Every year, billions of dollars are spent worldwide on products which claim that they will help the user to lose weight. However, these products are often inefficient or ineffective. In fact, when it comes to weight loss, knowledge is power. Like many things in life, weight loss does not come easy. You may even want to compare your weight loss journey to earning a Master’s Degree. For example, to gain a higher level degree, you must study, acquire knowledge and then show that you can apply that knowledge. If you purchased a Master’s Degree from some shady looking website which promised you results fast, then you would soon be in trouble when you were asked to use your knowledge as part of your job. In fact, you probably wouldn’t last very long at all in your role! The same applies to weight loss; if you try to fake your way to weight loss, by using some “miracle drugs” or products that you found on the internet, then you will soon find yourself failing to achieve your goals.
On a more positive note, losing weight is nowhere near as hard (or as expensive) as getting a degree. For most people, weight loss simply boils down to understanding simple health and exercise advice. If you want to lose weight, it is worth investing time and energy on educating yourself in proper nutrition, and the habits that help to promote a healthy lifestyle. Despite what you might think, it actually takes years of unhealthy eating and inactivity for the body to put on lasting weight, so it is also important to understand that it is impossible (and unhealthy) to shed weight quickly. Being patient and realistic will help you feel much more positive about your weight loss journey. Once you learn how to do this, you will find it much easier to love your body and understand what can, and what can’t, be changed.
In this article I will provide, based on my weight loss experience, what I think are keys to weight loss success. The advice that you will read will not be a groundbreaking new process; it is based on conventional weight loss wisdom, which has been collected from all over the web. However, this advice makes sense, it is absolutely free to access and it is based on my proven success. My target audience is those who wish to lose weight in a safe and steady way, without putting their health at risk. It will help to set you on a path towards accomplishing your personal weight loss goals.
The advice has been set out so that you can read and understand one key area at a time. Below is a quick break-down of the sections:
- Key #1 – Eat Better Food
- Key #2 – Portion Control
- Key #3 – Exercise
- Key #4 – Measure Progress
- Key #5 – Lifestyle Change
These key areas have been responsible for the weight loss success of many people, including myself. Understanding these and making a big effort to incorporate them into your daily life will all add-up to your life-long body transformation. Working on each area at a time is recommended, as each one of these takes time to adopt into your daily routine. Perhaps you are already exercising, but are lacking nutrition? It takes time to get used to it, but like anything in life – if you make it a habit, before you know it, you’ll be making massive progress towards your weight loss goals and it will feel natural to you.
Key #1 – Eat Better Food
If you want to lose weight then it is important that you think carefully about what you eat and when you eat it. Although watching the amount of calories that you consume can help you to lose weight, it is not the “be all and end all’ in terms of eating to lose weight. Eating the right kinds of foods is also important if you want to lose weight in a healthy way.
Maintain a balanced diet
If you are maintaining a healthy diet, you should not feel the need to ban any foods, as long as you eat unhealthy foods in moderation. For example, salt is required by the body for certain functions, so salt should not be cut out of your diet completely. Likewise, some fats are good for your body, and should not be excluded even when you are trying to lose weight. Food pyramids will help you to understand which food groups you should be eating more of, and which food groups you should try to only eat a little of. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you may want to speak to a nutritional to help to create a balanced diet which will not have a negative effect on your other medical needs.
Eat Regular Meals
Skipping meals does not necessarily lead to weight loss. Eating meals at regular intervals helps you to keep your metabolism up, meaning that you burn calories at a faster rate. Skipping meals can send your body into “starvation mode”, meaning that your metabolism plummets and you start to burn calories very slowly. Therefore, skipping breakfast actually means that your body burns fewer calories throughout the rest of the day. It also helps if you plan meals in advance. As well as helping to give you greater control over your calorie intake, this can also help to save you money on your weekly food bill. Stick to your list at the shop, and avoid impulse buys, as these tend to be high-calorie foods.
Understand nutrition labels
Although nutrition labels can be confusing when you first look at them, they can actually be very helpful to you if you are trying to choose healthier foods. Not only do labels tell you the number of calories in a product, they should also tell you other important information, such as how much sugar, salt and saturated fat there is in the product. Once thing that you need to be aware of when you are reading a product’s nutrition label is that certain unhealthy product labels may try to manipulate you by using different units of measurement. For example, rather than telling you how many calories there are in a serving, they will tell you how many calories per hundred grams. This can lead to people thinking that there are far fewer calories per portion than there actually are. Take care to read and understand labels properly.
Don’t keep junk food in the house
Removing junk food from your house removes any temptation that you may feel to snack on it. Remember, temptation always wins, the best strategy is to get as far away from temptation as possible. Keeping junk food out of reach is the best defense for your weight loss success in this case.
Key #2 – Portion Control
If you are trying to lose weight, it is not just what you eat that you should consider; you should also consider the size of the portions that you eat. Even if you are eating foods that you think are healthy, you should make sure that you exercise restraint, and ensure that you stick to appropriate serving sizes.
