The harsh reality we are faced with in the modern first world is that most of the population are now overweight. Think about that for a second – In the UK alone that equates to over 40 million people. That is staggering! I am sure I do not need to go into the complications and restrictions placed on people when they are overweight.
I would be willing to bet that the majority of people (you may be one of them) aren’t happy with being overweight. So, why is it that people cannot seem to lose weight effectively? Or why is it that some people manage to lose weight but then gain it back again?
Well there isn’t a straight answer but let me discuss some of the truths about weight loss and how to make it stick. One of the best things you can do is to understand how it works.
Your body works against you
Chances are that you’ve been overweight for a while. Your body has almost gotten used to the damage you are doing to it on a daily basis. That’s why your body will work against you. At least in the beginning.
When you try to shed weight, you are not only fighting all of the unhealthy habits that you’ve formed but you are also literally fighting your body. Losing weight decreases the hormone leptin, which is responsible for telling your brain that you are full and In turn there is an increase in the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger. This hormone imbalance can continue long after you succeed at getting to your ideal weight, making it difficult to keep the weight off.
Also, if you go into a big calorie deficit too quickly, your metabolism will slow down. Your body is built for survival and wants to conserve energy. If you find you are losing weight quickly then you should know that this is not a good thing. You are most likely losing muscle as well as fat. To put it simply, the more muscle you have the higher your metabolism will be. The best strategy is to preserve muscle as much as possible during weight loss.
I recommend a long-term approach to weight loss. Focussing on moderate increments in reducing calories and finding the right balance between exercise and nutrition for you.
There is no quick fix solution
I want you to consider for a moment how long it has taken you to get into the position you are now? Becoming overweight is not something that happens in a short period of time, so why would losing it be any different?
Wishing you were 10kg lighter for your holiday in a few weeks will not change anything. We now live in a world where you can pretty much buy what you want at the click of a button if you can afford it, but being healthy is one of those things that you cannot just buy instantly. When you want to he fit and healthy it can be hard to be patient with the process, which is why most people give up at the first few hurdles.
Avoid the temptation to take drastic measures. Extreme diets will fail you in the long run and will ultimately put you on course for a life of yoyo dieting. My advice is to take things slow and steady. Make it something you can build into your life without having to make massive changes. I guide my clients to shed 1-2lbs of weight per week, and even if there are weeks when it doesn’t happen, we certainly don’t panic and give up. Stay the course, and I promise you the results you desire will come.
Exercise isn’t the be all and end all
Of course, exercise will contribute to you losing weight and keeping it off. Studies have shown that people who maintain a healthy weight exercise most days. However, it’s virtually impossible to lose weight from exercise alone.
A typical 60-minute workout can see you burning between 300-600 calories depending on your weight and how intense your workout is. It is very easy to consume that number of calories from food and drink. So, in order to drop the weight, you need to combine exercise with healthy nutrition but more importantly with healthy habits that prioritise your wellbeing.
Diet supplements don’t really work in the long run
The market is awash with overpriced supplements that claim to be the next best thing to help you to lose weight, build muscle, give you energy etc……you get the picture! There is actually little conclusive evidence to show that these supplements actually work. Especially for weight loss.
You could be doing yourself more harm than good, and really you aren’t changing the habits that got you to where you are in the first place. Relying on supplements isn’t necessary if you are focussing on making the right lifestyle changes and prioritising the actions you need to take to make it happen.
Fad diets will likely result in weight GAIN
Apple-cider vinegar, volumetric, low-carb diets, zero-carb diets, low-fat diet, the cabbage soup diet, good food/bad foods diets, meal replacements – I could go on all day but hopefully you can recognise some of these or can think of some yourself. Fad diets promise quick results and will show you examples of people who have achieved amazing results – that’s how they reel you in.
I am not saying these diets will not help you to lose weight. Chances are if you do what is required you WILL lose weight. But, and this is a big but – They are not sustainable and will set you up for regaining weight and potentially gaining more weight than you lost! They also have something in common in that they all involve creating a calorie deficit.
The calorie deficit is what will help you in you to shed weight, and as mentioned earlier the best way to do this is in a sustainable way so that you can maintain it once you reach your ideal weight and your mind and body isn’t shocked by drastic changes.
One size doesn’t fit all
Everyone is different. We know this by a little thing called genetics. This is the same when it comes to weight loss. Yes I have said that you need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight, and that remains the same, but what I mean to say is that what works for you friend, co-worker, or family member may not work for you.
It’s important to find a strategy unique to you. Consider your age, health, family history, your metabolism, your daily activity levels, your gender, and what you enjoy doing. It’s also important to not restrict yourself too much and also reward yourself for small wins. That doesn’t mean to go and celebrate the pounds you’ve lost with a weekend bender. But it does mean you need to enjoy the process. Tailoring your program to fit you is vital for long-term success and this is something I emphasise with all of my clients.
Cardio and resistance is required
Government guidelines suggest a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity in a week. With at least two of those activities involving muscle-strengthening activities. Everything counts as long as you can feel your heart rate elevating for a sustained time.
In terms of which is better for weight loss, the debate is open. Moderate to intense cardio will result in more calories burned during a workout but there is research to show that strength training can leave your body burning calories after a workout as it looks to repair the damaged muscle tissue caused by resistance training.
My opinion is again to focus on what you enjoy doing for the vast majority of your physical activity, but you still need to include resistance training for strength and shape, and cardio for a healthy set of heart and lungs. If I am pushed for an answer – Three resistance training workouts and two cardio based workouts per week. This is subjective though and you must also consider what your specific goals are when finding the right mix for you.
He can eat more than she can
Now ladies, I know this may seem unfair, but men can eat more than women and still lose weight. This is primarily down to the fact that men burn more calories on average than women, thanks to their extra size and higher levels of testosterone. The male body is genetically designed for more muscle and less fat, whereas women are designed to store more fat in order to bear children.
So, if you are a woman spending time with a male friend, or you’re in a relationship. Avoid the temptation to eat the same amount of food as him.
Sleep is vital to your success
Do you get enough sleep? Just by making sure you get the right amount of sleep for your body you can give yourself a greater chance of success when it comes to getting to your ideal weight. Poor sleep means making poor choices, imbalanced hormones, and poor mental health.
Don’t make sleep an afterthought when deciding how you are going to structure your program. Aim for seven to eight hours per night. Some people can get by on less but be aware that if you don’t get the right amount you can reduce your brain power by up to 30%!
My advice is to have a regular sleep schedule and aim to get sunlight within the first thirty minutes of waking up. Avoid caffeine eight hours before bed time and try to get your exercise done earlier in the day so night time can be for relaxing.
Change your mindset to change your life
I have lost count of the number of people who have approached me for help over my years in the industry. As a fresh faced PT it was all about getting people in for sessions three to five times per week. The key aspect I was missing back then was the mindset.
Once you can work on changing your mindset the rest will follow. Losing weight if done properly isn’t difficult but keeping it off is because people don’t change the behaviours that got them there. In order to be successful you need to focus on making sustainable lifestyle changes – Eating healthy consistently, enjoying your food, regular exercise, getting the right amount of recovery, and making it part of the fabric of who you are as a person.
Yours in Health and Wellness,