Weight Loss Guide: Answers & Solutions

If you want to lose weight and keep the pounds off — while improving your health this guide is for you. Get weight loss experts' tips on determining your healthy weight, eating the right foods and choosing a weight loss workout that’s right for you. Plus: weight loss FAQs, exercise clips, health benefits and more.

Weight Loss Experts' Tips & Clips

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Get weight loss advice and how-to's from Mayo Clinic doctors, Best Life® trainer Bob Greene, Pilates expert Mari Winsor and yoga expert Jill Miller. Learn metabolism-boosting eating guidelines, cardio kickbox moves and the best ways to tone your abs, butt and thighs ...

Health Benefits of Weight Loss

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Reaching your appropriate weight will not only make you look and feel great — it can also keep you healthier. Excess weight puts stress on your joints and heart. Losing those extra pounds will relieve your body from aches and pains, improve your cardiovascular health and make you feel healthier inside and out.

Prevent obesity-related diseases

If you are obese, losing even 5 to 10 percent of your weight can delay or prevent obesity-related diseases, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. You can see if you are “overweight” or “obese” by calculating your BMI.

Health problems associated with obesity include high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, some kinds of cancer, gynecological problems and arthritis


Benefit from healthy habits

The healthy habits you’ll be forming to lose weight — such as exercise and healthy eating — have innumerable health benefits.

Eating right can boost your energy levels, improve your mood and strengthen your immune system.

James Rouse, N.D., says exercise “can reduce all of the biomarkers of aging. This includes improving eyesight, normalizing blood pressure, improving lean muscle, lowering cholesterol and improving bone density.”

So get ready to reap the benefits of reaching your healthy weight. You’ll look fit, improve your overall health and well-being, and feel great!

How to Eat to Lose Weight

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Yes, losing weight may be as simple as "calories in" versus "calories out." But many weight loss diets are tough to maintain and leave you with cravings, low energy and mood swings. Here are five simple tips on how to eat to lose weight while boosting your energy and satisfying your appetite.

1. Eat healthy, balanced meals.

Dr. James Rouse recommends a balanced diet made up of the following:

— 40 to 50 percent complex, low-glycemic carbohydrates (whole grains, legumes and most fruits and vegetables)

— 25 to 40 percent lean protein (lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, yogurt, tofu, soy protein powders, tempeh)

— 20 to 30 percent essential fats (omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and nuts)

You should reduce your intake of saturated fats and completely avoid trans fats and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats. These can lead to obesity and are linked to diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Read about why you should eat foods harvested in-season.


2. Watch portion sizes.

Keeping track of your portion sizes will make you aware of any unnecessary calories you may be consuming. For packaged foods, such as cereal, use the label to identify a serving size. For other foods, such as vegetables and meats, use Dr. Rouse’s Rule of “Thumb" (using everyday objects to help you gauge portion sizes):


One serving of = Is about the size of:
low-fat cheese = your thumb
milk or yogurt = tuna can
bread, cereal, rice or pasta = tuna can
whole or chopped vegetables = tuna can
leafy vegetables = your fist
whole or chopped fruit = tennis ball
lean meat, poultry or fish = deck of cards
dry beans, nuts, eggs = one egg


3. Eat slowly.

"It actually takes the brain 20 minutes to recognize it is full,” writes Christine Louise Hohlbaum in her book The Power of Slow. “By eating mindfully, you are more likely to eat less than if you were to gobble your food quickly.”

Aim to chew each bite of food 10-15 times, and put your fork down between each bite. 


4. Don't skip meals.

Missing meals leads to an unstable blood sugar, leading to low energy, mood swings and cravings for "comfort" foods. Dr. Rouse recommends eating five small meals per day, while Dr. John Douillard says eating three substantial meals a day without between-meal snacks is ideal. Try both and see which works best for your metabolism and lifestyle.


5. Start a food journal.

“A food journal can be one of the most effective weight loss tools anywhere,” says The FIRM nutrition consultant Sara Ryba, R.D., C.D.N.

Write down everything you eat: type of food, time of day you ate, portion size, who you were with, how you felt after eating, etc. This will allow you to look for patterns and set your goals.


How to Keep the Weight Off

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Sometimes the hardest part of losing weight is keeping the pounds off once you've reached your goal. Forming healthy habits is the key to staying trim and fit. Follow the five steps below to maintain your weight loss and keep you exercising, eating right and improving your health.

1. Keep moving.

“Being fit feels good,” says fitness expert Chris Freytag. Focusing on the feel-good effects of endorphins after you work out will help motivate you to stay active, she says.

