When I was younger I always looked at people who were over weight and thought “Why are they so lazy?” and “Why don’t they just stop eating so much?” and “Why don’t they just lose that weight?”. Now that I work with weight loss clients every day, I realize that there is much more to weight loss than anyone could imagine. Some of the reasons why many people aren’t successful in achieving long-term weight loss is because:
- They are uneducated or given faulty information.
- They do not keep track of what they eat.
- They do not exercise enough or perform the right kind of exercise.
- They think they can lose their weight simply by going on a “diet”.
- They lack the discipline to do what it takes.
- They want immediate results and get frustrated when they don’t drop 100lbs in two weeks.
The goal of this article is simply to increase your awareness of what it takes to achieve real, long-term weight loss. These are just some of the basics and I will hopefully go more in depth with this later on. If I tried to fit everything I know about weight loss in here, it would take you days to read so I will try to sum it up as best as I can.
Here is a brief synopsis on how weight is lost/fat is burned. First of all, there are multiple types of tissue in your body that can be “burned”, but we will be focusing on muscle and fat. Everyone has a specific BMI (Body Mass Index) that gives you a ratio of how much of your mass is made up of fat compared to how much is made up of “lean” mass (muscle, organs, connective tissue, etc). BMI will give you a very rough estimate of your Basal metabolic Rate, however it does not account for how much physical activity you do throughout the day. Instead of BMI, I recommend that you calculate your EER (Estimated Energy Requirement). If you are interested in learning more about how to calculate your EER, go here. In order to lose weight you must burn more calories than you take in, so being aware of your body’s rate of energy consumption is the LEAST that you need to know .
Now that you know how many calories your body CAN take in per day, now you need to educate yourself on how many calories your body IS taking in on a daily basis. To do this, you will actually have to start reading food labels or, if that is too hard, you can download an app on your phone that will do all the work for you. You will be amazed at how quickly the calories add up even though you feel like you have barely drank or eaten anything. For example, one 8oz glass of OJ is close to 150 calories, which for most women equates to about 10% of what their total caloric intake should be for the day. When you are counting your calories throughout the day, the calorie number is not the only thing that is important. Here is what you should be paying attention to even more closely:
- Protein – 1g of protein = 4 calories.
- Carbohydrates – 1g of carbohydrates = 4 calories.
- Fat – 1g of fat = 9 calories.
Sometimes the total calorie number is deceiving because a good that has a caloric value of 500 could be any mix of the above values. Almost anything that originates from the plant kingdom is going to be “Carb heavy”, and mostly anything that comes from the animal kingdom will be “Protein heavy”. Here is a good rule of thumb to follow when you are deciding what to put on your plate:
- Protein – should equal about 30% of the total calories in any given meal.
- Carbohydrates – should equal about 40% of the total calories.
- Fat – should equal about 30% of the total calories.
Already, this is getting more complicated than many people expect it to be. That is exactly why most people fail in their attempts to lose weight, because they do not realize how much they need to know and do in order to be successful. We have not even begun to talk about how frequently you should eat to optimize the functioning of your body, nor have we gotten into the quality of foods that you should be putting into your body. With higher quality foods, more will be consumed and used for energy, less will be stored, and your metabolism will actually increase because your body if forced to do more work to consume these foods.
One of the biggest mistakes that many people make is that they try to lose weight by ONLY changing their eating habits and they do not supplement that change with exercise. So why is exercise necessary for weight loss? Well, think about it this way…Your body consumes a specific amount of calories, or energy, per day in order to function properly. If you want to lose weight then you need your body to consume more energy than you feed it. If you are not feeding your body the energy it needs, it will go get the extra energy required from another source. In this case we would like that source to be fat, however fat is not a good source of energy, your body stores fat as a means of last resort. So where else will your body go to get energy? Do you think that muscle tissue would provide a better source of energy for your body than fat would? How about organ tissue? Basically, when you “diet” your body thinks that you are starving it so not only will it consume muscle because it is a better source of energy, but also because the less muscle mass you have, the less energy your body needs to survive. Therefore, people who go on severe diets without supplementing it with exercise will lose a great deal of weight in a short amount of time because their bodies are scrambling to survive so they burn a little fat, but a significant amount of muscle mass. With very little muscle mass, any increase in their caloric intake will cause them to gain weight again. So how do we prevent this from happening??? Exercise!!!
The Right Combo
When most people think about exercising to lose weight, they immediately think about treadmills. Not to worry, I am going to tell you that treadmills are not the answer. Long distance cardio, like dieting, will actually burn more muscle than fat. Look at any long distance runner and you will see that their bodies have basically eaten away their mass in order to make them more efficient at running. For weight loss, we want to BUILD muscle, not burn it. Therefore, some type of resistance training is mandatory. Any cardio should be low impact, but high intensity, such as walking on a treadmill at a high incline, or jumping rope, or boxing, or using an ergometer.
Sum it Up
In order to lose weight, one needs to be aware of how much their body CAN take in and how much their body IS taking in on a daily basis. At the same time, one should begin exercising be doing some resistance training and high intensity cardio. If you exercise without changing your eating habits then you will build muscle, but require more energy so you will just eat more of the junk you are eating and will not lose any weight. If you “diet” without exercising, you will not be able to sustain your body and it will begin to burn your muscle away, which will drop your caloric intake and you will not be able to keep weight off in the long-term.
If you have questions about anything, want more info about a specific subject, or want some examples of exercise routines that are conducive to weight loss, let me know and I will go more in depth.