How to Lose Weight When You Don’t Know Where to Begin

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The Dead Golfer Capsule

Clickbait is littered with funky headlines that say “lose 10 pounds fast” or “get back into your skinny jeans.” But what if you feel like you’re about to lose a ton of weight , and you just don’t know where to start ?

You’ve probably tried keto , celery juice , detoxes, low carb, low fat — you name it. You might even be pretty good at losing weight—the problem is you can’t seem to keep it off.

If this sounds like you, read on.

“Mindset is like 90% work. That’s what my client Sarah told me about the 50 pounds she lost and kept off. I share tips direct from her on how to get started – and stick with it – when you’re not quite When determining where to begin your weight loss journey.

1. Embrace the long game

According to a 2021 study in Psychology and Health, changing habits requires the repetition of new behaviors over time. This includes setting realistic expectations .

A safe, sustainable amount of weight loss is about 1/2 pound to 2 pounds per week. However, in reality, it might seem more like 2 to 3 pounds a week at first, then maybe lose 1/2 a pound the next week, then gain a pound the next week, then keep it there for a few weeks, then drop a pound again.

Your weight loss chart will look more like a staircase or a wavy line than a perfectly straight line. If it’s jumping here and there, but trending down overall, then you’re doing fine.

2. Rely on professional help

Now is not the time to try another detox or strict meal plan that Instagram influencers are promoting. These are diets in disguise – they work in the short term but not in the long term.

Long-term weight loss is about small habit changes that you can keep up with over time. Those who successfully lose weight usually work with a professional, usually a healthcare professional, a registered dietitian, and a therapist.

Yes, therapists. “I used to diet and lose 100 pounds, I was leaner physically but not mentally fit at all, so patience and perseverance and the ability to fall and get up over and over again was key,” says Sarah. “Also, if you feel you have an eating disorder, such as binge eating, seek help from a counselor who specializes in this area.

This journey is difficult. It can also be hard to be with close friends and family. Healthcare professionals offer two important things: science-based weight loss advice and accountability from non-confidants.

Weekly or even daily check-ins are key to helping you stay on track. “I think the most important thing for me is to get the sense of responsibility that best fits my personality, always allow the 20%, perfect the art of moving on, always zoom out and focus on the long game,” Sarah reports.

Many insurance plans cover visits to registered dietitians and therapists, so check with your insurance to see if your visit might be covered.

3. Adopt the 80/20 philosophy

So what is the 20% that Sarah mentioned? Think of it as all the foods you restrict while on a diet, but end up overeating.

Sustainable weight loss is about ditching the all-or-nothing mentality, the idea that a single meal can make or break your efforts, and embracing balance. The goal is to follow the MyPlate guidelines approximately 80% of the time during the week. That means trying to eat at least two meals a day, and on most days, fill your plate with about half vegetables and fruit, one-quarter of whole grains, and one-quarter of protein with some healthy fats.

Then, don’t stress about the rest. It is a “flexible structure”. No guilt allowed.

4. Understand set point theory

The body likes balance. Body temperature remained in a narrow range of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH of blood is about 7.4. Your body has a range of weights it likes to maintain: it’s called your set point.

Unfortunately, this range is easier to move up than down. This is for various reasons that scientists are still trying to figure out. For example, a 2022 study in the journal Obesity showed that, like other studies, losing weight reduces metabolic rate (the number of calories burned at rest). Weight loss has also been shown to increase ghrelin, the hormone that signals hunger, according to  a 2021 study in NPJ Breast Cancer .

Having said that, lowering the set point is not impossible. After all, there are many success stories, such as those on the National Weight Control Registry, of people who lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off for at least a year.

So, how do you do it?

According to Harvard University’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) , dieting is not the answer. Instead, aim to lose 5 to 10 percent of your body weight at a time. “Here’s how much weight you can lose before your body starts fighting back,” BIDMC reports on its website.

Then, here’s the hard part, trying to keep the loss for six months and then lose another 5% to 10%. This is when people often throw in the towel or opt for the crash diet their friends are doing.

However, if you can stick it out and get through six months of maintenance, “you can repeat the cycle and reset your set point again by losing another 10%. Through small, gradual changes in your daily habits, you will be able to maintain their new, lighter weight for the rest of their lives. This prescription is essential to override the body’s natural tendency to regain weight,” according to the BIDMC website.

You may also need to reevaluate your original weight loss goals. If you’ve reached a point where you feel great, are healthy, and have habits you can maintain for a few months, but the number on the scale is higher than you’d like, it may be time to embrace a new number.

5. Track your food (at least to start)

Research, such as this 2019 study published in the journal Obesity, shows that those who track their food are most successful in losing and maintaining weight.

While tracking isn’t meant to be done forever, it can be a useful tool until the new habit persists. Habit is an automatic behavior. The more habits you develop, the fewer decisions you have to make and the more brain space you have to think about other things.

Starting your weight loss journey by tracking your food intake might give you a better idea of ​​what that bowl of oatmeal looks like, or how many handfuls of potatoes you randomly munch on while trying to figure out what to make for dinner. strip. You can track your food in a written journal, in a photo, in a calorie-counting app, or a combination of these.

If you’ve never tracked calories, it might be a good place to start so you can familiarize yourself with portion sizes and macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates). Be aware, though, that calorie counting can become obsessive and counterproductive, disconnecting you from your hunger and fullness signals. You may be more likely to turn to an app to tell you what to eat and when than to listen to your body.