You can also find ways to fit exercise into your daily routine. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Go for a brisk walk on your lunch break. Walk or bike to work or to run errands.


2. Enjoy healthy eating.

Instead of focusing on the junk food you’re eliminating from your diet, focus on the new healthy foods you’re adding, recommends Dr. James Rouse. “It’s all about focusing on abundance instead of deprivation.” This will help you enjoy and maintain your healthy eating habits.


3. Reduce stress.

Stress can have a significant impact on the accumulation of fat in your belly, says Pamela Peeke, M.D., author of the best-selling book Fight Fat After Forty: The Stress-Fat Connection.

Why? Stress boosts your level of cortisol, a hormone that causes you to store fat and increases your appetite. So what can you do to keep your stress level low? No matter how busy you are, make sure you take time out for yourself to recharge and do what you enjoy. Walking, yoga, meditation and breathing techniques are also effective ways to deal with stress.


4.Get enough sleep

"Skimping on your sleep will defeat your weight-loss efforts in more ways than one,” says Freytag. Sleep deprivation can increase your cortisol levels, decrease your metabolism and make it harder to watch what you eat. Freytag recommends getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night.


5. Think positively.

Thinking positively boosts your overall health, according to Dr. Rouse. Studies show that keeping a gratitude journal — writing down three to five things that you’re grateful you've accomplished on your weight loss journey so far — will encourage you to eat better, exercise more and think positively the next day. Remember that forming new habits takes time, so be patient with yourself and focus on what you’ve already accomplished.


How to Exercise to Lose Weight

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Running, walking, yoga, Pilates, dance, lifting weights ... There are so many ways to exercise, so how do you know which is best for dropping those extra pounds? “The best workout is the one that you can — and want to — do consistently,” says The FIRM instructor Rebekah Sturkie.

What workout intensity is best for you?

If you’re short on time, a higher-intensity exercise (like running) may be best for you. The faster you exercise, the more calories you use per minute. You can burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time.

But high-intensity exercise can be difficult to sustain, so when you’re first starting out, you may want to try exercising at a lower intensity for a longer amount of time (like taking long walks daily).

Interval training — short bursts of high intensity (sprints, for example) followed by short rest cycles — will allow you to burn a high number of calories without increasing the time of your workout. It boosts your mitochondria, the powerhouses in your cells that turn the food you eat into energy, which in turn affects metabolism and weight loss.


Can gaining muscle help you burn fat?

One of the most important things you can do to lose weight is change your body composition: more muscle than fat. You can get these results the fastest by combining cardio and sculpting into a single workout.

“You’ll burn three times more fat than with cardio alone,” says The FIRM's Kirsten Palmer, head of training for The FIRM Master Instructors.

Muscle burns calories, even at rest; so, you actually raise your metabolic rate when you gain muscle.

Get tips on creating your own strength training routine.


Can yoga and Pilates help you lose weight?

Yoga and Pilates can help you sculpt a trimmer, healthier body as well as make you more likely to keep up with your cardio. Amit Sood, M.D., an internist at the Mayo Clinic, points out that these mind-body workout styles can "make you fitter and more flexible and therefore enables you to do more aerobic activity."

Depending on the style of yoga you practice, you can burn about 180 to 360 calories per hour. For weight loss, try Vinyasa, Ashtanga and other forms of “power yoga."

Pilates is all about strength training, particularly core strength. Sculpting flat abs and a strong back also helps you create a better posture, making you look and feel thinner.

Both yoga and Pilates will help you become more mindful and respectful of your body, which will make you more aware of your eating habits.


Weight Loss DVD Reviews & Ratings

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A workout DVD allows you to lose weight and get in shape from the comfort of your home. You can preview workout DVD clips in the Weight Loss Experts' Tips & Clips section and get a feel for which styles and instructors you like. Below are some of our top-rated weight loss DVDs, customer reviews and weight loss success stories.

Top-rated Gaiam DVDs and customer reviews


Join actress Valerie Bertinelli and her personal trainer Christopher Ross Lane. The Losing It and Keeping Fit DVD features two exercise programs — Body Basics for beginners and Bikini Ready intermediate routine plus quick bonus abs routines.

 Overall rating: 4 out of 5

Gaiam customer review: “After just two weeks, I am noticing the difference."

Read more reviews.


Yoga Conditioning For Weight Loss DVD

Yoga Conditioning For Weight Loss

Led by acclaimed yoga instructor Suzanne Deason, this DVD accommodates all levels of fitness and flexibility by offering four levels of modification to help you reach your weight loss goal.



Overall rating: 4.8 out of 5

Gaiam customer review: "You will never reget this purchase and your mind and body will thank you. Namaste."

