Weight loss is a giant industry in the United States, with tons of companies trying to sell the quickest and easiest solution. “How to lose weight fast” is such a commonly-searched internet query, there’s even a WikiHow article about it. Americans’ seeming desire to lose weight quickly highlights a real problem: sacrificing long-term health for short-term gains (er, losses).
Fat loss shouldn’t be rushed.
We probably don’t need to say it, but we will: long-term health is important. A crash diet can, at best, work for a short time. At worst, it can do some serious harm. When you repeatedly deny your body calories, it can trigger an adaptation that leads to metabolic slowdown, making it difficult to shed pounds. Depending on the severity of the adaptation, it can take time and a dedicated nutrition plan to fix.
If weight loss is your goal, aiming to lose around 1 pound per week can help ensure that you’re losing fat rather than muscle. You’re also more likely to keep off the weight. Instead of massively cutting calories or ratcheting up your exercise (or both), make small adjustments so your body can deal with them better.
Exercise isn’t everything.
Exercise is immensely gratifying, and a great way to kick-start healthier habits. Strength training, for example, can increase your resting metabolic rate and improve your body composition. But unless you’re willing to spend multiple hours every day doing slow, long-distance exercise, it’ll make up a very small portion of your daily calorie expenditure (just 5-10%).
Think about it this way: Burning 300 calories sounds like a lot, but it’s roughly equivalent to a bowl of cereal, a baked potato or a craft beer. It’s much more effective to shift the way you eat than it is to try and work off the calories you consume, and a healthy diet can make it easier to manage your calorie intake. The less processed food you eat, the more control you have over how many calories you’re getting.
Plus, your body simply functions better when you eat healthy. It responds to the vitamins and minerals present in foods, which can help our bodies repair cells, support brain function, and help with many other bodily processes, including recovery from exercise.
There's no one size fits all diet plan.
There are a lot of diet plans out there, and we’re probably all used to hearing advice about which is best. But there isn’t just one answer--a 2015 study suggests that there’s a lot of variability in how individuals metabolize foods, even those generally touted as healthy. Another study noted that individual body composition could also be influenced by different macronutrient (fat, carbohydrate and protein) ratios. The take-away from these studies is that the ideal diet should be personalized based on your genetic heritage, age, gender, and many other factors.
We can’t recommend one specific diet, but we can make a couple suggestions:
- Reduce the amount of processed foods you eat.
- Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. Play around with the ratios of carbs, protein and fat here to find out what feels best for you.
What are your next steps?
- Ask yourself why you want to lose weight in the first place. What’s your motivation? Are you looking for a quick fix, or can you make this a lifestyle change?
- Assess your lifestyle honestly.
- What do you eat? Keep a journal of everything you consume for a week.
- Do you exercise? Keep track of that, too. What exercises do you enjoy? Why?
- What are your personal fitness goals? Here are some questions to ask yourself.
- Research diet and exercise routines to figure out which work best for you.
- If the diet you’re looking at advocates for eating whole, unprocessed foods for your meals, you’re headed in the right direction. If it’s asking you to buy meal substitutes or offers pre-packaged options, you’ll be better off looking elsewhere.
- Whichever workout routine you choose should incorporate whole-body, functional exercises so you get the most out of your workouts.
- Set yourself up for success with your plan.
- Identify sticking points that might cause you to get derailed from your plan (like making dinner when you’re busy running the kids around after school), and find ways to get around them. Meal prep, for example, has worked well for many of our members.
- Remember: start slow. Don’t try to make all these changes all at once!
If you have any questions, you can always email us or give us a call at 720-458-0073. Good luck!
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