Are you comfortable with your current bodyweight? Not many people are and they are struggling to change it. I'm going to share with you pearls of wisdom I have acquired in my years of experience as a personal trainer and chiropractor to help shed light on this subject, and after working one on one with literally thousands of people, I can vouch that, boy, does it ever need some light!
The weight loss industry is booming, and unfortunately making a buck in this industry is more important to many people and companies than the point of the industry's purpose: to actually help people lose weight. Furthermore, who wants to lose weight on a fad diet just to gain it all back a short while later? Keeping it off is just as important as losing it in the first place!
I'm here with a lantern of real world experience to illuminate the world of weight loss with 6 tips you can hang your hat on. Here we go.
Tip #1: Energy in = energy out .... period!
In other words, calories = physical activity.
It's the first law of thermodynamics. Whatever energy you eat in the form of calories must be burned off in the form of physical activity to result in a balanced equation. Thus it's very simple. If you eat more than you burn off, you WILL gain weight. If you burn off more than you eat, you WILL lose weight. If someone is overweight, they can rely on this core principle; they are eating too much and not moving enough.
Tip #2: There are 2 types of body weight to be concerned with: bodyfat and muscle
We need to lose bodyfat and preserve muscle.
Your body has 2 choices if you over-eat:
- transform the excess calories into fat
- transform the excess calories into muscle
That's it. Pretty simple. Now it's up to you to influence your body which way it should go. How? With physical activity (or lack thereof).
Your body also has 2 choices if you under-eat:
- break down fat for extra energy
- break down muscle for extra energy
Again, you can influence which way your body goes here, too. Physical activity will dictate the direction here as well.
Tip #3: Physical activity
Since physical activity is a key component to losing pounds it is not to be underestimated.
You have to give your body a reason to give up bodyfat, because if you eat less calories than your body needs to maintain your current weight, your body will make a choice between burning up either fat or muscle for the extra energy.
Remember the old addage of "use it or lose it"? Well, it's absolutely true for muscle, but not fat! Keep this in mind. We are genetically programmed to hold onto bodyfat come hell or high water! It's in our best interest to have some energy stores in reserve just in case disaster strikes and we find ourselves on a desert island with no food source available. Your body will pick survivability over vanity every time. Your body will burn up muscle for energy in a heartbeat so it can preserve potentially life-saving bodyfat as life insurance.
However, if you constantly place demands on your muscles to perform, your body will adapt to that stimulus. This is why we must exercise our bodies regularly. Every workout serves as a reminder to the body that it must obey our wishes of keeping our muscles strong and fit. Our workouts will begin to contend with our genetic programming if we keep them coming. But not only do we have to keep them coming, we have to keep them coming strong. Our activity level has to be intense enough to create some physical exertion that will make us sweat and get out of breath. Only then will your body perceive your physical activity as a worthy contender for giving up that precious stored bodyfat. Regular, intense exercise overrides the body's natural inclination to hold on to body fat because the body has come to expect to be prepared for another workout around the corner. So if you give your body a reason to hold on to it's muscle, it will then burn bodyfat more willingly.
Here's yet another reason we want to hold onto our muscle. Muscle is metabolically expensive, meaning it costs the body more calories to maintain it than it does to maintain bodyfat, therefore, raising the "energy out" side of the equation and leaning towards healthy weight loss.
Here's some more tips from the Mayo Clinic regarding physical activity and a chart outlining how many calories we burn off through common exercise activities: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/SM00109.
Tip #4: Watch how much you eat
We often underestimate how many calories we actually eat.
It sounds like it should be simple, right? Yet for so many of us, it's not. The first step in getting control over how much we eat is by knowing how much we are expending. While there are many formulas circulating the internet for determining how many calories we need, here is a chart from www.diabetes.org to get a ballpark idea: http://www.diabetes.org/assets/pdfs/2010-calorie-intake-chart.pdf.
If you want to maintain your weight, don't eat more calories than you burn off. If you want to lose weight, eat less calories than you burn off. The key here, however, is not to go kamikaze and starve yourself. Eat just a little less than you are actually burning off. Putting yourself into a caloric deficit of around 500 calories per day is a good rule of thumb, as this will not make you feel extremely deprived of food. Over time, this small daily caloric deficit will add up and when done in combination with exercise will force your body to adapt to giving up pounds of bodyfat.
But, remember, no matter what chart we look at or formula we use, it will require some tinkering with since we are all unique. Trial and error will be required to hone in on true success.
Tip #5: We are all genetically unique
You will not find success in comparing yourself to others around you.
But you will find success in comparing you to yourself. No two people are 100% genetically alike. Losing weight comes naturally for some and harder for others. Trying to compare yourself to someone else is like comparing an apple to an orange, so don't even worry about it!
Rather than comparing yourself to others, take measurements on yourself on a regular basis. Obviously, the weight scale is what we are talking about here since the main topic is losing weight. But it does us no good to lose weight on the scale due to having lost muscle and not bodyfat. Serial dieting and starvation tends to land us in that boat, and there is a term for these people: the "skinny fat person".
This is why we need to also take measurements with a tape measure, bodyfat calipers, photographs, and simple things like whether our clothes are fitting looser. We also need to measure our muscles' progress as well to make sure we are preserving them correctly. We measure this in terms of performance. Are we at least maintaining, preferably increasing, our strength and endurance in whatever physical activity we have chosen to burn calories with?
Tip #6: Be patient
Success with losing weight in the form of bodyfat, not muscle, takes time.
Don't rush the process of losing weight. The body does not work in a healthy manner this way. Drastic weight changes over short periods of time damage the body. 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week is a sound, steady rate of loss.
The way this healthy weight loss takes place is over time as an adaptation to your lifestyle. Changing your lifestyle means remaining diligent and consistent with your efforts. It can be done for anyone, as no one is immune to the energy in = energy out equation. If you're not where you want to be yet, don't rush, and place this equation at the heart of your weight loss plan. Doing so will guarantee your weight loss plan will be built on a solid foundation of scientifically sound truth, not just the latest weight loss craze.
I wish you all the best in your efforts at becoming a healthier you! Stick with it! Persevere, and you will be successful!