There is no denying it. Weight loss can be really tricky and really frustrating. Especially when you are first getting started. The process of weight loss can be overly simplified or overly complicated depending on who you talk to and what sites you stumble upon. If you’ve ever done a quick search you will most likely see an online coach promoting the over simplified version “just move more, eat less” or the over complicated version “take x,y,z supplements at x,y,z times, specifically–we’re not sure exactly what they will do to you but my neighbor’s sister took them and lost 5lbs in a day”. Make sure you eat enough protein, but don’t eat meat. FIber is good…but make sure you eat 0 carbs. Dairy/Gluten/sugar free is the only way to lose weight. EAT ALL THE GOJI BERRIES! Ok, the goji berry trend died in the early 2000’s but I think you get my point. As someone who has spent more than half of their career focusing on weight loss, I’ve discovered the five best weight loss tips for women.
Before I go any further, let’s define “weight”. Your body “weight” is the sum of muscle, organs, bones, fluids, waste, food that’s still in your stomach, and fat. When the scale goes up or down those numbers are normally reflecting fluid, the food that is still in your belly, waste, muscle, or fat. Although we often seek “weight loss”, what we actually want isn’t necessarily “weight loss” but “fat loss”. We won’t get into the hormonal or medical factors that affect weight loss here–we’ll save that for another time. Instead we will focus on five strategies you can actively implement to get the weight loss ball rolling.
Tip 1: Set Realistic Goals & Find the Deficit Sweet Spot
First and foremost, weight loss is largely (not completely) a numbers game. Everyone has a certain amount of calories (energy) that their body utilizes throughout the day. If you were to lay on the couch for 24 hours, your body would continue to burn calories as your organs and brain require energy to function. The number of calories your body burns to sustain life is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR is also referred to as your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). RMR/BMR does not take into account walking to the bathroom, exercising, cleaning, cooking etc. Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is the amount of energy you burn through exercise, non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), and your BMR. Each pound of fat is made up of 3,500 Calories. Which means that in order to lose one pound of fat per week you must eat 500 calories fewer than your body burns per day. This is where the over simplified method of weight loss “eat less, burn more” comes into play. Technically speaking, this is not incorrect information. However, our bodies are very smart and they have systems in place to make sure that your body has the energy it needs to function. If you decide you want to lose three pounds per week (which for most does not seem like an unrealistic expectation), you would have to eat 10,500 calories fewer than what your body burns per week (1,500 calories fewer per day). If you are an average sized woman who burns about 1400 calories at rest and works out for an hour a day burning an extra 500-700 calories, that only leaves you with 400-600 Calories to eat per day. 1. That sounds absolutely miserable 2. Your body requires way more than that to function! You might lose weight at first, but in a few weeks your metabolism (thyroid function) will plummet, your digestion will stall, and the scale will stop moving. Not to mention a big part of the initial weight loss is muscle! So while “eat less, move more” seems like sound advice, it’s a bit more complicated than a battle of will. In order to lose fat, you certainly need to eat less than you burn. But for sustainable weight loss that keeps your metabolism rocking, I highly recommend finding a professional (like Simply Confident) that is going to help you set realistic goals, and find the sweet spot of eating in a deficit while also nourishing your body for long term weight loss.
Your body also requires all three macronutrients for optimal health and sustainable fat loss which we will get into next.
Tip 2: Eat Balanced meals
Eating a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates is key to long-term sustainable fat loss. Both protein and fat contain essential nutrients that our bodies require. Protein and fat also improve satiety and keep you feeling fuller for longer. While carbohydrates do not contain “essential” nutrients, they are influential both to your health and weight loss journey. Eating adequate carbohydrates “spares” protein. This means that when you eat enough carbohydrates, the protein that you eat can be used for muscle repair instead of fuel. Carbohydrates are also important for maintaining proper thyroid function (see this article on thyroid health) and a healthy digestion.
Most fad diets will convince you that the only way to lose weight is through removing entire food groups. The only reason why fad diets work for the short term is that they inadvertently create a Calorie deficit. Take low fat diets for example. Fat is such an important macronutrient for health and appetite regulation. However, fat contains a little more than double the Calories per gram than the other two macronutrients carbohydrates and proteins. By removing or greatly restricting fat from the diet you are removing a huge source of calories. While this fad diet might appear to “work” it is not the absence of fat (which will cause problems down the road) but the Calorie deficit that restricting fat has created.
