When it comes to fitness, losing weight is one of the most common priorities. In fact, a large percentage of the fitness community will tell you that they started working out because they were overweight. However, most authorities agree that you shouldn’t try to lose your excess weight too quickly. All sorts of problems can result from abnormally fast weight loss, including muscle loss, hormonal issues, and an abnormal drop in your metabolism.
So, how do you find the middle ground? In this article, we will give you five good tips that will help you to lose that extra weight in a healthy and sustainable way. If you are struggling to shave off those extra pounds, you might need to adjust your habits and consider adopting some of these methods.
1. Consider Your Lifestyle
Let’s get right to the root of the problem. If you are too fat, then you need to realize that this problem didn’t just magically appear out of the blue. Unless you are one of those rare individuals that actually cannot lose weight due to a hormonal problem, there is a need for you to evaluate your lifestyle and determine where you went wrong.
The obvious things to consider are diet and exercise. If your diet is unhealthy and you aren’t particularly active, those two things are the root cause of your excess weight. Don’t waste your time looking for a “magic bullet” just because you don’t have the personal discipline to correct these issues.
Many people will offer you special diets or workout equipment that promises to maximize your weight loss, but don’t fall for the hype. While these things can be helpful, they will be completely ineffective if they are not accompanied by proper diet and exercise. In fact, some of these “fad diets” are actually quite unhealthy.
Genetics will play some role in your metabolism, but you can’t really change your genetics, so this kind of thinking is a dead end. Instead, focus on the things that you can change. Stress can play a role, but we will deal more with that subject later.
Your eating habits are not just defined by what you eat. They are also defined (to some extent) by how often you eat. Although the research is mixed on this subject, it seems to be a general rule that increased eating frequency will lower your risk of obesity. Obviously, this approach will only work if you eat smaller meals. In some ways, this idea makes a lot of sense because of the way that animals eat in the wild.
For most animals, including primates like us, access to food is sporadic and unreliable. They might have a feast one day and a famine on the next day. Eating a large meal is somewhat uncommon, so the metabolism of many creatures (including ourselves) have adapted to deal with the situation. This is an example of why you should always try to work with nature instead of against nature.
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2. Don’t Try To Lose Weight Too Quickly
It may surprise you to learn that losing too much is just as bad as losing too little. Those who try to lose too much weight too quickly may find themselves with a host of other health problems.
So how much is enough? According to most experts, you should not attempt to lose more than 1-2 pounds per week. There are several bad things that can happen if you go outside of this limit.
First, consider this study. It shows that rapid weight loss leads to a greater risk of gallstone formation. If you don’t know, gallstones are basically digestive juices that have hardened to form small pebble-like bodies within your gallbladder. Gallstones cause a lot of pain, nausea, and vomiting, so don’t dismiss this threat. The study cited above shows that your risk of developing gallstones will be significantly increased if you lose more than 1.5kg per week. That’s about 3.3 pounds, which is well above the recommended rate.
More importantly, rapid weight loss will affect your metabolism in strange ways, mostly because your body isn’t made to lose weight that quickly. Consider this study, conducted on a pair of wrestlers. One wrestler lost weight quickly while the other lost weight slowly. They found that the rapid-loss subject was suffering from a metabolic imbalance that made it very hard for him to lose weight. They also found that this metabolic imbalance had a negative effect on muscle performance.
Have you ever seen a show called “The Biggest Loser?” This is a show in which people attempt to lose as much weight as possible. Not surprisingly, this has turned out to be a very unhealthy weight-loss approach. This study, conducted on several of the shows’ many participants, shows very grim results. These contestants showed metabolic imbalances that persisted for more than 6 years after their participation in the show.
When your body is extremely low on resources, it goes into “starvation mode.” In this mode, the body will lower its metabolism as far as possible without compromising key bodily systems. Once your body gets into this state, you might as well forget about losing weight because it won’t happen…and even if it does, you will lose a lot of muscle in the bargain.
