No matter what time of year it is, there’s always a reason to drop a few pounds.
Sometimes, we let ourselves go a little too far and need a big overhaul to the way we eat and live. Other times, we just want to fit into that pair of godforsaken jeans before next month.
However, there are several things to know about weight loss– and our bodies in general– that are critical to understand regardless of your weight loss goals.
By understanding these things, your chances of reaching your goal weight go up and the headaches of wrestling with your body to get it to shed some pesky pounds go down.
Weight loss can change your whole character. That always amazed me: Shedding pounds does change your personality. It changes your philosophy of life because you recognize that you are capable of using your mind to change your body.
– Jean Nidetch
Here are 19 facts you need to know about weight loss.
1. Weight is more than fat (focus on body fat)
First and most importantly, getting that body you want is about more than just weight loss.
In fact, weight is too general of a thing to focus on if you’re really serious about getting fitter because it involves several factors including the amount of muscle in your body and water weight.
Assuming you’re doing some sort of strength training, muscle is crucial. That’s because muscle is heavier than fat, so by losing fat and gaining an equivalent amount of muscle you’d actually be gaining weight. However, your body would look slimmer and leaner than ever.
Focus on body fat percentage (25-28% for women and 12-15% for men is the general recommendation, but check with your doctor) for a more accurate reading of whether your diet and exercise efforts are working.
2. Drop the wrong kind of calories, get enough of the right ones
Weight loss is all about CALORIES. Say it with me, C-A-L…oh, forget it. But, really, it’s all about becoming a master at everything calories.
Most importantly, you need to know what different macronutrients count as calories and what each one does to your body.
For example, white carbohydrates like bread and rice have a huge number of calories that provide little value to our body nutrition-wise. However, protein and certain types of fat are critical for your overall health.
All of the above count as calories when consumed, but the difference in your diet– and weight loss results– can be huge depending on how many of each you consume.
3. Track your food intake
Rolling off of the last point, you need to start watching your food intake like you watch for news of the next season of Stranger Things.
Every. Single. Day. You need to track what you’re consuming and how much you’re consuming of it all. Everyone’s body is different, so your number of calories and the right balance of macronutrients will be unique to you.
However, generally, you want to consume just under your recommended daily caloric intake. This will make your body start burning fat so that it can maintain its necessary energy consumption level (because it needs to get it from somewhere and it will turn first to your fat store).
As with quite literally everything else tied to your physical and mental health, sleep is critical for weight loss.
Why? Well, think of sleep as taking an ice bath if you were a professional athlete after a game. An ice bath helps heal the body after intense physical effort and sleep does the same for fat-burning after a long day and, especially, a good workout.
Sleep is a time for everything in the body to recharge and optimize itself, including when most of the fat and general calorie-burning processes take place, so by getting enough sleep you’re giving your body the time it needs to drop those inches.
5. Make healthy food convenient (and junk food not)
Weight loss needs to accompany lifestyle changes, otherwise, you’ll too easily shift back into your old patterns and return to your original weight.
One of the most important things to do along those lines is to make your diet-friendly foods the easiest and most convenient things for you to get a hold of, while sweets and other junk food should be thrown in a cupboard, moved behind your healthy snacks in the fridge, and so on.
You don’t need to rid yourself of them entirely. In fact, doing so can hurt your weight loss efforts as you’ll see later, but you do need to reduce the risk of those temptations while increasing the likelihood of choosing another healthier option.
6. Ditch the scale
Staring at a scale every day can be downright demoralizing. That’s because our weight fluctuates throughout each day regularly whether we’re working to lose weight or not.
Part of this is because of the water content in our body, part of it the inverse relationship between body fat loss and muscle gain, as well as other regular bodily fluctuations.
In other words: don’t look at the scale every single day and don’t look at it just once in a single day. Preferably, you stay off the scale and go based on body fat percentage and how you feel.
However, if you really want to look at the scale, then do it weekly and look at it a few times in that day to get a better average weight.
7. Weight loss pills are a bad, bad idea
I know, the idea of a magical weight loss pill making your fat dissolve away like a dream is enticing. But, alas, it’s too good to be true (if that wasn’t obvious already).
Here’s an idea of some of the side effects of weight loss pills:
- Pulmonary hypertension (potentially fatal)
- Heart disease
- Increase blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
Weight loss pills often promise immediate results. However, they do nothing to change your diet or physical exercise habits, ability to resist temptation, and all the other habits that made your body the weight it is now. So, even if do manage to get past the nasty side effects and get results, you’ll eventually end up back where you started.
To create a real, lasting change, you need to change your fitness and nutrition habits.
8. You can’t just keep cutting calories
I know what you might be thinking then. “I want results fast, so I’ll just cut calories drastically and get there quicker.”
After all, the math basically adds up. Right? Right?….
Wrong. Starving yourself with too few calories is a no-no, so don’t even think of trying to fast-track your diet by eating air. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.
