1. Be scrupulously honest with yourself! You need to be honest about your willingness to change habits for life. You need to be honest about what you are actually eating. This is where a food diary comes in handy. See number 5 below.

2. Realize everything is connectedLifestyle! There is an absolute, incontrovertible connection between your weight and the rest of your life. It is not just about how much you eat. Your relationships, your sleep, your stress, all profoundly affect your hormones, especially cortisol, testosterone and thyroid. Excess amounts of cortisol and/or deficiencies in testosterone and free thyroid can keep you from losing weight.

If your stress hormones are high and your sleep is disturbed, you will not replenish serotonin, which can lead to cravings. If cortisol is constantly high, it can cause insulin resistance which is the biggest enemy of fat loss. Low testosterone reduces lean muscle mass and low thyroid decreases energy and slows down fat burning.

Don’t try to lose weight just by attacking your food habits. That’s a start, but it’s not the whole story. Everything is connected: from sunshine to sex to love to job to relationships. Change your life, change your weight. Look in the mirror. Develop an image of the real you!

3. Fat is not the enemy! Numerous recent studies have shown conclusively that the percentage of fat in your diet has virtually no connection to whether or not you get fat. Far more important is the amount of total calories you take in, and especially the total number of calories from carbohydrates. Processed food — and especially sugar — is far more damaging to your system than fat. Note: It is important that you eat “good fat” like that derived from salmon and virgin olive oil. Avoid deep fried foods like French Fries. Pro Form Omega-3 will provide the necessary good fat without any contaminants (always a risk with fish). Chose real butter over margarine. It is not “damaged fat.”

4. Calories are not the whole picture, but they still count! Low-carb, high-fiber diets with good fats and good protein control appetite more effectively than any other kind, but they are not a license to eat anything and everything in all quantities. At some point you need to look at the number of calories you’re consuming. Lots of vegetables will fill you up but have few calories. Slow cooked oatmeal has great fiber, will fill you up but has few calories.

5. Keep a food diary. Virtually every nutritionist agrees a food diary is the most important tool in your arsenal. Studies have shown that people who have lost weight successfully and kept it off virtually always use this tool. You should too.

6. Eat protein at every meal! Protein raises your metabolic rate and may also, through the action of specific amino acids, cause you to lose fat rather than muscle, thus helping to reshape your body and make you a more effective calorie burner. Three to four ounces at each meal at least.

The more vegetables the better! These foods are fiber rich, and loaded with phytonutrients. High-fiber foods are an essential part of any weight loss strategy. Again, old fashion slow cooked oatmeal is great!

8. Eat without distractions! Try to train yourself to eat without television or other distractions. Unconscious eating is the enemy of weight loss.

9. Exercise is not the best way to take off weight but it’s one of the best ways to make sure the weight stays off! Few people can lose significant amounts of weight just by exercising. Yet if you don’t exercise, you have a poor chance of keeping weight off. With it, you have a much better chance of having your diet be effective. Resistance training increases your metabolism and your lean body mass.

10. 90/10 rule. Eat healthy 90 percent of the time. We’ve all eaten too much food we shouldn’t have at one time but that’s no excuse for giving up. Healthy eating doesn’t have a finish line. It’s a continuum. Lapses are normal. Healthy eating becomes a habit.

11. Cook food at low temperatures. Te ingestion of high temperature cooked foods causes chronic inflammation and the formation of advanced glycation end products. Glycation can be described as the binding of a protein molecule to a glucose molecule resulting in the formation of damaged protein structures. Many age-related diseases such as arterial stiffening, cataract and neurological impairment are at least partially attributable to glycation.

12. Eat foods that are low on the glycemic index. One of the pitfalls of dieting is that it decreases your metabolism, making it harder to burn calories. But focusing on foods that minimally affect blood sugar may be key to keeping your metabolism revved up and your insulin levels low. A low-glycemic diet emphasizes healthy fats and healthy carbohydrates. Carbohydrates, such as refined sugar, white bread, white rice, potatoes, fruit juices, and many commercial breakfast cereals should always be restricted for weight loss reasons and for health reasons (blood glucose and insulin levels). These carbohydrates are more likely to leave you feeling hungry shortly after eating.

Studies show that dieters who decreased calories while concentrating on healthy fats and carbohydrates had higher metabolisms after 10 weeks of dieting. They also reported less hunger than dieters taking in the same number of calories who ate only low-fat foods.

13. Eat protein. We can’t be certain, but our best guess is that the Paleolithic diet was approximately 30 percent protein. The chief protein sources were fish and meat. We can assume that the mammals our ancestors ate were lean. These beasts didn’t live in feedlots or graze on carefully managed pastures. They had to exert themselves to obtain nourishment and to avoid becoming the meal of some other creature. So like the hunters who hunted them, they were largely muscle. Remember: Muscle mass increases the number of insulin receptor sites in our body. It also makes clothes fit better.

Mike Clark, Clinic Director of Lifetime Health Weight Loss, an Austin weight loss clinic

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