While losing weight can be challenging, it doesn’t have to be complicated or limited to a specific diet. Weight loss at its basic level comes down to burning more calories than you consume.
However, the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to build healthy eating and exercise into a lifestyle that works for you. Follow these weight loss basics to help you lose weight your way.
What are calories?
- A calorie is the measure of energy required to heat 1kg of water 1 degree Celsius
- Calories in food are a measure of the energy that food or liquid provides you through eating or drinking.
- Calories from exercise are an estimate of how much energy you burn while performing that exercise
- Usually, this is net energy. For example, walking for 1 hour burns X number of calories but of those calories, a certain percentage would have been used e.g. walking for 1 hr burned x calories, a certain amount of x would have been burned by just lying in bed.
- 1 Ib of fat = 3500 calories
Weight loss basics - how weight loss or gain works
- Eat more calories than you burn and you will store the excess as fat. (Eat 3,500 calories more than you burn and you’ll put on a pound of weight.)
- Burn more calories than you eat (called creating a calorie deficit) and you will lose fat and possibly muscle. (Burn 3,500 calories more than you eat and you’ll lose a pound of weight.)
- A weight loss of 1-2 lbs per week is generally considered safe. This works out at about a 3,500 – 7,000 calorie deficit a week or a 500 – 1,000 calorie deficit per day.
- If your calorie deficit is too high you will lose both fat and muscle.
- Don’t eat a calorie deficit of more than 1,000 calories per day.
- Don’t consume less than 1,000 calories per day no matter your deficit.
- Your weight will fluctuate by up to 5 pounds during the course of a day – due to food, hydration, bowel movements, etc (1 liter of water weighs 1kg)
How your body fuels itself
- The body requires glucose (a type of sugar)
- Glucose comes from carbs you eat, or if you don’t have enough carbs your liver converts fat and protein to glucose (the kidneys act as a backup to the liver for this)
- Your muscles store roughly 500g of glucose in them = 2,000 calories
- Your liver stores roughly 100g of glucose at any time = 400 calories
- If you burn too many calories too quickly at once without refueling you exhaust the glucose from your muscles, this is called hitting the wall
- This typically only happens when marathon training or half marathon training for heavier people as it occurs when you burn about 2,000 to 2,500 calories without refueling
- Hitting the wall feels like you’ve just developed the flu all of a sudden, all your muscles hurt and it’s a struggle to do anything apart from lying down.
What are macros?
- Food has nutrients. These are divided into the macronutrient categories of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
- Recommended macro breakdown:
- 45–65% of calories from carbs
- 20–35% of calories from fats
- 10–35% of calories from proteins
- Rough calories per gram:
- Carb: 4 calories per g
- Fat: 9 calories per g
- Protein: 4 calories per g
- There are three types of carbs:
- Fiber is generally not absorbed by the body, it makes you feel full and passes through the digestive system.
- Simple carbs from sugar / starchy foods are broken down into glucose quickly and cause your blood sugar level to spike, but then crash after, making you hungry and tired (why you’re sleepy after a big meal or hungry 1hr after McDonald’s)
- Complex carbs take longer to break down, so don’t cause the blood sugar to spike and keep you fuller for longer
How to keep the balance of macros while reducing calories
If I need 2,000 calories to maintain weight and my macros are split like this:
- 35% fat X 2,000 = 700 calories will come from fat
- 35% carb X 2,000 = 700 calories will come from carbs
- 30% protein X 2,000 = 600 calories will come from proteins
If I reduce my calories to 1,800 and keep the same macro ratios, then it would be:
- 35% fat = 630 calories from fat
- 35% carb = 630 calories from carbs
- 30% protein = 540 calories will come from proteins
Diet basics - focus on eating whole and high-fiber foods
- Whole foods are foods that have not been processed and are found in nature. For example, a whole apple versus apple sauce. A freshly-caught fish versus fish cutlets that are covered in crumbs.
- Whole foods don’t have added ingredients such as sugars, flavoring, fillers, and preservatives. In general, they are packed with nutrients, release their carbs much slower, and will keep you fuller for longer.
- Fiber is a carbohydrate that can’t be digested. It helps to regulate blood sugar levels and can help you feel fuller for longer. If you don’t have any intolerances, adding high-fiber foods to your menu will help with weight loss.
- There are two main types of fiber — soluble and insoluble.
- Soluble fiber — this fiber can be dissolved in water. Soluble fiber is found in oats, nuts, lentils, beans, apples, and chia seeds. Soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol and regular blood sugar levels.
- Insoluble fiber — the body can’t digest this fiber. As such, it helps keep you regular and can improve the movement of food through your digestive system. Insoluble fiber is found in whole wheat foods, brown rice, leafy green vegetables, some nuts, and seeds as well as the skins of fruit such as apples, plums, and pears.
- As much as possible, combine whole foods and high-fiber foods into healthy meals.
- Vegetables are a great way to fill up without too many calories. Many vegetables have a negative calorie count which means the body uses up more energy to digest them than the calories contained in them. Eating a variety of colors will also help to ensure you get all the vitamins and minerals you require.
Exercise your way
- Exercise burns calories at different rates, but also depends on the intensity. For example, a fast walk will burn more calories than a slow walk.
- The best type of exercise is whatever you enjoy and can maintain. If you enjoy hiking, aim for a long hike over the weekends and shorter walks during the week. If you enjoy Zumba, joining a regular class will not only keep you motivated but it will also help you burn calories.
- Aim to sweat or at least increase your heart rate for 30 mins 4-5 days a week.
- Aim to build sustainable exercise habits. The more you enjoy what you’re doing, the more you will continue to do it.
Weight loss tips that work
- Log what you eat/drink — it makes you aware, self-accountable and focused.
- Weigh yourself every morning when you get up, after going to the bathroom. This helps you understand changes and keeps you focused.
- If you have an unhealthy relationship with weight and weighing yourself (such as a past eating disorder) rather focus on measuring yourself with a tape measure and record the measurements once a week. Try to measure yourself at the exact location every time as a couple of inches out, will give you a different measurement.
- Aim for a calorie deficit of 500 – 1,000 calories per day
- Prepare food yourself so that you have control over the ingredients
- Or follow this easy 7- day meal plan 1500 calories
- It’s easier to not eat 500 calories than it is to burn an extra 500 calories
- Drink 3 – 6 pts of water per day — at least 8 cups
- Do not cut anything out completely, build habits you can maintain for life. Keep treats to every once in a while or once you’ve hit a certain goal such as a certain amount of weight lost or steps reached
- If you are wanting to replenish calories based on how much you’ve burned during exercise, aim to replenish half of them
- The best way to lose weight and keep it off is to build healthy habits into a lifestyle
- Aim to reduce your calorie count by 500 – 1,000 calories a day for steady weight loss
- Do an activity you enjoy for exercise – this will make it sustainable. Aim to increase your heart rate and sweat for at least 30 mins 4 – 5 days a week
- Eat mainly whole, high-fiber foods. Fill up on vegetables and drink plenty of water