There usually comes a point in most people’s lives when they will want to lose weight, whether it is a matter of 10 pounds or 100 pounds, out of vanity or for health reasons. We are all aware of the risks of being overweight or obese, thanks to the constant health publications in the media. Embarking on a weight loss journey may seem daunting at first, but the benefits of weight loss are phenomenal, both mentally and physically. Nowadays, people put off weight loss because they believe it will be easy and that they can do it at any time, thanks to many websites promising “six-pack abs in six weeks” or a magical supplement which will do the weight loss for them, and that there is no need to exercise or eat healthier. Plenty of people believe that these are the easy way out and no effort is required to lose any weight. These claims are obviously untrue, and although some supplements can aid weight loss, some can also be damaging, and the most effective way to lose weight is through a change of lifestyle and diet. Gradual, small changes, rather than changing everything at once is the best way to success, as explained in this article.
The first step of weight loss is to ascertain a target weight. There are many formulas which can be used to find out the ideal weight. BMI, as a basic tool for the average person, is a simple way to estimate the ideal weight range. Another way is to use the HAMWI formula. Women should allow 100 pounds for the first 60 inches of height, and add on 5 pounds for each inch after that. So for a woman of 5’5 (65 inches), the mid-range of her ideal weight would be 125 pounds. Men should allow 106 pounds for the first 60 inches, and 6 pounds for each additional inch. Therefore, a man of 6’1 (73 inches) has a mid-range of 184 pounds. 10% can then be taken from and added to this figure to find out the high and low end of the scale. For the woman of 65 inches, her ideal weight would range between 112 pounds and 138 pounds. If she had a small frame size, her weight should be around the 112 pounds figure; for a large frame size, it should be around 138 pounds. To find out a body frame size, a circle should be made with the thumb and middle finger around the wrist of the dominant hand. If the finger and thumb do not touch, this indicates a large frame size; if they barely touch, this indicates a medium frame size and if they overlap, a small frame size. The goal weight should be relative to the calculations above, otherwise there could be disappointment due to unrealistic expectations. Or you can save yourself a lot of time and effort and use our Ideal Weight Calculator.
Everyone knows the simple equation; expend more calories than is consumed. This confuses many people as they are not aware that their BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) is included in this. The HealthStatus BMR Calculator can advise on your BMR. As an example, if a person’s BMR is 1,500 and they consume 2,000 calories a day and do not exercise, the excess 500 calories will not be used by their body and will instead be stored as fat; 3,500 calories equates to 1 pound of weight gained or lost. However, if they consume 1,200 calories and burn off 200 through exercise, they will be creating a deficit of 500 calories which will lead to weight loss over the long-term. If a 500 calorie deficit is created every day for a week, a loss of 1lb can usually be seen for that week. A healthy amount to lose per week is 1% of total body weight. For someone weighing 150 pounds, 1.5 pounds should be their target loss for a week, although no two weeks will be the same; some weeks a 3 pounds loss may occur, but other weeks there may be no weight loss at all. Although the latter can be frustrating, weight is down to many things at the time, including water retention, so it is not usually reflective of the effort which has been put in. If a weight loss plateau occurs for a long time, changes to the diet or exercise regime may be necessary.
It is easiest to make reductions in the diet as well as exercising, rather than just cutting calories through diet. When too little food is consumed, common side-effects include feeling tired and irritable, as well as a potential weight loss plateau. When exercise and reductions in the diet are combined, this allows weight loss, as well as an improvement in fitness. Many people who embark on such a lifestyle change find they also have goals for fitness that they never would have considered before losing weight. Although calorie counting may seem tedious, it is the easiest, most reliable way of losing weight. There are many websites and slimming clubs which supply an online food tracker and/or meal plans, allowing intake to be added up and meals to be planned effectively. Recommended calorie intake (as well as other macronutrients such as protein and carbohydrates) figures are supplied, so there is no need to calculate it. Before starting a lifestyle change, taking measurements (weight, body fat percentage and chest/waist/hip) is recommended, as the changes will not only be seen in the mirror, but on the scales and tape measure too. Keeping a record of changes in measurements and weight on a chart or graph can be incredibly inspiring and motivating.
