Here we are a week into 2015 so raise your hands if you, like many made a New Year's resolution to lose weight? According to University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology losing weight was the number one new year's resolution in 2014. This resolution dropped to number 3 in 2015, right behind spending more time with family and friends (1) and getting fit (2) according to most sources. Many folks will jump onto the newest fad diet, join gyms, buy exercise equipment and go all out for all of about a month if that before they return to their normal diets and activities.
A year ago today, I was two months into my fitness journey which by default led to weight loss. I have maintained my weight loss hovering within 0.5 lb of 108 lb. During my weight loss phase, I heard over and over again that for every 6 lb lost, 5 lb of those are from dietary changes and only 1 lb from exercise. The rule of thumb is: dietary change is for weight loss, exercise is for fitness. I think it is more complex than that because exercise can reduce stress with reduces cortisol so you lose weight, especially fat easier. You also sleep better with exercise, another factor that is important for weight loss. However, the primary factor in losing weight is your diet.
That does not mean you cannot enjoy good food or your food has to be bland. It doesn't mean you have to give up bread or eat a steady diet of salads. What worked and continues to work for me, may help you achieve your New Year's resolution. Here's are a few things that work for me:
- set goals - Calculate your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) then eat 20% less for weight loss. Do not eat less than your BMR (basal metabolic rate), the amount of energy expended while at rest. Females should not eat fewer than 1,200 calories; men should not eat fewer than 1,500 calories.
- calorie tracking - There are numerous calorie counting apps, websites and software. It becomes a matter of personal preference. I like and still use My Fitness Pal (MFP) for tracking calories consumed and burned. MFP feeds into Health (Apple) in addition to a number of fitness apps that I use. I'm also testing Lose It!
- fitness - You do not need to spend a penny to get fit. Search for "you are your own gym" for ideas. I do a lot of walking with a goal of 10,000 steps per day. I highly recommend a pedometer (under $20) or a fitness tracker. My current fitness tracker is Misfit Shine ($120). Many of the fitness apps I use are free with upgrades to low cost, feature enhanced paid versions. I really like the Runtastic apps, Sworkit, Hot5 and 7M Workout. I also use fitness videos on YouTube.
- carbohydrates - A lot of diets put an emphasis on cutting carbs. Carbs are not the enemy because your body requires a certain amount for fuel. However, many women find they lose weight quicker on lower carbs. The default MFP setting is 50% carbs. I reduced mine to 40% which made a huge difference in my weight loss without me feeling deprived. Simple sugars can be a problem in that they cause insulin spikes and water retention. I tend to limit simple sugars.
- fats - Fats get a bad rap but fats do not make you fat, eating too much makes you fat. You need fats as part of a healthy diet. The recommendation is to get 20% to 35% of calories from fat. I have my fat macro set to 30%. Fats are calorie dense at 9 cal per gram. Choose unsaturated fats, minimize saturated fats and avoid trans-fats.
- protein - Recently there has been a huge emphasis on the importance of protein. Protein minimizes the loss of lean muscle when losing weight and it keeps you full longer. I eat protein with every meal and quite often snacks include protein. I eat a lot of clean protein, Greek yogurt, nuts, eggs and cheese. I continue to use protein powder but gave up on commercially made protein bars except when traveling. Many commercially made protein bars are too high in carbs so I make my own.
- artificial sweeteners - I don't use artificial sweeteners but there is new research that indicate they can actually prevent you from losing weight. I use stevia if I want to reduce the calories in something sweet. In general though, portion control works well for me for sweets.
- diet foods - In general, I avoid anything labeled as 'diet' like the plague. These foods tend to be highly processed, over priced and poor nutritional value.
- whole foods - This is nothing new for me but I really push whole foods especially fruits and vegetables.
- grazing - I am a grazer, from about 10:30 AM to 6:30 PM seldom eating before or after that time period. This is my natural eating pattern which actually falls under intermittent fasting, a successful dieting method for some.
- the apple test - Am I hungry enough to eat an apple? If the answer is no, then I'm really not hungry. That means I'm reaching for a snack for any other reason besides hunger.