Weight Loss 101
It’s a brand new year! New Years resolutions often revolve around weight loss and exercise goals. Yet, many of us can never seem to accomplish these goals we set for ourselves. Let me tell you something that may surprise you – you are not the problem! The fact that you struggle to achieve your weight goals can be almost exclusively blamed on fad diets, and other unsustainable methods of weight loss. The pursuit of thinness has become a quest for many American’s. The pressure to “diet” is at an all time high.
Simply put, dieting is a form of short-term starvation. Therefore, when you are given the opportunity to really eat (like when you’ve finally lost the weight and you can officially end your diet), it becomes almost uncontrollable. And so you overeat. It is not an issue of willpower – our bodies are actually biologically wired to eat as much as possible when finally presented with food after a period of starvation. In order to lose weight, you do not need to starve yourself. Weight loss is simply a matter of calories in vs. calories out. One pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories. So, to lose a pound, you must have a deficit of that many calories. Therefore, if your body requires 2,000 calories a day, all you have to do is eat 1,500 calories a day to lose a pound a week. Easier said than done, but still perfectly achievable.
That being said, weight loss, and maintaining a healthy weight, is something everyone can accomplish! The first thing to understand while attempting to lose and keep weight off is that it takes TIME! You didn’t gain the weight overnight, and you are definitely not going to lose it overnight. There is no such thing as “quick and easy weight loss,” so don’t believe this when you hear it. Don’t starve yourself in hopes that you will quickly lose all the weight you’ve gained over the years. You should aim for 0.5-2 lbs a week. This way, the majority of your weight loss will be fat, and you will avoid losing lean muscle mass. So, if you are looking to lose 20 lbs, give yourself AT LEAST (and I mean at the very least) 10 weeks! Don’t rush the process!
Secondly, you must honor your hunger and make peace with food. Registered Dietitian Evelyn Tribole says, “Your body needs to know consistently that it will have access to food.” Don’t ignore your hunger signals – they are not the enemy. When your body actually needs food to continue performing all of its daily processes, it will tell you through these hunger signals. Stop the internal food fight! You should give yourself permission to eat when you’re hungry. And you should not feel guilty about eating when you feel this hunger arise. One tip I have is to plan out your meals for the next day every night. Write down everything you plan to eat the next day and calculate the calories. That way, you can stay within your calorie goal and know exactly what you are eating. When you are hungry, eat something off of the list that you have previously planned. This eliminates mindless eating and will help you achieve your weight loss goals.
Another important thing to remember is to feel your fullness. We live in a time where we feel the need to “clean our plates because there are starving children in Africa” (as if us gorging ourselves on food is going to help these starving children). When your body feels comfortably full, that is when you should cease eating, even if you have not finished all of the food in front of you. To increase fullness, choose meals with fiber, complex carbohydrates, protein, and some fat. These will increase your satiety and help you feel satisfied for a longer period of time.
Having lost weight myself, I think the biggest factor in determining how much weight you will lose and how well you will be able to keep it off is practicing moderation. For example, I love sweets. Cookies, chocolate, candy – I love it all! And let me tell you a secret; I ate all my favorite sweets while still losing weight! It is all about eating your favorite “sinful” foods in small amounts. You can eat a piece of chocolate a day and still lose weight, or have a piece of cake at a birthday party. We must not deprive ourselves! So, if you are planning out your meals for the next day, incorporate one of your favorite things into your calorie count. Never have off limit foods – you will just crave them even more and eventually give in. Remember, essentially you can eat whatever foods you want to eat, as long as you eat them in moderation and remember portion sizes.
Last but not least, staying active is a very important part of losing and maintaining weight loss. By exercising, you are increasing your body’s caloric needs, which helps you have a greater calorie deficit while losing weight. Exercise shouldn’t be something we dread. It’s as simple as finding an activity you actually enjoy doing, and doing it often. When you get bored, find another activity. I love cycling, so going to cycling classes is something I actually enjoy doing. It is hard work, and some days I definitely do not feel like going, but I always feel rejuvenated after a hard hour of cycling. Find your active passion, and pursue it! Don’t continually do exercises that you absolutely hate doing. It is also important to remember that exercise isn’t just essential when you are trying to lose weight – everyone, regardless of their weight, should doing some type of exercise at least 5 days a week for their health!
My greatest hope is that this blog post has left you feeling motivated to lose excess weight and live a healthier lifestyle. Although it is hard work, requires time and energy, and isn’t always pleasant, the final reward of reaching your goal weight is so worth it! Not only will you feel better about yourself, but you will notice positive changes is your over all well-being and health.
Here is a quick recap of my biggest tips for losing weight and maintaining that weight loss:
1. 1. Do not diet! Any changes you make in your eating habits should be sustainable changes that you could maintain over a lifetime. Avoid extremes in eating.
2. 2. Give yourself plenty of time! Do not try to rush the weight loss process.
3. 3. Honor your hunger and make peace with food. Eat what you like – in moderation of course J
4. 4. Make it a habit to feel your fullness, and discontinue eating when you feel full. Do not eat until you are completely overstuffed.
5. 5. Stay active! Find activities you actually enjoy doing, and do them often! Exercise is not only good for the body, but also the mind.
If you are interested in more reading material, I recommend the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, both of whom are Registered Dietitians. I accredit much of my weight loss success and current tips to this book.
Written by Ellie, dietetics student at Brigham Young University