NOTE: This article is under construction. More information to come!
I NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT! THE BASICS OF WEIGHT LOSS
Losing weight is one thing, but keeping it off is another. Weight management is an often overlooked part of the weight loss process. In part, this is due to the fact that dieters generally take a short-term perspective on their program. They expect to change their habits for 8 weeks and then go back to their old habits – what a surprise that they gain the weight right back! Losing weight and losing permanent weight are two different things; the second is the one you want, and it will require a different approach than if you simply attempted the former.
Thus, it’s important then for those who want to lose weight to make sure that they build long-term, sustainable habits that will ensure that they will keep the weight off for years to come. This means continually making smart choices when it comes to food, keeping portion sizes small, eating junk food in moderation, and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Exercise should be a lifelong pursuit as well, not simply something that’s employed when you want to lose weight. All of this together will ensure that you will keep the weight off for longer than a few months.
There are many methods and techniques out there that purport to teach you how to lose weight. As soon as you say, “How can I lose weight,” there are plenty of people out there willing to show you just ‘how.’ The problem is that there is a hundred of these people trying to talk to you, and they’re all saying different things. The weight loss industry is big money, so there’s plenty of people out there willing to give you advice. This article will then be a free resource on the topic of weight loss, covering many of the important issues that you should think about and do more research on. Hopefully this article will provide you with the information you’ll need to take the next step in your journey. Good luck!
Before we talk about how to lose weight, let’s talk about why we want to do this in the first place – beginning with the (many, many, many) benefits of losing those extra pounds.
THE BENEFITS OF WEIGHT LOSS
Many disease that otherwise have no traditional ‘cure’ will often see their risk reduced or even eliminated by losing weight; these conditions and diseases include heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and more.
Both males and females will benefit greatly from weight loss and exercise. Men in particular take great benefit from this work, as they have a lower life expectancy due, in part, to the prevalence of heart disease and cancer. The chances of developing these conditions (among others) is reduced greatly by weight loss, a healthy diet, and exercise.
These benefits apply for people of any age: kids, teens, adults, and the elderly. Indeed, it’s never too early or too late to lose weight. It is especially important to help children when they are younger, as the habits they learn when they are young will become entrenched by the time they are older. Luckily, given kids’ metabolisms and energy, they will usually have an easier time getting rid of the pounds. The only problem for them is that they are largely at the mercy of their parents – if parents bring bad food into the house, the child has very little chance of long-term success.
WHY IS IT HARD TO LOSE WEIGHT?
The body is well designed by nature – it has evolved over thousands of years to be very, very efficient at keeping on fat. Early humans often had food shortages, so bodies that could last long on little food (by conserving fat) would survive to spread their genes to the next generation, thsu producing a population of humans well bred for fat storage and preservation.
Contrast this situation with modern men and women – we have plenty of food around us, and much of this food is calorie dense. Thus, it’s almost impossible for us to turn off this evolutionary switch that has been hard-wired into our brains. Of COURSE we’re going to eat tons of food and have problems burning off the resulting fat – that’s just how we’re designed. We’re a paleolithic body in a modern world. So the first thing you need to realize and accept is that much of your problem is NOT your fault.
At the same time, we also need to acknowledge that we can lose weight if we try, that we do have some control over our actions and our destinies. So let’s figure out how to do this!
THE IMPORTANCE OF GOALS
Obviously, weight loss is a generic label for any loss of weight, from 5 pounds to 100 pounds or more. So the first thing you’ll need to do is WRITE DOWN your goals. Seriously, write them down. Studies have shown that people who write down their goals, and rewrite them repeatedly, see more success than those who keep it all in their head.