What is a serving size?
A serving size is the amount of a specific food that you should eat in one sitting. Unless you carry a set of weighing scales with you wherever you go, it can be difficult to 100% guarantee that you are sticking to one serving of the foods that you eat. However, once you start to learn more about appropriate serving sizes of each type of food, then you will find it much easier to identify whether your portion is actually one serving or not. To make it easier to identify serving sizes of particular food types, you may want to try relating serving sizes to objects that you are familiar with. For example:
- A portion of meat, fish or poultry should be about the same size as a deck of cards.
- A portion of cheese should be about the same size as your thumb (tip to base)
- A portion of pasta or rice should be as big as a generous scoop of ice cream
- A portion of vegetables or fruit should be as big as your fist.
Controlling portions at home
If you are cooking at home, then it is easier to control serving sizes, and combine individual ingredients together to make appropriate portions of each meal. If the recipe that you are using encourages you to make larger portions, you can always spread your meals over more than one sitting. If you do this, store the excess food away as soon as you serve up, to prevent you from picking at it later.
Controlling portion size when out and about
Many restaurants, cafes and diners like to serve their customers much larger portions than they should be eating if they were to stick to appropriate serving sizes. If you are unfamiliar with the restaurant, ask your server how big the portions are or looks to see what is coming out of the kitchen. Most places will do smaller portions or half portions on request. Alternatively, when your food comes, mark out a serving, and then take the rest home in a doggy bag.
Controlling portions when snacking
If you are trying to lose weight, snacking does not have to be completely off of the cards, as long as you stick to appropriate portions. Be careful of “sharing bags” as these can encourage you to eat multiple people’s portions in one sitting. “Mini” snacks can also be deceiving, as you may think that you can eat more of these snacks than you actually should. Many snacks now come in individually wrapped portions. If you buy these snacks, you must take care to only eat one per sitting.
As well as paying close attention to the foods that you are eating, you need to think about the amount of energy that you expend on a daily basis. The calories that you consume every day help to give you energy, but any calories which are not burnt off are stored by the body as fat, for use later. This means that in the simple terms, if you consume more calories than you expend as energy, then you will put on weight. If you use up more calories than you eat, then you will start to lose weight. Rather than severely restricting your calorie intake, you can increase your daily energy output by exercising more.
If you are new to exercise
If you are not used to exercising, you need to make sure that you start off slowly. Overexerting yourself early on in the process can lead to you straining your body, which may ultimately lead to downtime, during which you expend fewer calories. Even light exercise, such as walking further each day (use a pedometer and set a step target) can help to get you into the swing of things. Once you are in better shape, you can exercise for longer periods, or up the intensity of your workout. If you are a man over 45 or a woman over 55, or if you have a pre-existing medical condition, including clinical obesity, you should talk to a medical professional to see if there are any exercises that you should strive to avoid.
Even if you are already an active person, you should still take steps to reduce your injury risk. Before you begin exercising, you should stretch and warm-up. This helps to keep your joints flexible and will prepare your muscles for the extra strain which is ahead. Although many fitness fanatics love to repeat the “no pain, no gain” mantra, you should be aware of what your body is trying to tell you, and you should not push yourself beyond your limits. If you are overweight, then you may be advised to avoid certain sports in the first instance, such as jogging, because this could put unnecessary strains or impact damage on your joints. Water based sports, such as swimming can reduce impact damage.
What kind of exercise should you do?
Any type of exercise that makes your heart work harder (cardio) is great for weight loss. In general, the higher the intensity of the exercise, the less exercise that you have to do to see the benefits. Popular exercises for those who are losing weight include; cycling, jogging and aerobics classes. If none of these appeals to you, you can always choose another pastime which would suit your preferences more. Going out dancing to a club can help to burn calories, as long as you are not consuming high calorie drinks all night! Alternatively, playing active games with your children can help you to burn away calories. This has the added benefit of spending more time with your family!
Key #4 – Measure Progress
One of the most pleasing things about engaging in a natural weight loss process is measuring your progress and seeing how you have enabled your body to transform. When you are losing weight, it is worth remembering that there are actually a number of different ways to monitor your progress, and that relying on your weighing scales isn’t the only method available. Here are a few suggestions about how you can track your progress.
Weighing scales are a good resource for quantifying weight loss. Although weighing scales are a good way to track the physical weight of your body, standard scales will not tell you any information about the composition of your mass. They show weight loss, rather than fat loss. If your weight loss (according to the scales) seems to slow, you should not lose heart. Fat mass may have been transferred into lean muscle mass, thanks to your exercise routine. In some cases, you may even end up putting on weight from muscle gain, however your body should look more toned and lean in these circumstances. Any weight scale will do – I personally use the EatSmart Weight Scale in which I review in this post.
