So, You Want To Lose Weight

There’s a reason most diets fail. It’s because of lack of preparation and knowledge of how and why it works.

I see it all the time (especially because I’ve done it myself). We get the motivation to diet, immediately begin restricting things we love and then wonder why we’ve abandon the approach after a week of misery.

Truth is, dieting is quite easy, it’s just the other variables associated with being an individual that makes it hard.

There’s no quick fix and there’s no sustainable way to lose 20 pounds in a week, but with the right tools, meaningful and effective weight loss can come quite quickly, and with relative ease.

To come, I’ll discuss what you need for a successful diet in ways that are sustainable and realistic. Be warned, this isn’t a 21 day fix (because really, what are you fixing in 21 days). If you’re confused and intimidated by dieting, this is for you.

Take A Step Back From Motivation

Motivation to diet can prove to be the genesis of making positive change but can also create issues and single handedly ruin your weight loss attempts.

Often times with intense motivation to diet, things feel good and make sense. You can envision the progress you could make if you stuck to a diet plan. The problem is that you might not actually be ready to take on a serious weight loss diet. You might just think you are.

While losing weight is quite simple, doing so is not without change. You’ll have to change your diet and activity level in some meaningful way and doing so can often prove to be difficult.

Will loved ones be supportive? Are you willing to restrict your food and exercise more? Are you willing to make healthier choices when you go out to dinner?

It seems like small changes but in reality, these small changes can prove to more difficult than envisioned.

Before listening to your motivation to diet, step back, have a game plan and make sure the decision to diet is the right one for you. Don’t half ass it. If you want to change, then make the necessary changes.

Energy Matters

The main determinant of weight loss or gain is energy. Termed energy balance, this concepts regards how many calories you consume relative to the amount of calories you expend.

This is all just a fancy way of saying the if you want to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat.

Losing and gaining weight in a vacuum is actually quite simple. It’s all the other variables of life that makes it suck.

Simple enough, right?

The problem is that many people either don’t know how or don’t care to figure out their energy balance and adjust intake accordingly. Unfortunately, there isn’t an exact answer you can find online.

If you’re 100% serious about losing weight in an effective and efficient manner, you need to find your maintenance calorie intake.

This is an amount of calories that you can consume daily, and neither gain nor lose weight.

Once found, you can adjust your calorie intake according to your goal. If you want to lose weight you can decrease calories (via calorie restriction, increased activity or both). If you want to gain weight, you can increase calories. You get the picture.

If you’re hoping to just get healthier and potentially lose weight along the way, you can also inadvertently reduce calories by exercising more and increasing the quality of your food.

Foods such as lean protein and vegetables have been staples of the fitness community for decades because they have low calorie densities. While these foods are beneficial on their own (due to an increase in protein and micronutrients/fiber), they also have a very large volume with a relatively low amount of calories.

This means you can eat more beneficial food, feel fuller for longer and reduce the amount of calories you are consuming. A winning combination for weight loss.

Just keep in mind, as I’ll touch on shortly, your metabolism adapts to your calorie intake. Where as the initial recommendation (to count calories) will allow for sequential reductions in calories when needed, simply changing your food intake in the second suggestion may eventually prove to be ineffective.

The truth holds that energy balance is king, regardless of the food you’re eating and eventually in order to continue losing weight, you’ll need to continually adjust your energy balance.

At the end of the day, there are hundreds of different variables that can affect weight loss but ultimately, the best approach is focusing on calories. Again, it’s not the only thing but chances are you’ll have better results with weight loss counting calories than focusing on how to manage your insulin.

The Food You Should Eat

Look anywhere on the internet about diet foods and I can guarantee there is an article about foods you should eat and another about [x] foods you should never eat.

Truth is, it’s probably somewhere in the middle.

Now this isn’t a shameless plug for flexible dieting or anything like that (which is a great idea), but more so an emphasis on calories first and quality of food second.

I say this because, if you read the last section, you know that calories expended and consumed matters most above all else. If you aren’t in a negative energy balance, you just simply won’t lose weight. Period.

Now you certainly shouldn’t be eating junk all day within your calorie budget and expect weight loss. Although possible, it’s probably not ideal, especially if you care about the quality of your body and where that weight loss is actually coming from.

Placing a primary emphasis on low calorie dense foods such as protein and vegetables will make your life much easier because you’ll be able to limit your calorie intake with little effort, while reaping the benefits of those types of foods.

Protein and vegetables are quite satiating, meaning that they help curb your appetite. When this happens, you’ll just eat less without even considering it. This works through a number of different variables from inhibiting ghrelin, the body’s main ‘hunger hormone’ to slowing the motility of food in the gut.

