those trying to lose weight. A lack of sleep reduces your leptin levels, the chemical that controls satiety after your eat. Too little sleep also triggers the release of the "hunger chemical" ghrelin, which stimulates your appetite. That's why after a late night out you can find yourself feeling extra hungry the next day.
Also, avoid any weight loss diet that promises quick results, since it probably requires tight calorie restrictions. When you severely restrict your food intake, you tend to throw off your thermoregulatory system. Your metabolism gets confused and you wind up with a rebound weight gain. In fact, studies have shown that more than 95 percent of people who follow "quick fix" diets gain even more weight after they stop dieting.