A few weeks back, a friend shared the following article to a group message board.
I commented on the post as follows: “Weight loss really comes down to math. Eat fewer calories than you burn. I went to this website and plugged in my numbers from 2 years ago and I would argue with the numbers slightly. Yes, fewer calories in will help lose weight faster, but you need to move. When I was on my weight loss roll, I was eating 1300-1800 calories per day, but burning 3000-4200. I was dropping one pound every 3 days. So…what I am getting at? If I kept my “slightly active” lifestyle and only cut calories, it wouldn’t have resulted in a healthy “lose weight fast” and it probably would have taken 2-3 months longer to lose the 100.”
I have thought more about the article as well as my comments. The article is correct – you will gradually lose weight if you eat less. The article does also discuss ways to change your diet and it does reference scientific research, but it misses important information – mental readiness, food education, and physical activity.
As I finished up college and started working in tech, my weight started piling on. Over the years I tried different weight-loss programs which did eventually help me lose some weight by reducing the amount of calories I was eating. The problems? I was not taught about macronutrients, physical activity was not included, and the weight loss was slow. The results? I lost interest in the program, so I quit, and I eventually gained the weight back and more. My lifestyle did not change for the better through food changes alone.
I meet several people daily who say they are ready to change – they are ready to lose weight and get healthy. Every one of my weight loss clients is told to log their food for 3 days. Less than half of the people will do this on their own. When I ask why, I am typically told they didn’t have time. Additionally, clients are told to walk more by doing little things such as taking a lap of the building at work when they go to the bathroom or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Again, the majority fail to even add a few steps.
If you cannot take 10 minutes out of your day to educate yourself on food or add 30 minutes of walking scattered throughout to your day, are you mentally ready?
In 2016, when I was at my heaviest, I started getting active. In conjunction with physical activity, I started logging my food. I logged everything as accurately as I could. Including sweets and alcohol. Logging my food made me see exactly how poorly I was eating. I started removing some food items, such as sour cream or cheese as toppings, or swapping out fattier meats, such as beef for turkey. Because food logging includes knowing – through measuring and weighing – food quantities, it made me aware of calories in broken down to protein, fat, and carbohydrates. This is the data that is most important when providing your body with proper nutrition. The article says to increase protein and reduce carbohydrate intake. While the article does link out to a protein focused article that then links to another one around the different meats, this main article does not contain sufficient information around food changes. Educate yourself before simply changing your protein and carb intake.
When I started my weight loss journey, the first couple of months consisted of gradual food changes and a slight increase in activity. I wanted to see the scale drop faster – not going to lie. So I adjusted things. I continued to weigh, measure, and log my food, but I also stepped up my activity. The results? Not only did I lose weight, but over the 11 months of losing weight, the bulk of weight loss was actually fat being swapped for muscle gain. The muscle gain happened because I know my diet was a healthy mix of macros to support my body. The article mentions doing “Doing some cardio like walking, swimming or jogging can also be important. Not so much for weight loss, but for optimal health and general wellbeing.” Doing “some cardio” isn’t helpful. How much is some? I would argue you need numbers, such as miles per day or minutes of activity to help you succeed. For example, I started by achieving the recommended 10,000 steps daily. I now aim for 15,000 steps a day and incorporate weight lifting most days. While you might think it is easier for me to hit my daily step goal, I typically must add at least an hour on the treadmill daily to do it and do my best to walk everywhere including to local stores.
I have been down over 100 pounds for over a year now. Am I perfect in my diet every day? No. The difference between me in 2018 and my life before 2016 is I know exactly what to do to keep my health in check through a combination of nutrition and physical activity.
Keli Hay is a certified personal trainer using her weight loss success to help others.