The weight loss equation requires two things: eating less and moving more. At least that’s what I used to think and that’s what the science says. With my experience losing weight, there’s more to the weight loss math than those two things. There are the behaviors you engage in on a daily basis, your stress level, how much sleep you’re getting, and how happy you are with your life overall. But at the core of it how you eat and how you move still matter a whole lot.
In fact your diet is a big part of it, and it’s not just about how much you’re eating but how well. And with exercise, the quantity isn’t as important as the quality. Today I’m going to break down how to map out an eating plan that will have you eating well and losing weight and moving more without living in the gym or losing your sanity.
Decide How You’re Going to Eat Healthier
When you’re trying to drop the weight, your first instinct might be to eat low-fat or go for a super low-calorie detox that will “jumpstart your weight loss.” The problem with doing things like this is that you’re not learning how to eat in a way that will help you lose weight AND is sustainable over time.
Eating well for weight loss means creating a way to eat healthy that works for you and the realities of your life that also helps you lose weight. Doing this starts with understanding what it means to eat healthy and this will require that you let go of some preconceptions about healthy eating.
It Starts with Portions
Portion control is at the core of everything when you’re working to drop the weight. If you’re eating too much healthy food, you’ll probably have decent health markers but you’ll still be overweight. And if you eat very little unhealthy food, you’ll probably feel poorly but will lose weight. Obviously, you’ll want to feel in good health while losing weight so your next step after realizing that you need to manage your portions is to learn how to eat healthy.
Portion Control Tip: Controlling your portions doesn’t mean you’ll have to count calories. One easy way is to reduce the size of your plate. This works if you consistently use a smaller plate and you don’t go for seconds.
Now that we’ve squared away the portion control talk, let’s start by focusing on the simplest healthy eating principles to help you get started.
Low-Fat Doesn’t Always Translate to Weight Loss
Eating low-fat to lose weight doesn’t guarantee success, in fact it can have the opposite effect for two reasons.
One: When manufacturers cut the fat in food, they add something in to make up for the loss of flavor. And usually the additive is sugar, which means you’re trading one evil for another because eating a lot of sugar can have negative implications for your weight and your health.
Two: Because it’s low fat, you’re more likely to have your guard down around food. This means you might eat more than you normally would because you believe that it’s not as bad for you because it’s low fat.
Click here to read two more reasons why the low-fat movement is doing you a disservic and how to reframe your thinking to make fat work for you.
You Don’t Have to Give Up Carbs
Giving up carbs is another thing that doesn’t guarantee success. There is quite a bit of research that points to higher weight loss numbers resulting from eliminating or drastically reducing carbs.
The truth behind the low-carb weight-loss phenomenon is that it’s tied to something less sexy – portion control. You see a diet that results in being overweight is usually characterized by the very carbs that you have to eliminate if you choose to go on a low-carb diet. So by automatically reducing or eliminating carbs, you’re cutting down your portions.
If you want to lose weight and still keep the carbs in your diet, you’ll want to go back to our first point on portion control. You can also click here to read one more carb strategy that you can employ.
Use Vegetables and Fruits to Your Advantage
Losing weight by eating healthy doesn’t require that you eat mostly fruit and vegetables, but making them a big part of your healthy diet will make a huge difference. You see hunger is the enemy when you’re trying to eat healthy to lose weight and feel great, and eating a lot of fruits and vegetables will help you manage your hunger and your portions.
You see, fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrition with not a lot of calories and can be enjoyed as a snack even when you’re trying to lose weight. You can enjoy your vegetables steamed or roasted in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper for a snack and you can enjoy fruits to manage a sweet tooth that would normally derail you.
You can read more about how to use fruit and vegetables to make your diet deliciously diverse and enjoyable even as you drop the weight.
What Comes Next?
The key to weight loss success is really understanding how you like to eat right now and fashion a healthy diet that mimics it as much as possible especially in taste. This means finding ways to cook whole grains in ways that you enjoy, incorporating fat into your dietcutting down on sugar without feeling deprived if you have a sweet tooth, and boosting your intake of fruits and vegetables to keep you full even as you cut your portions.
Decide How You’re Going to Move More
It’s possible to lose weight without exercise, but exercising on a regular basis can help you manage your energy without feeling deprived because you don’t have to cut down as much food to lose the same amount of weight. But there are two mindset shifts that are critical to using exercise to effectively lose weight.
Consistency is Everything
When you’re working to lose weight, you might be tempted to go for the sexiest workout that promises the highest calorie burn. But as sexy as it might be, it won’t help you lose the weight if you don’t do it consistently. If all you can do is walk 30 minutes everyday, you’ll lose weight if you do it regularly and eat reasonable portions.
You Don’t Earn Calories
This is one mindset mistake that I made a lot early on. I would go to the gym and burn 300+ calories on the elliptical machine and then return my dorm room and enjoy a honey bun (500+ calories) and a can of vanilla coke (150 calories). I did this after every single workout as a reward. It wasn’t till I found myself gaining weight that I went back and looked at my diet and found the culprit. Don’t fall for the idea that workout out earns you the “right” to eat what you want as it can sabotage your hard work.
Choose Your Metrics
Once you’ve fashioned your very own healthy diet and chosen a form of exercise that you can consistently stick to the next step is to determine how you’ll judge progress. There are many ways to do this, but today I’ll touch on two.
Since you’re trying to lose weight, checking your weight is one easy way to judge if your healthy eating and exercise plans are working for you. I advise taking your weight seriously no more than once a week. Your weight can fluctuate as much as 5 lbs (2 kg) in a day depending on what you eat, how much water you drink, how you exercise, and more. Checking once a week gives a reasonable amount of time for these fluctuations to even out. Also if you do it on the same day each week and around the same time will allow you to see how your weight is trending.
If you’re averse to weighing yourself, then you can take your measurements every two weeks or so to see how you’re changing in size. Measuring your bust, waist, and hips will give a good indicator of how your body is changing over time.
Execute Consistently and Evaluate Constantly
Once you’ve set the basics of your plan in place, execute consistently and evaluate constantly.
Executing consistently is self-explanatory, and you’ll want to hold yourself accountable to your eating and exercise plan.
Now let’s address evaluating constantly.
Here’s what I suggest:
- Execute your plan consistently every week
- Check your metrics in your chosen interval – every week or every two weeks
- Give yourself a month on your new plan before you choose to make any changes
- If you don’t see any progress after a month on your plan, then go back to the drawing board and modify your plan – we’ll talk about how to do this next time
I have an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it philosophy” so if you’re seeing progress, continue to execute your plan.
- Your action plan is simple:
- Craft your eating plan
- Choose an exercise plan you can stay consistent with
- Execute consistently and hold yourself accountable
- Evaluate constantly
If you have any questions about the process, feel free to ask me.
Now dive in…