Weight loss: dos and don’ts
Weight loss journeys are tough, no matter where you start or how far you’ve come. At some point, most people have tried to lose weight and ended up quitting due to stagnation or inappropriate guidance. There are also seemingly endless weight loss hacks that advertise that they are the only thing you need to lose weight, which is simply not true, NOTHING WILL HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT. It is a combination of puzzle pieces that must all fit together to complete your weight loss puzzle. Here are some dos and don’ts during your weight loss journey:
Don’t just do cardio
While cardiovascular exercise should be part of your program, it should not be the ONLY thing in your program. Yes, cardio is great for burning calories and is obviously necessary for good heart health, but when it comes to losing weight, cardio is just a small piece of the puzzle. Now, I’m not saying skip cardio because you do have to, but it’s not the biggest point of emphasis in a good weight loss program. You’ll still want to work up to about 5 days of cardiovascular activity per week for best results.
Lift weights at least 3 times a week
Weight lifting and strength training is an absolute must when it comes to losing weight, as it makes it easy to build muscle. ¿Why is it so important? When you build muscle, your metabolism increases and allows you to burn more calories. Building muscle is also great for bone health, as your bones get stronger as your muscles grow. For beginners, 2-3 days of weightlifting a week is enough, but eventually you’ll want to get to 3-5 days a week depending on your schedule.
Don’t go too fast
Trying to do too much too fast is just as detrimental to your adherence to a fitness program as not doing enough. Too often people try to do too much and start to burn out after 2-3 weeks and go back to old habits. The typical 4 week weight loss guru on Instagram touts a 20 pound weight loss program that is easy to follow, but the truth is, those programs cannot be maintained and they do not encourage lasting healthy habits. Don’t get sucked into these “inspirational” 4 week transformations because most of the time, those people end up gaining that weight back and then something in a couple of weeks. Go for the slow and steady approach, you are much more likely to be successful!
Set realistic short-term and long-term goals.
To complement the above, setting realistic goals provides more stable results. Aiming for a weight loss of 0.5 to 1 pound per week is a very realistic and achievable goal for almost anyone, regardless of how overweight or not they are. If your goal is an average of 2-4 pounds of weight loss per month over the course of a year, that’s 24-48 pounds lost in a year! Not to mention, you will have established long-lasting, healthy habits that you can follow for the rest of your life.
Don’t take fat burning supplements
Usually these are a waste of money packed with fancy advertising and less-than-true claims about how they work. Most “fat burning” supplements don’t actually burn fat! If you do something, they help you burn more calories by increasing your metabolic rate, which can lead to weight loss, but if you don’t burn more calories than you consume, you won’t lose weight. Some supplements claim that they can “target belly fat,” which is absurd. There are no supplements that target fat in specific parts of your body, this is not how your body works. When you are losing fat, your fat cells decrease in size throughout your body and they all react differently. You better spend your time and money focusing on your nutritional plan and making sure you burn more calories than you consume.
Spend most of your time and effort on your eating plan
As I mentioned earlier, you will only lose weight if you burn more calories than you consume. Since diet accounts for about 70-80% of your results, you should spend most of your time on this aspect of your fitness program. Meal preparation takes less time than you think and will make the whole week so much easier. Meal prep takes the guesswork out of what food you should eat next because your meals are already prepared and ready for you to warm up and eat.
Don’t drink liquid calories
Liquid calories are sure to derail your weight loss journey for many reasons. One of those reasons is that it contains extra (often sugary) calories that don’t help you feel full. Now having protein shakes is still acceptable as long as it’s just whey protein without the added added sugar. The extra protein will help you recover for the next workout. Liquid calories to avoid are sugary drinks (juices, Gatorade, soda, etc.) and alcohol. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram compared to carbohydrates and protein, which are 4 calories per gram and also have added carbohydrates. Alcohol can also disrupt your sleep cycle, and resting is a critical piece of your recovery. And the wine? While some are good for your heart health, they still contain those extra calories that you probably don’t need.
Drink half your body weight in ounces of water
Most of your body is made up of water, so be sure to drink! A good rule of thumb for how much water to drink per day is half your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should drink 100 ounces of water a day.
Don’t focus on the scale
This may seem counterintuitive, but listen to me. It’s a great feeling to see the numbers drop every week on that scale and it can give you a tremendous sense of accomplishment. When you start to stabilize and the numbers on the scale don’t change as often, it can be easy to get discouraged. It’s important to remember that the scale only tells part of the story when it comes to results, so don’t put your full value on what the scale says. A more important measure to consider is your body fat percentage. When used in conjunction with the scale, your body fat percentage can help you determine which part of your body is fat mass and how much is fat-free mass. It’s not uncommon for the scale to not change much, but body fat percentage does. If you maintain the same weight and your body fat percentage decreases, you are a rock star! This means that you were able to decrease your fat mass and increase your lean body mass (probably muscle mass)! Circumference measurements and progress images are also more helpful in determining progress than scale.
Focus on improving your overall fitness
Sometimes it’s better to shift your focus to different, but related, goals in order to jump-start your results. Instead of weighing yourself weekly, try tracking and improving your fitness levels, such as improving your running time in a 3-mile run or instead of running 3 miles, try running 4 or 5. For strength, focus on Try to lift heavier weights and improve your overall strength levels. You can also try different programs to improve the number of push-ups or pull-ups you can do. The main point is to divert your attention from the scale and work on your strength, flexibility, or cardiovascular fitness.
If you’re ready to start your fitness journey, make sure you’re ready to change your entire lifestyle. If you don’t feel like you’re ready to do that, ask yourself why. What’s stopping you from changing your life to improve your health? If you’re having trouble answering these questions, let me know and let’s get started on your path to a healthier life!