Here it is folks… the grand finale you’ve all been waiting for: how to lose weight! We’ve covered getting your mindset right, having conversations and connections with those around us, creating supportive surroundings, losing weight to encourage our deeper purpose, and learning to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. Which leaves us with the last dimension of health… the Physical Health Dimension. As hard as it may be for me to separate the physical dimension from the rest, here it is: the science of losing weight.
You may have tried diets before and thought they weren’t working, an extreme exercise program that kicked your butt, or even different pills that guaranteed to slim you down in no time. However, I’d like to go back to the basics of physical health to explore a few foundational scientific facts of what helps a person lose weight. Physical health is a balance of good nutrition, exercise, and sleep, so we will look at each of these factors individually. This article begins with 3 facts of weight loss that I found most important to remember when embarking on a weight loss journey. I also include a brief section exercise (spoiler- this is not the most important aspect of weight loss!). Finally, I’ll touch on the importance of sleep. It is my hope that a few of these foundational facts will give you a more in depth look on ways you can change your lifestyle to jump-start your weight loss plan (or more easily maintain the weight you are at)!
Fact #1: it is true that you lose weight in the kitchen. You will never hear me say that exercise is a bad idea, but it is, in all honesty, a very small piece of the weight loss puzzle when compared to nutrition. In fact, 80% of weight loss is nutrition. That is a big deal! Your diet is where you should place your main focus on when losing weight. I’ll be doing a nutrition-specific post soon, but for now, think food if you are trying to shed the pounds!
This brings us to Fact #2: calories in vs calories out is important and is going to work every time! We’ll discuss the quality of calories in a bit, but for right now, let’s just discuss this fact: If you consume less calories than you burn, you will lose weight. Some diets don’t require any calorie counting; however, when losing weight, it is the surest way to put yourself at the deficit you need to lose weight. Also, it helps you to learn what your daily intake should be and it helps train you to eat in moderation. There are different calorie counters that will help you with this, and I highly suggest using them if you’re really serious about losing weight and need assistance getting on track. MyFitnessPal is a great app that can help you with this and there are several others that work as well. Pay attention to the amount of calories it tells you to cut, though, because weight loss at a rate any faster than 1-2 pounds a week is not healthy. Also, Reddit’s xx/fitness subreddit has a great calorie formula for you to use as well to decide how many calories to consume a day. It is on the safer side as far as cutting calories is concerned.
Now, the reason you may have heard “all calories are not created equal” is not because calories in vs calories out doesn’t work, but because it affects your body composition (or your fat to muscle ratio/ how your body looks)… Fact #3: Quality of calories matter. Would you lose weight if you ate 1500 calories of junk food a day and burned 2000 calories? Yes. How would you look after doing that? Puffy, possibly smaller (unless you just lost a lot of muscle weight), but probably not a lot of tone and definitely not how you envisioned you’d look after losing weight. How would your body feel? Slow, you may get sick a lot, and you would most likely have digestive issues. How would your mental health and relationships be? Probably pretty awful because you’d be irritable, have surges of energy after eating mixed in with lows after your sugar crashes, and you’d be pretty awful to be around.
So, eat clean foods! Yes, it is harder to eat healthy foods than unhealthy foods in America, which I can especially attest to after completing my second Whole30 (eliminating sugar, alcohol, legumes, grains, and dairy for 30 days)… But, I can also tell you about how amazing my body felt, how much energy I had, how routine clean eating can become, and how awesome my general outlook on life and attitude were as well! The food you put into your body matters. If you lose weight while eating healthy foods, you are more likely to lose fat (or at the very least, keep your body composition the same) and you will look a lot leaner and healthier if you put quality fuel into your body.