Read more reviews.

Bob Greene Weight Loss DVD

Bob Greene: Total Body Makeover

Get maximum results in a minimum amount of time with Oprah Winfrey's Best Life® personal trainer Bob Greene. This eight-week fitness and exercise program targets multiple parts of your body while burning major calories. Greene also shares his top 5 eating guidelines for weight loss.

 Overall rating:4.5 out of 5

Gaiam customer review: "Bob is motivating and down to earth ... Great job to Bob and Gaiam!"

Read more reviews or watch a video clip of success stories from women who've lost weight with the Bob Greene weight loss plan.



Weight loss success stories from Gaiam customers


Jennifer lost 65 pounds in seven months with Gaiam Pilates & Balance Ball workouts

"Gaiam’s instructors and products have been integral in gaining back my self-confidence! My new relationship with food and my attitude toward working out have given me a new life!" — Jennifer Thomas


Linda lost 2 dress sizes with Gaiam Balance Ball, Pilates & yoga

"I liked the sense of empowerment I felt after exercising with Gaiam programs. I felt in control of my body and my response to life." — Linda Osburn


Read more weight loss success stories from Gaiam customers!

How to Know Your Healthy Weight

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Once you're on your way to losing weight, how do you know when you've reached your "goal"? First, you must determine what weight is right for your height and body type. And though a scale can help you monitor weight changes, there are other more accurate ways to track your success.

How to determine your healthy weight

Body Mass Index (BMI) can help indicate if you are "underweight," "healthy," "overweight" or "obese." It is determined through an equation using your height and weight. Here's how to calculate your BMI.

But BMI doesn’t take into account your body composition — lean muscle versus body fat — so it’s not always completely accurate.

“Very muscular people and tall people may skew heavier than they really are. On the other hand, you could be 'healthy' or even 'underweight' but actually have a high percentage of body fat if you are very sedentary,” says The FIRM instructor Kirsten Palmer.

A gym or personal trainer can help you measure your body composition through the use of calipers. Or you could try hydrostatic (underwater) weighing and DXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) — more reliable but costly ways to determine your body fat percentage.


How to track your success

Scale: Scales bought in stores aren’t the most accurate, but they can help you monitor changes. For the most accurate results, weigh yourself at the same time of day each time you weigh in. Don’t work out before, and make sure the surface is clean. Many experts recommend weighing yourself no more than once a week so you can more easily focus on how your weight is trending based on lasting lifestyle changes — not on day-to-day changes that may discourage or derail you.

Measuring tape: Measure your waist, hips and chest, and record these numbers. Re-measure every month to see if the numbers are getting smaller. Changes in your measurements without a change in the scale indicate you are increasing muscle mass while losing fat — which is a good thing!

Clothing: Notice how your clothes are fitting. If your clothes are feeling looser, you’re on the right track to losing weight.

Blood pressure and cholesterol: Pay attention to your blood pressure and cholesterol level through your weight loss journey to see how your health is improving.

Weight Loss FAQs

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Do diet pills really work? Is eating breakfast good for you? Can you lose weight with yoga? Does eating before bedtime make you gain weight?

Get answers below to a few of the most frequently asked questions about weight loss.

Q. Do diet pills work?

A. “No diet pill can solve the problem of weight loss,” says Suzanne Farrell, M.S., R.D. and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

You might lose weight in the short term, but to keep if off you really need to make lifestyle changes. Furthermore, diet pills can have unpleasant or unsafe side effects.

If you’re looking for an appetite suppressant, choose high-fiber foods like oatmeal or whole grain, says Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., R.D. 


Does eating breakfast help you lose weight?

“There is no better way to get your metabolism moving than eating a healthy breakfast,” says Dr. Gerbstadt.

She says food actually increases your metabolic rate, and skipping breakfast can make your body think it’s going to be starved and slows your metabolism down.


Can you lose weight with yoga?

Yoga and meditation have a tremendous potential to help weight loss, says Amit Sood, M.D., internist at the Mayo Clinic.

“The mindfulness that yoga brings, you keep that mindfulness, not only during the time you’re doing yoga, but you carry it through the day,” says Dr. Sood. “When you’re practicing yoga, you create a disciplined lifestyle.”

Dr. Sood also points out that yoga makes you fitter and more flexible and therefore enables you do to do more aerobic activity.


Does eating before bed make you gain weight?

Weight loss does ultimately come down to calories in versus calories burned. So eating a small healthy snack late at night will not interfere with weight loss, unless you’re consuming more calories than you need for the day.


Get answers to more weight loss FAQs.