Weight control all comes down to energy balance. If you want to lose weight, you need to be in a negative energy balance. This can be done in one of three ways: consume less, expend more energy, or a combination of both.
But then why do some people fail to lose weight, and keep it off, when they are eating fewer calories and working out more? The answer could differ from person to person, but the following strategies below can help you reach your weight loss goals, and keep the pounds off for good.
Establish Appropriate Goals
It’s okay to have a big, scary goals that look intimidating, but it’s more important to establish smaller, quickly attainable goals along the way. If you set a goal to lose 75 pounds, you are looking to spend well over a year trying to get there, and that’s if you consistently lose 5 pounds a month over the next 15 months. The thing is, our bodies fluctuate, which means you might have one month when the pounds seem to melt off, and other months when you barely lose a pound. It’s difficult to adhere to one goal for a long period of time, and little frustrations and moments of discouragement can deter you from continuing to commit to your weight loss journey.
Set monthly or quarterly goals for yourself that are specific, measurable, and realistic. After doing so, write down the things that you will not only help you get there, but can be incorporated into your lifestyle without too much difficulty. Even for myself, eating a healthy salad for lunch every day is not plausible, but I can eat one salad three days out of the week without even thinking about it; it’s something that isn’t terribly challenging, and I can maintain that habit long term. There is no point in creating new habits for weight loss if you are just going to cut them when you reach your goal; you can guess what will happen if you do.
Come to Terms with Calorie Intake…and Food Quality
Calories do matter. You will hear conflicting evidence that only the quality of food matters, or to only focus on the number of calories or grams of each macronutrient. By looking at the Law of Thermodynamics, which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, the calories (or energy) we consume need to go somewhere. Which means calories will either be used for energy, or stored as fat. It may be a good idea to track your calories, at least for a brief period of time, to ensure you really are eating the number of calories you think you are. Counting calories is never fun, and I wouldn’t recommend you do it for the rest of your life, but tracking for a week or two may help you come to terms with your true calorie intake.
But, there are other factors that come into play. Foods rich in fiber and protein are your friends. These foods help with satiety levels, which is a sense of satisfaction that lasts long after the initial feeling of fullness. By eating highly-processed or low-fiber meals, you’re likely going to feel hungry much sooner than you should. When it comes to protein, you’ll be surprised how increasing your protein intake will help you feel fuller, and less likely to snack or overeat. Plus, protein intake increases thermogenesis, which means your body is working harder to digest and absorb the food’s nutrients when compared to fat and carbohydrates. When your body is working harder to digest protein, that means more energy is required to make that happen. So if you are trying to lose weight, and want to keep it off, consuming adequate protein is a recommended approach.
Periodization is Your Friend
It may be time to change up your workouts. You shouldn’t be doing the same workouts year-round; your body will adapt, and it won’t respond the way it did when you first started those specific workouts. You can completely focus on new goals, like switching from strength training to HIIT-style workouts for four weeks, or doing something as simple as slowing down the tempo of your exercises. Another strategy is to change the number of reps per exercise, or increase the overall volume. Plus, you may find that by adapting a new style of exercises for a period of time may enhance strength in your other lifts. Adding variety to your workout cycles can help reduce injury, get stronger in other areas of fitness, and challenge your body in a way that can prevent plateaus, and weight gain.
Embrace Special Occasions
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to stay on point, every day. Not only is that impossible, but it sets us up to be disappointed and discouraged because we’ve convinced ourselves that we’ve failed. Enjoying a special treat here and there is not failing, it’s called being human.
Who wants to say no to a slice of your child’s birthday cake? Or passing up a serving of mom’s homemade apple pie that she only bakes on Thanksgiving? Just like one healthy meal won’t lead to instantaneous weight loss, one high-calorie or sweet dessert won’t make you gain fat on the spot. I wouldn’t recommend eating pie and cake every day, but neglecting certain foods on special occasions is not how we want to live for the rest of our lives.
Instead of saying no, enjoy that slice of cake, then simply get right back into your routine the next day. Remember, the body likes being in a state of equilibrium; the longer we maintain healthy habits, the easier it is for the body to remain at maintenance, even if we deviate slightly here and there.