Focusing on changing your daily routine rather than crash dieting will make you more successful in maintaining or losing weight.
Arlena Cordero wakes up at 4:45 a.m., eats breakfast and is in the gym by 6 a.m. for her daily workout.
“A lot of people say they don’t have time [to work out], but no one has time,” said Cordero, a senior at the University of Texas – Austin. “I have two jobs, an internship and classes. I make time to work out — that’s why I wake up so early.”
Instead of holding herself to a strict diet regimen, she eats six to eight times a day, works out every day and “cheats” once a week to reward herself.
“If I make plans to go out to eat with friends on Saturday night, I’ll eat healthy and work out every day until Saturday,” Cordero said.
While some try to avoid sweets to reach a specific weight or appearance — Oscar-nominee Jacki Weaver recently told USA TODAY that she’ll probably “stop eating dessert for a few weeks” before the award show — Cordero said her day-to-day habits are a lifestyle. Instead of completely ignoring her sweet-tooth cravings, Cordero opts for health-conscious items. For example, she found a recipe to create a home concoction of frozen yogurt with casein protein, unsweetened cocoa powder and unsweetened almond milk.
Anyone can lose weight, but not everyone keeps the weight off, said Lori Jones, a registered dietitian at UT-Austin’s University Health Services.
“There is no secret — the secret is lifestyle change,” Jones said. “There is so much access to food in college, it starts to signal ineffective eating. The key is moderation — drink a can, not a big gulp.”
Jones studies weight management, which targets the way an individual eats rather than pounds he or she may lose.
Over 30% of college students identified as overweight or obese in a 2012 study conducted by the American College Health Association. Students with a body mass index (BMI) over 25 are considered overweight or obese, and those with high BMIs can face a slew of health-related issues including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Weaver’s approach — temporary deprivation of dessert — is a common form of dieting. But Jones said 95% of diets fail.
Instead of dieting, Jones suggests students develop a healthy lifestyle by establishing and maintaining a daily routine, such as sleeping seven to eight hours a night and eating six to eight meals per day. Skipping meals is more likely to cause irritability than weight loss.
“A mother doesn’t go six hours without feeding her toddler and neither should you,” Jones said.
In order to avoid fast food and certain “healthy” frozen dinners, Cordero cooks in bulk twice a week.
“Just because the labels says ‘healthy,’ doesn’t mean it’s healthy,” Cordero said. She stores meals in Tupperware containers, and each morning, she grabs a few of them to fuel her day.
Jones recommended students pack a sandwich, an assortment of vegetables, a dairy option, a snack and a beverage for lunch. Bringing a lunch can stop you from overeating at dinner and also saves you money.
Cordero doesn’t count calories, nor does she take weight-loss pills. She even eats carbs and something sweet when inclined. But she exercises every day and also juggles two jobs, an internship and a full course load.
“There’s no such thing as ‘you can’t’ because you can,” she said. “If you can spend 30 minutes watching TV, [you can] work out or prepare your meals for the next day.”
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