If you search “How to Lose Weight” you will get about 400 million results.
Think they’re all telling you the same advice? Of course not. That would be too easy.
So how exactly do you lose weight?
Should you eat keto? Paleo? Low fat? High Protein? Mediterranean? Vegetarian?
What about exercise? Does strength training make you too bulky? Is cardio bad for you? Should you eat before exercising? Only exercise in the morning?
Is fasting actually bad for you? Is one meal a day a viable option?
So with this information overload, how do you make heads or tails of what will get you results?
Let’s cut through this crap and make it as easy as possible.
How To Lose Weight
And that’s it. That’s the secret to weight loss. It’s actually that simple.
So how do we do this? This is where it’s a little trickier.
Everyone has different calorie requirements based on their age, gender, height, activity level and current weight. We need to find out exactly how many calories you need to currently maintain your weight. Use this super easy calculator from the Mayo Clinic to find out. Remember to answer for where you’re at currently. If you’re inactive then put inactive, don’t change the answers to feel better.
Got your number? Great. This number is exactly how many calories you need to eat every day to maintain your current weight. Easy enough?
So how do we lose weight? We subtract from that number. Let’s subtract 500 calories a day from this. Why 500? Because this will add up to weight loss of 1 pound per week (500 calories per day x 7 days per week = 3500 calories which equals 1 pound, remember?). Plus, this is totally doable. Its a solid goal but it won’t be impossible.
Example, lets say the calculator says you need 1900 calories per day to maintain your weight, then let’s subtract 500 so now you only need 1400 calories per day to lose weight.
So, how exactly do you burn those 500 calories a day? We can burn them through diet or exercise, i.e. eating a little bit less and moving a little bit more. Don’t want to eat less? Alright, burn your 500 through exercise. Don’t want to exercise? Then eat 500 calories less.
How Do I Cut Calories in My Diet?
This is where the million different confusing diets come into play. No matter what diet you follow you will still need to maintain your calorie balance you calculated before. Each of these diets is just what they think is the best way to eat to meet these goals.
Healthline has a great article: 9 Popular Weight Loss Diets Reviewed, where you can get an idea of what some options are. As long as you are staying at your calorie deficit (the maintenance – 500 calorie number from before) then the diet itself won’t matter for weight loss purposes. If you find a diet that you like and that you think you can follow, then by all means go for it!
Recap: Calculate your maintenance calories, and subtract 500. This number is now the most you can eat every day, or you need to burn the calories through exercise. Somehow at the end of the day we need to balance at this number.
And while that’s simple, it’s easier said than done. What do you do when those cravings hit? Or when that salad doesn’t fill you up like you hoped?
Things That Will Help:
Eat More Protein
MyFitnessPal says that protein helps to burn fat and will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Plus, if you’re working out too, protein can help with muscle repair and growth to get results sooner.
Eat Healthy Fats
While studies on dietary fat are still split, fat is essential to your diet. Ultimately, do what works for you and feels right to your body. If a high fat diet works for you and you are able to stay healthy with it then that’s your call. If you subscribe to the older notion that fats are bad, then ere on the side of caution. Try to eat fats like avocado, olive oil, salmon and nuts. These will help provide your body nutrients you need while keeping you full.
Try eating more unprocessed foods if possible. Avoid fast food and try to cook at home more. If you aim to eat mostly a protein, a vegetable and maybe a healthier starch (sweet potatoes, whole grains, beans, etc) for most of your meals then you should be alright. Weight loss gets easier when you cut out the crap.
This goes with the cutting the crap out bit. Sugar is bad for you. It is very calorie dense but does not have the nutritional value that other foods do. Plus sugar doesn’t curb your hunger as well so since you’ll still feel hungry you’ll eat more calories later. Once in a while is OK but beware, there’s added sugar in almost all processed foods and will sneak it’s way into your diet.
Fasting is Not Evil
Although it has a bad rep, fasting is not a bad thing for most people. Like I said, do what works for you. If intermittent fasting or skipping meals helps you keep calories in check then do that. If you need to snack periodically to stay in control then that’s OK too. Listen to your body.
Avoid Calorie Filled Beverages and Alcohol
As delicious as they are, calorie filled drinks like sodas, juices and cocktails will add calories to your diet without any nutritional value or telling you that you’re full. This makes it too easy to pile on more pounds.
Splurge in Moderation
You still need to live a little and whats the point of being miserable? It’s fine if you want to get pizza and wings one night. Don’t sweat it! But don’t do it every night and plan accordingly. Have a big dinner coming up? Eat a lower calorie lunch and hit the gym. It’s all about balance.
It is a good idea to count calories at first. You might be surprised how many calories are in many of the foods you normally eat right now. You won’t have to count calories forever but I highly recommend it when starting out. If you’re looking for easy to use trackers check out Lose It! or MyFitnessPal, both of which have great apps for you to track on your phone.
Piecing it All Together
Do what is right for your body. As long as you are eating below your magic number then you will lose weight. Be consistent and give it time. You didn’t gain weight overnight, you won’t lose it overnight. You don’t need to overhaul your diet. If you start with small changes you can stick to then you will see results.
