In this week’s blog, we’re tackling weight loss tips and techniques to ensure you achieve all of your weight loss goals with no delays.
Firstly, there are four main elements to consider when trying to lose weight: food, exercise, sleep and stress. These are the foundations of a fit, healthy and happy body. Get these right and you'll not only look good, but more importantly feel great too.
You've probably heard it before - the key to weight-loss is calories in vs calories out. But what does this actually mean? And what's the best way to create a calorie deficit?
Unfortunately, many people seem to resort to fad diets or restrictive eating plans, with many falling into the trap of restricting drastically for short periods of time, then overeating when they suffer extreme hunger and cravings, before starting all over again and ending up in a vicious cycle.
The key to weight-loss is consistency. If you really want to drop a bit of weight, whether for health reasons, to compete in a sporting event or simply to feel good, there is a specific and scientific way to do this with effect (and then move on with your life).
1 pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. Let's say that for one week you create a daily calorie deficit of 400 calories, that's 2,800 calories a week. This requires maybe skipping (or replacing for a healthier alternative) your croissant in the morning, a large handful of nuts or evening glass of wine.
With a 2,800 calories deficit, in just one week you're already close to 1 pound down. Repeat for another week and you’re at 5,600 calories. That's 2 pounds down.
Sounds too slow to you? Well, sure, it's slow compared to yo-yo dieting. But did yo-yo dieting make you feel better? And did you keep the weight off? Remember, your body will always try to get you back to homeostasis (what it understands as your usual weight), so, slow and steady weight-loss at a sustainable pace allows the body time to adjust and you're less likely to put it back on.
Small deficits of 200-400 calories are also more realistic for you in everyday life. You can still go out for dinner, just skip the alcohol and choose a healthier choice on the menu. It really doesn't have to be complicated. But you do need to be committed and consistent. Remember, you are asking your bodyweight to change the way it has looked for months even years! It's going to take time, patience and consistency.
Finally, the bit that catches most people out, if you create a calorie deficit of 400 calories every day up until Friday, then relax and indulge on Saturday, you may undo all of your hard work, by unintentionally eating or drinking the 2,000 calorie deficit that you spent 5 days working on! You won't gain any weight, but you can't expect to lose it, either.
People have a tendency to be really hard on themselves when it comes to weight loss, but remember, science does explain it.
3 TIPS FOR LOSING WEIGHT SUCCESSFULLY
TIP 1 - I know what not to eat, but not what to eat.
Embarking on a weight loss mission all-too-often means being bombarded with an overwhelming amount of conflicting and confusing information (thanks, Google!). From “carbs are bad” to “eating too much fruit will make you fat”, there are a whole host of diet fads and buzzwords that can leave you feeling exhausted before you’ve even started.
It really doesn’t need to be that difficult.
As explained above, the key to losing weight is to ensure that you remain in a consistent calorie deficit - simply put, burn more calories than you consume. There is no need to follow drastic diets or cut out entire food groups to achieve this, despite what you might read online or see on Instagram. Your PT can help you to determine how many calories you should be consuming every day, and once you have this number, simply use a food-tracking app to ensure you don’t exceed this number.
To be successful with calorie tracking, it’s important to be honest about how much you are eating and drinking. Monitoring your intake closely needn’t be something that you do forever, but if you’re trying to lose weight then it is a very useful short-term exercise to make sure that you’re staying in a calorie deficit. It’s a very useful learning tool, as you may unwittingly be consuming more calories than you thought, so it can allow you to make the adjustments needed to bring you closer towards your goals.
When it comes to choosing WHAT to eat to meet your calorie needs, we can go a little further. Calorie-tracking apps will tell you what percentage of your calories come from carbohydrates, protein and fats (referred to collectively as macronutrients, the building blocks of our diet). If you’re looking to lose weight or tone up, then checking your protein intake should be a priority. Not only will it help to satiate hunger by keeping you fuller for longer, it will also help you to build and maintain muscle, ensuring that any weight loss comes primarily from fat.
