We all want to lose a few pounds to look smashing in our swimsuits or squeeze into that adorable pair of skinny jeans. Most women -- and many men -- are perpetually self-conscious about our muffin top or bulging thighs. In the case of people who are truly overweight or obese, however, the concern over weight is about more than just vanity. If you're one of these folks -- and there are millions in the United States -- losing as little as ten pounds can literally help save your life, or at least, extend it by a few years. So, instead of obsessing over how you look in the mirror, think about the health consequences of excess body fat and what you can do create a leaner, healthier you.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shedding just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight goes a long way in battling chronic diseases -- even if you're still above your ideal weight. Your glucose levels will improve, helping to thwart diabetes, your blood pressure will drop and your cholesterol levels will reach a healthier range. Improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol are especially important because these factors help determine whether or not you have a heart attack or stroke -- and heart disease is the number-one cause of death in the United States, according to the CDC.
The fact that modest weight loss brings tangible health rewards is very good news, as it means that smaller efforts can make a big impact. The thought of losing large amounts of weight can seem daunting -- and if you've ever watched an episode of "The Biggest Loser," you may have the impression that starvation and torturous exercise are on the agenda if you want to slim down. But the truth is that some simple lifestyle changes are all you need to lose a small percentage of body fat.
For instance, if you remove two sweetened beverages or servings of potato chips a day from your diet, you'll consume about 300 fewer calories per day. (A pound of fat is about 3,500 calories, so you'd lose 1 pound every 12 days.) Add a brisk 30-minute walk (which burns about 150 calories for a 155-pound person) five days a week and you'll lose the weight even faster. That's totally doable, and you'd lose 10 pounds in a couple of months' time with these combined modifications.
For painless success, forget restrictive diets altogether and instead focus on eating whole, natural foods while upping your physical activity. Include fruits and vegetables in each meal to help you feel satisfied on fewer calories, as these foods have filling fiber and water. The same is true of whole grains -- choose whole-wheat pasta over the white variety, and oatmeal over sugary cold cereals.
Portion control is also key, and serving sizes are probably smaller than you think. For example, 1/2 cup of cooked rice or cooked beans, 1/4 cup of nuts or 3 ounces of cooked fish equal a serving. By staying conscious of the amount of food on your plate, you can lose enough weight to make a major difference in your health -- and yes, feel better about your reflection in the mirror.