Weight loss can be a tricky thing to accomplish. Many individuals will struggle with weight throughout their lives and it can become a health concern if left unchecked. We often don't even notice the 1-2 pounds per year, but these pounds add up. It is very important however, to understand that the media plays a large role in creating an unrealistic "ideal body" and having perfect abs and the tightest glutes around are not always the goal.
That being said, with the warmer weather around the corner, here are a few tips to cut down on those few extra pounds we didn't intend to gain over the cold and dark winter season...
1) Start your day with a Metabolic Boost!
Begin every morning with a nice glass of room temperature water with half a lemon squeezed into it. This acts to jump start your metabolism and is commonly used in many detox programs as well. Getting those calories burning after they had to slow down while you slept will impact how many calories you burn during the day even if you decide to not do anything else for weight loss!
2) Get Moving! Exercise!
Now I don't mean you have to join a gym and commit to going for 3 hours a day 7 days a week. If you're a beginner, try to walk a few extra minutes a day, take the stairs instead of the elevator (just a few floors will do!), pretend you drive a $300,000 sports car and park that beautiful thing just a bit further then all the other cars when you go to the mall or grocery store. Whatever you can add to your daily routine will impact your overall success. Do remember this though, the more muscle mass you put on, the easier the weight will be to lose and keep lost. Muscle costs your body more calories to maintain than fat does. Add resistance training to your routine to really boost those results!
If you're already a regular gym goer, there are still a few things you can do to really boost that fat loss! Let's be honest, straight up cardio can really suck. No need to worry though! It is not the only option! High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a combination of highly intense bouts of exercise followed by recovery periods that still require some movement. Not only are these exercises more fun, but in the same amount of time (or even less!), the body will burn more calories than it would with constant, moderate intensity cardio. It will even continue to burn fat long after you've stopped exercising as well!
Lastly, for those of you out there who are really keen, try adding a 4-5 minute finisher to the end of your routine. If you aren't familiar with the term, check out an example here. This stuff will really melt the fat off your body!
3) Get rid of refined carbohydrates!
I'm not trying to say you have to cut out all carbs in order to lose weight, but I do strongly recommend getting rid of any grain that starts with the word "white". Instead, make the switch to whole wheat/grain, wild or brown rice, and swap out white potatoes with sweet potatoes. These complex carbohydrates are slower digesting which means you'll stay full longer and your body has to work harder to break them down. Working harder means raising that metabolism once again and all you've done is add some color to your diet.
This does also mean cut out the sugar! Sugar is the enemy and it's hiding in almost anything you don't make for yourself. Sugar is super easy to break down and use as energy, which means anything else you eat in that meal is super easy for your body to store and save for later as fat! Get rid of the sugar and watch the fat melt away!
4) Do not starve yourself!
This one is really important. Starvation diets are the absolute worst thing you can do to lose weight! Aside from not obtaining enough essential nutrients, you will actually hold on to more weight than you might expect. Your metabolism slows down in starvation states to preserve energy, holding on to weight in order to keep you alive. Not effective for healthy weight loss!
Instead, use a simple online calculator to estimate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the amount of calories you will burn if you lay in bed all day and did nothing. NEVER drop your calories below this number! As a general rule, any diet under 1500 calories per day should be avoided. To lose weight successfully, focus on increasing metabolism through dietary choices and exercise and avoid doing things that will slow it down.
5) Set SMART Goals!
Be Specific - "I want to lose weight" is not specific. Instead pick a number or a dress/pant size that you hope to accomplish by the end of your goal.
Measure - Have a unit to track your goal in. Weight can fluctuate as you lose fat and put on muscle. It isn't really a great unit to track your progress. Try evaluating yourself by tracking how many notches on your belt you can tighten or your pant/dress sizes. If you have access, track your body fat percentage too!
Attainable - Make sure the goal you set is realistic. Don't set yourself up for failure by saying you want to lose 20% body fat when you're only at 26% to begin with. Make the goal 1 belt notch at a time and congratulate yourself when you're successful.
Relevant - Is losing weight something you actually want to do? Why? Make sure that if you decide to start on a weight loss journey it's because it's important to you and no one else.
Timely - We all know without deadlines nothing gets done. Procrastination is just so easy! Weight loss is no different! Set an end date. Whether that is your next birthday, New Years, or by the end of the month, make sure to give yourself an end date but always refer back to "A" , ensuring your goal is realistic and attainable.
6) Slow and steady wins the race!
Weight loss should never occur suddenly and rapidly. It is and should be a slow process. This is the best way to ensure success. Aim for no more than 2 pounds per week as an average. Some weeks you may notice that you've lost more than this, others may be under or stagnant. There's no need to measure weekly or even daily, instead take a look monthly as an overall average and make sure weight is not being lost too quickly. Dropping pounds too fast may mean you are limiting your calories by too much and this can lead to more problems down the road. A small deficit of 500 calories per day will be the equivalent of 1 pound of weight loss per week (3500 calories = 1 lb of fat).
7) Stress management!
This is my final tip and it is not spoken about often enough, however it can be that lingering factor affecting so many people who struggle to shed those last few pounds. This is especially true for belly fat in particular. Stress, more specifically cortisol production, can lead to abdominal fat deposits that just won't go away. Diet and exercise can have positive impacts, but if you don't take the time to slow down and breathe each day, that belly fat will be there to stay! So set aside a few minutes each day to meditate, breathe, relax, color, read or whatever it is you do to unwind. Simply making time for yourself can help you achieve those SMART goals you've set!
There it is, my top 6 ways to lose weight healthfully and effectively. Try it out for yourself and let me know how it works for you!
Dr. Rob Raponi,
Naturopathic Doctor, CISSN, B.Kine