Weight Loss: The Myth and The Management
There’s a lot of misinformation out there about managing your weight — most of it aimed at selling you on a new diet or exercize routine that you only need to buy a few dollars in materials for to get you on the “road to success”.
Well, I’m going to save you the trouble. I don’t have anything to sell you, I have no advertisers, and I’m not going to recommend you anything that isn’t free. I’ve lost 93lbs in the past 12 months, and I’m going to tell you what worked for me.
Before I get into the details, I’d like to dispel a few notions that most people have about weight loss. The biggest one being that you have to “eat like a health freak” to diet. It’s simply not true. The biggest part of weight loss is a simple equation of the calories you put in your body minus the calories you take out — whether those calories come from salads or hot pockets, your body doesn’t care … for the most part.
I say “for the most part” because there are actually two main ways your body gets energy from food: Complex (Long-chain) carbohydrates and Simple (Short-chain) carbohydrates. With both kinds of carbs, your body breaks them down into sugars, then uses those sugars to power your body — or turn into fat when you have more sugars than you need.
So, you might be asking yourself right now “How do I avoid getting more sugars than I need?” well, the answer is to eat more food made of complex carbs rather than simple carbs. Like their name suggests, complex carbs are harder for your body to break down — that means you digest them slower, releasing a smaller amount of sugar into your body over a longer period of time, increasing the likelihood that you’ll use it all before it can be stored as fat. The simplest way to avoid putting on more weight is to eat more foods made of complex carbs — things high in protein are your easiest source: Chicken, high-grain breads instead of white or wheat, beans, even some cheeses.
With that being said, I’ll move on to the specifics and the other parts of weight loss.
The easy parts.
Some elements of getting your weight under control are incredibly simple things — well, incredibly simple sounding things. Even the most menial tasks take remembering to do them to work.
Water is your friend. You may have heard of the term “water weight” before, which might make you wonder why you’d want to drink more water when you’re trying to lose weight. Well, water weight is water that your body has retained, making you heavier and feel fatter — but it’s not because you drink water, it’s actually because of the amount of sodium you take in. If you drink more water, you’ll flush more of that sodium through your system and literally pee out some of your weight; doubly so if you cut out high-sodium beverages and replace them with water, which brings me to my next point:
Stop drinking your calories. As I said above, avoiding high sodium beverages is a big part of losing your water weight — and those beverages tend to have high sugar content as well. In the intro to this article, I also mentioned how simple carbs turn into sugar for your body to use faster, and get stored as fat — from that you should understand that putting sugar directly into your body is the quickest way to get more fat too.
Now, you may think it’s okay if you just have diet drinks instead — sucralose, stevia, aspartame, all that good, sweet stuff that’s not sugar right? Unfortunately not. While the science isn’t entirely complete, it’s shown to be incredibly likely that your body still treats those substances like sugar — and while it may not be able to turn them into fat, it will turn the actual sugar in your body into fat faster, thinking that there’s plenty of sugar to go around from those sweeteners and substitutes. Sticking to water, coffee (without tons of creamer and flavoring!) and other low-sugar beverages is still your best bet.
That high-protein thing we were talking about. This is probably what will show you the most long term progress out of anything diet-wise. Eating foods higher in protein, and thus higher in complex carbs, will keep you feeling fuller from less food and longer than eating things made of simple carbs. You’ll feel less inclined to snack, and want to eat far less often than you do now.
Counting your calories. This part is tedious, but it truly is helpful. A lot of us simply don’t realize how much energy we’re putting into our body, and thus how much fat we’re gaining every single day (did you know a medium sized bag of potato chips is about as many calories as a steak dinner?). As I said early on, all the calories you don’t use get turned into fat, so you want to eat about as much (or less!) calories as you use in a day to stop gaining and start losing weight. I strongly recommend using a calorie counter app on your smartphone for this.
The easiest thing to do is figure out your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) from a calculator like this one and aim your caloric intake to be under that. Why under? Because if you exercise, which you need to, you’ll be burning some of your calories from fat instead of sugar.
The hard part.
Exercise. You need it. There are two ways to lose weight through exercise, and that’s what makes it the most important part of weight loss. Number one is through straight up cardiovascular activity — once your heart rate reaches a certain speed, your body is no longer using sugar from your bloodstream to move your muscles, but is instead using the energy released by converting your fat into muscle to power your muscles. This conversion is so efficient that if you turn into an exercise nut and really go at it, you don’t even need to change your diet — in fact you’d probably have to eat MORE simple carbs just to maintain your activity!
The second part of weight loss through exercise is part of that thing I talked about in the last section: your TDEE. As your muscles sit at rest during the day, they actually still require energy to function. The more muscle content on your body, the more calories are sucked up without being turned into fat just by existing. If you’re the kind of person that follows trains of logic easily, you’ve probably realized by now that this means weight lifting is the best form of exercise for weight loss. The activity of lifting weights uses up your fat, and the muscles you gain from doing so use up the sugar in your body before it turns to fat — it’s a two for one deal.
All of this might seem like a monumental effort put together, and I won’t lie to you — it is. You have to want to lose weight, you have to want to improve your health, and you can. I did it while suffering from a thyroid condition that lowers my metabolism and makes it even harder for me, but because I stuck to it, I saw real results, and I’m still working towards my fitness goal. You can do it too; don’t make excuses if you want to accomplish it. “I’m too tired to go to the gym” just one day in your schedule is enough to chain react into losing all your progress. You have to stay dedicated. It will get easier, it will feel better, you can do it.
Note: This is what works for me, and what I believe will work for the average individual. This is NOT medical advice and should not be taken as such.