In this world of temptations, increasing convenience, and time-consuming entertainment, losing weight seems to be a Herculean task. Our tendencies to favor a quick fix and instant gratification over the struggle of everyday improvement makes keeping off those pounds more difficult than ever. It’s becoming nearly impossible to keep ourselves healthy.
Or so we convince ourselves. Don’t be discouraged! As daunting and complex as it may seem, losing weight is far simpler than society makes it out to be. It’s not the fad diets or 30-day gym memberships that will lead you to your ideal weight, but a healthy mix of lifestyle habits that will help you succeed. To assist you on your weight loss journey, we’ve put together a handy guide to help you be a healthier, lighter, and happier you!
Let me give it to you straight: losing weight (and keeping it off) isn’t a walk in the park (though it’d be a good start!). Before we rush into things, we need to understand the barriers to losing weight and how to counteract them so we can start off on the right foot.
You’ve got that friend who, despite devouring a whole pizza and a tub of ice cream, is still effortlessly skinny! On the other hand, you’ve sworn off cake, visited the gym a few times, and recruited a workout buddy (who’s probably less motivated than you). So why can’t you achieve your ideal weight? Is it really all genetics?
Truth be told, that’s part of the answer.
While every body is different, there are three major body types that are predetermined by your genetics: The Ectomorph, The Endomorph, and The Mesomorph. The Ectomorph has a thin build and bone structure and naturally tends to be on the skinny side. The Endomorph is the opposite, with a thick build and bone structure, naturally tending to be heavier and with more body fat. The Mesomorph is between these two, standing in the middle of the spectrum. These categories are only one demonstration of how genetics plays a part in your susceptibility to weight loss – or lack thereof. However, while genetics can make it harder or easier for you to cut pounds, it doesn’t determine your weight; that’s up to you.
Weight loss doesn’t magically occur after several trips to the gym and avoiding chips for a week. People might not want to admit it, but a significant change in weight is usually synonymous to a change in lifestyle. It may sound intimidating, but don’t let the words “healthy lifestyle” scare you away from your weight loss goals. By breaking down the steps to living a healthy lifestyle, your weight loss dreams will become reality before you know it.
First off, don’t rush. Scrambling to be a new, healthier you will get you nowhere – except back on the couch for your Friday Netflix marathons. Instead, transitioning to a healthy lifestyle is about forming good habits that, when followed diligently, make it exponentially easier to treat your body well. Form the process of developing good habits start with a single step. This can be anything, from switching out your soda with a glass of water to jumping off the bus two stops early so you can walk more. Regardless of what your first steps may be, every successful step makes the next step easier.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. – Lao Tzu
So taking the first step is, admittedly, pretty easy! You’re feeling good, adding some reps to your workout, and you’ve stopped eating that cheesecake you love so much. But then…you’re invited to a party and that cake has your name written on it. Suddenly, you’re having a terrible week at work and decide to skip the gym. Soon enough, your original start is gone. You’ve taken a step back.These daily distractions are what cause so many healthy lifestyle aspirations to go down the drain, and it’s not because the motives or methods are wrong – it’s simply due to lack of commitment and consistency. In order for your lifestyle changes to have a lasting impact, every day needs to be a committed “Yes, I can!” towards your final goal of losing weight – no excuses, and no cheating. Losing weight is like marriage; you can’t cheat and expect it to work out. Here, the only person you’re cheating is yourself! Commitment is all about putting yourself first, so be selfish about your goals.
So now we know what not to do – but how does weight loss actually happen?
There are two major components to weight loss: diet and exercise. These work together to make sure that the calories you intake (through your diet) are less than the calories you burn (through exercise). It’s truly that simple! When done properly, diet and exercise work harmoniously together to help you achieve your ideal weight.
While the “burn more calories than you intake” rule works well, that’s only scratching the surface of the immensely complex system that is your body.
The foods and nutrients you intake can have the same number of calories but have varying metabolic effects, meaning different nutrients lead to different hormonal responses. Example: a giant plate of strawberries might only be 100 calories (and a yummy snack!), but the natural sugars in the strawberries have a detrimental effect on your fat-regulating hormones. So let’s dig deeper into what you want in your food, so you don’t have to blindly follow the next diet craze!
