I think it’s pretty safe to say that at some point the majority of us have tried to lose weight. Some may have succeeded, some may have succeeded for a while and then put some (or all) of it back on. Some might have considered it, but found it too overwhelming to even start.
Put simply the only way to lose weight is to have a calorie deficit. That’s it. A calorie deficit will result in weight loss.
Then comes the part that people find tricky…you don’t want to overdo the calorie reduction because that’s not sustainable and you need to be getting enough calories to be able to function. People often sign up to diets…they’re really good for the first few weeks because they’re really determined to lose weight…then life happens, you have a bad day, you eat too much, you have parties to go to, meals to go out for and before you know it those pounds that dropped off easily? Well they go back on just as easily. So annoying!
A lot of clients I see have weight-loss in their top 3 of reasons for wanting to train and whilst exercise can contribute to weight loss, you’re never going to out-train a bad diet. You might do a 30 minute workout, but if you then spend the rest of the day sat down and eat a nice takeaway curry late at night with all the sides…well those calories that you burned in your workout are consumed with the food…and some!
How we eat, what we eat, by the time we’re grown-ups (yes, we are those now) is pretty much habitual. I bet you have favourite dinners, go-to dinners, something you can knock up in 20 minutes when you’re in a rush, you might have the same yoghurts after dinner every night because it’s just what you always do, you may find yourself of an afternoon (around 2pm it used to be for me) nipping into an establishment selling tea/coffee and find yourself most days ordering a hot milky drink and a slice of cake. Or maybe it’s when you’ve nipped into the garage and bought a packet of Midget Gems and before the day is even out those little gems are gone…into the pit of your stomach, entirely mindlessly, you probably didn’t even really taste them.
To be successful in losing weight you need to take a look at what consuming, because believe me, you’d be surprised where all of the calories come from.
I do recommend people keep a food diary, certainly in the first few weeks, to try and establish eating patterns, whether it’s certain times of the day when sugar overload happens, whether there’s enough protein on your plate, whether there’s enough carbohydrate (they aren’t bad for you, just too much of them is bad, just like too much of anything is bad!), whether in your monthly cycle you find you’re more likely to crave something and then turn a day’s craving into a week.
It is only by taking a look at things that you can look at making changes. Changes don’t need to be dramatic; you don’t need to cut everything out of your diet, but if you want to see results then you have to be honest with yourself.
Over 4 years ago I stopped having/buying/eating Midget Gems…genuinely like a drug to me and when I’d started exercising and thought it’d probably be an idea to try and not have so much rubbish, I was staggered when I discovered a bag was 500cals – that’s more than a ¼ of my calorie allowance for an entire day (based on 1,500-1,800 being the average calorie intake for a woman)! By stopping eating Midget Gems I reduced my calorie intake pretty significantly with just one thing!
One of the best tools I used to help me with my food intake was MyFitnessPal – you can get it on your phone/computer and you can log what you eat/drink. It’s similar to an app that WW offer you – you can scan barcodes and if it’s in the database it tells you how many calories you’re consuming and if there isn’t a barcode, there’s a really good search engine that can find most things. Most restaurant chains have their menus uploaded to it as well as coffee shops – Costa Medium Hot Choc? 327cals. McDonalds Medium Fries? 337cals. Nero Pain Au Chocolate – 258cal – everything has calories, even the healthy stuff, but these are just examples of something a lot of my calories used to be from! You can even add an entire recipe into the database and it’ll work out calories per portion – yep, try that with a triple chocolate cake!
I have used that app for over 1,300 days (it tells you; I haven’t kept tabs on myself!). Some people find it a little strange, some say it’s obsessive, but I lost 5 stone and kept it off for over 3 years – so, I’m ok with logging my food and people thinking that it’s strange to do that because it works for me and a lot of other people. Some days I eat more calories than usual, some days more than half of my calories are from less nutritious food, other days I am on it with the healthy stuff – it’s about balance.
If you can try to work towards 80/20 rule – eating more healthy and nutritious food 80% of the time and saving the less nutritious food for 20% you won’t go far wrong – that’s a sustainable way to live and that’s the idea – you don’t want dieting/losing weight to involve masses of deprivation because at some point you’ll just get really annoyed and if you’re anything like I used to be, you’ll reach for the biscuits, the cake, the sweets to make you feel better.
If you’re looking to lose weight reduce the number of calories you consume (in a healthy and balanced way). Use tools that are available to you if you aren’t sure how many you’re consuming because it’s only by educating yourself that you can make long-term changes.
A spoonful less pasta on your plate at dinnertime, switch your loaf of bread for one with a little less calories, 2 scoops of ice cream instead of 3 after dinner, try not to eat sweet stuff after 7pm, alternate drinks on a night out with water, have a burger without the chips, have 1 biscuit instead of 2 and go back for the 2nd if you really really need it. Don’t reach for a snack when you find you’re hungry at 11.30 and are going to have lunch in ½ an hour – you’re allowed to feel hungry for a short period of time! Switch your drink order, full-fat to semi, semi to skimmed, change the cake to a biscuit, switch your humbugs to Polos – I have a heap of switches…you still get to eat, you just learn to eat better.
500 calories less per day results in a 1lb loss and that’s a healthy amount to lose in a way that you can sustain for the long-run.
Then all you’ve got to do is imagine what would happen if you started exercising too… x
If you want a food diary template then drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll get one over to you.
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