But, that’s not to say there is no room for other things you enjoy.

In fact, one of the number one things I tell clients is to consume the foods you actually enjoy, even on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, dieting is usually accompanied by restriction. While that will need to occur, often times it’s complete restriction of many things that we enjoy but are considered “unhealthy.”

Soda is a popular item often restricted while on a diet. Certainly avoiding multiple doses of sugar laden beverages will help save you tons of calories, but so too would simply switching to a calorie-free version. In fact, some research indicates that artificially sweetened drinks can actually improve weight loss over that of water.

The fact is, the types of food and the level of restriction you place on yourself will determine the sustainability of your diet and new habits.

If you restrict everything you love for the sake of weight loss, it’s likely you’ll return and cast judgment to the wind. It’s one of the reasons why many people end up worse off after a diet than before they even considered it.

While you’ll need to restrict some things and improve the quality of your food, you should still find ways to enjoy the foods you love so that you’re more willing to embrace your new lifestyle rather than waiting until it’s over.

Cheat Days Are Bullshit

The fitness industry loves cheat days. I get it, it’s the one day out of the week that people get to indulge in “unhealthy foods” and somehow calories don’t matter because… YOUR METABOLISM NEEDS IT!.

Truth is, your metabolism could use a boost every once in a while, but that is much different from a cheat day.

The body, being the incredible machine it is, is quite resilient and adaptive. If you follow the teachings of evolution, you understand this. Your metabolism (un)fortunately is no different.

Consider that you have a metabolic rate, a rate of calorie expenditure to at least maintain your current bodyweight and composition. When you begin restricting calories, this original rate will continue for some time, even though you’re consuming fewer calories.

For example, say you need 2000 calories to function on a daily basis. When you eat that much, your bodyweight stays the same since your intake is matching the rate of calorie expenditure.

When you all of a sudden reduce your daily calorie intake to say, 1600 calories, you’re now consuming 400 fewer calories per day, despite your metabolism expending 2000. This is what a negative energy balance is. In essence, you’re consuming 1600 but your body is “burning” 2000.

Eventually however, the body adapts in order to survive. Consider for a moment if this calorie burn continued indefinitely (you would just die). So, in an orchestra of complex events, the puppeteer behind the scenes of your metabolism reduces calorie expenditure to match your intake (welcome your new maintenance).

The original idea of “cheat meals” was to for a short period of time, increase calories again to the original amount (2000 in this example) so that metabolism won’t “adapt” to the lower amount. It’s a theoretical approach to inhibiting the metabolism from adapting, thus allowing your body to continue burning extra calories.

However, think for a moment about adaptation. It doesn’t happen over the course of 10 hours, or even a day, or even potentially a couple days. In essence, one meal probably won’t have a major impact on metabolism.

While there’s nothing wrong with occasional indulgence, it shouldn’t be carried out under the pretense of improving metabolism but rather, just as indulgence because really, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Re-feeds, which are programmed and controlled increases in calorie intake is likely far superior.

In this case, every 3–5 weeks, depending on progress, you’d want to steadily increase calories up to a normal amount (your original maintenance) in a controlled way to avoid accidental weight gain. Then, after being at that higher amount for a few days, return to a lower calorie amount.

This method can allow for an increase in calories, thus positively benefiting your metabolism and potentially encouraging it to stay high. Additionally, this is controlled rather than eating a bunch of junk and just hoping you won’t gain weight as a result.

Just keep in mind, if you’re miserable six days out of the week with a “cheat meal” on day seven, you’re probably just helping your sanity and not your metabolism. Not to mention, if you incorporate foods you enjoy everyday, the allure of a “cheat meal” will be almost non-existent.

Juicing, Cleanses & 21 Day Fixes are Bullshit

When it comes to losing weight, juicing is one of the worst things you can do for yourself on a diet. No really, one of the worst.

Consider for a second that fruit has a large amount of fructose (sugar) which has calories. Then consider that fruit also has a large amount of fiber, which in addition to digestion, can help reduce your appetite, allowing you to eat less.

When you juice, you’re in essence removing all of that beneficial fiber, yet none of the fructose. So basically, you’re drinking some sugar that might have some vitamins along with it.

While one glass or so a day probably won’t be a big issue, over time it might be. Take someone thinking juice is an answer to health and weight loss and it could be downright disastrous.

In this case, opt for whole fruit, always.