Don’t bother setting time goals, like ‘in a week’ or ‘in a month’ or whatever. A certain amount of weight loss during a set time period is never guaranteed, and you don’t want to put the pressure on yourself and then feel bad about yourself if you don’t meet that arbitrary goal. (Of course, if you have some sort of event, like a wedding or party, that you’re losing weight for, you might have to take more extreme measures. Your mileage may vary.) Instead, you’ll want to think in terms of months or years, if anything, as any ‘crash diet’ that makes you lose a ton of weight quickly will both be unhealthy and ineffective in the long run.
Make your goal as vivid as possible. Imagine the process, the planning, the action, and the final reveal of your new body. It’s still an unexplained phenomenon, but simply visualizing your goal (and repeating this visualization often) can actually increase your chances of meeting the visualized goal.
After setting your weight goals, create a plan that indicates how you will accompish your goal. The exact plan you make will depend on the characteristics of your goal. If you want to know how to lose 5 pounds, you will have to do different things than if you want to know how to lose 100 pounds. In addition, if you simply want to know how to burn fat, you’ll have a different experience than if you want to both burn fat and gain muscle and fitness.
How much weight should you plan on losing? There is a limit to which you can lose weight. This limit is important to heed in order to keep your weight loss within the safe range. While this number varies between individuals, depending on their weight, gender, activity, height, and so on, our safest estimate will say that you shouldn’t average more than 1-3 pounds per week for a long period of time. You will lose some weight as first as you dump water and glycogen from your muscles, but this pace will slow down.
EXERCISING FOR WEIGHT LOSS
When most people think of losing weight, they immediately think about diets. This is actually the wrong approach. Instead, regular exercise should the foundation of both any weight loss effort and a programme designed to keep the body healthy through the lifespan.
Some exercises are better than others when it comes to losing weight. Perhaps one of the best ways to lose weight is to do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This kind of exercises consists of high intensity intervals of activity of around one minute long followed by a rest period of 2x, 3x, 4x, or more duration (so 2-4 minutes or more). In general, more intense exercise is better than slower, less intense exercise. In fact, this will help you save time, as you’ll be able to do your workouts in less time and get the same or better results. Thus, if you had to choose, doing sprints for 20 minutes is a far better use of your time than doing a light jog on the treadmill for 40 minutes. Plus, you’ll improve your physical fitness more quickly too. One caveat: make sure you have a good base of fitness before you start this kind of exercise program, as it can be intense for those who are normally sedentary.
Besides cardio, you should also add in extensive weight training into your program to give you the fastest and most dramatic results. Building muscle will help your body burn calories both during the activity and while your resting, since muscle burns more calories than fat simply by existing. Both men and women should do this, and its appropriate for any adult age. Indeed, it’s crucial for older individuals, as we all lose muscle mass as we age. Lifting weights can help reduce this reduction.
Your exercise routines can be made up of any exercise. You should start by walking three times a week, especially if you have been out of shape for a while. You can then up the difficult of your routines as you get in better shape, perhaps moving to jogging or treadmill workouts. Other ideas include hiking, skating, biking, tim trials, elliptical machines, sports (my personal favorite), and water exercises like swimming.
Your workout plan won’t be complete without flexibility and core training. Stretching is crucial for protecting your muscles from injury and increasing your range of motion. Doing core training, such as Pilates or yoga poses, will tighten up your midsection while also strengthening weak areas such as the lower back. Elite athletes do yoga and Pilates, so everyone (men included!) should do it.
In the end, you should come up with your own ideas for exercise. You know what you enjoy and what challenges you, so don’t do something just because a guru tells you to. Find activities that you love and it will barely be exercise – you’ll be having so much fun you won’t even realize that you’re “working out”! Don’t forget, though, that the optimum combination of exercise will include cardio, sprints, strength training, and core and flexibility training.
One final note: keep a progress chart. Thhis is simply a log describing the exercises you do every day; you can either buy a program to do this for you, or you can create a spreadsheet or keep a diary or journal. You’ll want to know what exercises you did on what day, how you did them, and what you will do in the future. It’s a great way to keep your fitness plans in order and on track. Months after you start you can look back and see the progress and improvements you’ve made.