Our bodies are all different, so different macronutrient splits will be more effective for some than others. Your PT can help you make the necessary tweaks to your diet to ensure that you are fuelling your workouts correctly and progressing towards your goals.
Some people subscribe to the “If It Fits Your Macros” approach, which essentially states that no food is off the table as long as you meet your calorie and macro requirements each day. While it’s definitely great to have a flexible attitude to dieting and not restrict yourself too much, common sense dictates that our body will not benefit if we hit our calorie targets but fill our plates with processed junk food. This means missing out on vital micronutrients - the vitamins and minerals that keep our bodies healthy with all systems running smoothly.
Here’s a quick rundown of the three macronutrients and healthy options for each one.
- Carbohydrates. Providing 4 calories per gram, carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source, and are turned into glucose to fuel our activity. Brain cells rely completely on glucose, meaning carbs are absolutely essential for brain function. However, not all carbs are created equal. Simple carbs, like white bread and sweets, should be avoided, as they provide a quick burst of energy, but do not satiate hunger in the long term and can lead to a “sugar crash”. Complex carbs, on the other hand, fill you up for longer and are more nutritionally dense, as they are jam-packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre. Good sources include wholegrains, pulses, vegetables and fruits. When choosing veggies and fruits for your plate, try to “eat the rainbow”, i.e. fill your plate with colour! This will help to ensure that as well as hitting your calorie and macro targets, you also consume plenty of micronutrients, too
- Protein. Like carbohydrates, protein provides the body with 4 calories per gram, however it plays a different role to carbs and will only be used by the body for energy production in extreme circumstances. When working out regularly, consuming adequate amounts of protein is essential, in order to promote the recovery and growth of muscle tissue. Although meat is often the first thing to spring to mind when protein is mentioned, it is found in a much wider variety of foods than you may realise. Black beans, lentils, chickpeas, almonds, tofu, broccoli and grains like quinoa and buckwheat are all great sources of protein, too
- Fat. The popularity of “fat-free” and “low-fat” options in supermarkets may have you believing that fat should be avoided – but the truth is, your body needs fat! It uses it for energy, insulation and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Moderate your consumption of saturated fats, and instead opt for healthier sources like nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil. Fats are much more calorically dense than carbs and protein, providing 9 calories per gram, so we need less of them in our diet
To sum up - when losing weight, there is no need to restrict yourself drastically and have a list of “foods I can eat” and “foods I cannot eat”. Fitness is a lifelong journey that relies on balance and it is the things you do consistently that matter. Focus on creating sustainable habits and enjoy the process of building a healthier, stronger body, without the need for restriction and guilt around food.
TIP 2 - How to resist temptation in the office, cafés and airport when I'm trying to lose weight?
Having the necessary willpower to stick to your diet plan can be really hard, especially when we’re surrounded by temptation! But don’t worry, there are a few strategies you can use to stay in control. Planning ahead is absolutely key. By having a plan, you can make smart eating choices in every situation that life throws at you.
It’s also worth remembering that when your body can sometimes mistake thirst for hunger, especially when it begins to get dehydrated, so always make sure that you drink plenty of water!
Are you being tempted in the office?
1) Start the day with a balanced and healthy breakfast at home. If you miss your breakfast by the time you get to the office, you’ll be hungry and more likely to be tempted by that delicious-looking croissant that welcomes you in the office.
2) Make sure you are prepared. Keep healthy snacks at your desk OR (if you are lucky to have one in the office) in the fridge. Here are some ideas:
- Greek yogurt
- Fruit (whole fruit, not fruit juice as this is stripped of the fibre that helps to keep you full)
- Protein pots - these are easily available in most cafés/supermarkets, which you can pick up on your way to work OR you can make them yourself
- Nuts - but be mindful of how much of these you have, as although they are good for you, they are high in fat and calories. You can try buying them in small bags/portions
- Protein bars
- Hummus and raw vegetables
3) Stress and unhealthy eating go together. When you start to feel anxious, take a little break away from your computer and go for a walk around the block. Maybe this is a time to call a friend and distract your desire to eat?
