A few months back, I was out around town, and met up with someone who knew me(and what I do for a living) from some of the local commerce websites.
She took the opportunity to ask a question that I hear all the time:
“Which exercises can I do so that I can eat whatever I want, but still lose weight?”
I responded with my usual – along the lines of, “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet”.
She seemed taken aback by this, and exclaimed, “I thought you were supposed to be encouraging!”. I then went on to explain that I’m all for encouragement and motivation, but will never lie, or make false promises, to someone who asks my advice.
We laughed about it, but this conversation really stuck with me since.
At the start of every new year, everyone is on their best behaviour… only to quickly be discouraged when they don’t get the results they think they will receive.
It’s not difficult to see why they would be so crestfallen; we are inundated daily with false promises, quick gimmicks, and headlines about weight loss miracles. It’s in our Facebook feeds, on the covers of magazines, in articles or telecasts written by supposedly legitimate news organizations, and on TV – often touted by celebrity doctors who are supposed to have our best interests at heart.
Many times, these falsehoods are even proclaimed by those in the fitness and nutrition industry, either out of a lack of legitimate education, poor research methods, or greed for your money.
Here, I want to simplify things for you – to lay out some facts to keep in mind as you navigate 2015 in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, or the body of your dreams.
“I want to lose weight”
This is the most common reason that someone comes to me for help. Many of those whom I connect with are very overweight, to the point where it affects their health. I also have worked with those who only want to lose a little weight(usually post-baby), or to become metabolically healthier.
There are many different factors that can affect weight loss, and results can be highly individual(a good reason to consult with a doctor, professional trainer, and/or nutrition coach), but these basic guidelines can be key to your success.
Build lean muscle with resistance exercise, add moderate amounts of cardiovascular exercise, and most importantly, watch what you eat.
The less you weigh, the more your food intake will make a difference in weight loss.
You don’t want to eat too little(which may permanently alter your metabolism for the worse), but eating too much will drastically slow or stop progress. A certified Nutritionist or Dietitian can help you figure out what, and how much, you should be eating to attain your goals.
Quality of calories does matter – and no, it is not as simple as the number of calories in v/s out.
When trying to reduce fat, aim for 90%(or better) of healthy, whole foods that are low in added sodium or added sugars.
That last sentence can help many people with that “last 10 lbs”. The average person tends to carry around 5-7 lbs of water bloat due to the quality of the food they’re eating.
This is why so many tend to be duped into thinking that detox diets and juice detoxes are causing them to lose fat quickly. It’s not fat they’re losing, and they could easily lose those same pounds by eating healthier on the whole.
This is why weight loss tends to slow down drastically after that first 5-7 lbs is gone.
It is also not unusual for someone who is severely obese to carry 15-20 lbs of that same water weight. If you’ve ever seen the first few episodes of any season of The Biggest Loser, you’ve seen that water weight loss in action. Ever seen someone on a low-carb diet get really excited on their first two weeks? It’s because they had a rush of water weight loss, due to eating fewer carbs(which hold on to some water). However, most of what they lost was probably not fat.
Water weight loss is nice, but it’s also the type of weight that will come right back, the second you eat a normal meal. If you want to lose fat, you need to eat balanced long-term.
If you are maintaining a loss, or are okay with fat loss being slower, aiming for healthy/whole foods 80% of the time is perfectly acceptable. You’ll lose weight, but it will be slow going. If you add in the aforementioned exercise, it will go faster.
“If Nutrition is most important, why should I bother exercising?”
There are many reasons I could give here, but this is paramount:
Exercising will make you healthier, no matter your size.
A morbidly obese person who exercises will be healthier than a morbidly obese person who never exercises. Ever hear of “skinny fat”? This is the term often used when someone is technically not overweight, but is still flabby, and/or metabolically unhealthy due to lack of exercise.
That resistance exercise I mentioned? You need it because body composition matters. There is a myriad of benefits to adding extra muscle, most notably that it helps you burn extra calories, makes your body look more toned when you DO lose weight, provides stability in old age, and goes a long way towards making you metabolically healthier. You don’t have to be Ahh-nold to get those benefits. Every bit of muscle that you add counts towards a healthier you.
(I have mentioned many of these things before, most notably here and here.)
Even if you don’t need to lose weight, exercise should be part of your life. You don’t need to be over the top – you can start with something as simple as the act of walking your dog daily, and build from there. When you’re ready for the next step, consult with a professional trainer.
Make 2015 the year that you take control of your health using facts – not lies, half-truths, gimmicks, and pseudoscience. Things really are a lot simpler when you keep in mind these basic tenets.
I wish you all a wonderful Holiday Season, and the best of luck in the coming year.