This is the question I receive most often. With all the tips, tricks, diets, and plain old misinformation out there it can be hard to know where to begin! This is my attempt at explaining the basics to successful healthy weight loss. I’m going to try to include EVERYTHING I know, and everything I’ve been asked in this post. I’m sorry its such a novel, but I promise it will be worth the read.
Before you start this journey, I hope you’ll take a moment to stop and love yourself and your body. This is the only one you have, and the only one you’ll get. Please treat it well through this process! Thats the biggest piece of advice I have. Wanting to change your body doesn’t mean you need to hate the one you currently have. You are beautiful now, and you’ll be beautiful when you reach your goal.
First I want to talk about the superficial/aesthetic reasons people lose weight. Sculpting the body you want is awesome! But there are some things that are unrealistic or impossible for some bodies. Things like thigh gaps, or how much your collar and hip bones show are all based on the way you’re built. You can’t change your skeleton :P Its important to keep the image in your head of your personal best body, not someone else’s.
A realistic goal for weight loss is between .5 and 2lb a week. More than 2lb a week is generally not recommended. This rate of weight loss is helps preserve muscle mass and is easier to maintain in the long run. This can be achieved through cutting calories, exercise, or both.
A realistic goal weight depends on your height and frame. You can find a good chart here.
If you are giving yourself a deadline, make sure to give yourself room for mistakes. You may backslide. Bumps in the road happen. Almost everyone who tries to lose weight has an off week every so often. Just remember to KEEP GOING and dont give up!
Ladies, (and gentlemen!) start your calculators.
First we’re going to calculate your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). This is the base amount of calories your body needs to function.
Use the following formula:
Women: 655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)
Men: 66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)
You can also use this online calculator.
Next, we’re going to factor in your activity level.
If you are sedentary (You spend most the day in a chair): BMR x 20 percent
If you are lightly active (You walk around a lot during your daily activities): BMR x 30 percent
If you are moderately active(You exercise most days a week): BMR x 40 percent
If you are very active (You exercise intensely on a daily basis or for prolonged periods): BMR x 50 percent
If you are extra active (You do hard labor or are in athletic training): BMR x 60 percent
Now, add that number to your BMR.
This is the number of calories you need to eat each day to maintain your current weight.
Multiply this number by 7. This is how many calories you need per week to maintain your current weight.
Now you’re going to take that weekly number and subtract 3500 from it. Now divide it by 7.
This is the number of calories you should eat each day to lose 1lb a week. For 2lb a week, subtract 7000.
DO NOT EAT LESS THAN 1200 CALORIES A DAY.
Eating too few calories will kill your metabolism and work against you.
I highly recommend making yourself a meal plan. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or complicated! Just a quick write up of what to buy and eat for the week will help you keep on track. With a meal plan, you’re less likely to stress and abandon your diet/lifestyle change mid-day because you just want to grab something to eat quickly. You’ll also have less days where you lose track of how many calories you’ve had until right before dinner.. and realize you only have 200 left (Guilty. PS - on those days I ate a full dinner anyway. ‘Cause shit happens and you should eat when you’re hungry.)
Most of your food should come from the perimeter of the grocery store. Tons of produce, lean meat, fish, and some dairy/eggs. You’ll also want to include whole grains, beans, and nuts.
Try and choose options with the least amount of processing. The more ingredients you can pronounce or recognize, the better. The one with the least amount of calories isn’t always the healthiest!
Avoid canned foods when you can. These have HUGE amounts of sodium and a lot of the nutritional content is destroyed in the canning process. Plus, they lose another 10-20% of the nutritional content on top of that each year that they sit in the can. If money is an issue for fresh produce - check out the frozen aisle before buying canned. Many packages are flash frozen soon after harvest keeping them fresh and retaining most of their nutritional content.
Breads, rice, pasta, cereal, etc should all be whole grain. Think brown > white. ‘Multi-grain’ doesn’t always mean ‘whole’ - be careful of that!
Foods labeled ‘all natural’ aren’t always healthy. There is no real definition or guideline about what can be labeled all natural. When you see it, assume its BS.
Don’t drink your calories. Unless you’re having a hard time meeting your daily intake, avoid juices and sodas. Water is your new best friend. Drink at LEAST eight 8oz glasses of water a day, even more if you’re working out hard.
Avoid diet pills. They’re not worth it, and you won’t get any extra results from them. That extra money is better off being put toward going organic, or a new blender, or a new pair of pants when you go down a size ;)
You can eat several small meals a day, or have 3 meals a day with snacks. No matter how you go about it, make sure you’re not starving yourself! If you’re hungry, eat. When you make yourself go hungry, you’re more likely to binge and eat far more than you would have had you just eaten in the first place.
A good rule of thumb when making a meal is to try and keep it 1/2 fruits/veggies, 1/4 protein, 1/4 grain.
An awesome tool when thinking about portions is WebMD’s portion size plate. Its easy, interactive, and gives you a good idea about what one serving looks like.
For tracking calories taken in and calories burned, MyFitnessPal.com is fantastic and easy to use. I highly recommend it. Plus it has a huge community of people who are looking to lose weight too.
Take time to look up recipes, cook, and find things you enjoy eating. Don’t make the mistake of just tolerating foods you think will make you lose the most weight then switching back to the old diet when you hit your goal. If you want the changes in your body to be permanent, the changes in your diet need to be permanent.
Exercise is SO important to healthy, permanent weight loss. Besides the obvious health benefits, exercise will keep you burning more calories through the day and you won’t lose muscle mass (as you will with cutting calories alone). You will sleep better, feel better, and be all around happier with regular exercise.
There two types of exercise you should incorporate into your routine: Cardio and Strength. 30 to 60 minutes of total exercise 5 times a week is a good amount to shoot for. If you’re a beginner, just do as much as you can and work up. Remember to give yourself at least one rest day.
Cardio is basically anything that gets you breathing hard and your heart rate up. This can include running, biking, swimming, rowing, jumping rope, kickboxing, skating, playing sports, dancing, hiking, power yoga.. the list goes on and on. Find something you really enjoy doing!
Hold up, ladies. Don’t think that strength training us just for the men. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism is. That means you burn more calories through the day when you’re not working out. Strength training is what gives you sexy, lean muscles and a perkier butt and boobs. You will NOT - I repeat NOT end up looking like a ripped muscle man from lifting weights. Even really heavy ones. Though not all strength training includes weights. Start with a routine that works all muscle groups. If you’re not sure what to do, check out these links: Best Arm Exercises, Best Ab Exercises, Best Thigh Exercises.
You can also do a DVD workout plan. Things like the 30 Day Shred, Insanity, PX90, etc etc are all home workout programs that have given lots of people great results.
Joining a gym is great because you are usually given an opportunity to learn from a trainer when you join. They’ll go over how to use machines properly and safely, show you the starting weight/pace thats right for you, and answer any questions you have about a workout. Depending on the gym, you’ll also have access to group classes, a pool, steam room, and even sometimes a hot tub :D
If you are very overweight, have old injuries, or weak joints, don’t despair! Low impact workouts are for you. Things like walking, step aerobics, swimming, zumba, cycling, using an eliptical machine, rowing machine, yoga (especially aerial yoga), or pilates are all low impact and easy on the body while still burning calories.
Remember to warm up before a workout to avoid injury, and cool down after to avoid being sore. The longer your cool down, the more your body is able to recover, the less sore you’ll be the next day. You can do this by walking, stretching, and getting a massage. Drinking lots of water will help too!
Lastly, keep in mind that the one thing exercise can’t do is make you lose fat in one specific area. When we lose fat, we lose it all over or nowhere. We can’t spot lose!
Make a MyFitnessPal account. It has a huge community full of other people trying to slim down and get healthy too. You can use it to track calories eaten and burned, your total weight lost, and inches lost! You can add other users as friends and see what they’re doing on your homepage. It looks a little like facebook, except you can comment on your friends progress, meals, and status updates :)
Make a tumblr blog dedicated to your weightloss/health journey. The community here calls themselves ‘fitblr’s and WE’D LOVE TO HAVE YOU
Track not only your weight on the scale, but the inches around your waist, arms, legs etc. The scale doesn’t always show the whole story. Remember that 1lb of muscle takes up less space than 1lb of fat. As you gain muscle, you shrink! But it may not always show on the scale.
Celebrate your non-scale weights just as much as you celebrate your scale weights. Your measurements, your flexibility, the number of reps/sets you can do, the amount of time you can run before you have to stop, how fast you can run a mile, even being less out of breath when you walk upstairs than you used to be is still a success and its worth noticing and being excited about!
Make yourself small rewards for goals. Give yourself a few goal weights if you have a lot of weight to lose. Go shopping, get ice cream, take a trip, get your car detailed.. whatever! Work towards something.
Write yourself a letter when you’re feeling extra pumped and motivated. Tell yourself how awesome you feel, remind yourself why you’re doing this. Include health reasons, non-aesthetic reasons, and physical reasons you want to finish this journey. Pull it out anytime you feel like you want to give up.
LET YOURSELF HAVE TREATS. Eating healthy and losing weight doesn’t mean the end of sweets. It just means eating them in moderation. Don’t keep what you can’t control yourself around in the house, but don’t deprive yourself of them completely. Take yourself (and a friend!) out for a scoop of ice cream. Have a slice of pizza. Or two! Its fine to indulge every once in a while. If you’re sitting around thinking about all the things you miss and arent allowed to have anymore, you’re likely to not want to continue.
Have a workout buddy. Having someone to help pass the time while you workout and push you to keep going is great motivation. Plus, nobody wants to be the one to call the other and say they don’t feel like working out today.
Keep it small and simple at first. Don’t overwhelm yourself with new changes.
Weigh yourself once a week, and only once a week. Weight tends to fluctuate like crazy through the week. If you weight yourself everyday, you’ll go crazy. On the day you weigh, try to do it when you wake up, after you use the bathroom and before your shower. You’ll have a more accurate idea of how much fat you’re losing this way.
As you lose weight and your clothes get looser, donate them! You’ll feel great helping clothe others, and it can be kinda like a funeral for clothes that you won’t ever be fitting into again!
Okay. Thats all. WOW that’s long. I hope you learned something, and may God bless every beautiful soul that actually read the whole thing haha. I even tried not to swear in this post for once! *deep breath* Any questions, feel free to ask! (off anon will get you a faster response)