When it comes to weight loss, one of the most common questions Dr. Ali Ghahary hears from patients is, “Where do I begin?” Should you exercise more? If so, what type of exercise should you be doing? Should you eat less? If so, what types of foods should you be avoiding? In this article you will find answers to all of those questions and more to help get you off to the right start in your weight loss journey.

Food is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to gaining weight. As a result, it’s not uncommon for Canadians to try different types of diets to shed excess pounds. Many of the diets promoted in magazines and on television promise quick and easy weight loss – these are known as “fad” diets. However, these types of diets, unfortunately, do not usually work, which can only lead to feelings of discouragement. With a fad diet, many types of foods are restricted which makes these types of diets much more difficult to follow long-term, and some even limit certain nutrients that the body requires to stay healthy. In order to be successful with weight loss, you need to find a diet plan that works for you and make sure it’s one that you can benefit from – not just for a few days, but also for many months and years to come. This means: Eating healthy, watching portion sizes, and combining it with regular physical activity as well as other lifestyle and habit changes. Yes, weight loss does take some effort and determination, but with the right mindset anything is possible.

In order to build the foundation for success and to be able to maintain a healthy weight over the long-term, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends the following:

1. Get motivated. This is key for success. If you’re not in the right frame of mind or aren’t serious about living a healthier life, that’s when you’re more likely to fail. To keep yourself on track you can put little sticky notes around the house reminding you of what you need to do and why (i.e. ‘go to the gym today because I’ll feel better’), or even call up a friend. Sometimes a weight loss journey can be more successful when a partner is involved, as you can hold each other accountable.

2. Uncover the triggers and/or bad habits that led to your weight gain and figure out what you can do to turn those bad habits into healthy ones.

3. Set goals. For some, choosing to live a healthier lifestyle comes easy. For others, they need to see their goals written down on paper in order to be able to fully achieve them. The goals you create can be for both the short and long-term. If you want to lose a certain amount of weight within 2 years, write that down. If you want to start going for more walks around your neighbourhood, write that down. If you want to eat more fruits and vegetables, write that down too. The goals can be as little or as big as you want them to be, as long as they’re your goals and yours only.

When it comes to food, there are also certain things you need to do:

1. In order to stay healthy your body needs food from each of the four food groups listed in Canada’s Food Guide. These four food groups are: Fruits and Vegetables, Grain Products, Milk and Alternatives, and Meat and Alternatives. You should make sure that you are including the minimum number of servings required from these four food groups on a daily basis.

2. Eat three well-balanced meals per day. Breakfast (which is one of the most important meals of the day; you are also less likely to be overweight if you eat breakfast compared to those who skip it), lunch, and dinner.

3. Make sure the foods you eat are also high in fibre. High-fibre foods can help you lose weight as they make you feel full; therefore you’re less likely to overeat. Examples of high-fibre foods include beans, peas, lentils, whole-wheat pasta, nuts and seeds. If you do opt for a high-fibre diet, always make sure you increase water intake to avoid gastrointestinal upset.

4. Avoid junk food. Things like potato chips and cookies are easy to snack on, but they contain little to no nutritional value. If you do happen to get hungry in between meals, switch that junk for something healthy, like fruit or vegetables with low-fat dip and/or Greek yogurt.

5. While a certain amount of fat is needed, you should always choose foods that are lower in fat. The best way to do this is to check out the nutrient facts label on the foods you buy. There, it will list the amount of fat per serving. You should also limit unsaturated fats to just 2 teaspoons per day. Unsaturated fats include any type of fats that you use to cook with, butter, as well as salad dressing, sauces and gravy.

6. Bake foods instead of frying them. Baking foods requires little to no oil, while fried foods often use excessive amounts of oil. Consuming too many fried foods can lead to heart disease and obesity.

Lastly, make sure you’re staying active. You’ll be much more successful in your weight loss journey when you combine healthy eating with regular physical activity, and Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends that you get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week (30 minutes per day.) This can be something as simple as mowing the lawn or walking the dog, going for a walk, jogging, bike riding, or joining a gym – as long as it’s something you find enjoyable.