Losing weight can be tough, that’s no secret.
There’s so much information out there (much of it false and misleading) that it leaves many confused and frustrated, not knowing how to proceed, they give up.
If that sounds like you or you just need a “mental rewiring” on the key aspects to weight loss and dieting, keep reading!
The below 11 tips are going to help you develop a proper foundation as well as show you what you need to focus on to succeed in achieving your weight loss goals.
1. Safety first! Nothing is more important than your safety! Always prioritize it! Anything that jeopardizes your health is not worth doing.
2. If you want to lose weight you must be in a caloric deficit: “The quest for the “quick fix”, the “magic pill”, or some “special nutrient combination” drives the public and researchers to find something new or different that will facilitate weight loss. However, the concept of a negative energy balance for weight loss cannot be disputed” (Stephanie Ramage et al, 2013). In order to lose weight, you need to take in less energy (food) than you expend. Many things can be argued regarding fat loss but this is NOT one of them. Anyone who tells you that you can lose weight without exercise or changing your diet is lying to you. The concept is simple (take in less energy than you expend) but actually doing it can be hard. The bottom line is, generally speaking, that if you find yourself not losing weight, you need to take in less calories or increase your energy expenditure (through increased physical activity/exercise). HOWEVER, make sure to do this slowly (and NEVER eat below your Resting Metabolic Rate/RMR, roughly 11xBodyweight in lbs). If you find yourself not losing weight, do not drop calories by another 500. If counting calories, lower your daily intake by 250. If you’re not counting calories (and eat roughly the same thing everyday) simply decrease your portion sizes. For example, if you have 2 pieces of toast every morning have only 1. No matter what, always remember, in order to lose weight you must be in a caloric deficit.
3. There are approximately 3,500 calories in a pound of fat: In order to lose a pound a week, you must take in roughly 3,500 calories less than your body requires (known as your Total Daily Energy Expenditure). For example, if you decrease your daily food intake by 250 calories while increasing your daily energy expenditure by 250 calories you are now (if you were maintaining weight before) going to lose about a pound of fat a week (250+250=500, 500 x 7 days of the week=3,500 caloric deficit). Losing more than 1-2 lbs a week is not recommended, though during the first week or two, you may lose a little more than that. Do not expect to have this continue thereafter, nor be discouraged that it does not. It is completely normal and expected!
4. The slower you go the better: Many times, because we want fast results we rush into things. We try to fix everything at once or stop a habit (such as bad eating habits) “cold turkey”. This can work, but for most individuals, it leads to many failures and ultimately quitting. It is always wise to make small, reasonable changes. Changing up one meal a day (replacing unhealthy options with healthier ones) instead of changing up every meal/a whole day of eating, for example, would most likely have a higher success rate. Whether regarding exercise, diet, or any other behavior, it is usually best to take small steps to keep things as normal, easy, and stress-free as possible.
5. Ensure proper protein intake: Whether you want to adopt a high-fat, low-fat, high-carb, or low-carb diet make sure you are taking in an adequate amount of protein. Adequate and/or high protein intake has shown to preserve lean body mass during dieting (Edda Cava et al, 2017). According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the recommended daily protein intake (for active individuals) is 1.3-1.7g per kilogram of body weight, or 0.5-0.8g per pound of body weight. Aim to take in protein at each meal to ensure that you hit your daily recommendation. Some protein-rich foods that you can add to your diet are; eggs, chicken, ground turkey, ground beef, greek yogurt, navy beans, peas, spinach, whole grain spaghetti, nut butters, and almonds.
6. Focus on getting your diet to 90% or more whole foods: As obvious as this may seem, many do not understand the key reasons for this recommendation (outside of “it’s healthier/better for me”). For the most part, whole foods contain less fat, salt, and sugar, are more satiating (filling), and provide a sufficient amount of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that your body requires. Though it would be ideal, it is not necessary to completely rid your diet of processed foods. The goal is to continually increase your whole food intake while decreasing the amount of processed foods you take in until you are at a point in which your diet consistently consists of about 90% whole foods. As I mentioned in point number 4, (for the most part) the slower you go the better. Always remember, there must be a balance between leniency and restrictiveness. If you are too strict in your dieting, you will likely not be consistent. Likewise, if you are too lenient you will never reach nor maintain your goals.