3. Keep Track Of Your Progress
This measure is a little less scientific than the others, but it is still quite important. When you are trying to lose weight, you have a strange quandary. On the one hand, you want to lose that weight as quickly as possible. On the other hand, we have already explained the need to take it slow. This requires you to be both motivated and patient at the same time.
Keeping close track of your progress can be a good way to help yourself strike a balance between the two. When you are keeping close track of your progress, every little improvement feels like a victory. It also gives you a chance to recognize problems and correct them before they become any worse.
Here is a shortlist of the metrics that you should use to gauge your progress:
- Body fat percentage
- Body-mass index
- Thigh, hip, waist and arm circumference
- General energy level
Of course, you will need a reliable scale with which to measure your weight. However, muscle weighs more than fat, so this metric alone is not good enough. It isn’t very hard to figure out your percentage of body fat, and this will probably give you a better estimate of your overall progress than the numbers on a scale.
Body mass index is a measure of your body weight, which takes your height into account. It is much easier to figure out than body fat percentage, so just go ahead and use this handy online BMI calculator. Once again, we need to remember that muscle weighs more than fat, so muscular people should not be alarmed if they have a high BMI. This reasoning applies to the measurement of body proportions as well.
4. Reduce Your Stress
It might surprise you to learn that stress has an indirect effect on your weight. Although stress will not literally and directly add weight to your body, it creates conditions under which you are more likely to gain weight.
Consider the following study. They found that a stressful lifestyle led the test subjects to make different food choices. In general, people have a tendency to reach for their favorite foods when they are stressed. This is a natural human response, as you are merely trying to alleviate your stress by doing something that you enjoy.
The link between stress and obesity is well-documented and well-established. What’s more, the link is physical as well as mental. Take this study, for instance. It explains that there is a physical link between stress and obesity.
When the body is stressed, it tends to release higher levels of glucocorticoid hormones. These hormones are important to the body in some ways, but an excessive amount can cause many problems. These hormones can affect the brain in several ways, but the most important effect (for our purposes) is the excitatory effect on hunger. By affecting the amygdala (the part of the brain that governs emotions and primitive drives), these hormones create the desire for “comfort foods” that is so often considered to be the causative link between obesity and stress.
5. Increase Your Protein Intake
When people think of a high-protein diet, they often think of bodybuilders and other people who are going for maximum muscle size. However, a high-protein diet isn’t just for weightlifters. Even if your main goal is to lose weight, and you don’t care too much about muscle size, a high-protein diet still offers several key advantages.
First, let’s talk about hunger. Just as stress can increase hunger, a high-protein diet can reduce hunger. This particular study might be of interest. After studying the effects of a high-protein diet on two different groups, it was found that the high-protein group experienced a great reduction in overall hunger. They reported feeling much more sated (full) than the low-protein group, and they also reported less desire for late-night snacking.
These results have been confirmed by numerous other studies, such as this one. In this instance, researchers found a direct correlation between waist size and protein intake. After reading their conclusions, it seems that they were not totally sure why this correlation exists, but there is no doubt that it does exist.
This works because protein is a little more difficult for the body to process compared to other nutrients. According to most experts, the body has to work harder to process protein and turn it into energy. Carbohydrate energy is much easier to process, so the body will normally use it first. This means that carbohydrate energy is quickly obtained and quickly lost. However, when your body burns protein, it tends to be a slower burn that stretches the energy out for a longer time.
All of these little tricks will help you to balance your desire for weight loss with the practical needs of reality. There is no need to starve yourself, nor is there any need to work yourself to death at the gym. As they say, it is better to work smarter than to work harder!
By managing your stress, controlling your diet, and resisting the urge to go too far, you can achieve a rate of weight loss that is consistent with good health, and which will improve the length and quality of your life. If you have found this article to be helpful, we invite you to show your appreciation by following us on Facebook.