First, let me start off by saying that I am going to be brutal in this article. Second, let me say that there are no secrets. We all know what we need to do to lose weight - eat less and move more. That is it. Simples.
That said there are a few tips which I am going to share with you that will help you do both those things. These tips I've picked up over the years and truly work for weight loss. Eating wisely will go a long way in achieving your personal weight loss goals. If your diet isn't in order, all those workouts will be for nothing.
1. Ditch the Diet Mentality
Forget about diets. Being on a diet implies that at some point you will be off the diet. When that happens you will revert back to your old habits and all your hard work will be undone. Instead, make a change to your lifestyle. Lasting results will only happen if you make the "diet" your lifestyle.
2. Cut The Junk
One of the biggest changes you can make and the one with the most impact is to cut the junk food, empty calories and start eating proper nutritious food.
If you are serious about weight loss, cut out the chocolate, biscuits, crisps, chips, pasties, pastries, sweets, fast food, fizzy drinks like coke, fruit juices, alcohol and artificial lemonade and ready (microwave or tv dinner) meals.
A glass of wine typically contains about 170 calories, while lagers and beers are around 300 calories. I'd rather eat a delicious and nutritious meal and feed my body the fuel it needs to grow and be strong than neck pints of beer which has no nutritional benefit and will cause me to GAIN weight.
3. Processed Foods
Healthy foods are those that have as little processing as possible. Processing includes, amongst others, canning, baking, frying and drying. These processes remove some of the nutrition and they often add artificial preservatives (chemicals). Not all processed foods are unhealthy but some processed foods may contain high levels of salt, sugar and fat.
Eating food as nature intended (fresh green leaves freshly picked, fruits, vegetables, raw nuts) is the best. Limited processing is acceptable, so products like bread and cheese are acceptable.
If you really must eat processed foods, buy those that have been produced to a high quality. Bread, for example, will be a lot tastier, healthier and satisfactory when you buy from the local bakery instead of a cheap loaf of factory baked, preservative-filled bread from the supermarket.
The general rule for identifying processed foods which are bad is to ask yourself "Does this look like it was produced in a factory or a kitchen/bakery". If it looks like something mass-produced in a factory then best to avoid it.
4. Drink Up Thy Water
Water is an important part of all body functions and processes, including digestion and elimination. When you're on a diet, water also acts as a weight-loss aid because it can help you eat less.
Drinking water before a meal fills up your stomach a bit so you feel "full" quicker and eat less food.
Drinking cold water increases your calories burned because of the energy your body expels in heating the cold water. It may only be by a few calories per day, but over the course of a year that soon ads up.
You should aim to follow the 8x8 rule. Drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water per day for weight loss and to maintain an ideal weight. You might need to drink more water if you exercise a lot or sweat heavily, or less water if you drink other decaffeinated beverages. Alcohol and coffee do not count in the intake of water as they are diuretics - they take water OUT of your body.
5. Sugar, Sugar Everywhere!
Sugar is an empty calorie food. Other than calories, it provides no nutritional benefit whatsoever. Consider swapping to honey instead. I accept that we all need sugar to sweeten things, so if we're going to add sugar at least use the best possible form. Honey is a natural sugar that has numerous other health benefits and provides several vitamins and minerals such as thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc. Honey also helps metabolize undesirable cholesterol and fatty acids present in the organs and tissues, helping prevent further obesity and promoting better health for us.
Food manufacturers go to great lengths to hide sugar in our food and often name them with chemical-sounding names. If it sounds like a chemical you probably shouldn't be eating it anyway, but here is a selection of names food manufacturers use to disguise sugar. Anything ending in -ose such as glucose, fructose, lactose and sucrose. These are all names for sugar. Other names include Cane juice, Corn syrup, Dextrin, Diastatic malt, Ethyl maltol, Florida crystals, Glucose syrup, Maltodextrin, Sucanat, Barley malt, Molasses, Caramel, Fruit juice, Fruit juice concentrate, Golden syrup, High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), Invert sugar, syrup and Treacle. There are probably more.
A note about fruit juice. While it is often considered the healthy choice, fruit juice is very high in sugar, especially orange juice. One orange contains around 9g of sugar and about 100 mg of vitamin C, which is 130 percent of that daily recommended intake. A small glass of orange juice contains 4-5 oranges, so one glass has 400-500% of your RDA vitamin C and 40-50g sugar which is more than the recommended daily amount of sugar in one glass! Eat a real orange, get the benefit of less sugar, the correct amount of vitamin C and the fibre and other nutrients that an orange contains.
6. Getting Fit and Losing Weight IS the Reward
Some diets and dietitians advocate the "reward day" where you reward yourself for sticking to the diet and losing weight. I would strongly advise against this for a number of reasons.
First, you've worked really hard to lose that weight, why ruin it by eating junk and put weight back on?
Secondly, the less junk you eat the better you feel. The better you feel the more positive you will become. The more positive you become the less you want junk and the less junk you eat the better you feel. Rewarding yourself with pizza, cake or a few beers will break this cycle and may even introduce cravings making sticking to your new healthy eating plan.
Diets such as the 5:2 diet work because they advocate not eating (fasting) for 2 days a week and eating normally the other 5. I have tried the 5:2 diet and it does work, but you must be very careful, I mean really REALLY careful that the day after your fasting day doesn't become a reward feasting day and you end up eating twice as much. This then has the opposite effect. A fasting day is not an excuse to eat more on the other days.