Carbs, also known as Carbohydrates, are sugars that break down in your body after you’ve consumed them. There are two types of carbs: simple and complex.
Simple carbs are often called “empty calories” because they have little nutritional benefits and give you an energy spike, but quickly drag you down to an energy low. These are most often seen as sugar in candy, soft drinks, white bread, white rice etc. Complex carbs, on the other hand, take longer for your body to digest and help you stay energetic for longer periods of time. These are most often seen in whole grains, brown rice, beans, etc. You can learn more about the science of it and which foods fall into these categories here, but basically see simple carbs as the Joker and complex carbs as Robin in your weight loss story. If you replace the simple carbs in your diet with complex carbs, you can make losing weight significantly easier!
This is also why eating too much fruit isn’t as good for you as people think (so don’t be fooled by those yummy looking fruit bowls on Instagram)! Most fruits actually contain high levels of the sugar fructose (i.e. simple carbs! Beware!). The Study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that consuming fructose can lead to the hormones leptin and insulin to decrease signals to central nervous system. This is a problem because leptin affects fat and glucose storage and feelings of hunger, while insulin regulates the accumulation of fat in the body. While fruits do have a ton of nutritional benefits, be careful not to eat them in excess!
If the popularity of protein shakes and powders isn’t proof enough, listen to the facts to understand why protein is a beneficial and necessary part of your diet.
First off, protein is able to keep you full with less calories than other foods. By feeling fuller and more satisfied, you’ll be less likely to reach for that second plate of sugary desserts. Secondly, protein actually requires more of your body’s energy to be digested, helping you to burn more calories simply through the natural process of breaking your food down. Next, protein assists in repairing and developing your muscles. Especially after a good workout (more on this later), your muscles require nutrients in order to recover and become stronger, and protein is an ideal source for those nutrients. Finally, protein (and complex carbs) are actually necessary to burn body fat, while helping to build muscle to burn even more calories. You can learn more about which foods are good sources of proteins and the science behind it here.
Yes, you read it correctly! Fat is actually an important and necessary part of your diet, despite the societal taboo around “eating too much fat”! Similarly to carbs, there are different categories of fats: unsaturated, saturated, and trans fat.
Unsaturated fats are the best kinds of fats, consisting of either monounsaturated fats, which protect against belly fat and plaque buildup in your arteries, or polyunsaturated fats, which help to strengthen your immune system by containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Saturated fats, on the other hand, aren’t as great and their consumption should be limited as they can increase risk of heart disease and raise your cholesterol levels. Finally, the worst of them all: trans fats. These are fats that are chemically processed to last longer on your shelves. They promote heart disease and should definitely be avoided – so put down those fries and cookies! You can learn more about fats and where to find all three of these fats here.
Diet Tips and Tricks
As straightforward as it may seem, maintaining a healthy diet can still be challenging. Here are some handy tips to help you stay on the right track!
- Be conscientious of your diet and eating habits. Ex: Take pictures of every meal or write it down!
- No overeating! You can prevent this by using smaller plates or bowls so you serve less or drinking more water so you feel more full. In fact, feeling “hungry” at odd times in the day is probably because you’re actually dehydrated, so grab a nice refreshing glass of water instead!
- Don’t fall prey to your cravings or weak moments; know when they’re coming and have a plan to counteract them. Ex: Put lemon slices or a few strawberries in your water to make it tastier!
- Remove tempting foods from the house and don’t buy them when you go shopping. You can’t eat it if it ain’t there.
- Don’t eat too soon before sleeping. Your body needs some time to digest food and sleeping without this time can actually cause weight gain instead of loss!
So you’ve got the food part down. Calories in, check. So what about the calories out?
If you can’t have yin without yang, diet and exercise follow the same concept. One without the other makes it extremely difficult to burn more calories than you intake. So, by combining a healthy diet with highly effective cardio and strength training exercise, you’ll be able to optimize your weight loss and create the ultimate healthy lifestyle!
