You may have tried to lose weight before. It might have been to fit into your favorite pair of jeans or you simply might have found yourself gasping after you climbed a flight of stairs at that restaurant last week - and got concerned.
The reasons can vary among different people but it remains a fact that maintaining a healthy weight leads to better health outcomes. Its impact is greatest in the prevention and control of many diseases and conditions. These include serious health culprits such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, and some cancers.
Proper weight management offers nothing but positive results for us, but amid all of these reasons for maintaining a healthy weight, we can also find countless reasons why we can’t achieve our weight goals. The reason could be lack of time, resources, motivation, most commonly, lack of understanding about how to lose weight in the first place.
To help you on your journey, here are 5 simple tips to help you reach your ideal weight.
1. Know your baseline and set realistic goals from there
Once you’ve decided to take control of your weight, take baseline assessments of your body.
These include anthropometrics which are basically your height, weight, body fat percentage, and body dimensions - waist and hip circumference, and arm and leg circumferences.
These will usually be enough if your only health concern is weight. If you have other pre-existing conditions that may be improved by a lifestyle change, then your doctor might have some laboratory assessments that can be useful for you.
Assessment is an important step which is often overlooked. Ask anyone about their fitness history and you’ll find that It is usual for people to want to lose weight and expect abrupt transformations. This often causes huge discouragements that make them quit as fast as they started.
Scientifically, realistic weight loss is just a 1-2 pound weight loss per week. Anything beyond that may account for loss of precious lean body mass or muscle which houses calorie-burning cells in the body. For this reason, it is important to know not just the weight you want to lose but specifically, the current percentage of fat in the body since your goal is to lose fat and not muscle.
If for example, you currently weigh 136 pounds and you need to be anywhere between 107 - 131 pounds to be at a healthy weight, then set a goal to lose your first 6 pounds over a period of 3 - 6 weeks. You can also check your body fat percentage and know if your body composition is improving over the course of your weight loss efforts.
2. Be mindful of the calories you eat - especially your snacks
Diet-wise, you’ll need to reduce your usual food intake by 500 kcal per day to lose up to 2 pounds per week. You can have your usual diet assessed by a dietitian or have a handy app to find out how much you are normally eating on a usual day.
Have you ever talked yourself into starting to control your food intake only to find your new mindset ruined once you leave the house?
Whether we like it or not, it can be challenging to not reach into that bag of potato chips your officemate placed right under your nose, but keep in mind that just because it’s not part of a main meal doesn’t mean it doesn’t contribute to our calorie count.
When it comes to your main meals, make sure to have more complex carbohydrates in the form of grains and vegetables. Also choose varying protein sources such as meats, nuts, and dairy but lean towards low-fat alternatives, and lessen your intake of fried and fatty foods while keeping in mind your need for essential fats.
As for snacks, a pretty nifty trick is to keep in mind that 100 kcal is equivalent to a half cup of rice. So the next time you pick up a drink saying it’s worth 250 kcal, ask yourself, “Do I need something worth 2 ½ cups of rice right now?” Some simple math can help a lot of people make smarter snack choices.
3. Include simple workouts in your weekly routine
Any dietitian can tell you that it is possible to achieve your weight loss goals with pure diet and no exercise, but dietitians who apply trusted fitness information to their lifestyles would tell you otherwise.
You need to exercise while dieting so that your muscles will grow stronger and burn more calories in the long run. Exercising also allows your skin to adjust while you lose fat mass so you don’t get sagging in specific areas such as the belly, arms, and thighs.
Several health institutions including the American Heart Association agree that 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week is enough for overall health. When it comes to physical activity, something is always better than nothing. Simply doing the household chores, walking your dog, taking the stairs, or stretching every morning, translates to countless benefits for your body.
According to success coach, Darren Hardy, the only time in the day that we are pretty much in full control of what is happening is right when we wake up, and right before we go to bed. So it is best to schedule good habits that we are trying to cultivate during these specific periods.
If we are being consistent throughout the week, then 20 minutes per day is our minimum requirement. Allotting 15 minutes of aerobic exercise first thing in the morning can help you set a more disciplined mood for the day.
Two cycles of any 7-minute workout consistently done daily can set you up for more vigorous activities such as weight lifting, outdoor running, or any sport of your choice. At the end of the day, at least 5 minutes of gentle stretching can ease up muscle tensions and help you ease into some quality sleep.
4. Plan to have your favorites just twice a week
Food does help reduce our stress, so we just got to stop labeling our favorites as cheat foods. There is no such thing as healthy or unhealthy food. It is only our eating habits that are good or bad.
Anything taken in moderation won’t do us harm. That means we always need to look at the amount and frequency of anything that we eat. Even alcoholic beverages can be good for you as long as you limit them wisely. This is true for food as well.
The rule of thumb is to just have your favorites twice a week. Let’s say you just have to have the weekly nightcap but have to limit it to twice a week, plan your week ahead of time. If you find that you have to attend a friend’s party on a Saturday night and are sure that drinks will be served, then resist to have more than one night of drinks from Monday to Friday.
5. Monitor everything: Focus on behavior change, not on the weight you lose
If we are serious about our fitness goals, we should always remember that achieving good health should be seen as an enjoyable learning experience; It shouldn’t be something that defines your life. Don’t be too obsessed about weighing or measuring yourself.
Our ultimate aim for any lifestyle change is for it to eventually be a natural thing for us. This is called habit-building and it takes approximately 21 to 40 days of consistent implementation to make something automatic. It is most effective to focus on creating one habit at a time and during this period, we need to consciously track our progress from day to day. We can choose between manually tracking it in a journal, or we can choose an app to help us track.
If for example, you choose to stop drinking soft drinks, track this habit daily for 30 days, extending it to 40 days if you feel like you need more. If you fail for even just one day, you need to start from Day 1. If you succeed, give yourself a treat on the 40th day.
Anyone who is looking for gradual and permanent weight loss should realize that commitment and consistency is key; You need the right mindset to stick with any goal.
When it comes to weight loss, diet and physical activity cannot go without the other, and we should be able to monitor our progress through scheduled anthropometric assessments.
At the end of the day, the good habits we build ensure that we keep a healthy lifestyle through the years and maintain the healthy weight we have achieved.