There are a lot of fad diets, debate, and opinions when it comes to weight loss. The truth is that there is no one size fits all approach to it. Weight loss and diet are highly individual and it all comes down to what approach is sustainable for you. Some people prefer losing their weight by eating healthy food, some with more exercise. Some people recommend diets and detoxes that will make you lose 5 kg in a week, but what good does that do if you’re back where you started two weeks later?
As New York Times bestseller, Tim Ferris put it, “the decent method you follow is better than the perfect method you quit.” Today, we’ll start with the basics and give you practical advice that is both sustainable and beneficial for weight loss. No BS, just the good stuff.
To start with, and most importantly, your weight is the outcome of calories in vs calories out.
What does this mean?
This means that you need to consume as many calories as you burn to stay the same weight. It’s important to note that you don’t only burn calories when you exercise. In fact, you burn calories when you sleep. The average man burns around 2000 calories, just being alive. To lose weight, you need to be in a caloric deficit.
- A calorie deficit is when the amount of calories that you consume are lower than the amount of calories you burn. In a calorie deficit, your body mass decreases.
- A calorie surplus is when the amount of calories you consume is higher than the amount of calories you burn. In a calorie surplus, your body mass increases.
Use this article as a guide to calculate your daily calorie expenditure (amount of calories used/day).
For a quick answer, you can use this free tool.
Now that we have established that we need to be in a caloric deficit to lose weight, we can start looking at ways to get there. Have you calculated your daily caloric expenditure yet? If so, you’re off to a good start.
Track your food & eat right
Right now, I want you to download one of the below apps. They make it ridiculously easy to track what you eat, you can even scan the items you buy at the grocery store.
Why? So that you understand what the food you eat is worth in terms of calories (and macros). Track your food for just one day and measure it against your daily caloric expenditure to see if you end up in a caloric surplus or a caloric deficit. Ending up with a 500 calorie surplus? Great, now we know that you need to eat 500 calories less or burn 500 calories more to maintain your current weight. Food will always be your number one priority when it comes to weight loss. You can’t out-train a bad diet, so unfortunately you might have to stop leaving snacks on the counter.
With food and nutrition, there are a few basics to cover. Start looking at labels; this can be a real eye opener and help you make better food choices. Remember, knowledge is power. It’s easier to say no to a snack if you understand the consequences of eating it. Focus on avoiding processed foods and instead consuming whole foods. Consume enough fibre and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), vegetables, grains, and fruit. Limiting sugars and saturated fats is another great way to lose weight and feel better. But did you know? One of the biggest reasons people can’t lose weight is NOT eating enough. Not eating enough will leave you longing for a snack all day. Hungry people don’t lose weight and keep it off; satisfied people do. Eat healthier, not just less. When you eat meals that leave you full, you’re less likely to snack in-between.
Statistics from people who have successfully maintained weight loss:
While not required to lose weight, exercise is naturally one of the best tools. Resistance training has particularly good benefits and will help speed up your metabolism over time. More muscle = more calories burned. In a study published by the Harvard School of Public Health, which surveyed over 10,000 people over 12 years, found that individuals who strength trained for 20 minutes a day gained less belly fat when compared to cardio bunnies. Exercise is not only beneficial to lose weight, it also strengthens your heart and improves circulation. Furthermore, it's been shown to reduce stress and anxiety while improving sleep quality, energy levels, memory, and brain function. All which will aid in your weightloss journey.
Additionally, exercise can increase the production of endorphins, known to help produce positive feelings. So take time to care for your physical and mental health by moving, even if it’s just for a short walk. As mentioned, weight loss is all about finding balance, typically found somewhere between hard work, accomplishment, and pleasure. Therefore, it’s important to find activities that you enjoy. Try something new, something you’ve always wanted to do or mix it up! Many places offer free trials and intro-offers.
Sleep has a significant effect not only on weight loss, but all other body functions. When you're short on sleep, you're much more likely to fall for cravings and make bad decisions. You're more prone to skip exercise due to fatigue and more likely to order takeout. When there's a lack of sleep, our brain's ability for decision-making and impulse control suffer. Even worse, you’re also more likely to hang on to fat. Researchers have found that when dieters cut back on sleep over two weeks, the amount of weight they lost from fat, dropped by 55%. That's enough motivation for us to get some shut-eye.
Not only does lack of sleep increase appetite, studies show that when we are sleep-deprived, we tend to choose foods that are high in carbohydrates and calories. Sleep, in effect, alters our food preferences! Furthermore, sleep directly affects our metabolism. A good night's sleep will increase the rate in which we burn calories. Another thing you probably have experienced is the lack of energy related to poor sleep, and ultimately, your ability to get up from the couch. Altogether, a tired brain will crave junk food while not having enough impulse control to say no. And don't even mention exercise. Try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
Tips for quality sleep:
- Sleep consistency: have a regular sleep schedule.
