Or, as @zainy put it, ‘lol another weight loss post’
For those of you who made it through your first week of New Year’s Resolutions, good job! Even if you fell off already, allow me to help. I do not claim to be a fitness or health expert, nor even one on losing weight. However, someone with some moderate success I thought I would share my thoughts on the subject. I think these are vastly different from what you will read anywhere else.
1. Lose weight as slowly as possible
Want to lose 20 pounds in 12 days on the cucumber colonic diet? Great, you aren’t the first. Come back and read this again after you gained 2x the weight back for the 14th time. There is a reason “diet” has the word “die” in it: you are technically dying, at least if you do it wrong.
It took me a year to lose 35lbs. That isn’t the stuff of big headlines, but I believe it is why I will keep it off. Losing weight slowly lets your body adjust gradually without going into shock, and teaches you how to eat properly to maintain your weight.
You didn’t gain the weight in days, you shouldn’t expect to lose it in days. If you do, you’re already doomed to failure.(again)
2. Change your life as little as possible
Denying yourself is a sure path to failure. Sure you can keep it up for a month or two, if you’re a real masochist, you might even hit your goal. But then you go back to “real life” and you gain it all back.
I didn’t deny myself anything, including my indulgence of calorie rich dark beer. I did learn more about what I ate (see below) and what I was putting in my body. I learned that my “I’m not really hungry for anything” fast food meal was almost 1400 calories! That’s quite a bit for when I’m not even really wanting anything. Now it’s 600. Not bad for fast food.
3. Do one thing and do it well
Forget your carbs, your fats , your sugars, or whatever the fad of the hour is. I focused purely on calories. Calories are energy and fat is stored energy- that’s it. It’s easily trackable and easy to understand.
To an extent, because of this and the next one, I have lost some muscle along the way. I don’t care at all. Now that I’ve hit my goal, that’s next. It also removes that whole “Muscle weighs more” excuse. (Protip: a pound is a pound)
4. Forget the gym
Let’s face it. You didn’t gain your weight because you didn’t work out enough. Sure, sitting on the couch all that time didn’t exactly help; but the Bon Bons, chips, and pizza you ate while sitting there is what did you in.
Thing about the gym is it’s work, and I’m lazy. Heck, most people who have memberships seem to have to make a strong effort just to GET to the gym.
For the last several years, I’ve spent my summers on a mild workout program. Either pushups and sit ups, dumb bells, or jump rope. Thing is, I ended up hungrier because my body knew it was using more fuel. I also see a lot of people using “I went to the gym today/this week/3 months ago” as an excuse to eat 3x the calories they worked off. My workout programs never got me past the 1st plateau my diet handed me, even though I was steadily increasing reps the whole time. Your body is very, very good at putting the minimal effort into things.
5. Plateaus happen- deal with it
You WILL plateau, it happens in everything you do. You haven’t grown much since high school have you? Is your salary skyrocketing in this lovely economy of ours? Do you learn everything you attempt every time you try? Why would weight loss be any different? I personally found my plateaus coincided with the weights I spent the most time at on the way up.
A long plateau is a sign that you might have to tweak what you do, but don’t let that violate #2 above. As you lose weight, your body will use less calories to do all that basic stuff like breathing and pumping blood, so you will periodically need to adjust your calories down to match. But once again, these gradual changes are lifestyle changes that will then become permanent.
Realize a plateau isn’t a failure, it is a success. It means you’re now stable at the weight you have arrived at, which is less than it used to be.
6. Log it, damn it
I used two tools to lose my weight. The first is Myfitnesspal.com. It’s a website, but I exclusively used the Android app. In fact, the start of my diet coincided with the day after I got my smart phone. I logged everything I ate, drank, etc with it to the best of my ability. With big chains it was pretty easy, as they have an extensive database of user entered foods (warning: sometimes entered by not the sharpest minds) and with prepackaged foods the barcode scanner made things very easy. Cooking at home or going to smaller restaurants was more of a challenge, but I always did my best, erring on the high side to keep myself honest. You will have many days where you go over, that’s ok, do your best. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
My scale gives me more than just weight. It adds BMI, fat %, muscle %, “body age” and visceral fat %. It also stores it and shows you your highs for x amount of days. Honestly I consider most of these numbers to be BS, especially body age. (I just broke out of my 50s- thanks scale.) But while I don’t believe the values to be accurate, I do at least pretend they are consistent. So on a week where I plateau or even gain a bit, a loss of fat or gain in muscle can lighten the blow.
Also stop fearing the scale. Think of it differently. I logged all the data once a week, on Monday night. (What you weight at your heaviest is still what you weigh.) But I jumped on the scale almost every day, and often several times a day. It might just keep you from having that snack you were considering, but never, ever use it to say “Hey! I lost .2lbs! Let’s go eat Bon Bons!”
There are lots of apps and scales that do similar things. Find one that works for you.
I do believe in a cheat day. For me it’s Friday. I regularly go several hundred calories over my daily limit that day. However, I don’t use it as an excuse to eat over 9000 calories and undo everything I’ve been working for. Cheat days are to indulge, but don’t set yourself back.
Here’s another idea: Food Vacations! While I’d love to have a formula for this, like your HR department has for your vacation time, I say just use it when you feel in a rut. I tried this with my girlfriend where we took a weekend off. We had a huge list of places we wanted to go to eat from Friday night through Sunday. We actually found that after breakfast on Sunday neither of us wanted to eat anymore. It was an awesome feeling that I didn’t even WANT that food.
Ever wonder why that skinny b*tch eats whatever she wants and never gains weight? It’s because she doesn’t. You only see her when she’s splurging, and if you eat right most of the time (not starving yourself putting your body in shock) your body will see no need to keep those extra calories.
8. Food Divorce
We live in this amazing time where not only do we have all the food we could ever want, we can eat whatever sounds most delicious at the moment. Chinese, Italian, Mexican, fast food, slow food, home cooked, fine dining, breakfast, lunch, desert… anything. This is incredible, but we are incredibly spoiled for it. Seriously you don’t need to be so indulgent. Find 5 low calorie things you like to have for lunch all week. Either going out from work or making/bringing from home, doesn’t matter. Mix it up so you don’t eat the same thing every Tuesday and be sure to find new things when you get sick of your existing choices. Seriously, it’s just lunch, not a last meal.
BONUS: A Biology lesson
(Disclaimer 2: I’m not a Biologist, you can learn this as I did in any Bio 101 class)
I think a quick biology lesson is in order for those that get manipulated by fads. Sugar breaks down to ATP in the cell with the help of oxygen. You have about a 90 second supply of ATP at any one time. This is the energy source that keeps you alive. Excess sugar gets packed up- into CARBS. Excess carbs get packaged and stored as FATS.
Now, retrieval from fat will take time, and if you run out of around half your ATP supply you will die. So if you work out vigorously, your body will actually rip power from places you do not want, like your muscles, because it simply doesn’t have the time to get the fat.
So, for those of you who cant imagine not exercising, how best to work out to lose weight? Go for a walk.
Think about it, your ancestors lived a nomadic life. They went to an area, ate everything they saw, and then walked to the next area. Those that didn’t survive the walk didn’t pass on genes. So we are all great at fat storage, and stubborn about giving it up. Walking gives your body the time to get the fat out of storage and break it down to what it needs.