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Easy Steps to Losing 10 Percent of Your Body Weight

In addition to slashing your disease risk, research links this milestone to improved self-esteem, energy and well-being. You can do this.

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Keisha Okafor
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One of the ways we prevent ourselves from living our best life is by allowing perfection to get in the way of good enough. All too often we look in the mirror, sigh, and head for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s instead of the gym because the notion of getting our younger bodies back just seems so daunting. 

But there’s good news coming from the medical community: Even if our dreams of getting back to our college weight remain far off, there are big wins to be gained from small losses. Research shows that cutting just 5 to 10 percent of your weight can slash a host of risk factors for serious chronic diseases.

For example, if your current weight is 200 pounds, losing 5 to 10 percent would mean getting down to somewhere between 180 and 190. Doctors might still classify that as obese (depending on your height), but remember, we’re not just cutting pounds, we’re cutting the risk of developing serious illnesses later on. Some call it the 10 Percent Solution, and in addition to the quantifiable health benefits, research indicates there can also be a big emotional upside: improved self-esteem, more energy and an immediate sense of well-being.

As most of us age, suddenly we can’t eat like we did in our 30s anymore without packing on weight, which tends to leave our thighs alone and go right for the gut. And all fat is not created equal. For example, carrying extra weight around the stomach is worse for overall health than saddle bags. “There is a significant increase in diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea and cancer in patients with abdominal obesity,” says Toni Wright, an emergency medicine physician at an inner-city hospital in New York City. “Individuals who lose as little as 5 to 10 percent of their body weight can see significant health benefits with increased longevity, a more active lifestyle with family and friends, improved sleep, reduced stress and anxiety and an overall better quality of life.” 

Tips From a Nutritionist

Of course, healthy weight loss is never a snap. But it is so much easier to cut those first few excess pounds, than the final stubborn signs of flab. The good news is when you begin to lose weight, visceral fat (also called “intra-abdominal”) will be the first fat cells to shrink. Which is why just a little bit of weight loss that stays off can radically reduce your chances of getting ill.

We spoke to Atlanta-based registered dietitian nutritionist Jerlyn Jones and came up with five everyday lifestyle changes that will make it easier to lose that first 10 percent and keep it off.

Think About What You Drink

Soda? Alcohol? Chocolate mocha lattes? All of those are best enjoyed in moderation. Swap them for water as much as possible. When you’re craving some flavor, Jones suggests trying green tea with fresh ginger or flavored sparkling water.  

Less Grease, More Greece

One of the simplest ways to eat healthier is to make sure half of your diet comes from vegetables. Jones suggests filling at least half your plate with colorful produce because it is high in fiber and creates a feeling of fullness. That doesn’t have to mean sacrificing flavor. Jones is a big fan of the Mediterranean diet because the balance of fish, vegetables, olive oil and nuts are delicious and can also protect you from heart disease. 

Get Your Apron on

If COVID hasn’t kept you away from eating at restaurants, here’s another reason to do more home cooking — it’s an effective way to lose weight. You can be sure that you didn’t you sneak an extra stick of butter into your mashed potatoes. “Restaurant meals tend to be higher in sodium, saturated fat, sugar and calories,” says Jones. “If you do order out, choose dishes prepared in these healthier ways: grilled, roasted, baked, steamed or broiled. As a side, opt for non-cream-based soups, fruit or a garden salad.”

Move It to Lose It

Everyone knows that no amount of exercise will overcome a bad diet. But a new study suggests that people are able to lose weight, partly by remodeling appetite hormones, with about 300 minutes of exercise per week. That may sound like a lot but here are some ways to squeeze little bouts of exercise into your day: Click “play” on your favorite song and do a three-minute dance before each meal. Park your car at the far end of the lot. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Click here for even more ideas from a fitness trainer. As long as the movement adds up to about 45 minutes a day, you’re good.

Feed the Furnace

If you’re worried that losing weight means being constantly hungry, you’ll love Jones’ last suggestion: “Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals can cause your metabolism to slow down, which can cause weight gain or make it harder to lose weight.” Your metabolism is like a furnace, and if it runs low on fuel, it slows down. So feel free to graze, but stick to nutrient-dense foods, like fruit, yogurt and nuts.

Follow these five easy tips and losing 10 percent of your weight will not only cut inches from your waistline, it might add years to your life and make you a more joyful version of yourself. You’ve got a little bit to lose and everything to gain.