If you are like most people, you are probably looking for weight-loss and fat-loss tips and secrets at this time of year. Know this: there are no secrets! All you need to do in order to lose fat is to be on a caloric deficit until you reach your target weight.
Don’t waste your time on “fad diets”, read limitless articles about the timing of carbs, whether you should eat at night, or eat broccoli and chicken for weeks in a row. Love your body and aim to make it stronger, not weaker. Don’t follow quick solutions. Your body needs carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, micronutrients, antioxidants and much more. It needs a variety of nutrients to work properly. When you restrict your diet to include only certain food groups, your body will only hamper your progress in the long term. Be patient, consistent and trust the process and yourself.
Here are a few tips to help you out:
1. Calories DO count. No matter how healthy you are eating, if you consume more calories than you expend, you won’t lose fat. Many people I know who are trying to slim down overestimate how many calories they burn per day and underestimate how many calories they eat. There is no need for you to track every single thing you put into your mouth, but you do need to have an idea of how many calories you eat per day, how many you’re burning and how your equation balances out.
2. Pills, detox diets, 500 calorie diets: they don’t work. Why? For one, because they are not sustainable. Plus, if your “pattern” is “eat whatever for 4 months” followed by “go on a 500 calorie diet” and back to eating whatever, all you are doing is ruining your metabolism and burning down your muscles. Aim to introduce healthy habits, instead, such as consuming more vegetables and doing some kind of activity several times a week, without reducing your caloric intake too much. The latter is a surefire way for you to reach and maintain a healthy weight in the long term.
3. Over-consumption of healthy foods: I know people who are trying to lose weight and, having read somewhere on the internet that avocado, low fat cheese, gluten free foods or nuts are healthy, go on eating tons of them. Yes, these are all healthy choices, but they add up to your calories, too! I’m not saying don’t eat them. All I am saying is control your portions according to your weight loss goals.
4. Obsessing with the scale: yes, the scale is a useful means to track your progress, especially if you need regular check-ups to see whether you are on track. But the scale is not the only way to measure progress. Progress is also how much stronger you are getting in the gym, how much you increase your mileage or pace if you’re running, cycling or swimming as well as how your waist and hips are measuring compared to when you started.
5. Cheat days: I know people who are on a fat loss diet aiming to lose 0.5 kg per week (some try to go even faster than this). This is 3,500 calories less per week, which means 500 calories less per day on average. So, they go the whole week with chicken, soups, broccoli and brown rice and then they have a whole “cheat day” during the weekend. On this day they manage to reverse all the effort they have put in all week in the gym and kitchen! Result: they get back to ground zero! It’s better to eat some of the foods you like which may not be “healthy” in reasonable portions throughout the week, than being a good boy or girl and then eating all the chocolate in the cupboard on Saturday.
6. Set realistic goals and set yourself up to achieve them. Work with both your nutrition and exercise routine to hit your goals and be specific about where you want to go and by when. Make long term changes rather than short vicious cycles which repeat themselves.
If you need help making your plan, find someone to help you calculate just how much you need to eat and exercise to hit your goals!