”Be kind to your body and appreciate where it is now, as well as where it could be.”
By this point in time, you’ve probably already read hundreds of posts/articles/ads/etc. on how to lose weight. There’s information everywhere. The business world took off with this high-demand product, and now there are many expensive programs and books that tell you what to do to lose weight. The really confusing part: there’s SO MUCH conflicting information out there. Are you supposed to cut out carbs? Or be a high-carb vegan? Are you supposed to do steady-state cardio 60 minutes a day? Or should you be doing high intensity interval training (HIIT)?
Here’s my stance on it: STOP OVERTHINKING! Which has become so easy to do- the media’s had a field day bombarding us all with information. But thinking there is one way, one best way, to lose weight is simply not the case. I’ve been providing health education to patients for a couple years now, and I’ve seen patients lose weight and some even gain. From talking with them, I know what the “losers” did and where the maintainers/gainers went wrong. I’m going to break it down for you, because losing weight is actually pretty simple!
Think of your “why”
First of all, think of your “why”. Because if it’s not compelling enough, you’re never going to stick to your lifestyle modifications. Losing weight takes effort. It takes hard work and dedication. For best results, it’s a combination of nutrition and exercise. There’s just no way around it. Forget the “losing weight without even trying”. Think of these two as your tools to work with.
I filed this post under nutrition because I think it’s the key ingredient to losing weight. Begin by changing your mindset towards food. For everything you eat, think about how that food will nourish your body. Apples have fiber and vitamins. Almond butter has protein for building muscle and keeping you full. French fries have grease and salt that will make you tired and cause you to bloat. It’s not all cut and dry like this, but if you start thinking about what the food you’re eating will do for you, you can quickly tell what is unnecessary and thus will impede weight loss.
Add, don’t subtract
Along those lines, think about foods to add rather than foods to stop eating. Try to incorporate more whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables. If you want an after dinner snack but realize you’ve only had one piece of fruit today, have more fruit first and then see what your cravings tell you. If you really want something sweet, try one of my healthy dessert alternatives. Spoiler: they might even help sneak in some fruit!
Portion rules all
Those I’ve seen succeed with weight loss have also mastered the art of portion control. They pre-portion foods so they don’t mindlessly snack. They eat slowly and stop when full. Start looking at package labels to know what’s in one serving. When eating out, take some of the food home for the next day. And plan ahead! Check out meal prep tutorials and try making most of your food at home. Then you’ll know exactly what’s in it.
This is your second tool to work with. It’s simple. Find something you like to do and stick with it. As a rule of thumb, 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity cardio a week can greatly decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and many other problems. What are some moderate/vigorous exercises? This article from the American Heart Association does an excellent job giving examples; their Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale is what we use in cardiac rehab too! If you’re looking to lose weight, exercising closer to 300 minutes a week will help you achieve results. But work up to that! Take it easy at first, especially if you’re new to exercise. Add in HIIT only when you have a SOLID endurance foundation. Otherwise you can overstress your body and cause injuries.
Weight training is the unsung hero of weight loss because the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. So absolutely add that in too. To begin, weight train 3 days per week on nonconsecutive days. If you’re unsure how to start, I’ll have a pose on weight training exercises for beginners coming out soon!
Right off the bat, know that healthy weight loss is losing approximately 0.5 – 2 lbs per week. And considering that each pound is about 3600 kcal (way over the calories an average person should eat in a day), expecting to lose even 1 lb a week is a lot. This is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re opting to weigh yourself, only do so once a week (unless you have a medical condition such as congestive heart failure or your doctor tells you otherwise). For example, weight yourself every Monday morning. Weight fluctuates day-to-day, so weighing every day will only cause you to stress. And stress can raise cortisol levels in your body and actually lead to weight gain!
Whatever your reason for losing weight (health, more energy, aesthetics, etc.) do so in a respectful and loving way. Be kind to your body and appreciate where it is now, as well as where it could be.
No short-cuts or magic pills
Please please please be careful with diet fads and diet pills. I had a patient who had taken appetite suppressants/metabolism boosters for so long she had actually damaged her heart. Try your best to lose weight naturally and with the help of a doctor/registered dietitian/certified health coach. They also can help you sort through the sea of fake information out there and help you be safe.
Lastly, if you’re overweight and have made the decision to lose weight, good for you! Research has shown that having a BMI over 25 can increase your chance of cardiovascular disease. Now of course BMI is a rough estimate of appropriate weight depending on height; it doesn’t factor in muscle if you have a long strength training history. But it’s a good place to start. Losing weight comes down to making small changes at a time – pick one or two to begin! And try your best to enjoy the process! You’re making the decision to care for yourself and that is the ultimate form of self-love. I support, admire, and believe in you!