9 strategies to help with weight loss
Specifically, it is fat loss that we are interested in but weight loss is a generally accepted term for this. Most are diet related, as it is hard to out train a poor diet. Research has indicated that diet is more important for weight loss than exercise however combining the two is the best option. It is important to remember that exercise has benefits that go far beyond weight loss.
1. Limit your sugar and refined carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates (carbs): to eat or to not eat? First, we need to clarify what a carb actually is. Carbohydrates are found in three basic forms in food: sugars, starch and fibre. These carbs are broken down into glucose during digestion, which is used by the cells of your body for energy. Carbs are found in nearly all foods in some form: fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes and dairy all contain sugars, starch or fibre in varying amounts. So hopefully you can see that if you don’t want to eat any carbs, your diet is going to be seriously limited in taste and nutrition (taste trumps nutrition in my books! ). So you can’t really eliminate carbs from your life because you ‘sort of need them’ and the nutrients in the foods that contain them to live. I hear comments like this about carbs often: “carbs are making me gain weight” or “I can’t lose weight if I’m eating carbs”. It’s not carbs that are the problem; it’s the amount of carbs and the types of carbs that are the problem. If you’re trying to lose weight you need to limit your sugar and refined carb intake. These types of carbs stimulate your insulin response and that is a bad thing for fat loss. Insulin is the hormone in your body that helps you store excess energy as fat. Complex carbs from whole grains, vegetables and a moderate amount of fruit do not cause as great of an insulin response.
2. Use the glycemic index to police your carbohydrate intake. The glycemic index is a tool that can help guide your food choices based on how they affect your blood sugar levels and therefore your insulin response. Carb rich foods are ranked with a number, the lower the number the better. You can search glycemic index on the internet and you will find lots of info on it. You will notice that most of the sites reference using the index for diabetes management. You don’t have to have diabetes to use the glycemic index to your advantage. Find a good list of foods with their corresponding glycemic index and start making better choices!
3. Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol is not your friend in your weight loss ambitions. Protein and carbs = 4 Calories/gram, fat = 9 calories/gram, alcohol = 7 calories/gram. Also, most alcoholic beverages contain a good amount of sugar as well. I never said this was going to be easy!
4. Stop consuming empty calories. Empty calories refer to foods that contain calories but no real nutritional value in terms of protein, fat, fibre, vitamins or minerals. Examples include soft drinks, candy, sport drinks and most juices. But juice is supposed to be healthy right? Sure a bit of juice is not the worst thing you can consume but lets have a look at what juice actually is. Juice is the sugar and water from your fruit in an easily consumed and digestible form. The most important nutrient from fruit (fibre) has been removed and you consumed just the sugar. To lose weight, eat the fruit whole.
I don’t think I need to explain the evils of soft drinks. Avoid them. Have a diet one if you must, or how about some water with lemon and lime squeezed into it? Sounds good to me! Finally, let me talk about sport drinks. These drinks are sugar, water and some electrolytes. The average person does not need sugar and salt in their water to perform perfectly in a physical activity setting. Your body needs is water and that is all. If you are eating a balanced diet at regular intervals you will have enough stored energy and electrolytes to get through your workout no problem. For recovery from your physical activity sessions ditch the shake and just eat food. You should eat foods that mimic the contents of a post workout shake but they will take a bit longer to eat and digest.
5. Eat slowly and chew your food. You will notice you get full from less food and you will enjoy your food more. Eating with our friends and family helps because talking forces us to eat more slowly.
6. Eat smaller portions of food at regular intervals throughout the day. Try not to let yourself get really hungry. We tend to over eat when we are too hungry. Eating every two to three hours will help you stay satiated and will also help to keep your blood sugar and therefore your insulin levels more even.
7. Avoid weighing yourself daily. Your weight will fluctuate throughout any given day due to hydration levels. Water is heavy and can affect your weight by a few pounds depending on your size. This can be discouraging if your weight goes up for no apparent reason. Weight loss is a battle of the mind as much as anything and staying positive is key to staying consistent with your strategies. Weekly weigh-ins are a better way to monitor your progress.
8. Exercise and lift weights. Exercise combined with healthy eating habits will help you to lose weight better then exercise alone. Plus, exercise has benefits that reach far beyond simple weight loss. Your body is meant to move and work and it usually feels better when it is allowed to do so. There are also mental health benefits to regular exercise. Exercise and good dietary habits also go hand-in-hand. In my experience, you will be less likely to cheat on your nutrition if you have been working hard in the gym. Losing weight is hard to do well. Congratulate yourself for good days with some kind of reward, it doesn’t have to be food but can be.
9. A common rule in the fitness industry is the 90/10 rule. It refers to sticking to a strict nutritional program (of your choice) 90 percent of the time and allowing some leeway 10 percent of the time. It comes out to a few meals a week depending on how many meals a day you are eating. Having the odd “cheat” meal likely has some benefit in the long run even if solely psychological. Just ensure your math is good with respect to calories.