Cardio, i.e. cardiovascular exercise, is exercise that raises the heart rate significantly above the usual resting heart rate. It helps you burn more fat by boosting your metabolism, which is the process that converts your (hopefully nutritious) food into energy, after you’ve exercised. The number of calories used during this process determines your “metabolism” or metabolic rate. It’s great for improving your health (avoiding future heart problems, hopefully), endurance, and probably most importantly, fat loss!
Ways To Do Cardio
Most forms of physical activity raise your heart rate and as such, doing cardio is usually pretty straightforward. Ex: running, using an elliptical machine, cycling, or even climbing stairs! However, if you’re looking for a more fun way to do cardio, try skipping rope, doing jumping jacks, or doing leg raises as you walk.
Another great way to help burn more calories is doing high-intensity interval training. This consists of moderate activity separated by shorter periods of intense activity. By doing these short bursts of high-intensity exercise, you can raise your metabolism for longer periods of time, helping you burn more calories than if you continuously did a long session of moderate activity.
If you want to optimize your ability to lose weight, strength training will be your best friend. Why? Muscle burns more calories than the same amount of fat, even when inactive, so more muscle means more calories burned! Strength training is done by creating resistance to your muscles, whether with weights or other methods, to make your muscles work hard for you!
During a hard workout, the strain put on your muscles can actually cause them to be damaged and tear. When resting after the activity, your muscles repair this damage by creating new muscle protein strands. If this occurs more rapidly than muscle protein breakdown, your muscles are able to grow, and this is what causes increased muscle mass. This is why exercise enthusiasts are often heard saying “Feel the burn!” and are pretty satisfied when they wake up sore the day after a workout. It’s an indication of damage to the muscles, and hopefully, more muscle growth!
Ways To Do Strength Training
There are many ways to do strength training, so if you’re just starting and don’t want to be surrounded by hardcore gym bros, you can complete your training with squats, crunches, or lifting weights at home. Or, if you’re competitive, certain sports might be a great way to push you to be active, and if you like the idea of hanging out at the pool, swimming not only uses all major muscle groups, but the resistance created by water give you a pretty tough workout without putting too much stress on your joints. However, if you don’t have any equipment or a pool at your service, Pilates could be a great alternative. It’s strength training that uses your own body weight as resistance and only needs a yoga mat. However, if you’re already used to an active lifestyle and want something more challenging, crossfit might be the perfect fit. As an all-encompassing, full-body workout regimen that is meant to improve all aspects of your physical fitness, it’s highly effective in helping you lose weight while being super fit!
Exercise Tips and Tricks
Cardio and strength training: seems simple enough! However, it’s important to be very careful and diligent in your physical activity to make sure you’re avoiding injury and remaining consistent! Follow along with these reminders and tips, and you’ll be off to a great start!
- Workouts for one person might not work for another!
- Find the activity that benefits you and suits your lifestyle – you’ll be more likely to stick to it!
- Start slow! If you’ve hardly exercised, don’t expect to run 5k on your first day. Even walking with intervals of jogging every couple of minutes is a great start to your exercise routine.
- Be careful not to harm your joints by inflicting too much stress in high-impact exercises. Always do some research before starting a new type of exercise and make sure to get the appropriate equipment (ex: good quality running shoes).
- Your workout doesn’t have to be boring! Work out with friends or find a way to change up your work out. There are countless routines and strategies made each day, all available to you with a quick Google search.
- Find a fitness guru or an exercise role model who will invigorate and inspire you to do your best! For example, Cassie Ho of Blogilates is an enthusiastic Pilates instructor who not only uploads countless Pilates videos, but also creates monthly workout routines and has encouraging workout attire and equipment to help you stay fit!
You’ve taken the first true step in achieving your weight loss goals: educating yourself on how to effectively and safely lose weight. By getting the three essential nutrients in your diet, completing your cardio and strength training, and doing all of this with consistency, you’ll have a healthy lifestyle that will make losing weight as smooth as it can be! Have confidence in yourself and we hope you enjoy your weight loss journey! If you’re still struggling with taking the first step, check out this success story for raw, pure motivation.
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