Trying to lose weight is an endless struggle for some people. They spend their entire lives on diets, trying the latest exercise fads or miracle supplement; yet it still doesn’t happen. There are a lot of factors involved in being able to lose weight and keep it off. So how can you do it safely and effectively? Here are the ground rules.
- 1 Eat less, exercise more
- 1.1 Don’t just eat less, change what you eat
- 1.2 Drink plenty of water
- 1.3 Get rid of temptation
- 1.4 No TV dinners
- 1.5 Keep a food diary
- 1.6 Exercise for weight loss
- 1.7 Avoid fad diets and crash diets
- 1.8 So why aren’t you losing weight?
- 1.9 Your hormones aren’t balanced
- 1.10 You’re not getting enough Vitamin D
- 1.11 Your digestion is sluggish
- 1.12 You’re sedentary
- 1.13 You’re taking in too many calories
- 1.14 You’re stressed out
- 1.15 You’re not getting enough sleep
- 1.16 You’re a yo yo dieter
- 1.17 You eat out-a lot!
- 1.18 You aren’t getting enough protein
- 1.19 You don’t get enough good fats
- 1.20 Your liver isn’t functioning as it should be
- 1.21 You’re losing weight, but you don’t realise
- 1.22 You’re not keeping track of what you’re eating
- 1.23 You’re not eating quality food
- 1.24 You’re not pumping iron
- 1.25 You’re bingeing
- 1.26 You’re avoiding cardio
- 1.27 You’re drinking liquid sugar
- 1.28 You’re filling up on too many carbs
- 1.29 You’re eating too often
- 1.30 You’re not drinking enough water
- 1.31 You’re drinking too much alcohol
- 1.32 You’re not eating mindfully
- 1.33 You have a medical condition
- 1.34 You have an addiction to junk food
- 1.35 You have been depriving yourself for too long
- 1.36 You have unrealistic weight loss expectations
- 1.37 You are too hung up on ‘dieting’
- 1.38 You skip meals
Eat less, exercise more
You need to create a calorie deficit of at least 500 calories per day if you want to lose weight, and this is best achieved by cutting down on calories and burning some off with a mode of exercise that gets you out of breath and that gets your heart pumping.
Don’t just eat less, change what you eat
Reduce starchy carbs, added sugars and saturated fat. Base your meals on lean meat or fish, vegetables, and low fat dairy products.
Drink plenty of water
The thirst and hunger sensors in the brain are close together so when you feel hungry, check that you’re not just thirsty. Sip a glass of water first then only eat if you feel hungry afterwards.
Get rid of temptation
Make a concerted effort to not buy sweets, cakes, or biscuits, and get rid of any you have in your home. You need healthy snacks to hand if you’re going to succeed.
No TV dinners
If you eat in front of the TV, you’re doing it mindlessly and you will probably end up consuming more calories. Sit at the table, chew your food, and give the body time to realise that it has had some nourishment.
Keep a food diary
Most of us aren’t completely aware of exactly how much we eat. Think about the odd tablespoon of mayonnaise, or the butter, or the glass of wine you didn’t count, because liquid calories aren’t the same, right? Wrong. Write down every morsel that passes your lips, it’s the only way to make yourself accountable for what you eat. Write down how you were feeling when you ate as well, you will be surprised at how often we eat out of boredom or because we’re feeling down.
Exercise for weight loss
You should aim to exercise for 30 minutes on at least 5 days per week. You might need to do more than this is you have a lot of weight to lose. Do a mix of aerobic training to keep your heart and lungs healthy and burn calories, plus some strength training to build some lean muscle so you look leaner and your metabolism gets fired up.
Try not to do too much at first, you’ll get injured or get put off. If you are used to exercising however, step it up a gear by adding some interval training into your programme. Interval training is where you mix bursts of high intensity work with a gentler recovery. This increases your overall fitness and calorie burn.
Avoid fad diets and crash diets
A lot of these diets that promise weight loss without any effort are too good to be true. Any diet that involves pills, fasting, severe restriction, or advocates laxatives or similar is bad news for your body. When you restrict calories severely, the metabolism slows down and you lose precious lean muscle tissue; that last thing you need if you’re trying to lose weight and tone up. Restrictive diets are bad for you mentally too, because if you associate what you’re doing with deprivation, you just won’t stick to it.
So why aren’t you losing weight?
Everyone knows that infuriating person who can eat a thing they like and never put on weight, yet sometimes it feels as if we just have to look at a piece of cake and we gain weight. But it’s not that simple. Yes, genetics plays a part, but here’s a list of factors which contribute to infuriatingly slow weight loss.
Your hormones aren’t balanced
Hormones control just about every action and reaction in our body, so if they are off kilter, something is going to go wrong. Signs that your hormones might be imbalanced include suffering from PMS, irregular menstruation, feeling fatigued, and struggling to lose weight. See your doctor to speak about possible testing and what you can do.
You’re not getting enough Vitamin D
A deficiency of vitamin D can cause weight gain and interferes with a lot of metabolic processes in the body. If you don’t get outdoors much during the day, or you live in the northern hemisphere where sunlight is harder to come by, especially in the winter, see your doctor to get your levels checked and consider supplementation. The body can’t make enough vitamin D on its own.
Your digestion is sluggish
If your digestion isn’t working normally, your body won’t be able to absorb the nutrients it needs, and you will feel bloated and sluggish. Try eating some natural yoghurt, or taking a probiotic to make sure that your gut has all the good bacteria it needs.
Like a lot of people these days, you drive to work, sit all day, drive home, then sit in front of the TV. Not a good remedy for weight loss. You need to be moving regularly throughout the day. Try going to speak to a colleague instead of emailing them, take the stairs where possible, and try to go for a walk at lunchtime, even for a few minutes, instead of being chained to your desk.
You’re taking in too many calories
Even when you’re eating healthy food, calorie intake and portion size is still relevant. Make your meals ¼ protein, ¼ carbs, and ½ vegetables and you won’t go wrong. Eat little and often rather than eating huge meals, and when your body tells you it’s full, stop eating!
You’re stressed out
Stress can impact on your weight in several ways. It leads to the production of a hormone in the body called cortisol which is linked to imbalances in blood sugar levels and abdominal weight gain, plus many people tend to comfort themselves with high calorie foods when they are stressed.
You’re not getting enough sleep
Studies have shown that people who are deprived of sleep tend to consume more calories throughout the day to boost their energy when they feel fatigued. They tend to go for fatty and sugary foods which make them feel more energised temporarily.
You’re a yo yo dieter
Constantly losing weight and regaining it is not great for your metabolism or your general health. If a diet is too restrictive and frankly dangerous as some are, avoid it like the plague because you won’t stick to it. Think of it as living a healthy lifestyle, not being on a ‘diet’.
You eat out-a lot!
If you haven’t prepared a meal yourself, you really don’t know what has gone into it. Your food has most likely been cooked with large amounts of oil and butter, and the ingredients might not be of the best quality. Learn to cook more at home from scratch and you’ll find how simple and how much healthier it can be.
You aren’t getting enough protein
Protein helps stabilise your blood sugar, makes you feel fuller for longer and helps maintain lean, toned muscle. Studies have shown that eating protein can boost the metabolism by up to 100 calories per day. Make sure you include plenty of fish, lean meat, beans, nuts, and low fat dairy in your diet to get your quota.
You don’t get enough good fats
Your brain needs them, your heart needs them; they’re good for you. The body uses good fats to reduce cholesterol and fulfil plenty of vital functions. If you don’t have enough, your skin will be dry, and you will most likely feel tired and low.
Your liver isn’t functioning as it should be
If you’re feeling low and sluggish, your body might be overloaded by toxins. Coffee, alcohol, and sugar are just some of the things that your liver has to deal with on a daily basis. If your liver can’t process toxins efficiently, you will gain weight from the build up.
You’re losing weight, but you don’t realise
Don’t pay too much attention to the scales. If your weight loss doesn’t show on the scales at first, don’t panic! Body weight fluctuates throughout the day, and if you’re exercising, you could have gained a little muscle, which looks so much better than fat, but it weighs more. It’s a far better bet to take your body measurements rather than weight yourself. Your health is about more than numbers on a scale.
You’re not keeping track of what you’re eating
Many people kid themselves about what they eat, and studies have shown that many people tend to under report what they eat. But a spoonful of mayonnaise here and there, a knob of butter and a few extra drizzles of oil can add hundreds of calories to your meals without you realising. Try keeping a food diary and record every mouthful you take in. You might be surprised!
You’re not eating quality food
Quality is as important as quantity when it comes to your diet. Eating healthy, nutrient-rich foods provides your body what it need to function, so you’ll be in better health. You might find that you are always hungry if you eat a lot of processed foods. Your body is crying out for nutrients. At the same time, remember that processed ‘healthy’ foods might not be very good for you at all.