I hopefully don’t need to lecture you any further about enjoyment of healthier foods, but I’ll just say a final short piece: find healthy foods you enjoy. You can restrict calories, you can cut out your favorite junk foods, but if you don’t enjoy what you’re replacing it with, it won’t last. There are so many fad diets right now that claim to be the answer: intermittent fasting, keto, paleo, vegan, etc… Whatever the diet or eating style, remember that you are trying to create an entire lifestyle change! If you don’t want to go 16-18 hours without eating every day for the rest of your life or cut out fruits/complex carbs/dairy/limit carbs (aka limiting some highly nutritious fruits and veggies)/ and/or entire food groups for good, then don’t try to use it as a temporary fix. Instead, focus more on healthy, nutritious eating habits that you can adopt for the rest of your life! You need to transform your menu, your taste buds, and your grocery shopping permanently if you want to lose weight and keep it off for life. Remember this as you take your first steps on the weight loss journey.
Where does exercise come into play? Exercise is still 20% of the equation. Why? Because moving your body does burn calories. And because your body runs more efficiently when you include exercise. The MyFitnessPal app tells you to eat extra calories after you exercise, but I choose not to do this. I just add in about 100-200 calories more than what it tells me to eat, and this covers my exercise in general. This is what a lot of fitness and weight loss experts recommend because our body doesn’t burn and lose or gain in neat little 24 hour periods. Being more active, in general, gives us extra (but not a lot!) calories to consume, in general. If you have a few days where you know you will be less active, eat a little less to counteract this lack of activity.
What kind of exercise should you do? A variety. I outline them more specifically in my Exercise Challenge posts if you’d like to read more in depth. But a summary of what I cover is this: include weight lifting to tone your body, lose more fat, and increase your resting metabolism. Include cardio to help with your heart health, muscular endurance, burn extra calories, and for enjoyment, as most of these exercises can be done in a group, in a beautiful setting, or even in front of a TV watching your favorite show. Also, include flexibility to prevent injury, relieve stress, and increase blood flow to your entire body. This will also encourage weight loss! Finally, incorporate a number of different lifestyle activities into your life including gardening, family bike rides, walking your dog, mowing the lawn, shoveling the driveway, vacuuming, sweeping, playing with your kids or grandkids rather than just watching, using the stairs rather than the elevator, or walking or biking to close places rather than driving.
A note on sleep: Whenever I discuss physical health, I include sleep. I believe nutrition, exercise, and sleep are the three pillars of physical health. There have been recent studies that have shown that inadequate sleep can prevent weight loss and even cause weight gain! If you’d like to read more on the subject: 7 Ways Sleep Can Help You Lose Weight is a great article on the subject. The article explores the importance of sleep, and these are a few of the takeaways that are important to keep in mind: a lack of sleep can increase your appetite, decrease your willpower, slow down your metabolism, and hinder your exercise performance!
If you’ve tried dieting and exercise to lose weight before and weren’t successful, inadequate sleep may have been to blame. It is recommended that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep each and every night, and some may need even more! Make sure you are getting those z’s if weight loss is your goal!
Overall, focus on your nutrition, consume less calories than you burn, and eat good quality foods that fill you up, keep you healthy, and improve your body tone. Find foods and recipes that you enjoy and can permanently replace your old favorites. Add in some daily exercise to jumpstart your metabolism, increase your overall health, and improve your body composition. Finally, give your body adequate rest, so it can function properly and aid in digestion and weight loss. All in all, these concepts are not difficult to understand, but having the general knowledge is important so you can put them into action in your weight loss journey. In my own opinion, getting a grasp on the other dimensions of health is usually the hardest aspect of losing weight.
What are some of the tricks, tips, and facts you’ve found to be helpful when losing weight?! Share below in the comments!
I hope all of these articles have been helpful to those of you trying to lose or maintain weight! As always, reach out to me with any questions you may have, and I’d be happy to assist and support you on your weight loss journey!
If you missed any of my previous A Holistic Approach to Weight Loss posts, but would like to read up on the other dimensions of health and their effect on weight loss, click on the link above to check them out!
February’s Challenge: Clean Eating Challenge!
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In February I will be starting a Clean Eating Challenge to help you either jumpstart a clean eating program or continue with the clean eating program you started for the new year. I hope you’ll consider joining me! My personal challenge is going to be cutting out sugar, but everyone can make their own unique goals that fit their lifestyle and desired outcomes best!
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi