I’m sure you’ve told yourself before that you don’t have time to cook better food or to exercise. Maybe you work a lot of hours, or have a lot of family responsibilities, or both! This does not mean you can’t be healthy and look good. Here, I’ll give you some advice to help you manage daily life and still reach your goals. But first let’s talk about the number one rule of losing weight.
You must be eating less than you need
To lose weight you have to be in a calorie deficit. You cannot lose weight if you aren’t eating less than your body uses.
The other things that you hear or read about that are meant to help you lose weight, things like: weight/fat loss diets, fat burners, or anything related to weight loss or fat loss don’t do a thing if you’re eating more than your body uses.
Once you are in a calorie deficit, the tricks and supplements might help a fractional amount but it’s less than 5% and in most cases negligible. It’s not worth the time or money.
What about fat loss diets? They all work only because they put you in a calorie deficit.
- Keto? – calorie deficit
- Paleo? – calorie deficit
- Vegan? – calorie deficit
- Intermittent fasting? – calorie deficit
- The most recent fad diet that your coworker is telling you about? – calorie deficit
If you are losing weight, you are eating fewer calories than you need.
Now that we have that out of the way, there are some things you can do to help you have and maintain a calorie deficit.
Track your intake. All of it.
Many people complain that no matter what they do they can’t lose weight. 95% of the time this is because they are not aware of how much they are actually eating. The best thing you can do if this sounds like you is to buy a food scale and get an app like FatSecret and start weighing and tracking everything you put in your mouth.
It’s kind of a hassle at first and makes eating out very hard because you don’t know amounts and quantities of what you’re eating. And even if they list the total calories for each item on the menu the FDA allows them to be off by up to 30%! So it’s probably best to pause eating out for a couple weeks to allow you to get a good idea of what your intake really is.
Once you have a good idea of what you are eating each day, bump that down by 100-300 calories and the scale will drop. If you strength train while in a deficit, it will preserve your muscle and the majority of what you lose will be fat.
Cut the Junk
Eating foods that are ultra processed causes people to consume more than they would if they were only eating whole foods. Around 500 calories more each day! 500 calories every day over a week is a 3,500 which is the amount of calories in a pound of fat. That’s a lot of increased intake just from not eating more whole food.
What does “ultra processed” foods really mean? It’s somewhat open to interpretation where to draw the line but really anything that doesn’t resemble what it’s made from. Think Cheetos. Cheetos aren’t found in nature. They have been engineered by food scientists to have the perfect crunch, leave the right amount of dust on your fingers, and have the perfect combination of fat, salt, and sugar to light up the pleasure centers of your brain more than anything found in nature. Hundreds of millions of dollars go into developing each of these “foods” to make them as palatable as possible (read: make you eat more)
The more you eat these engineered, highly palatable foods, the less you’ll be satisfied with natural foods. Strawberries won’t be sweet enough. Veggies will taste bland. Meat will seem flavorless. This will only make it harder to keep a negative energy balance (calorie deficit) because you’ll want to eat less of these whole foods.
Wait, you said ultra processed foods, what about just processed foods?
Food processing is changing anything about the food before you eat it. So applying heat to meat to cook it or cutting up vegetables are both ways of processing foods. These obviously aren’t bad and can make some things better for you or easier to digest. So please keep cooking your food.
Nourishment or Pleasure
Don’t eat food for the pleasure it fleetingly provides, eat it because it is helping your body. Food has many uses, it brings people together, it is what your body uses to replace tissue (muscle, tendons, bones, etc.), it can taste good to name a few. Consider what food can do for you.
Sadly the main selling point of food in restaurants and advertisements is how good the food tastes. This is such a lopsided perspective of food.
For example, consider the amazing things that eggs provide you: high levels of choline, a good amount of protein and fat, omega 3 fatty acids, and muscle building cholesterol to name a few.
If you want to eat something because it will serve your body instead of on how it tastes you will have a much easier time sticking to your goals.
Weight loss or fat loss does not come from exercise!
This is a lie that has been spread for decades and won’t go away. You do expend calories when you exercise but that is not what exercise is best at doing. Exercise causes the systems of your body to adapt to the stimulus you apply whether that’s to increase muscle or improve your cardiovascular system, to name a couple. The calorie burn from it is a secondary result of your activity.
Please stop punishing yourself with exercise because you have overeaten over the holidays. It doesn’t work. Why would you try to get across a lake in a canoe using a branch as a row when you have a perfectly good paddle right there?
Get your intake under control to help you manage your weight and use exercise to get you the results that it is best at.
When you have a handle on the amount calories you are eating, limiting your intake of ultra processed food, and changing what food means to you, there isn’t much more that you’ll need to do. You will be in the driver seat of your weight and by extension, the amount of fat and muscle on your body. Tracking your food, limiting ultra processed food and reframing how you view food make up the 80% of the results you are wanting. Make sure you work on these 3 things before getting distracted by the things below. They won’t make as much of a difference for you.
If you are looking to get more results here is a short list of things you might want to try:
(But seriously before you focus or even read these make the first 3 things above, part of your life. The things below are pennies compared to the Benjamins you’ve already read about.)
Eat a breakfast high in protein and fat
Eggs, when paired with vegetables, are an amazing, nutrient filled breakfast. It’s high in vitamins, protein, and healthy fat. I’m not telling you to not eat carbs, carbs are great. Please don’t be afraid to eat carbs. Protein and fat both make you feel more full than carbs do.
And honestly most people, especially women, don’t eat enough protein. Eating more in the morning might help you squeeze more into your diet.
Eat spicy foods
The compound that makes things spicy, capsaicin, has been shown to help reduce the desire to consume less than you would had you not eaten it. Not a total game changer and not helpful at all if you don’t like spicy food. Please don’t subject yourself to spicy foods just because you hope it’ll help you lose weight.
Snacks can get away from you and wreck your calorie deficit, if you’re not careful. Cut them out as much as you can and limit your eating to complete meals. When you do snack, portion the snacks before you eat them and plan them out as much as possible. Try having a go to snack, particularly one that’s higher in protein and fiber and has limited or no added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Drink more water
You might be confusing the feeling of having an empty stomach with being hungry. Chances are you aren’t actually starving. Even the most shredded person (150 lbs with 6% body fat) has 31,500 calories on their body in the form of body fat. And this is someone with very little body fat, who can most likely see the veins on their stomach. Be honest, with all that sitting on your frame, you can wait until the next meal. A way you can combat the feeling of hunger is getting water in your stomach.
Get lasting results
This is the holy grail when it comes to weight loss. No one wants to yo-yo diet. The cycle of motivation, determination, complacence, and depression is not a fun ride and will wear you down after a couple rounds. If you want to keep extra weight off, it will take more than the latest hacks. It will take real, permanent behavior change. Only when that happens will you be able to keep the extra weight off permanently.
A quick note of encouragement. It’s easy to read this and think to yourself: “That’s it, I’m going to get things straight and finally lose some weight.” only to find yourself 6 weeks later with little progress. Be patient with yourself, getting this all figured out is a process that can take years for it to really click. And even then it will take effort to maintain. But it’s worth it. Spend the time getting to know yourself. Future you will thank you for the effort you put in now.