You’re not pumping iron
Resistance training can help you build and maintain muscle mass which burns extra calories even when you’re at rest. This keeps your metabolism fired up and keeps you looking fit and toned. It’s fine losing a lot of weight but you don’t want what’s left to be wobbly and saggy!
You either have a strange relationship with food, or you have deprived yourself for so long on diets that you binge whenever you hit a low point or have a feeling of desperation. Remember too, that even if a food is healthy, you are still taking in more calories than your body needs if you’re binge eating.
You’re avoiding cardio
Cardio can seem tedious, but keeping on top of your aerobic fitness is essential for your heart and lung health, and for your waistline. Do something on at least 5 days per week that gets you out of breath, and choose something you enjoy; that way you will stick to it.
You’re drinking liquid sugar
Sugary drinks are full of empty calories and don’t supply your body with any nutrients. Sodas, and even fruit juices are loaded with sugar and should be consumed sparingly. Replace them with water and milk. If water is too boring for you, try adding a slice of lime or lemon.
You’re filling up on too many carbs
The western diet often contains too many carbs. They are cheap and easily over served, but also packed full of sugar and stodge that our more sedentary lifestyles don’t require. If you have a lot of weight to lose, try reducing carbs and increasing protein in your diet, as research has shown that this is the best way to lose weight, balance blood sugar and reduce blood fats.
You’re eating too often
The ‘eat little and often’ message is often touted as the key to weight loss, however studies have shown that how often you eat has little or no effect on weight loss. Of course, make sure you don’t go too long between meals as you end up getting hungry and eating too many calories, but also make sure that you actually are hungry when you go to get some food. Are you thirsty, bored, or tired?
You’re not drinking enough water
Drinking water can help you lose weight. The thirst and hunger sensors in the brain are close together so when you feel hungry, you may just be thirsty. Drinking water can give you a sensation of fullness and prevents overeating. It can also help to keep the body’s systems running efficiently, including the metabolism.
A 12-week weight loss study gave people half a litre of water to drink before meals and they lost 44% more weight than people who didn’t drink water. Drinking water has also been shown to boost calorie burn by 24-30%.
You’re drinking too much alcohol
If you’re drinking alcohol on a regular basis, bear in mind that it contains 7 calories per gram, which is quite high. Beer and wine are high in calories and sugars, so if you want to have a social drink, drink in moderation and stick to lower calorie spirits with diet mixers.
You’re not eating mindfully
Mindful eating is sitting down to eat, and taking the time to savour your food without any distractions. Eating this way gives your body time to send signals to the brain to tell it that you’re full. Studies have shown that eating this way can help with weight loss and reduce bingeing.
Mindful eating tips:
Sit down at the table to eat, not in front of the TV
Eat slowly and chew food thoroughly. Take notice of the smell, tastes, and textures of the food.
You have a medical condition
Some medical conditions, and medications can make you gain weight and can make weight even harder to lose. If you have a thyroid problem or polycystic ovaries, you will find it much harder to lose weight. Some medications such as antidepressants can cause weight gain. Speak to your doctor if you feel that this is becoming a problem for you.
You have an addiction to junk food
A 2014 study showed that around 20% of people met the criteria for junk food addiction. People who are addicted to junk food often have a complicated emotional relationship with food and they use the junk in the same way that a drug addict would use drugs. Speak to your doctor if you think that you have a problem with emotional eating or food addiction.
You have been depriving yourself for too long
If you are forever on a ‘diet’, and you have stopped losing weight, maybe it’s a sign that you need to give your body a break. Increase your calorie intake, get some sleep, and lift some weights to sculpt some lean muscle. This should get your metabolism firing on all cylinders again.
You have unrealistic weight loss expectations
Weight loss can be a slow process. Often you can lose a fair amount of weight in the beginning but then as the body adapts to the reduced calorie intake, you burn less calories and it becomes harder to lose weight. Also, be realistic about what you can achieve. Work with your own body type and genetics to be a better version of yourself.
You are too hung up on ‘dieting’
Diets almost never work in the long term. The very word diet conjures up images of deprivation and restriction, and people can’t stick to them. Research has shown that chronic dieters usually gain more weight over time. Focus on being fitter, healthier, and happier instead.
You skip meals
Skipping meals is a false economy. Research has shown that people who skip breakfast tend to weigh more than people who eat breakfast, because people who skip it tend to make up for it by eating more later in the day because they are hungry.