5 Strategies to Help You Lose Weight
When it comes to health and fitness, weight loss is high on the list of priorities for lots of people. Losing weight can be a great way to help you obtain a good physique, but it is often one of the most important things you can do for your health. So we know that weight loss is good, but how do we do it?
This is where most people get stuck.
If you have had any exposure to the online fitness scene, you would know that there are a million different strategies, diets, and approaches to weight loss, and many of them claim to be right! So how do you pick one that works, but more importantly, how do you choose one that works for YOU and fits YOUR goals?
Today I’ll give you 5 strategies to help you on your way to weight loss.
But before we get there, we first need to go over the foundational principles of weight loss and energy balance.
First, in order to lose weight, you need to expend more energy than you consume. This is known as the “calories in calories out” model. So when you’re taking in more energy than you’re using throughout the course of your days, then you will gain weight.
On the flip side, if energy expenditure is higher than total energy taken in, then you will lose weight.Once you figure out how many calories it takes to lose weight, you need to maintain that intake in order to see progress.
That sounds pretty simple doesn’t it!
As a general principle it really is, but as you probably guessed, there are a TON of different ways to achieve a calorie deficit. This means you have lots of different options to pick from which increases the odds of you finding something that works for you.
These strategies are not mutually exclusive and it is often a great idea to use a few of them.
With that in mind, let’s go over 5 strategies you can use!
In terms of accuracy, counting calories is one of the best ways to keep watch over how much energy you’re taking in. In order to implement this strategy, you need to keep track of how many calories are in all of the foods you eat during a day, and then add them all up. While you can do this manually, there are apps like MyFitnessPal that can help you do that.
Keeping track of caloric intake also allows you to figure out exactly how much less to eat. If you remember how we talked about energy balance, while you can either eat more or less than your body weight requires, everyone has an equilibrium. This is also known as maintenance calories. Based on your metabolic rate and current activity levels, you need a certain amount of calories to maintain your body weight.
That’s why it is often a great idea to track what you’re eating right now for a couple of weeks, WITHOUT making any changes. While you’re doing that, you should also periodically weigh yourself to see how your caloric intake is affecting your weight. After you finish this initial stage of tracking, you can now figure out your maintenance calories. Once you have determined this number, you can subtract around 250-500 calories from your daily intake and do that for a couple of months. If you begin to see weight loss happening at about 0.5-2% of bodyweight per month, that’s great! You’re right where you need to be and don’t need to change anything. But if you’re staying about the same or gaining weight, then you’ll need to re-examine your caloric intake.
For example, let’s say that after 2 weeks of counting daily calories, you learn that it takes 2000 calories a day to maintain your current body weight of 140 pounds. Then all you need to do is subtract 250-500 calories from certain foods throughout the day and then you’re good to go!
This approach allows you to be very accurate as you are working with concrete numbers that you can move up or down as you need. But it does require a pretty close watch on all of what you’re eating. For this reason, you’ll often learn that you underestimate how much you eat! Counting calories can uncover that discrepancy and show you where you need to go from there.
However, counting calories can be tedious for lots of people and may not be feasible for you. Luckily there are other ways to go at this!
Get Enough Protein
By far the largest barrier standing between you and weight loss is HUNGER! Eating lefewerss calories than you normally do can make you more hungry, but prioritizing certain foods can help with that. In this case, protein is going to be your best friend.
Out of all three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fats), protein is by far the most satiating. For that reason, a good weight loss diet plan will have a good chunk of calories coming from protein sources. If you think about your own personal experience, it’s much easier to slam down a bunch of french fries than to put away a bunch of grilled chicken. Once you hit a good protein goal, it’s harder to accidentally overeat as you feel more full throughout the day.
Getting plenty of protein also helps you put on muscle unlike anything else. When you come into the gym and train your muscles, dietary protein is what builds them back up and makes them bigger and stronger. As an added benefit, having more lean body mass increases your energy expenditure, even at rest! The more muscle you can gain, the more calories you will burn. So you want to make sure to get your protein in!
Protein needs vary from person to person, but there are baseline numbers that we recommend. For women, getting a minimum of 60g/day is a great place to start, and around 100g/day is a good baseline for men. If you’re looking to maximize strength, muscle gain, and performance, a good range is 0.7g-1.4g per pound of bodyweight per day. So if you weighed 120 pounds, your optimized range of daily protein intake would be 84g-168g.
Now you should keep in mind that the top end of this range comes from data analyzing athletes who are very lean, train hard frequently, and are actively losing weight. If those things apply to you, then great! But keep that in mind when choosing a target amount. Start at our baseline recommendations then gradually work your way up as you need to meet your goals.
Minimize Junk Food
If counting calories isn’t your thing, one way to cut down calories is to reduce the super tasty processed foods and drinks in your diet. I’m talking about fast food burgers, french fries, pizza, sodas, etc. What all of these foods and drinks have in common is high fat, high salt, high sugar.
Not only that, but most of them are not very filling.That’s why it’s so easy to overeat them! These things by themselves are not an issue in the context of a reasonable diet. However, they can become an issue if they are a major part of your eating habits.
While cutting down on fast food might seem more obvious, you get plenty of calories from sugar sweetened beverages like soda! To put it in perspective, a 12 ounce can of coke has 140 calories. But if you eat out, a medium soft drink cup is around 20 ounces, AND if you get a refill, that’s nearly 500 calories! If you scaled down to only one cup or half of a cup when you eat out, that’s an easy couple hundred calories right there! This strategy of minimizing certain foods is definitely not exclusive to the other approaches, but it can simplify weight loss if you don’t want to track your calories or weigh your portions.
Time Larger Meals
Once you figure out how much you need to eat, whether you count calories or not, one good strategy you can use is to time your larger meals for when hunger can become an issue. For example, if you are rarely hungry during breakfast, then you could have a smaller meal in the morning and then have more calories to work with when you get really hungry by lunchtime. On the flip side, having a big meal in the morning might keep you full for more of the day and cause you to eat less for your other meals. Either way, you probably know when you get hungry most often. Play around with meal timing and size to figure out a strategy that keeps you on track.
You can think of it like a budget, where you dedicate more money to categories of greater need and less to everything else. And, just like a well-balanced budget, you can treat yourself every once and a while!
Eating Foods That You Like
In the world of diet culture, people can often create self-imposed limits on themselves that aren't necessary and can often make losing weight harder. That’s why it's important to be realistic with your approach and give yourself some room to enjoy the foods you like. Doing things like timing your larger meals for when you're most hungry means you can add those higher calorie foods you like without going over budget.
Eating to lose weight does mean that you have to make some adult decisions and be responsible, but it shouldn't be miserable. Even if you constructed the greatest diet in existence that will get you to your goal the fastest, it’s worthless if you know that you won’t stick with it. It’s great to work towards a goal that’s worthwhile, but you have to enjoy the ride!
If you’re just starting your weight loss journey for the first time, or if you are already on the journey, these are some really useful tools to make the process effective and enjoyable. Give some of these a try!