The path to actually being able to start to lose weight and maintain that loss boil down to 5 steps. These strategies will help you to get started and to maintain your success.
1. Determine what your body needs daily to function.
Not everyone has access to high tech equipment for determining exact personal calorie needs, but a simple calculation will give you an estimation. Take your current weight and add a “zero” onto the end of it. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, your minimum estimated caloric intake is 1500 calories. This means if you weigh 200 pounds and are trying to lose weight on 1500 calories you are restricting your intake too low. You will probably see initial weight loss of water and fluid, but it will stop working when the body pushes the “starvation mode” button. Keep in mind that base caloric needs change alongside weight and body composition.
2. Eat to lose.
Eat enough calories daily to sustain minimum body needs. It is important not to reduce dietary intake under what the body uses for everyday activities (like breathing and thinking) or it will turn on the “starvation mode” switch. This switch reduces metabolic output and stores calories for future need. During starvation, the body will pull from primarily muscle (not fat) tissues to get the energy it needs.
What does that mean? The more active muscle tissues in your body are reduced while fat tissues remain intact requiring less calories. In addition, the stomach hormone, leptin, that provides a feeling of fullness after a meal, reduces with weight loss. Restrictive eating and fast weight loss show a larger hormonal drop. Unfortunately, if weight regain occurs when returning to normal eating patterns, the level of leptin does not increase back to its previous level.
3. Create a deficit for weight loss with exercise.
We need to move. We need to move a lot! We utilize calories when we are exercising as well as for many hours afterwards. Exercise regimens need to include aerobic activities (like running, walking, or swimming) and weight training. The body adapts to exercise quickly and efficiently utilizes the least amount of energy needed to sustain the activity. That means we must trick it and change intensity of activities frequently. The next time you are out taking a walk, choose a different or more challenging path, create intervals of faster steps intermixed with your usual walking pace or swing light dumbbell weights in your hands.
4. Look at what you are eating or not eating.
There is no miracle food or nutrient. Each macronutrient (carbohydrates, fat, and protein) has a role in the diet. There is not one that leads to more weight gain or bigger muscles. Our need for each of these nutrients changes daily depending on the amount and type of exercise we are doing. Keep in mind that the body registers liquid calories (think sodas, coffee drinks, alcohol) differently than solid foods and provide less satisfaction to our tummies. Most importantly, stay off the bandwagon of eliminating whole food groups. There are no bad foods, just bad habits.
Instead, focus on being in touch with how satisfied or full you are while eating meals. Take time to really chew each bite. It’s easy to get in the habit of clearing your plate even if you’re full, so by not getting distracted by digital devices, etc., you can tune into the point at which your body says, “I’m good to stop here.”
5. Ask yourself if you can do “this” the rest of your life.
Before embarking on making permanent changes, ask yourself: “Is this an eating style or lifestyle behavior I can do for the rest of my life?”. If the answer is “no”, then do not buy in for the short term. You will manipulate the way your body functions which will continue the weight battle for years to come. It’s through small changes over time that health happens. Realize it’s normal to have slip ups, so be gentle with yourself, don’t give up and keep chipping away, little by little. You’ll get to your goal and be able to maintain it.