7. Prioritize resistance training: If you wish to be lean, strong and healthy, resistance and/or strength training should be high on your priority list. There are so many benefits that come from performing resistance training that many are unaware of (which I believe to be a key reason they neglect it in their training). “Benefits of resistance training include improved physical performance, movement control, walking speed, functional independence, cognitive abilities, and self-esteem.” (Resistance Training is Medicine: Effects of Strength Training on Health, Westcott, Wayne L. PhD). Consistent resistance exercise can also help prevent muscle loss, reduce fat accumulation, strengthen bones, and increase resting metabolic rate. Many who wish to lose weight, adopt a very low calorie diet, do excessive cardio, and skip resistance exercise. At the end of their program they have lost weight, however they likely lost just as much, if not more muscle mass. This leaves them weaker than before, less toned, usually feeling very fatigued, as well as with a much lower resting metabolic rate (which makes up for approximately 60% of your total daily energy expenditure). Though we say we “want to lose weight”, many of us care less about our scale weight and much more about how we look and feel as well as how well we fit into our clothes. Key Point: If you want to be lean, DO NOT skip resistance training. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (regarding resistance exercise), you should aim for 2-3 days a week (48 hours of rest between sessions), focus on 2-4 sets of 8-15 repetitions (2-3 minutes rest between sets), use a moderate to hard level of intensity, and focus on multi-joint exercises.
8. Track and/or monitor your progress and behaviors: Self-monitoring is underrated. Keeping track of things such as eating behaviors, weight, strength progress, and relapses/slip ups among other things is extremely beneficial to your success in living a healthy life. Notice I said beneficial and not absolutely necessary because what works great for some, falls short for others. Having said that, self-monitoring has shown to have a positive relationship with successful weight management. “..although there were methodological limitations to the studies reviewed, there was ample evidence for the consistent and significant positive relationship between self-monitoring diet, physical activity or weight and successful outcomes related to weightmanagement.” (Self-Monitoring in Weight Loss: A Systematic Review of the Literature, Lora E. Burke, et al.). What you should monitor, to what extent, and for how long is not clear. However, I’d recommend some degree of self-monitoring to anyone who wishes to lose weight and keep it off. Aspects of fitness that you can track are; food intake, eating behaviors, weight, physical activity, strength, performance, and body girth measurements, among other things.
9. Ask questions & continue to learn: Knowledge is power! Never stop learning and growing your knowledge on healthy living! The more you know, the easier things are. Note: Always ensure that the source of information is an honest and credible one. Anyone who claims that you do not have to put in effort or that the fix is quick and simple, is being dishonest. Losing weight and keeping it off may have some simple concepts to it, but it is NOT simple, nor quick. Lastly, always remember that knowledge without action, wisdom, and courage does very little. Mistakes can produce some of the greatest knowledge an individual can have. Though they get a bad rep, mistakes (that are learned from and corrected) are what make those who succeed. Never stop learning!
10. NEVER eat below your RMR (resting metabolic rate): Though this was stated previously, it deserves its own point here. Many adopt very low calorie diets in the hopes to shed fat quick but all they end up with is a messed up metabolism, less muscle, and a desire to binge down the road. To estimate your RMR (and it is JUST an estimate), multiply your body weight in pounds by 11. Example: 175 lb individual- 11 x 175= 1,925 calories. This individual should take in no less than 1,925 calories per day.
11. Lastly, enjoy what you are doing and ALWAYS focus on the long-term: Nothing (outside of safety) is more important than long-term sustainability. If a plan cannot be maintained long-term it is of little to no use. The “best” program is the one YOU enjoy and can follow for the rest of your life. Just the phrase “rest of your life” can sound daunting, UNLESS what you have to maintain is something you enjoy!!
I hope these tips aid you in your weight loss and/or fitness efforts!
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Thanks, best of luck and thanks for reading.