There are so many options, and so much confusion when it comes to weight loss. How do you lose weight and keep it off for good? These are the points to focus on.
Habits and lifestyle changes
For long term success, healthy habits and sustainable lifestyle changes are where it’s at. If you create routines that work for you, healthy choices become easier to make, and you save your willpower for when you need it most. Here are some habits and lifestyle changes that have helped my clients, and could help you too:
- Planning food for the day
- Adding protein to each meal
- Eating from smaller plates
- Filling half your dinner plate with veggies
- Drinking at least 2 litres of water daily
- Checking calories and weighing things out when unsure
- Parking further away and taking stairs instead of escalators
- Getting exercise clothes out ready ahead of time (one less barrier if you’re in a rush or lacking motivation)
- Only drinking on set nights of the week
- Going for long walks at the weekend to boost overall weekly step count
- Taking time at the weekend to reflect on the previous week and look for lessons
- Choosing one specific action goal for each week
- Finding ways to make exercise more fun
- Finding new countryside walks to explore
Stella and Claire – two of my clients (who’ve lost an incredible 7 stone between them) out walking together.
To lose weight, there is no getting away from the fact that you need to be in a calorie deficit. That means taking in less than your body burns off each day or week. Can you lose weight without tracking calories? Yes – habit changes such as smaller portions, increasing steps, eating more protein and vegetables, and checking what an actual portion size is by weighing it out, are often enough to create a deficit.
I would encourage habit and lifestyle changes first, focusing on mostly nutritious foods, a bit of whatever else you fancy, and a general awareness of calories without meticulously tracking them. If you get stuck, looking more closely at your intake (perhaps by spending a week or two recording with an app such as my fitness pal) can be very educational and help you see changes you can make.
This macronutrient is your friend when it comes to weight loss, for a few reasons. A huge benefit for weight loss is that protein takes more effort for your body to digest than both carbs and fat, so it helps you stay full for longer. It also helps keep the germs of your kids (or other people’s kids) at bay by supporting your immune system. And it’s the building block of our muscles. If you’re in a calorie deficit but not eating enough protein, you’ll lose significant amounts of muscle as well as fat. So keeping protein intake high is very important to do.
How much do you need?
A palm-size serving in each meal, plus one or two high protein snacks, works very well for most women. Numbers wise, this usually equates to a range of around 100-150g of protein each day. For some ideas on protein sources, see the graphic below.
For losing weight while toning up, you need to work your muscles through resistance training. The best way to do this is to lift heavy(ish) weights with the goal of getting stronger.
Don’t worry – you won’t end up looking like Arnie. Us women don’t have the testosterone required to produce big bulky muscles. Instead, you’ll gain a small amount of muscle while burning a extra body fat instead. The end result is a leaner, stronger body, boosted confidence, and the ability to eat more food than you would if you’d lost muscle (yay!).
Two to three sessions per week of weights, with four to eight exercises that together cover the whole body, is a great place to start. Exercises that use large muscle groups, such as squats, leg press, step ups, bench press, pulldowns, deadlifts and lunges, should make up the bulk of what you do. If you’re totally lost, get in touch HERE and I’ll send you a beginner plan you can follow.
Steps and NEAT
Walking is vastly underestimated when it comes to weight loss. Fitness trackers such as Fitbits and the like are so helpful – not so much for telling you the calories you’ve burned (this can be pretty inaccurate) but for encouraging you to do more steps throughout the day, to generally move around more, and add to your NEAT.
NEAT stands for Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. It is essentially any activity you do that isn’t formal exercise – fidgeting, standing, getting a drink, doing the washing, tapping your feet, etc. It adds up to a lot of activity over the day. Most of us are awake for 16-18 hours, and may spend one of those hours doing actual exercise. The rest of that time is open to being a fidget.
All little movements count. This is often the reason why some people seem to be able to eat lots without putting on weight. Study them for 24 hours and you’ll find they either eat less at other times, they move a lot over the day, or both.
When you’re attempting to lose weight, your body realises that less calories are coming in, and it tries to protect you by getting you to move less. Often you don’t even realise this is happening. You’ll just feel tired and lethargic, and end up sitting down more.
Over time this means you expend considerably less calories than you normally would. You might have reduced your daily intake by 500 calories, but you’ve burned 500 calories less than normal without even knowing about it. The best way to combat this is to be aware it’s happening, and keep your steps up.
Deliberate walks are brilliant, but don’t underestimate the power of taking a slightly longer route home, walking up the escalator instead of standing on it, standing up when you could be sitting down (standing at your desk can burn around an extra 500 calories over an 8 hour day compared to sitting), and marching around your house for a few minutes to hit your 10k steps. We’ve all done that right?
You never need to be perfect, you just need to be consistent. It doesn’t matter if you overeat or make a poor choice now and again. It matters what you do after that.
If you think you’ve ruined it and may as well start again on Monday, you lose all the hard work you’ve put in so far. But if you get curious about what happened, see what you can learn, and move on guilt-free, you’re straight back on track and still making progress. So make your next decision a great one and keep going.
While you do that, be kind to yourself! Your self talk, and the way you talk about yourself to other people, has a huge impact on your success. We are conditioned to talk down about ourselves, to beat ourselves up and pick out every perceived flaw. Let’s change that. How would you speak to your best friend if she was criticising herself and her appearance?
I’m prepared to bet you’d give her the encouragement and compliments she needed, tell her she’s beautiful, do whatever you could to boost her confidence and self-esteem. You do that because it will help her. Being kind to yourself will help you too. It sounds airy fairy, but you need to be your own best friend. You deserve that love and support as much as everyone else.
Sometimes action has to come BEFORE motivation
There will be many times when you don’t feel motivated. That’s normal – part of human nature. This is where habits and routines come valiantly to your rescue.
Prepare yourself for it to not always be fun. Keep focused on why you’re doing this, and how amazing it’s going to feel when you achieve what you want. Ask yourself what’s one small action you can take today to help keep things moving? Then – go do it.
There’s nothing more motivating than seeing yourself make progress. Take action regardless of how you feel, and you’ll become motivated by the results you create.
You can’t mess this up
There’s no perfect way to lose weight. This is about creating a lifestyle that works for you, so you can be fit, healthy and happy for life, right?
When you see it like that, you can’t mess up, or ruin it, or fail.
There are no rules you must stick to 100% of the time. There is no perfection exam you must pass.
A question that always helps me is to ask ‘will I be bothered about this in 5 years time?’. I wouldn’t be bothered about enjoying a bit of cake (I’d probably have forgotten about it, unless it was reeeally good cake). But I’d be bothered if I let eating that bit of cake make me feel guilty and sabotage myself for days after. So I enjoy it, make healthy choices after, and carry on.
Keep working at whatever makes you happy. If you overeat, or slip off track for a day, week, month, or year, it’s ok. All you ever need to do is make your next choice a great one, and you’re right back on it again. Consistency (not perfection) leads to success.
If you have any questions or need any help, email email@example.com, or get in touch with me HERE