WHERE YOU CAN WORK OUT
If you have the money or other resources, building a home gym is a great way to build an exercise habit. The barrier for many people is having to drive to their local gym, and that little wall is often enough to derail people. You can also run, bike, and do other cardio around your neighborhood or at a local park or track. Joining a sports team or club with your friends can also be a great way to get your workouts in.
Of course, you can always join a gym or health club. These will cost you a monthly fee, and you can pay more if you want to take classes or get a coach. If you really need a kick in the butt, consider joint “boot camps” that will get you motivated. If you need ‘tough love’ and respond well to someone pushing you hard, this may be just what the doctor ordered.
For those in real trouble, a visit to a resort, clinic, or a retreat may be necessary. The TV show “The Biggest Loser” depicts this process. This is much like rehab for the drug addict, in that you are in a controlled environment with no access to bad foods. You are often taught the diet and exercise skills you need to lose weight; you may get counseling and other psychological treatment. Some also include support groups for extra help beyond the resort. This is a great option for someone who is in serious trouble; however, the individual will have to want this assistance.
For relaxation, try a massage or a visit to the spa. These can help work out any kinks that may develop while also helping you to relax and vent some stress.
DIETING FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Of course, you’ll also have to eat a balanced, low calorie diet to get you the rest of the way to your goal. In fact, though exercising does burn calories, most of the calories that you’ll burn will stem from caloric reductions made by eating better (and less) food.
We should clear up something right off the bat: it’s not OK to “go on a diet” for a few months here and there to melt off the pounds if necessary. Even if these short-term diets work in the short-term, they will not work in the long term as soon as you go back to your own habits. Thus, we want to largely avoid any gimmicky diets that only offer an instant fix (if that). We’ll give a more detailed discussion of all the popular diets in a bit, but it’s important to get that cleared away.
So what will we do instead? Focus on quality food in low quantities but in many meals and snacks scattered through the day. We want lean proteins, whole grain carbs, and even some healthy fats (like omega 3 fatty acids). The ideal balance is 20% of your calories from fat, 40% from protein, and 40% from carbs. (This will change depending on if you’re focusing on a low fat diet or a low carb diet). Protein is especially important because it not only contains the amino acids our bodies need to thrive, but it also helps control our hunger. And even though we’re cutting back calories, we can’t starve our body from the nutrition it needs in the form of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other important chemicals that keep our body systems running in tip top shape. Too many dieters try so hard to lose weight that they simply eat too little, essentially starving themselves of both necessary calories and necessary nutrients and harming their body in the long run.
The key component to how to diet is actually counterintuitive – eat more, or rather, eat more often. You still want to eat a resonable amount of food, enough to create a calorie deficit to enable you to lose weight, but you’ll want to spread it out through the day. This will help you in two ways. In terms of physiology, your body will not go into starvation mode if it is constantly fed. Your metabolism will keep burning through the day. If you starve yourself, or eat one or two huge meals and skip one (probably breakfast), your body will think it has no food and will do all it can to conserve fat. This is obviously not what you want to happen.
A second benefit is that you’ll be able to control your hunger in the most effective way. As a result, you want overeat and eat the wrong things. This occurs because eating regularly will keep your blood sugar even. As soon as it dips too low, primarily because you haven’t eaten in a while, you become ravenous, and discipline and forethought will often go out the door.
Thus, split your total food intake into 5 to 6 more or less equivalent meals, all spread 2-3 hours apart.
Make sure you drink plenty of water, both to fuel your working muscles and to remove toxins and keep your body hydrated. Avoid diuretics like caffeine and alcohol as much as possible as these serve only to dehydrate you.
Some other diet tips include:
- Sub out sugary drinks of all kind, even most juices. If you want the benefits of juice, eat the whole fruit; otherwise, stick to water and, occasionally, diet beverages. These sugary drinks are filled with empty calories and tons of sugar, two ingredients that will short circuit your efforts.