Joining a well-known slimming club or website is recommended as these can aid motivation and the feeling of being accountable for all actions, both dietary and physically. There are several free online food and exercise trackers, as well as various weight loss forums, so if an outlay of $5-$15 a week on a club/website is out of the question, these can be used. When tracking food and exercise, honesty is a necessity. When the extra square of chocolate that was eaten, or the doughnut that really should have been avoided are not included in the meal tracking, the weight loss journey is being hindered by dishonesty. It is okay to slip up occasionally; everyone does. But being honest about these slip ups, no matter how small, is necessary, so the cause can be identified, whether it is due to being stressed or simply being around too much food and the constant temptation of treats. An extra piece of chocolate or a biscuit outside of a meal plan is not going to ruin an entire year’s worth of weight loss efforts, but allowing these to happen too often can be risky and pave the way for a slippery slope back into bad habits. These slip ups are just temporary setbacks which can easily be bypassed by avoiding the identified triggers next time.
Weighing out food portions is necessary in the first month so portion sizes can be ascertained. Many people overestimate the amount their breakfast cereal allows them, with some eating up to 75% more than the recommended amount! Chocolate does not need to be completely forbidden, simply having a few squares rather than the whole bar means that it can be included within a healthy, balanced diet. Portioning out treats, whether a chocolate bar or a favourite snack, into recommended serving sizes and storing them in separate bags allows a favourite treat to be on hand, without the worry of eating too much of it. If willpower is a struggle when it comes to a certain food, it may be better to not buy it at all, at least in the early days. Making even the smallest of changes to a lifestyle and diet, rather than changing everything at once, allows the mind and body to adapt to these changes before implementing more challenging goals. For example, a small change could be to make sure four glasses of water a day are consumed a day, two pieces of fruit are eaten and the stairs are taken, rather than using a lift/escalator. Switching a packet of crisps for a healthier type, or changing from white bread to wholemeal, are small changes which can improve a diet and lifestyle for good.
Once these small changes become second nature and part of a routine, bigger changes can be considered, such as an exercise regime. Starting small with exercise makes it even easier to add healthier habits into an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. Even walking around the block is better than sitting still and doing nothing at all. Starting an exercise regime can feel daunting, but there are many guides online, as well as many cheap workout DVDs on marketplace websites which are great workouts that can be done in as little as 10 minutes. There are DVDs specifically for 10-15 minute workouts, aimed at busy people, so there is always enough time in the day to exercise! Gym memberships can be pricey, but there are many ways of losing weight outside the gym, including power walking, jogging and strength training with dumbbells (these can be bought online for very reasonable prices — cheaper than a gym membership!). It is very easy to make excuses when lacking motivation, but the only person who can change their lifestyle is oneself. At a time when one in three people in the UK are overweight or obese, it is time to take responsibility for our own actions. There may be biscuits or chocolates on offer in the supermarket, but it does not mean they have to be purchased, especially when nutrient-packed fruit and vegetables can be bought for the same price at budget supermarkets.
Once an exercise regime has been established, and a calorie controlled diet is being followed, changes can be seen within as little as a few weeks. Feeling happier, healthier and looking better can be expected soon after beginning a healthier lifestyle. For starters, swapping bars of chocolate for apples and other fruit makes skin noticeably clearer, as does drinking water or fruit squash/cordial instead of fizzy drinks. There will come a point within about six months when calorie counting may no longer be necessary, as one is aware of the nutritional value of most foods. Attention still needs to be paid to food consumption and ensuring each meal is balanced, but without the restriction of having to count the calories of every food product consumed. Exercise needs to be continued, as this is essential to weight maintenance. It is also a good time for goal reassessment, to see whether the current weight should be maintained, or more weight should be lost. Once the target weight has been reached, one cannot become complacent. Only 5% of people who lose a substantial amount of weight actually keep the whole amount off for the long-term. To be part of the 5%, this lifestyle needs to continue and cannot be changed as soon as the magic number appears on the scale or the tape measure.
If the weight simply is not coming off, even after a lifestyle makeover, food intake should be rigorously tracked to ensure that calorie burn through exercise is not being overestimated. Many online calculators can overestimate and it is better to underestimate calorie burn. If this still does not prevail, a trip to the GP may be necessary to see if an underactive thyroid or any other health issues are inhibiting weight loss. These weight loss tips should work with the vast majority of people, but if the scales, exercise or healthy diet are a struggle, simply imagine the future without the excess weight, and allow that to be the guide through the hard times to the final goal weight. Sometimes the scales may not show any change, but taking measurements every month should show that the target is ever closer. There are many online weight loss forums and joining one may be motivational, as well educating on the process of weight loss and the struggles one may face. The ultimate victory is in sight as long as the basic rules of a healthy diet and exercise are followed. Instead of calling these changes a ‘diet’, they should be referred to as a ‘lifestyle change’. This way, someone embarking on, an already challenging task, will not be in the mindset that they are restricted to lettuce leaves! All food can be eaten in moderation, and restriction is only necessary when it comes to portion control.