The Best Way to Lose Weight and Keep it Off Starts in Your Head
Step 1: Determine the "What"
What do we mean when we talk about "weight loss" anyways? Most of us are probably referring to the fact that we're not comfortable with how we look or feel, but that's not what we call it.
The truth is, there's really no ideal weight for men or women. There are many different body types and a lot of determining factors to body weight.
Besides all of our vital organs, bones, blood, and tissue, there are three things that determine weight: fat, muscle, and water. Let's talk about these three factors, since we can't afford to lose any of the others.
Fat is what most of us are talking about when we say we want to lose weight. We want to burn fat, look slimmer, and feel lighter.
Muscle weighs more than fat. You've probably heard this a lot, mostly from people trying to be courteous and tell you that your weight is acceptable. However, it is true, and it's a huge reason why weight is a bad measuring stick.
Many people start to go to the gym and at first, instead of losing weight, gain some. Many give up right then, determining that "this whole exercise thing just doesn't work." They are actually gaining muscle that their bodies need to burn fat, but many don't make it past that first step back onto the scale.
Some don't care if they lose muscle, and might actually mistake muscle loss for fat loss and be perfectly satisfied with the fact that they're just "skinnier.".
Water weight isn't a joke. Much of what we think is fat on our bodies might simply be water that your body is retaining, and there are several reasons for this that will be covered later in the nutrition section.
So, why is it important to understand what actually goes into our weight? Because we need to set goals for ourselves in order to stay motivated and all too often, our goals are wrong.
We say, "I need to lose twenty pounds," when what we really mean is that we want to look or feel a certain way. We're assuming that whatever the tv or the internet says is an optimal weight is what will make us look or feel that way.
We need to be clear and specific with our goals when it comes to this thing we call "weight loss."
Step 2: Determine the "Why"
If you don't know WHY you're doing this, you'll never follow through. That's just the truth. Perhaps one of the most important factors in losing weight is establishing and remembering WHY you want or need to.
You also need to know WHY so that you can understand your progress better. This goes back to the goal-setting we talked about. Don't set a cookie-cutter goal. Decide what you want, and judge what steps you've taken towards it.
If your goal is to look thinner, track your waistline or take a picture of yourself every few weeks.
If your goal is to feel better, than keep track of how you feel at different key points in the day. And by that, I mean, physically and emotionally, because they're connected.
If your weight is a medical risk, talk with your doctor about how losing weight will improve your condition, so that you know what to look for and track so that you know that it is working.
They might have a certain goal in mind for you in an amount of pounds to lose or what exactly you should weigh. But numbers are hard, and as we talked about before, weight is a poor measuring stick. BMI (body mass index) is better. It is the ratio of fat to other body weight you're carrying. You could try asking your doctor for a different goal.
What is YOUR Primary Reason for Wanting to Lose Weight?
Step 3: Understand the "How"
We all know how to lose weight, right? Diet and Exercise. So why do we research how to lose weight, if we already know how?
Because we want to know how to not give up! We constantly fail, because it's a mind game first. Being mentally fit is the first step to becoming physically fit. And staying that way!
The first step to following through with diet or exercise is becoming educated on them. Understanding how to do these safely and efficiently is important. But the real reason we need the education is to get us interested and excited about dieting and exercising!
We can follow a regimen that a dietician gives us without ever having to know the difference between a simple or complex carb.
BUT, if we learn the fascinating (and sometimes disconcerting) facts about what we're actually putting into our bodies, we take a certain amount of ownership over our diet that gives us the mental strength and control to choose what's best for us. It's less like a chore then and more like a fun science project.
So let's educate ourselves...
Check out these Nutrition Blogs
Let's talk about nutrition. Because we get it wrong. Especially when it comes to weight loss.
Cravings. They're the little devils that sit on your shoulder and make your head spin when you look at a salad and dream about pizza.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” - Sun Tzu, the Art of War
That was said by some Chinese guy who really knew what he was talking about. And lives were on the line. So let's get to know our enemy. Where do cravings come from, anyways?
According to the Center for Advanced Medicine, cravings are actually symptoms of underlying health problems. The kind of craving can tell us a lot about where our bodies might be deficient in certain important nutrients or what other underlying issues we might be dealing with.