- One especially quick and easy tip is to use smaller bowls, plates, and cups. The size of your dish directly influences how much you eat. (Yes, it’s true!) Use this knowledge to your advantage by making sure they are as small as can be.
- To control portions, don’t eat out of the bag. Instead, take a portion ahead of time and put the rest away so that you won’t be tempted.
- When you eat snacks, make sure they are healthy snacks. Contrary to popular belief, snacking is a good thing, as long as its not junk like candy and chips.
- The ultimate tip: don’t deprive yourself. If you do, you’ll eventually crack, and probably in a big way. As long as you don’t go nuts, you’ll be fine.
- Start slow and break yourself into your new habits. Too many people fail because they want to succeed so badly – they institute all their diet and exercise changes immediately. Of course, this overwhelms them, and their bodies quickly ‘course correct’ to restore ‘homeostasis’ and bring things back to the status quo. Instead, build your diet and exercise changes into your live as gradual transitions rather than drastic breaks. Of course, if going ‘cold turkey’ works for you, do it, but if you’ve failed doing that in the past (as the majority of us have), you might find it better to go slowly. This is why patience is crucial – if really need to lose weight super fast and make your decisions accordingly, you’re going to be disappointed as you’ll probably end up failing.
- Make allowances for special occasions, and don’t feel bad if you cheat or fall off the wagon once in a while. In fact, cheat meals and cheat days are actually good as long as you do them in moderation. They keep you satisfied, restart your metabolic rate, and simply let you enjoy life as it should be enjoyed. Of course, you don’t want to go overboard and, especially, let the cheat day put you permanently off track. For instance, if you are on vacation, you can splurge here and there, but make sure you also make healthy choices in addition to your splurges.
WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAMS
There are as many weight loss programs as there are philosophies about how best to lose weight.
Some programs are simply e-books that give out information on how to lose weight; popular choices include Fat Loss 4 Idiots.
Others are popular DVDs that can give you both diet advice while also giving you great workout routines that you can do from the comfort of your home. Some of these programs can be quite advanced; for instance, the much heralded P90x system gets people into great shape. It requires a lot of sweat and work, however, and is not suited for the beginner.
In the end, always check reviews before you buy into any weight loss system. Compare all the programs available and pick the one that best balances value, price, difficulty, and suitabiliy for your context. Don’t just pick the program that’s on sale or discount – invest money into your health. By doing so, you’re investing in yourself long term – this is the most important investment you can make. Remember that there are plenty of scams out there, and besides that you often don’t need a system if you understand the basic information (much of it described here) and put that info into practice.
AM I MISSING OUT ON ANY WEIGHT LOSS SECRETS?
Despite what may be marketed to you by certain individuals and companies, there is no one ‘miracle trick’ or magic bullet or quick fix that will make you lose weight. Too many people waste their time in search of the quickest way to lose weight, as if there was one “thing” you could do to find success. Weight gain and weight loss are complex affairs, consisting of the interactions of biology, psychology, and sociology. Thus, any successful weight loss effort will have to be the sum of a number of behavioral changes, all geared to healthy fat loss.
WHAT ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS SUPPLEMENTS?
We need to spend a little time talking about supplements. From multivitamins to home remedies and in between, there are plenty of products out there that can help you lose weight and keep you healthy. However, we need to be able to distinguish between the champs and the duds.
WEIGHT LOSS MOTIVATION TIPS
Perhaps the hardest part of this process will be keeping yourself motivated through the inevitable dips and dives. Motivation and perseverance will be the single most important ingredient to your long term success. Even if you didn’t do everything right, if you stick to your guns, you’ll eventually lose weight and become healthier. The most well designed plan, however, will fall to pieces if you don’t have the willpower and discipline and perseverance to keep it all together and keep moving forward.
