Losing weight is a difficult proposition at the best of times. It’s often an uphill battle, especially if it’s your first time trying to make sense of the multitude of fad diets and trying to wrap your mind around the hundreds of workout routines and weight loss programs out there. You can be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed sometimes. Luckily, as gravity or E=MC2 are fundamental unarguable truths about our physical universe, there are fundamental unarguable truths about losing weight that when taken into consideration can make the battle much easier to win.
As you’ve no doubt already noticed the fitness industry is booming and the marketing machine is working overtime. You can’t turn on the TV without seeing the latest infomercials touting the newest and best workout routines, weight loss programs, or health products. Stop by your local chain bookstore and browse the fitness section and you’ll find hundreds of titles dedicated to making you stronger, slimmer, bigger and leaner, among dozens of other physical attributes ending in “e-r” that the fitness industry thinks you should find important.
The truth behind the hundreds of millions of dollars spent annually on coaxing, prodding and guilting you to part with large sums of your hard earned money in exchange for a hard earned body is that most diet books, infomercials and weight loss articles are actually saying the same thing. Strip away the marketing veneer and what you’re left with are a few unarguable, fundamental truths about weight loss that apply to everyone, all the time. They aren’t complicated and they aren’t earth shattering, but they are true. Unfortunately, the fitness industry in its zeal to continue making millions, has tricked people into believing that the secret code to physical perfection lies only with a few gifted individuals. Let’s debunk this myth right now. Understand and follow the weight loss do’s and don’ts below and you’ll know a least 70% of what you have to in order to beat the bulge and lose that belly fat forever.
Drink water – Water keeps your metabolism, namely your kidneys and liver, working efficiently to break down and remove waste from the body. This allows more efficient fat burning. Water also plays a role in thermogenesis, a process that increases body temperature, therefore increasing your metabolic rate and finally burning more calories at rest.
Eat your vegetables – Fibre is the key with vegetables. A high fibre intake will leave you feeling full longer therefore reducing your overall caloric intake. Eating a high veggie diet will also keep your metabolism revved up longer therefore allowing calories to be burned for a longer period of time. So don’t be shy and make leafy green and multi coloured cruciferous vegetables a big part of your daily diet.
Eat fat – To beat fat you have to eat fat. The fats found in cold water fish (salmon, mackerel), avocados, almonds and olive oil all play a beneficial role in regulating your appetite. There is some discussion that these type of “fatty” foods help increase thermogenesis, therefore forcing the body to burn more calories at rest. The heart healthy and anti-inflammatory benefits of such foods can’t be ignored either as a sick or injured athlete isn’t going to be spending their time hitting the gym or going for a run.
Take your time – Be the turtle, slow and steady wins the race. Impatience can be a killer when it comes to staying consistent on a diet and achieving your goals. The key is to work in manageable chunks with defined goals attached to each one so that you never get overwhelmed and you know ahead of time that the timeline is reasonable. Choosing to lose 6-8 pounds through diet and exercise over the course of one month is a reasonable and attainable goal. Physically and mentally a goal of this size shouldn’t be overly taxing which means you would stand a good chance of achieving it. On the other hand, working to lose 30 pounds in one month would undoubtedly leave you feeling physically and mentally exhausted, with no reasonable chance of achieving your goal. Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to weight loss programs.
Eliminate processed foods and sugary drinks – There is perhaps no easier way of improving your odds of success while following a diet plan than eliminating processed foods and sugar-laden drinks from your daily diet. Highly processed foods such as cakes and sweets, luncheon meats, sugary cereals and all fast foods (except the salads) do nothing but ravage your body with high levels of high fructose corn syrup, sodium and countless unpronounceable ingredients added for taste, colour and preservation. Scale these items way back and you’ve already done yourself a huge favour. Also, be wary of fruit juices and “energy” drinks that promote fluid replacement during exercise. Basically, they are the same thing, sugar water. A fruit juice like orange juice would even be the better choice, especially if it has the pulp. The bottom line is stick to water to remain hydrated. One final weight loss tip, imagine your grocery story like a doughnut (ironically enough), spend 90% of your time on the perimeter because that’s where the fruits and veggies, milk products, meat, fish and grains are usually found. Virtually all the processed foods are located in the doughnut’s hole, in the isles, so cruise there sparingly.
Skip the protein – Eating the right combination and an abundance of amino acids builds muscle. Since amino acids are the building blocks of protein you have to get enough. There is a lot of talk about protein amounts regarding muscle growth, fat loss and fat gain. Some say athletes should consume 2-3 times their body-weight in grams of protein in order to build mass (i.e. eating 300 grams of protein for a 150 lb. individual). Others say extra protein isn’t necessary, so don’t worry about it too much. In the end, keep it around the middle, consume about your body-weight in grams of protein and you’ll avoid muscle loss while dieting ad will build some muscle as well.
Focus on the scale – For far too long the scale has been the “go to” device when it came to dieting. Fortunately, times have changed and the scale has pretty much gone the way of the dodo. Your diet plan should have you get a skin fold test to determine your ratio of lean mass to fat mass. Other than weighing yourself in a tub of water, this is the most accurate method of determining how much muscle and fat you have. Focus on your body’s ratio of lean to fat mass and simply looking in the mirror, those two ways are pretty good indicators. Scales distort the fact and give inaccurate information. They don’t take into account the differences between muscle weight, bone weight and fat weight. Stop using one and move on.
Skip meals – Never skip meals, period. You may think you’re doing yourself a favour, but you’re not. You’re body is very smart. It can tell when there’s a lack of calories coming in and it’s first response to this assumed calorie deficit is to hold on to any body fat you have in order to ensure that there is enough energy for it to function correctly. Did you get that? Your body will keep your body so that it doesn’t starve. The only way it will release this fat is by feeling that there are enough calories coming in. This is why yo-yo dieting doesn’t work. Your body feels like there are going to be lean times ahead so it protects itself by keeping all the energy stores it has. Therefore it becomes nearly impossible for you burn this fat as you’re fighting against your body’s own survival mechanism. Just eat 4-5 small, well-balanced snacks and meals a day and maybe a small protein shake after your workout and this shouldn’t be an issue.
Eliminate carbohydrates – Not entirely true, eliminate simple, processed carbs and you’re getting the picture. Cakes, cookies, pies, candy; anything made with a lot of white sugar is a no-no 95% of the time. You actually want to keep some carbs in your diet, but make sure they are of the complex variety; oatmeal, whole grain breads, whole grain rice, whole grain pasta’s sweet potatoes, etc. The key with complex carbs is portion size. Remember, just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean it can’t help you gain fat. Moderate portion sizes are important here, although I know the temptation of heading back for a second helping of spaghetti and meatballs. Complex carbs are important because of the fiber they bring to your diet plan. So don’t eliminate them, just control them.
Listen to Fad diets – Fad diets are a dime a dozen. Some may work, some may not. The fact of the matter is that nothing will beat intense exercise coupled with a balanced diet containing complex carbs, healthy fats and lean proteins. Stick to this equation and you’ll be fine. Whether it’s the Grapefruit Diet, Atkins, The Zone Diet or the South Beach Diet, stick to the basic principles listed in this article and they become irrelevant.
Eat well, but eat smart and losing weight is easy as one, two, three.