Cleanses and 21 day fixes are the bane of this industry. Cleanses are easy to debunk because they have zero efficacy or evidence backing them. The fact that companies won’t (or simply can’t) tell you what “toxins” their product removes should be a bad sign.

Just because you’re going to the bathroom 10 times a day and haven’t had a bowel movement in a week does not mean you’re “clean.” And is it any wonder why people lose a couple pounds when doing them? These are not the answer and can seriously do way more harm than good.

Don’t kid yourself, meaningful changes take time to achieve. If they didn’t it probably wouldn’t be worth it in the first place. Avoid the fast route and invest in yourself for the long term. You’ll be thankful you did.

Quick fix fad diets are equally as bad.

Changing body composition takes time. It takes even longer if you want a physique that will stick. If you want to lose ten pounds and then gain it back and then some, quicker than it took to lose, then jump on the bandwagon for a 21 day fix.

The issue with these diet / training plans is that they cause an abrupt increase in calorie expenditure but don’t create long lasting changes. Not to mention, this is usually combined with severe restriction of calories, leaving you high and dry, miserable and hungry once the plan is over.

I get it, the advertisements are alluring with promises of flat tummies and round butts. Just remember that if you got it quick, you can probably lose it even quicker.

Don’t kid yourself, meaningful changes take time to achieve. If they didn’t it probably wouldn’t be worth it in the first place. Avoid the fast route and invest in yourself for the long term. You’ll be thankful you did.

Use a Diet That Aligns Closely With Your Eating Habits

The best piece of advice I’ve ever given and been given is to attempt to align your diet closely to your current eating habits.

There are tons of different dieting styles around, all preaching to help you lose weight effectively and efficiently. You just need to understand and remember that each of these diets works via allowing you to consume fewer calories.

The one that helps you do this with most ease will likely be the one that works best for you.

For example, I don’t care to eat breakfast, I enjoy carbohydrates and I also enjoy indulging some of the time. When I diet, I follow a flexible dieting approach combined with intermittent fasting.

When I do this, I simply need to restrict calories to a certain degree and literally nothing else changes. It makes things easy, efficient and sustainable because I know I can simply stop restricting calories and change nothing else in my life.

On the flip side, if you really really enjoy carbohydrates , it wouldn’t make sense to switch to a ketogenic diet cover night, under the pretense that it holds some magical fat loss properties.

It very well may hold something special but right now, the reason it can be effective is a reduction in caloric intake. If you like to eat carbs, using a ketogenic, fat-based diet with little to no carbohydrate can prove to be quite difficult and not sustainable whatsoever.

That’s not to say that you won’t need to change habits, because you might. You just want to change as little as possible, while still seeing results. This in my opinion, is the key to sustainable dietary lifestyle changes.

Exercise In Ways That Will Bring About The Result Your Desire

Exercise can be a powerful tool for changing your body composition, even if that means helping you lose weight. Exercise is a great way to expend calories, so using it to your advantage can significantly speed the process along.

The problem is that it’s often made more difficult that it needs to be.

Consider that your current activity level will determine how you need to workout to see results. If you sit all day and have been for the past 15 years, just getting up and walking every day might provide a meaningful stimulus to expend calories.

If you regularly workout, just walking a bit probably won’t provide much additional benefit.

There’s a major divide regarding if cardio or weight lifting will be more beneficial. The truth, again lies somewhere in the middle. In terms of exercising for weight loss, using both resistance training and intense cardiovascular-based training can significantly increase calorie burn to a greater extent than either by themselves.

It’s true that more muscle brought on by weight lifting can be more beneficial long-term, but meaningful muscle gain can take months, if not years.

Unless you’re hoping to significantly increase muscle growth, It’s prudent to have a combination of weight training and cardio. Just keep in mind that while both are beneficial, it’s a good idea to place primary emphasis on the weight training.

This means completing weight training BEFORE cardio or do these on separate days. The adaptations as a result of cardio and weight training differ and can thus, interfere with one another. If you can’t use this format, consider a circuit-style training session where rest periods are brief and intensity is high.

Either way, keep in mind that exercise can be a great tool for burning calories. Depending on how quickly you want weight loss to occur, you can adjust your training accordingly. For example, an intense weight lifting workout comprised of compound movements and short rest periods will probably affect weight loss to a greater extent than going into the gym and completing some biceps curls.

So, You Want(ed) To Lose Weight

Really, it seems like a lot, but weight loss is actually much easier than many people make it out to be. Quick fixes won’t really work but meaningful weight loss doesn’t need to take forever.

Rather than repeating everything that was already said, here’s a brief graphic highlighting the important things to remember if you’re wanting to effectively and efficiently lose weight.