One way to motivate yourself is to take a before and after picture. Looking at the before picture will motivate you to make the changes you need, and it will keep you going during the inevitable low points. Taking that after picture will be the greatest feeling in your life – you’ll be able to compare it to the original picture and see exactly how far you’ve come. If you want to get more fine-grained, you can take a new picture every week or two weeks in order to keep track of your progress through your program.
You can also use a number of other tracking charts and tickers to keep tabs on your progress. If you are so inclined, create a spreadsheet and create charts and graphs of your progress. You can also find online programs that will help you keep track of your calorie intake, exercise schedule, and overall weight and body fat percentage changes.
You can also read success stories of other people like you who lost weight and kept it off. These stories will often show you that you’re not alone, that what you’re going through is totally normal and expected. Looking at their before and after pictures can also inspire you with their amazing transformations, giving you the energy and focus to create your own full body transformation. Best of all, you can begin crafting your own success story, which you can then pass on to the next group of people who want to lose weight, ensuring that the ‘cycle’ of give and take continues.
Another great way to get and stay motivated is to make your weight loss a challenge or competition with another person. If both of you want to lose weight, you can hold each other accountable and push each other to succeed. After all, no one likes to lose a contest. You can also make a deal with someone involving money – you give them $1000 (or some other sum of money). If you don’t hit your weight loss goal within a certain time frame (say, a year), that person gets to keep the money. This precommitment will help keep you focused day in, day out.
One of the struggles you’ll undoubtedly face at one (or more) points in your journey is the weight plateau. Your body will sometimes have ‘stubborn points’ when you can’t seem to lose weight from a particular area, or perhaps even at all. It can be hard to maintain motivation during this phase. Think about it – it’s very discouraging to have to wonder whether your efforts are really effective but just not working yet or if you will need to change something up. This is when having your well-designed plan will be key – it will keep you focused on your next action and your next target instead of obssessing about overall weight changes. And this is where perseverance and a great support system will help you get over the hump and bust through the plateau.
Realize, as well, that everyone will progress at their own pace. We often hear about celebrities (such as Khloe and Kim Kardashian) melting pounds away. Remember, though that they have plenty of money to eat right and hire personal trainers, and they also have plenty of time to work out. People’s bodies are different, people have different activity levels, people have different lifestyles, etc. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t think your results are coming rapid enough – be happy that you’re getting results, and be patient with the knowledge that success is around the corner for you.
In the end, it’s all about having goals and crafting well-defined, quantifiable plans. That’s it, it’s that “simple.” To be more precise, losing weight is complex but not complicated.
WEIGHT LOSS TECHNOLOGY AND ACCESSORIES
There is plenty of technology aids and other gadgets that can help you on your quest. Here is just a brief list of the top products (in a top 10 format) that you can use to help you with dieting, exercise, motivation, and overall health:
3. Progress tracker – including computer software, mobile phone, iPod, book, paper, and other options. You can buy these trackers with fancy features or you can create your own. I like the second option, as I can design it to my specs.
2. Heart rate monitor.
1. A good pair of running shoes or cross-trainers. This is especially crucial if you have joint pain, especially in your knees and ankles.
On the other hand, there’s also a lot of junk out there, peddled by scam artists who want to take advantage of your desire to be thin. You will often see these products in ads on late night TV. Kevin Trudeau, for instance, has a whole line of fradulent books concerning weight loss. Other terrible products include special vibrating belts, body cleanses, weird diet pills and tablets, and other questionable items. If you use these products, you might as well cast some magic spells while you’re at it for all the good they’ll do for you.
WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO ARE VERY OVERWEIGHT?
Obesity is a huge problem in the world today, and weight loss advice needs to be tailored for those in the obese or superobese categories given their special needs. How do you know if you are obese or morbidly obese? There are many definitions, but the most common definition is related to your BMI, or body mass index. (You can get this number by finding a BMI calculator and entering in your stats.) This is a number that represents the ratio between your body weight and the square of your height. A BMI of greater than 30 is usually a sign of obesity.