- Cravings for sugar are the hardest to kick. This is because sugar is both a cause of and a symptom of a yeast problem. If you're craving sweets, odds are you have a yeast problem that will continue in a vicious cycle until you can cut the sugar.
- Cravings for fatty foods mean you are deficient in oils and fatty acids that your brain and your body need to function correctly. Making sure that you get enough good oils and fats in your diet can cut your craving for junk foods with bad fats.
Many nutritionists suggest that you get at least 6 tablespoons of good oils and fats in your diet every day. These include coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, sunflower seed oil, and butter.
- Cravings for salty foods could indicate a mineral deficiency or adrenal issues.
If you have cravings, talk to a nutritionist about what they could mean and how you should adjust your diet to curb them and give your body the proper fuel it needs to function, without unnecessary weight-gaining foods.
Water weight. Remember when we said that not all weight is fat and muscle and that your body sometimes retains too much water? Here's why. If you're consuming foods that your body is allergic or sensitive to, it considers those to be chemical toxins. In order to dilute those toxins and minimize their negative effects, your body stores more water and fat.
Thyroid problems can also be an underlying factor in weight gain, especially for women. If you feel that for the amount of food you are consuming and exercise you are doing your weight gain doesn't make sense, you should talk to your doctor or nutritionist about checking your thyroid function.
As you can see, there is a lot more to dieting than simply eating less and there are some really interesting facts out there if you're willing to do your research. Get interested in nutrition--not just for weight-loss purposes--but to work towards your general physical and emotional health. It will change the way you approach your diet and food and get you motivated to make necessary changes.
Try out these Healthy Recipes
We already talked about cravings as one roadblock to weight-loss. But the very existence of things that, historically, we've enjoyed eating can lead us to eating it.
We need to start with a clean slate, which means removing all the junk food from your house and filling it with good things.
Here are 4 ways to avoid adding those bad foods back into your life when grocery shopping.
- Shop after you have exercised. If you are properly hydrated and didn't over-do-it, you will feel great after you have exerted yourself and you will be more motivated then ever to put something clean and healthy into your body.
- Don't shop while hungry. If you shop while you're hungry, everything in the store that you don't need will look too good to pass up and you will make poor food choices.
- Make a list. Having a plan of action and determining to not stray from it can give you boundaries to keep poor food decisions out of reach while you're walking past the snack isle.
- Shop where there are less temptations. Shopping places like farmers markets, farm stands, or health foods stores, where there are less temptations is really helpful.
*As a side note, one of the great things about farm stands is that the only sweet things you will find are fruit and maybe some local honey. Sometimes, even health foods stores are filled with fatty, sugary foods that are made with organic ingredients. But that doesn't mean that they have less calories and you can binge on them.
Track your Progress with a Journal
Tip #1 - Keep Learning
We already talked about educating yourself on diet, exercise, weight, health, etc. and that the reasoning behind this is to get you interested and motivated. But that isn't a one-time thing.
You need to keep learning long-term. For as long as you want to stay healthy and keep your weight off, you should continue to research and learn more and more about nutrition and exercise.
Tip #2 - Write it Down
Another huge factor in follow-through is results. You have to be able to see them and track them. This takes a lot of patience, because the initial results you're looking for take the longest to produce. If you're eating and exercising a safe and healthy amount, it usually takes a month before others will start noticing a change and then another month before you start noticing.
Keep a diary. Initially, write down what you eat, your exercise regimen, and a detailed account of how you feel throughout the day—and I mean physically and emotionally.
After a few months, you'll be able to track things, such as weight, waistline, BMI, and physical appearance. But remember, these will take longer to show, so don't begin tracking these at first, because it will give you inaccurate results and disappoint you.
Tip #3 - Phone a Friend
Weight loss is hard. Hard things are much harder when we do them alone.
Having a friend to workout with can be the difference between success and total failure. Ideally, you would have someone who is already exercising regularly and watching what they eat, who can motivate you, help you, and encourage you in your endeavors.
Sometimes, all you have is someone else, who wants the same things you do and they are willing to work together.
Be careful though. If your workout partner is even less motivated than you, they could drag you down and become an excuse for you to slack off or let things slide, where you can't afford to. It's easier to give up if someone else already has.
If you can afford it, consider getting a personal trainer that knows what they're talking about and knows how to help you stay motivated and encourage you in your milestones.