Remember you can still splurge and eat what you love! Just make smarter choices most of the time.
Good? Let’s move on.
How Do I Burn Calories With Exercise?
While just dieting alone can definitely help you lose weight, don’t neglect the exercise portion. Why? Besides giving you a little more wiggle room with your diet (who doesn’t want that?), exercise can bring some amazing benefits to your body.
Want better sleep? A better mood? A better sex life? More energy? Exercise has your back. Plus it’s almost a magic pill that can help prevent a ton of diseases from developing later in life. Clearly, besides weight loss, exercise is incredible for you.
Let’s kill some very wrong assumptions about exercise real quick.
Lies You Tell Yourself About Exercise
Nope. If you haven’t found an exercise you enjoy yet then you might hate it, but exercise can be a lot of fun. Even if you’re bored, just play on your phone or something while you do it.
I don’t have the money for a gym membership.
Maybe. Check out local gyms or maybe Planet Fitness as an option. You can likely find a gym for less than $20 per month or maybe even a free option if you go to school or anything. But you don’t need a gym membership. There are things you can do in your own home without needing equipment.
I don’t have time.
Yes you do. It’s just not important to you so you don’t prioritize it. I get it. Make time. Wake up 20 minutes earlier. Walk on your lunch break. Do squats while watching TV. You can squeeze it in if you want.
I’m too out of shape / recovering from an injury / too old to work out.
Nope. Not buying it. I saw an elderly man in a cast on the stationary bike at the gym the other day, so I don’t want to hear it. No one is asking you to run a marathon right now. Even walking down the street and back counts. Each day will get easier and you will get in better shape.
Sometimes I walk with my 85 year old grandmother who gladly walks every day. Age is not an excuse. If you are really out of shape that’s fine. Just start slow with small changes and you’ll get there.
If you have an injury just be careful, but don’t stop altogether. You can find ways to work around it. I have a knee injury that never recovered correctly and I know the stair stepper will blow it out again. So I use the elliptical or stationary bike. I know your pain, but exercise will help it.
If you really want to do it, you do it. There are no excuses.Bruce Nauman
So, exercise is good for you, it’s going to help you lose weight, but what should you do?
Cardio is very good for you. Besides just assisting weight loss efforts, it can help your cardiovascular health, meaning a stronger heart and lungs. VeryWellFit has a great article on Everything You Need to Know About Cardio that will really clear up any questions you might have.
Aim to do cardio at least 3 days per week for at least 20-60 minutes. If you find an exercise you enjoy (or don’t hate enough to get started with at least) then this will go along way to getting great results.
Yes you need to lift weights. It doesn’t matter if you are a woman, older, overweight, or any other excuse you can think of. You need to lift weights. It won’t make you bulky ladies, it will actually boost your metabolism and help you burn fat even quicker than with cardio alone. Check out TIME’s article Why Weight Training Is Ridiculously Good For You if you don’t believe me.
If you are new to this, don’t be intimidated. Either use dumbbells at home or ask for help at the gym (gym staff really don’t mind showing you around and giving you tips! If you don’t have dumbbells, don’t underestimate the power of body weight exercises. They can be super effective.
Check out the awesome Nerd Fitness‘ article on the 5 Best Strength Training Workout Routines For Beginners (Home & Gym) to get you started.
If you are short on time and need to squeeze in an exercise then HIIT is definitely the most bang for your buck. With High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) you will do an exercise as intensely as you can for about 10-30 seconds, and then recover for double that amount of time.
Just repeat this to add up to a 10-20 minute workout, and I promise you will feel it. If this is something that you are interested in, check out these 3 Quick HIIT Workouts for Beginners.
Do I have to exercise in the morning?
Nope. Whatever time of day works for you for consistency is perfect.
Do I have to exercise every day?
Nope. Rest is important. Listen to your body and take a day off when I need to.
I feel really sore after working out. This sucks.
It’s probably just delayed onset muscle soreness which is super common and normal when you’re getting into working out. Don’t let this discourage you! Pain relievers, muscle soaks, ice, heating packs and rest will all help take the edge off. And I know you don’t want to hear it, but light exercise like walking will help it go away sooner. If its a sharp or intense pain it may be an injury so don’t ignore that.
Will this ever get easier?
Yes! Believe it or not the workout that’s kicking your butt today will feel like a warm up for you before long. Stick with it.
This covers about everything that you need to know for beginner fitness and weight loss. While things like supplements, counting macros, and crazy routines are all available to you, don’t worry about them for now. They’re not necessary for you to get results.
I know this was a lot so do you remember what we’re going to do?
1. Calculate your daily maintenance calories.
2. Subtract 500 from this. Make sure your net calories stays under this number. This means the number of calories you eat minus the number of calories you burned should be at or below this number every day.
3. Stick with it. You’ll need to do this for a while but rest assured it will work. Don’t weigh yourself everyday. Water weight fluctuates and short term results can be discouraging.
So, you’re on your way to losing weight. Anything I can clear up for you? Anything working really well for you? Let’s hear it!