- Sleep in a dark room.
- Reduce stress through mindfulness practices, breathwork, or meditation.
- Exercise: aim for 30 minutes a day.
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco and nicotine.
- Temperature - cool (around 18 degrees Celsius).
- Avoid screens before bed, 60 minutes prior bedtime.
- Avoid bright lights before bed.
- Avoid caffeine after 3pm.
Drink more water
Water, believe it or not, can be very beneficial for weight loss. Not only is it 100% calorie-free, but also helps you burn more calories and can suppress cravings. Did you know? When you think you are hungry, you might be thirsty. Drinking water before reaching for a snack can help curb those cravings, when your stomach senses that it is full of water or food, it signals the brain to stop eating.
Suppose you can replace sugary drinks with water, even better! This way, you’ll significantly decrease your liquid calorie intake. Juice or soft drinks can hold loads of calories, up to 200 calories in a small can of soda, including ten tablespoons of sugar. How crazy is that?
Water helps joints, connective tissues, lungs, heart, muscles, and other organs work when you exercise, another reason to up your water intake! But how much should I be drinking? The recommended guidelines are around 2.1L for women and 2.6L for men. However, water intake depends on several factors, such as age, temperature, sun exposure, and health status. Statistics show that 80% of Australians are dehydrated every day, which is concerning to say the least.
Set a goal
Many of us tend to overwhelm ourselves and fall off the wagon simply because we tried to change our whole life in a week. When we don’t reach our goal or seem to be failing even though we’ve just started, we lose motivation and quit. It doesn’t seem to be worth it; it’s too far out of reach. Either that or we tell ourselves that tomorrow is a better day to start. But what happens when we instead set out to drink one less soda, lose 0.2 kg in a week or drink 3L of water in a day? We have a high chance of succeeding, which will create momentum, increasing motivation to keep building on the success we’ve already had. Small habits make potent routines. But building a habit takes time, and you’ll need both practice and patience. Try to create a positive feedback loop (see below). But don’t forget, when life gets in the way, don’t be too hard on yourself, social commitments like dinner, or missing a carrot here and there are okay!
Positive feedback loop:
- You exercise or engage in physical activity.
- You see benefits such as improved cardio, more energy, better sleep, or even encouraging words from a friend.
- You feel good.
By feeling good you are more likely to return to step one and start the cycle again.
Tips to turn active behaviours into habits:
- Be prepared: e.g. lay out your clothes the day before, have breakfast ready to go.
- Companion: Partnering up with a friend can help you stay accountable.
- Plan ahead of time: from meal prep to planning your workout in advance. Minimise the maybe.
- Lower expectations: it will take time, try to enjoy the process. A bit of exercise is better than none.
While these tips might seem basic, they make up the foundation of your weight loss journey. If you don't know your daily caloric expenditure, how are you going to know if you're in a caloric deficit or surplus, a.k.a, losing or gaining weight? Without adequate sleep, good nutrition, and hydration, you'll have a hard time finding the energy and motivation to eat right and exercise, subsequently seeing any results. Plus, chances are you won't feel terrific mentally either. But now, equipped with a strong foundation and with an obtainable goal in mind, there is no doubt it's within your reach to lose weight and keep it off. Stick to the basics and enjoy the process. Try to learn as much as you can about health and nutrition along the way. Most of all, believe in yourself and find a sustainable balance. Remember, 'the decent method you follow is better than the perfect method you quit.'
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- How to Lose Weight Fast: 3 Simple Steps, Based on Science. (2021). Retrieved 5 August 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-lose-weight-as-fast-as-possible
- Newsom, R. (2020). Why Is Sleep So Important to Weight Loss? | Sleep Foundation. Retrieved 5 August 2021, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/weight-loss-and-sleep#:~:text=obesity%20in%20adults.-,Sleep%20During%20Weight%20Loss,17%20and%20encourage%20overeating18.
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- Younkin, L. (2021). The #1 Habit You Should Break to Lose Weight, According to a Dietitian. Retrieved 3 August 2021, from https://www.eatingwell.com/article/7905014/the-1-habit-you-should-break-to-lose-weight-according-to-a-dietitian/
- 6 reasons why drinking water can help you to lose weight. (2018). Retrieved 5 August 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322296
- 5 Steps to Lose Weight and Keep It Off. (2021). Retrieved 5 August 2021, from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/losing-weight/5-steps-to-lose-weight-and-keep-it-off
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