By starving yourself, you can cause your body to turn catabolic, a state where your body essentially starts eating muscle instead of fat to maintain itself. That can then have all kinds of bad side effects on your body.
So, yeah, no starving.
9. Apple cider vinegar is disgusting. You should probably drink it.
Apple cider vinegar is a wonder elixir purportedly with the ability to lower blood sugar, cholesterol and aid in weight loss among other things.
It’s positively disgusting, however, if you’re serious about shedding some pounds, try having a little of it each day. Most recommendations say two teaspoons a day in water or tea. And feel free to throw some honey in there to take some of the edge off.
10. A cheat day is a must (but not for the reason you’re thinking)
You’ve probably heard of a cheat day before: a day where, pinned between memories of a strict, painful diet and the dread of a difficult week filled with boring, lifeless meals, is a shimmer of hope that you can consume whatever you want and in whatever quantity.
For this one day, you have total freedom. Want to get those cupcakes you saw earlier this week at the store? Go wild. Ice cream? Stack those scoops. Starbucks? Be daring–make it a venti.
However, what most people aren’t aware of is a cheat day has an entirely different and even more critical role in a diet: to maintain metabolic rate.
Here’s the thing: your new diet has the potential to slow down your metabolism because you’ll be consuming fewer calories. When this happens, you’ll burn fewer calories and your weight loss quota will be that much harder to hit.
But by having one day in the week where you go wild, you’re telling the body that it needs to maintain its current metabolic rate, maximizing your weight loss efforts all week long and enjoying yourself in the process.
Seriously, sticking to a strict diet is not only critical for weight loss– it’s downright draining.
It takes a lot of work to put together a diet that can help you lose weight, however, it’s worth it.
And taking the time to prep those meals beforehand each week makes it exponentially easier to stick to that diet because you’ve removed any sort of resistance to it, making it easier just to eat what is already in front of you rather than going to grab or make something else.
12. Use HIIT (and strength training)
It’s important to work out if you’re really serious about losing weight, however, it’s not good enough to just throw on one of those old Jazzercise videos and get moving (as much as I know you like them).
Research has proven the benefits of HIIT or high-intensity interval training are far greater than your average workout for both cardio and weight training, both important parts of a complete weight loss regimen (cardio drops calories and keeps your heart healthy, strength training helps burn fat).
With HIIT, you can get the same benefit in fifteen minutes what you’d get in one hour of a typical workout.
As sad-happy as it might sound to some, dropping alcohol can immediately result in dropping pounds.
Most people aren’t aware of just how many calories are in their favorite drinks, sometimes even more than sugary sodas, so by dropping alcohol or reducing your intake, you can make some much-needed progress fast.
14. Don’t blame it on your thyroid
Growing up, I had a friend with a thyroid problem. She was a bit hefty as a child, but, once the issue was discovered all that excess weight disappeared and never came back.
As promising as this sounds, she’s a minority. For most people, women being the more common case, this isn’t the issue. And, by trying to look for other reasons why you might not be the weight you’d like to be, you’re just giving yourself excuses. Be realistic but also be honest with yourself.
In addition to alcohol, many of the other drinks we consume regularly have huge amounts of calories. This includes:
- Lattes / similar Starbucks-like drinks
The thing is, as opposed to the kinds of necessary calories we talked about earlier, like protein and good fats, these are empty calories that simply fill us up and make us gain weight. In other words, we don’t need ‘em.
Instead, drink lots of water, which doesn’t just help you cut the calories but helps your body’s various processes run smoothly, which can help assist in weight loss.
16. It’s less what you’re consuming and more about over consuming
If you think sugar, alcohol, gluten, or some other kind of food or drink is making you fat, guess again. Sure, each of these plays a part, however, it’s less about what individual things you’re consuming and more about how much you’re consuming.
Overeating is what results in weight gain (more calories than our body needs to operate), so if you cut back on your Starbucks, lower your alcohol consumption, and reduce the number of times you eat at Pepe’s in a month, you can keep all of the things you like while drastically reducing your calorie count and shedding some weight.
17. Everyone’s body is different
This is easily one of the most important points to keep in mind.
At one point or another, we all hear that XYZ celebrity, friend, or family member did some specific diet that worked wonders for them.
The thing is, everyone’s body is different and there’s more of a likelihood that same method won’t work for you, so pay attention to your own body, and find what works for you.
There are things you can do to lose a bit of weight quickly (like dropping alcohol), however, it’s important to keep in mind that there are zero quick fixes to real, significant weight loss.
Don’t pay any mind to any celebrity fad diet, they’re just playing to the impatient masses. You need to be willing to exercise more than just your body to lose weight. You need to exercise your patience.
19. Make it a lifestyle
The final and possibly most important thing of all to know is this: healthy living, whether it’s dropping a few pounds now, a lot of pounds over the next year, building muscle, or something else, needs to be made a lifestyle.
This is more mental than anything else, but it has a profound effect on your ability to remain consistent in your effort, the prime adversary in any endeavor, including losing weight.