We all know how to lose weight. Eat healthy, be active — basically burn more calories than we take in. Knowing how to lose weight is the easy part. It’s the motivation, self-control and daily habits that keep us from reaching our weight loss goals. We live in a world filled with temptation, and that makes weight loss more of a mental challenge than a physical one.
Anything that is gimmicky, promises quick weight loss, or leads you to believe it’s easy is a bunch of crap. The only way to take weight off and keep it off is through consistency in your eating habits, activity level and mental well-being. You do NOT need to be perfect, but your lifestyle should consist of 80% or more of healthy habits.
Here, we step away from the gym and into your kitchen to present a practical list for cleaning up your eating habits and, as a result, your physique.
1. CHANGE YOUR LIFESTYLE.
When you go on a “program” to lose body fat, you may set yourself up for failure. A program implies an endpoint, which is when most people return to their previous habits. If you want to lose fat and keep it off, make changes that you can live with indefinitely. Don’t over-restrict calories, and find an exercise program that adequately challenges you, provides progression and offers sufficient variety so that you can maintain it for years to come.
2. DRINK MORE WATER.
Water is the medium in which most cellular activities take place, including the transport and burning of fat. In addition, drinking plenty of calorie-free water makes you feel full and eat less. Drink at least 1 ounce of water per 2 pounds of bodyweight a day (that’s 50 ounces for a 100-pound person). Keep a 20-ounce water bottle at your desk, fill it five times a day, and you’re set.
3. CONSUME FEWER CALORIES THAN YOU BURN.
To figure out how many calories you burn a day, calculate your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)—the number of calories you burn daily doing routine activities, not including formal exercise—using this formula: RMR = bodyweight (in pounds) x 13. Next, determine how many calories you burn through exercise—a half-hour of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise burns around 350 calories in the average man, and a half-hour of lifting burns around 200. Add your RMR to the calories you burn in the gym, and keep your daily calorie consumption below that total.
4. REDUCE STARCHY CARBS.
Consuming too many starchy foods, such as potatoes, rice, pasta and breads (especially at one sitting), provides your body with more than it needs for energy and glycogen stores; anything left over will be stored as fat. You don’t have to eliminate starchy carbs completely, but you should really cut back on them when trying to shed body fat. Limit total starch servings per day to 3-5, where a serving size is one cup of pasta, rice or sliced potatoes.
5. EAT A FULL, BALANCED BREAKFAST.
Your body has been starving all night long, and it needs nutrients to rebuild itself. If you just catch something quick on the run instead of eating a full meal, it negatively impacts your workout, and everything else you do during the day. Eat sufficient protein (30-40 grams), a complex carbohydrate, like oatmeal, and a piece of fruit to start your day off right.
6. LIMIT SUGAR CONSUMPTION.
Taking in simple carbs (sugars) right after weight training replenishes muscle and liver glycogen stores, but excess sugar consumed at other times will be stored as fat. Satisfy your sweet tooth occasionally, but try limiting your intake of sugar to fresh fruit. Replace sugary beverages like soft drinks and juice with water, coffee, tea or diet soda.
7. ROTATE YOUR CARBS.
Eat about one gram of carbs per pound of bodyweight for 3-5 days—these being low-carb days—and doubling that for the next 1-2 days, then repeating that cycle. If you weigh 100 pounds, eat 100 grams on low-carb days and 200 grams on other days.
8. DRINK COFFEE (BLACK) BEFORE WORKING OUT.
Caffeine causes the body to rely more on fat for fuel during a workout, rather than glucose but the caffeine effect is lessened when you eat a high-carbohydrate meal with it. Drink 1-2 cups of black coffee within two hours of working out, and emphasize healthy fats and protein if you’re drinking it with a meal or snack. Skip the cream and sugar (which add unwanted calories and fat), and avoid drinking coffee at other times of the day; doing so can desensitize you to the fat-burning effects of caffeine.
9. INCREASE VEGETABLE CONSUMPTION.
Vegetables are nutrient-dense, meaning they pack maximum nutrition value with minimal calories, leaving you more full on fewer calories. Consume five servings a day of veggies, whether as a snack, on a sandwich or on the side of a chicken breast. Order your next burger with fresh vegetables instead of french fries.
10. CONSUME 25-35 GRAMS OF FIBER A DAY.
Fiber lowers insulin levels—along with total calories—affecting how lean you’ll get. Fiber absorbs water and takes up more space in your stomach, fighting off hunger pangs, too. Fiber rich foods include bran cereal, oatmeal and beans. Check nutrition labels for fiber content.
11. ELIMINATE JUNK FOOD.
Junk food is food that offers almost nothing but calories—like french fries, potato chips and sweets. Cheat foods, on the other hand, like pizza and hamburgers, have some nutritional benefit, and eating them once in a while can really help when you’re on a diet. Know the difference.
12. EAT MORE HEALTHY FATS.
Healthy fats are totally underutilized by women trying to shed body fat. You have to reduce calories to get rid of body fat, but you don’t want to cut out healthy fats completely. Fats take longer to break down in your stomach and help control blood-sugar levels, leaving you more satisfied and reducing your cravings. Include avocados, fatty fish, olives, nuts and seeds, and oils such as olive, flaxseed and canola in your diet.
13. EAT CHEAT FOODS FOR FLAVOR.
If you love a particular food, you shouldn’t prohibit yourself from eating it. Avoid the bad foods that you don’t love or crave. And when you eat cheat foods, eat them for flavor. Don’t eat the whole pizza—have a few slices, savor the flavor and enjoy it. Share the rest.