Body Fat Test
Body fat testing can be done by a professional or by machines which you can buy to use at home. The most accurate machines pass a painless current through your body, which travels at a different speed through fat than it travels through muscle. The machine is then able to analyse the data which is collected to work out what your body fat percentage is. When you are measuring your body fat percentage, you should remember that a healthy body does have some body fat, so you should not strive to eliminate body fat completely. Healthy female bodies have a higher body fat percentage than healthy male bodies do.
Dress, Pants and Shirts
Measuring your progress by monitoring how your dress, pants or shirts fit can be a real confidence boost if you are trying to lose weight, although it is worth remembering that clothe sizes are not always consistent between brands. You may want to try on an old favorite to see the difference in the way that it fits now, compared to how it used to fit before you began on your weight loss journey. Personally, this method by far provided the most satisfaction and confirmation of my weight loss progress. Nothing feels better than a good, nice fitting shirt!
Measuring Your Body
Measuring your waist periodically can also boost your morale when that weight scale doesn’t budge. During your weight loss journey, you will have many weeks in which the scale doesn’t seem to move, or worse – go up! However, we need to understand that our bodies are complex and changes weight even in a single day. Having multiple ways to check your progress may take a bit longer than simply stepping on a scale, but it does wonders for your psychology and motivates you to keep working towards your goals. Take the extra minute every week and measure yourself, here I discuss how to properly measure your waist.
You can keep track of how your health changes over the course of your weight loss journey, using formal and informal measures. For example, did you used to feel out of breath just walking up the stairs? If you can now get up the stairs without feeling out of breath, then this shows that you are making progress. You can also keep track of your digestive health. What comes out is affected by what goes in, and your digestive health should be improved by reducing the amount of junk food that you consume. A medical professional will be able to help you to keep track of other tell-tale health signs, such as your cholesterol level, and whether your current weight level is putting you at higher risk of developing diabetes or other weight-related health problems.
Key #5 – Lifestyle Change
These keys to weight loss will work best when done long term. Most quick weight loss products out there play games with our minds. They spend millions of dollars in marketing to try and convince us that we will lose the fat we gained over years of over eating in just 8 weeks. Unfortunately, this is unrealistic and any weight we lose quickly the first few weeks is mostly water. This is why most fat loss products promise to help us shed 15 pounds the first 2 weeks! Well, what they fail to mention is that we will be losing 15 pounds of mostly water!
Deciding to make a lifestyle change is the best way to go. With these proven keys to weight loss anyone can achieve their ideal weight goal and stay there:
- Eat better: Every day that goes by, try to eat something better. For example, if eating fast food everyday, start by picking something from the “healthy” menu. Replace regular soda with the diet version, or move on to lightly sweetened iced tea. Eventually, we will want to progress towards cooking our own food so that you eat nutritious, whole foods. At the beginning, however, slowly start to make better food decisions. Even better, start making your own meals and take them to work for lunch!
- Portion control: Again, start slowly here. First, eliminate impulsive snacking by setting aside one or two times of day where a snack may be enjoyed. As weeks go by, we must progressively start to pay attention to the portions that we eat, and slowly start decreasing them. A good time to stop eating is just when we are beginning to feel full. When making your own meals, getting meal prep containers is definitely the best way to keep portions in check.
- Exercise: Eating better and watching the food intake will contribute the most towards an individual’s weight loss goals. We believe that the body is made up of 70% nutrition and 30% exercise, this is why we have listed eating better and portion control first. However, exercising is 30%, and in order to maximize our weight loss efforts we must incorporate it into our lifestyle as well. An individual can start out by walking every day, any sort of exercise is icing on the cake (no, don’t eat a cake). Not only will it help with weight loss, it also promotes better health for your cardiovascular system and stamina.
- Measure Progress: Perform weight scale, tape and body fat percentage measurements every so often. I recommend once a month, since that is when noticeable changes are likely to occur. Keeping track of progress not only re-affirms our efforts, it will provide encouragement and motivation to keep going. Also, keeping track of different metrics will show overall progress, not only body weight. Some important body parts to measure are chest, thigh, and waist diameters. For body fat percentage, we recommend it be done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach about once a month. Here are links to my personal reviews of items that I use for measurements: weight scale, body fat monitor, and body measuring tape.
- Make it a habit: Incorporating these habits into our everyday lives will make weight loss more enjoyable and natural, and will ensure long term success. By remembering that these are long term goals, we set out mindsets to marathon mode, and not short-sprint mode. If we slip by having a bad dietary day, do not dwell on failure and feel bad about it. Remember that the next day will be a better one, and we are allowed to have a treat, our favorite meal, and our favorite drinks once in a while.
The key to weight loss success is long term commitment and consistency, meaning that we are taking care of our bodies most of the time, and only have that special meal once in a while. I really want to encourage anyone reading this who has been thinking about making a change to start now. You can get started by meal prepping one meal a week, like your work lunch for example, and grow from there. I really wish you success achieving your weight loss goals, if I lost over 100 pounds, anyone can!