4) Going on a business lunch? Most of the time, there will be a healthy option in the menu. You can always ask for your vegetables or fish to be steamed, or request to have salad dressing on the side (you’ll use less than if it is added into your salad by the chef). At the end of the meal, get tea or coffee and pass on dessert.
5) Have a team party coming up and know there is going to be unhealthy food? Have a healthy meal at home prior to the party. Or, if it’s a “everyone bring something” situation, then bring something healthy, like veggies and dips or a wholesome salad.
How to avoid temptation at cafes?
Walk into any cafe, and it’s not just the lattes and frappucinos looking to tempt you, but also a vast array of treats. All-too-often, theses are disguised as being healthy, with labels proudly declaring them to be “home baked”, “handcrafted”, “organic”, “vegan",” locally sourced”, “gluten free”... However this does not necessarily translate into being healthy! Take a second and review the ingredients to understand what you’re really putting into your body.
Avoid foods that primarily contain refined grains (white bread, tortilla wraps), processed meat (bacon, sausages, ham) or too much cheese, butter cream or sugar (all pastries). Keep eliminating the bad choices until you have a only a few choices left - those will be the good ones.
Seek out food like eggs, vegetables, low-fat dairy, legumes, and fruit. If you opt for something that comes in a bigger portion size than you’d usually go for, then simply eat half and save the other half for later.
Another option is having a black coffee and bringing your own protein bar to eat, so you are not tempted by pastries or any other sugary treats! As stated above - we cannot emphasise enough - preparation is key.
How about at the airport?
Check what terminal you are departing from and research what restaurants you’ll have available if you are planning on having a meal prior to your flight. If the options are not great, make sure you have a good healthy meal at home beforehand. Remember, if you are hungry you are far likelier to be tempted by sugary foods!
If you have good restaurants and café options then make sure that you stick to choosing the best healthy options on the menu. You can also pack some fruit or small snacks (nuts or protein bars). Make sure you stay hydrated the whole time - as explained above, your body may mistake thirst for hunger when it starts to get dehydrated.
Finally, it’s a good idea to avoid duty free, especially the sweets section, so that you are not tempted.
TIP 3 - Sleep & Stress - could they be the reason you're not losing weight?
According to Matthew Walker, a neuroscience and psychology professor and renowned expert on sleep, we need 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye per night. Any less is considered sleep deprivation.
Unfortunately, studies find that most of us don't achieve that, by rather on average we are sleeping around 6 to 7 hours per night.
Sleep deficiency compromises our mental aptitude, our physical vitality and affects every cell in our body. Research has found that a lack of sleep is linked to heart disease, obesity, dementia, diabetes, and numerous forms of cancer.
If you are already eating well and exercising regularly, fixing your sleep may well be what will make a difference to how you feel and how you perform during your workouts and everyday life.
Getting good quality sleep enhances your mood, helps you to think clearly, improves your ability to focus and leaves you more energised, for work, social life and family time. You’re also going to have the energy and focus needed for things like meal planning and workouts, which is so important if you are working towards a specific goal.
On the other hand, if you're too stressed and busy to plan and prepare your meals in advance (meal deliveries are definitely an option for the very busy), weight-loss is going to be a lot harder to achieve, as it’s something that takes time, consistency and regular practice. Fix your stress first, weight-loss second.
Remember, your body will try its best to maintain a stable weight. Provided you give it a relaxed environment (minimal stress, plenty of sleep), with a small but constant calorie deficit, it will respond with gradual, but consistent weight-loss. If instead it perceives a heightened state of stress, it will think the calorie deficit is down to illness or a lack of food and will hold onto every calorie it can! Specifically around your vital organs (think of belly fat). Clever but true!
Feel like you're never losing weight? First of all, don't panic! You’ve got this. Remember, the key is not to stress too much about it.
Start with just one of these (nutrition, exercise, sleep or stress management), fix that, then move onto the next one.
Don't be a perfectionist, therefore avoid getting too bogged down in the details. Rather, improve each element one by one, making it part of your routine before moving on to the next.
If you have any questions about the blog or wish to learn more please get in touch with your PT or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
- Matthew Walker, 2017, “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams”.