7. The Importance of GOOD Sleep
Sleep is highly underrated but it is just as important as eating healthy and exercising.
People who lack sleep, or lack quality sleep tend to weigh more and have more trouble losing weight than those who get good quality sleep, even when they follow the same diet. When you don't get enough sleep, your body overproduces the hunger causing hormones leptin and ghrelin. Lack of sleep makes your brain thinks it's hungrier more often and is less able to recognize when it's full. This can make you more susceptible to overeating, while at the same time being less satisfied afterwards. Getting too much sleep is also bad.
A recent study found that people who slept between six and eight hours a night had a greater chance of achieving their weight-loss goal than those who slept less or more.
8. If you Bite It, Write It
Before you overhaul your eating habits, try to record everything you drink and eat. Take advantage of apps and website such as MyFitnessPal or Lose It! or just use pen and paper. Record what you eat, when you eat and the calories contained. Using an app you can quickly log food by searching, or you can scan the barcode to automatically add foods.
You can quickly see your running total of calories and how many you have remaining for the day so you can plan ahead. It's also good to highlight just how many calories are in products we think are healthy.
9. Forget Diet Pills, Supplements and Quick Fixes
There can be a lot of temptation to use over-the-counter weight-loss pills to lose weight fast. Prescription, nonprescription, herbal or other dietary supplements can all be found readily available in shops and online.
There is no magic bullet, no quick fix, no easy street to weight loss. The only way to lose weight and keep it off is by eating a healthy low-calorie diet and being more physically active.
Most, if not all of there diet pills are offered with little to no research, regulation or even contain harmful ingredients. Just because a product is marketed as natural, doesn't make it safe. Some herbal remedies can contain ingredients like bitter orange and ephedra, which are stimulants used in some weight-loss supplements, have been linked to adverse effects such as mood changes, high blood pressure, irregular heart rate, stroke, seizures and heart attacks.
Some diet pills claim to be backed by clinical research, however, this definition is really thin. It may only be a four-week trial involving just 10 people. These trials are often sponsored by the manufacturer and biased. There has to be rigorous scientific research into a pill before it can be classed as effective.
Many people wrongly believe that using laxatives can help increase the frequency of bowel movements and allow for quick, easy and effortless weight loss. While they may work in the (very) short term, they will do nothing in the long term. This is because laxative use can result in a temporary loss of water weight, but this just leads to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, gastrointestinal damage and through prolonged use, liver damage and kidney failure.
Coming in at number 10, the last tip is about exercise and activity levels. I believe that you have to fix all of the above BEFORE you start working out. It's no good going to the gym for an hour-long workout if you're going to go home and eat junk food and drink beer. You just wasted your gym membership.
Exercise is an important part of weight loss, but only if done correctly. All forms of exercise are good and way better than none at all, however, some forms of exercise will not aid your weight loss, while others will give it a boost.
One of the worst side effects of "dieting" is that it tends to cause muscle loss and metabolic slowdown, often referred to as starvation mode. This is because initially, your body does not have the calories it needs to maintain your current weight. The body will use the available protein (muscle) to offset the deficiency.
The best way to prevent this is to do some sort of resistance exercise such as lifting weights. Weight lifting can help keep your metabolism high and prevent you from losing precious muscle mass. Your body will adapt and start burning fat instead of muscles which are now being used. An hour-long weight lifting session can burn up to 266 calories per hour.
The other form of exercise is cardio. This is a period of sustained low-medium effort activity which raises the heart rate. Cardio activities include walking, running, swimming, bicycling, rowing and so on. An hour-long walk can burn as much as 300 calories, while an hour-long job upwards of 550.
If you only gauge the effectiveness of strength training by the number of calories you can expect to burn during a single session then cardio would seem to be the obvious choice, but that isn't the way the body works.
The number of calories burned during any activity (including resting) is linked to your basal metabolic rate (BMR). The more muscle you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate. So by building more muscle, you increase your resting calorie burning and you burn more calories during the day, even when you're not working out.
If you can maintain or add muscle, you'll increase the number of calories your body burns at rest, which can help you shed more fat.
Weight lifting can also help burn calories after you exercise. With cardio workouts, as soon as you stop moving, your metabolic rate rapidly falls back to your base metabolic rate. You will notice this as your breathing and heart rate return to normal. Weight lifting, on the other hand, elevates your metabolism even after exercise. This is due to muscle repair and growth processes which happens even as you sleep.
Remember that we are not looking to be bodybuilders here. Focus on high reps, not maximum weight. 3 sets of 12 is an age-old technique whereby you lift a weight 12 times (repetitions) and repeat that three times (sets). Aim to use enough weight that you can ONLY JUST complete the desired reps. My advice is to use weight machines at first, avoid free weights and bars simply because it is too tempting to lift too much too quickly and with poor technique. Get your body used to lifting correctly first. Speak to a trainer in your local gym before any starting any exercise regime.
Strength training coupled with diet and cardio burns fat far more than cardio and diet alone.
Above all, find an activity you enjoy doing and are able to fit into your routine. The best workout programme in the world is no good if you not enjoying it.
Start slow. Don't try and run before you can walk. Take baby steps.