The topic that invariably pops up the moment the words “fitness goals” are uttered. And for beginners, it might be extremely overwhelming trying to understand exactly HOW to lose any amount of weight, given the mixed bag of information we have on the internet. In reality, weight loss, although not easy, is pretty straightforward and the issue is understanding exactly how you approach it. To do so, there are a few steps we can apply. In this blog, we’ll go over five fundamental steps you and other beginners should take to better understand how to lose weight… for you.
You know, I want to start with a step ZERO. Before deciding anything, you need to answer this: “Do you want to lose weight, or are you just trying to shed a bit of fat and build muscle?” If you’re, say, around the average body fat of about 20% for men and 28% for women, then your WEIGHT doesn’t matter much at all. Your goal is to simply change your body composition, something known as compositing, burning fat while building muscle without huge changes to the scale.
The first step is to change up your grocery list. This shouldn’t be too surprising. The first thing to tackle is the thing that got you to need to lose weight in the first place, and that’s the type of food you eat. And there’s no secret here:
You got to bring down those junk foods, the highly processed, sugary, and fatty foods that are caloriedense but low in important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. In its place, you’re gonna want some good old’ whole foods, whole meats, fruits, vegetables, and so on. Not much overthinking is needed. Switching to whole foods generally provides more nutrients while getting you fuller with fewer calories. It doesn’t sound fun, getting rid of your delicious treats. But there has to be some sort of change. You can still have the occasional processed goodness as long as you don’t overeat and overindulge. Moderation is key here, so don’t think that I’m trying to ruin your dietary lives forever, just building some form of conscious responsibility to your food choices.
Now that you’re making better food choices, let’s track it. Research has shown that consistently tracking your food will improve one’s chances of successful weight loss. And when you consider that people often UNDERREPORT the amount of food they eat, according to surveys, measuring your food intake will keep you honest. The goal is to ultimately help you understand how to be in a calorie deficit, which is the KEY to weight loss: eating fewer calories than you normally burn throughout the day Figuring out your calorie deficit first requires calculating your total daily energy expenditure, or TDEE. Then you estimate the number of calories needed to sustain a deficit, which is eating below your TDEE. The typical safe range is eating below that by 300 to 500 calories. Luckily, most tracking apps will calculate all this for you. However, it will only provide an estimate, so you’ll have to adjust your calorie intake overtime to get a more accurate measure. Once you get a solid understanding of the food you eat, its calories, and macro content, then you don’t have to continue tracking so diligently. Just jump back on whenever you feel the need to.
Now, step 3, and perhaps my favorite step: Up your protein intake! As you make your grocery list, try to tack on larger portions of protein wherever possible. Followers of my stuff already know how much I preach the gospel of protein. Simply put, when it comes to ANY goal, having more protein is almost always a good idea. For weight loss, eating more protein will burn more calories through something known as the thermic effect of food. Essentially, protein takes more energy to digest and absorb, thus burning more calories compared to carbs and fats. Protein can also help you feel full quicker AND for longer. One study even found subjects spontaneously reduced their food intake by 440 calories just by eating more protein first! Tack on the benefit of preserving and building lean mass, and you can see the absolute amazingness of more protein.
Do your cardio… and your lifting! Cardio has always been touted as THE “weight loss” tool, but it’s sorely lacking one key factor that only resistance training can provide: building muscle. Of course, when people think of losing weight, muscle often is not a key priority. Worse yet, some have a sort of expectation that you’ll end up looking quote “toned” after you shed away the layer of fat by doing cardio. Unfortunately, cardio will only help with fat and weight loss and you’re actually at risk of LOSING muscle. This whole “toned” thing isn’t gonna happen. That’s where resistance training comes in. Although not a great option for burning fat, we know lifting weights can at least preserve, and for beginners, even build muscle during a calorie deficit. And luckily, when we do BOTH, we essentially get both of its benefits. Research has even shown that fat loss is ACCELERATED even further while preserving or building muscle when both are done concurrently. So, again, do both! It’s gonna be worth it.
CONSISTENT and PATIENT. There really couldn’t be anything else here. The previous steps are pretty much the top fundamental factors for successful weight loss. Now, it’s time for the hard part: being consistent with the steps. Your goal here is to take the steps and formulate a strategy to which you can best adhere in the long haul. Fortunately, these steps allow for some wiggle room to adjust for your personal preference. You have options in types of whole foods you want to eat, how long you want to track your food, how much of a deficit you want to sustain, what type of protein to eat, and the cardio and resistance training program you want to use. Tinker around with your options until finding something you can regularly sustain. Once you do, be patient with your expectations. Remember, you’re trying to undo years and years of weight gain and poor habits. Give it months, a whole year even, to see the results that you want. And also, be patient and understanding of yourself. Although changing habits is a difficult task, there will be days that are just more difficult to be consistent than others. A little bit of indulgence is fine. No one’s perfect 24/7. If you just want to enjoy some chocolate, then go for it, just not too much. If you have a vacation you want to enjoy, then enjoy it, just make up for it when you get back. Or, just accept it and understand it’ll just take a bit longer to get to where you want to be. Again, consistency, for most days, and patience, apply that to your steps, and you’ll be well on your way.