Carbohydrates have also been under severe scrutiny over the past decade or so. Low carb or “no carb” diets hit a double whammy as they create a Calorie deficit but carbohydrates are also stored in muscle (glycogen) and hold onto a ton of water. Women can hold up to 5 lbs just in glycogen. By decreasing/eliminating carbohydrate, you will not only be in a caloric deficit but you will see the scale go down faster due to your body breaking that glycogen down and releasing that stored carbohydrate and hydration. While a quickly dropping scale sounds super tempting, low/no carb diets can be extremely dangerous causing electrolyte disturbances and cellular starvation. If your intentions are to have a strong, healthy fit looking body, low carb is hardly the way to go in my professional opinion.
However, when you eat a diet that is in a proper deficit that includes all three macronutrients, you can benefit from sustainable (and even accelerated) fat loss while keeping your body well nourished and your hunger at bay.
Tip 3: Drink 2-3L per day
Drinking adequate water is the unsung hero to fat loss (and seeing that fat loss on the scale). Drinking adequate water helps regulate appetite, supports digestion, and even helps burn fat. A region of your brain, the hypothalamus, regulates feelings of hunger and thirst. These signals often get “confused” and we end up thinking we are feeling hungry when really we are thirsty. Most people are not in the habit of drinking adequate amounts of water throughout the day, so at baseline are dehydrated. Drinking water is known as a natural appetite suppressant because it not only decreases those confusing messages but it also can fill the stomach, which decreases feelings of hunger. Maintaining adequate hydration also helps remove waste (urine and feces) from the body. When you are dehydrated, the body holds onto water. This often manifests as an upward weight fluctuation. Being adequately hydrated also helps move solid waste from your body. If you are dehydrated, you will most likely get “backed up”, keeping the scale from moving downward and also making you feel bloated and “heavy”. Water is also necessary for breaking down fat into fuel. When I was in college one of the classes we had to take was bio-chem. At first, it seemed like a class I would never use. But because of this class, I have a deeper understanding of nutrients and metabolism. One of the requirements was to memorize the metabolic pathways of macronutrients. I can still see the chemical structures of the fat cell undergoing lipolysis (the breakdown of fat into usable “fuel”). The first step in this pathway is hydrolysis which is where a water molecule interacts with a fat molecule to start the process of “fat burning”. Hydration is something I talk to my clients about ad nauseam because it’s very often overlooked and underappreciated. If you struggle with getting in enough water, I find that it’s helpful to get a one liter water bottle and drink at least 2 throughout the day.
Tip 4: Sleep & Stress Management
Make sure you get at least six hours of sleep each night and practice some form of stress management. I am listing these both together as one tip instead of two because they often go hand-in-hand. Chronic levels of stress causes the hormone cortisol to increase. Cortisol promotes the accumulation of the dangerous visceral fat. With increased cortisol, you also will have increased levels of insulin which everyone knows and loves as our fat storing hormone. Stress often leads to poor sleep quality and/or decreased amount of sleep. When you don’t sleep enough, your body tries to have your back. If you are not well rested, your body will try to improve your energy levels by getting more fuel. It does this by increasing your hormone ghrelin (hunger hormone) and decreasing your hormone leptin (fullness hormone). If you are stressed and/or not sleeping well there is a higher chance of giving in to comfort foods. Between your hormones increasing your hunger and fat storage, and the habit most of us are in of self-soothing with food, it is really important for your weight (fat) loss success to have your sleep in check and stress management techniques in place.
Tip 5: Consistency & Patience
Consistency and patience is a huge part of sustainable weight loss. It’s impossible to lose 25, 50, or 100 pounds overnight. It takes time, dedication, a strategic plan, patience, and consistency. There is no magic bullet. I often hear people in my social circle complaining about “only losing x pounds”. Because their progress is slow, their default is to throw in the towel. They feel as though whatever they are doing “must not be working”. But think about it like this: one bad day of eating doesn’t ruin a year of strategic nutrition. In the same way one day of healthy eating is not going to reverse a year of unhealthy eating. Instead of focusing on the drudgery of fat/weight loss, embrace the process. Find delicious, balanced, healthy foods that you enjoy. Simply Confident has been called “The Weight Loss Plan for Foodies” because I make a concerted effort to ensure that our balanced, healthy meals are satisfying. If your plan is enjoyable, you’ll be more apt to stick with it.
For more information on how Simply Confident can help you set realistic weight loss goals and stick to them check out our services page.