Work with a registered dietitian who can help you figure out which tracking method is best for you and can also review your meals so you can hold yourself accountable.

6. Rethink scale

A 2021 study in Translational Behavioral Medicine found that those who self-monitored their weight lost more weight.

A word of caution: Weight shouldn’t be the only metric you track. And, you need to understand what scale measures.

Scales don’t measure fat — and you won’t lose or gain fat overnight.

A scale is a measure of everything in your body, primarily fluids, but also bones, organs, fat, and muscles. The scale will show your weight in the range of about 3 to 4 pounds, and it can go up and down for a variety of reasons. If you poop , it goes down. It goes up if you eat salty takeout (since salt promotes water retention). Strength training workouts may increase it due to a temporary increase in inflammation.

For some people, weighing every day can do more harm than good, so once a week might be a good frequency. Or for some, the scale may need to change. If you find that you’re obsessed with the number, that it’s stressing you out too much, or that you’re equating the number with your self-worth, drop the scale. There are other ways to measure your progress.

Sarah was so emphatic about what the scale would say every Monday that she decided to weigh in every day and found it more helpful. “Personally, weighing in every day helps because it normalizes my fluctuations and helps me realize when my averages are going in the wrong direction. There are some great apps that plot average trends in weight, which is Helpful, but I think the overall daily weigh-in is really helpful,” says Sarah.

7. Track other metrics

Some of my clients may not see the scale move for a few months, but they lose inches and feel great. In addition to weekly weigh-ins, consider monthly waist measurements and progress photos.

Five pounds of fat weighs the same as five pounds of muscle, but muscle takes up less room (meaning you get stronger), so these metrics can help you understand changes in your body composition and motivate you to keep going.

In addition to how you look, pay attention to how you feel. Can you walk further, run faster or do push-ups? Have your cholesterol levels or blood sugar levels improved if you knew what they were to begin with? Include some goals about what your body can do, not how you look.

8. Get moving

Diet is more important for weight loss than exercise, but exercise is essential for weight maintenance. In addition, exercise has many other benefits.

If you are sedentary for a long time and then start moving, you will start burning calories, which will create a calorie deficit. “Finding an exercise you enjoy helps keep the weight off,” Sarah reports.

Don’t know where to start? start walking. Create small, achievable goals, such as 15 minutes a day and work up to 30 minutes. If you’re currently walking 2,000 steps a day, don’t try to walk 10,000. Start with 4,000 per day and add more every few weeks.

Next, add strength training using weights or body weight. Start with one day a week and work up to 2 to 4 times a week. Strength training builds muscle, which burns calories even if you sit at a desk all day. This is the diet pill no one wants to take.

Aerobic exercise, such as running, cycling, or swimming, is also great. A good balance is walking daily, strength training 2 to 4 times a week, and cardio or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) 1 to 3 times a week.

Gradually increasing the frequency and intensity of your exercise will help you stick with it. The best exercise is the one you will keep doing.

9. Focus on Fiber

Losing weight requires a calorie deficit, but instead of focusing on what to limit, focus on what to add. The body breaks down the proteins, carbohydrates and fats in food and absorbs the nutrients. If you eat more calories than your body needs, the excess calories are stored as fat.

However, the body does not absorb or store fiber. Fiber goes through the stomach and intestines largely unabsorbed, bulks everything up, and you excrete it. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes.

By making half your plate vegetables and fruits in most meals, you automatically vary the caloric composition of your meals. For example, 1 cup of pasta or rice is 200 calories, but 1 cup of vegetables is about 30 calories. So not only are you eating more vegetables for fewer calories, but you also get the added benefit of fiber (and vitamins and minerals), which slowly moves through your system to keep you feeling fuller for longer .

Fiber also swells and slows the emptying of the stomach, which sends signals to the brain that you’re full. Gut bacteria feed on fiber and produce short-chain fatty acids like acetate and butyrate, which may help burn fat, according to a 2019 review in Nutrients.

Aim for 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day or about 8 to 10 grams per meal. According to the USDA, a cup of raspberries has 8 grams of fiber, 1 cup of broccoli has 5 grams of fiber, and 1/2 cup of black beans has about 7 grams of fiber.

10. Eat protein with every meal

In addition to fiber, eat protein with every meal , especially breakfast. A 2021 review in Nutrients showed that when people eat a high-protein breakfast, they crave less and eat less later in the day.

Protein suppresses the hunger hormone, ghrelin, and digests slowly, keeping you fuller for longer. When protein is eaten with carbohydrates, it slows the rise in blood sugar, which prevents the spike-and-crash effect that makes you crave carbohydrates an hour after eating. Include protein, fiber, and healthy fats with each meal.

Protein requirements are based on body weight, but about 20 grams per meal is a good starting point. According to the USDA, a serving of Greek yogurt has 15 grams of protein, and you can pair it with berries for fiber. Three ounces of chicken, about the size of a deck of cards, have about 26 grams of protein. Beans are a protein-rich vegetarian option.

If you feel overwhelmed by how much weight you have to lose, start small. Don’t try to solve all problems at once. In order to lose weight and keep it off, you need to embrace a long-term mindset and focus on small habit changes. Get professional help so you can take responsibility and focus on the habits that will solve the problem the most. Track other metrics as well as scale. Finally, move your body most of the time , focus on doing half your plate of veggies at mealtimes, get out of the all-or-nothing mentality, and celebrate your successes along the way!

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