Losing weight without surgery can be challenging for people in this category, as getting to that weight required years of overeating and inactivity, and simply ‘switching off’ those triggers is not easy. It is, in many ways, an addiction, insofar as the body is used to eating certain types of foods at certain volumes.
Thus, those who are very overweight and don’t want to resort to special surgeries but instead want to lose weight the ‘old-fashioned’ way will have to take a few extra steps. First, professional support will be essential, as you’ll need help planning out a very long term diet and exercise plan that will account for your special needs. In other words, you’ll need some help to lose weight, perhaps moreso than the average person. This will mean that you’ll have to get the help of your doctor, a nutritionist, a personal trainer, and even a psychologist.
In addition, though all people should talk to their doctors before embarking on a new diet and exercise program, this is especially important for those in the ‘obese’ or ‘super-obese’ category. Your physicial will need to monitor you throughout the process to ensure that your body is handling its new routines OK and to monitor your health for any sudden changes. You may require some additional treatments to help keep your health issues in control, such as high cholesterol and other issues; hopefully, in time, your new healthy lifestyle will erase the need for drugs and medication.
Losing weight is definitely possible, so I don’t want to discourage you. At the same time, you need to take a realistic perspective about it – it’s going to be very, very difficult, akin to quitting smoking, alcohol, gambling, etc. Thus, you’ll want to surround yourself with the resources you’ll need to succeed, including friends and family who will not sabotage your efforts but rather will help you through the entire process.
WEIGHT LOSS SCAMS AND WARNINGS
Some schemes are so blatant that it’s a wonder that people buy into them at all. In the end, people are just desperate for help, so desperate that they’ll believe in quick success in mere days or two weeks or some other ludicrously short time frame. If you hear a claim and it sounds good to be true, 99% of the time it is. Keep your BS detector set. Read and learn as much as you can and make your own decisions. This goes, of course, for the article you’re reading now. At the very least, this article will give you a good overview and some balanced perspectives, as well as some avenues for you to do more exploration and research.
Diet pills, for instance, are popular products, but they unfortuantely don’t work. There are some medical pills, however, that can aid weight loss, but there is certainly no pill that will credibly ‘melt fat’ or some such. Besides, these pills are only available by prescription, and they will not be a quick fix – they usually just supplement an excellent diet and exercise program. If you ever seen an advertisement for that, run away very quickly, as it’s a guaranteed scam. (Or, at the very least, it’s claims are unproven and unsubstantiated.)
WEIGHT LOSS MYTHS
*Another myth is that you can ‘spot burn’ fat off particular areas of the body. For instance, some say that you can do crunches and melt fat away from your stomach, or do leg workouts and burn fat from your thighs. This is simply untrue. When you lose fat, your body takes it off all over the body. As you lose weight, certain areas will get slimmer as you lose the pounds, but there’s no way to ‘target’ an area with an exercise and expedite this process. You can do weight training, however, and this will help build muscle mass and tone in the area. This will make the area look ‘slimmer’ and more in shape, which is probably the source of this rumor, but it won’t burn the fat in the area. That’s why it’s important to both exercise and diet to maximize your muscle building, body toning, and fat burning.
WEIGHT LOSS SIDE EFFECTS
Note that there can be negative side effects to weight loss in addition to the positive benefits. There can be cosmetic issues if you lose a bunch of fat quickly; for instance, loose skin after weight loss is not uncommon.
In the end, though the weight loss industry is riddled with much confusion and corruption, there’s still plenty of tools and products that really work, enough that you should have few excuses to change your approach. Information paralysis can be a problem, however, so don’t be too obssessed with finding out every little detail you think you may need. Instead, take quick action and modify your procedures as you go. So enough procrastination and hesitating. If you say to yourself everyday, “I want to lose weight,” here’s your call to action. DO SOMETHING. NOW.
REFERENCES AND RESOURCES
The following websites and blogs were used during the construction of this article.
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