By Candace Lord, CPT, PN1, YogaFit
When we sit with our clients and discuss nutrition, there is one question that keeps coming up. "How do I lose weight and keep it off?" The simple answer is, it starts with your diet.
What is a diet?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary has several definitions. Here is the one many people think of when someone says the word diet: “A regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one's weight (going on a diet).”
But did you know that the word diet also means, “Food and drink regularly provided or consumed (a diet of fruits and vegetables)?” This definition is the one we want people to remember, because we are always on a diet.
How you lose weight
The only way you lose weight is if you are in a caloric deficit. Following fad diets is potentially dangerous because they eliminate entire food groups. Consequently, you lose the important nutrients provided by them. Most people think of a diet as a way to lose weight, but your diet is the foods you eat.
To lose weight, you need to figure out how many calories you must consume in a day and what your macronutrient breakdown should be. A macronutrient is a substance used by an organism to survive, grow, and reproduce (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins). They are the building blocks of our diet.
How many total calories do you need each day? Do you know how many grams of protein, carbohydrate, or fat you are getting each day? How about the total amount you are ingesting of calcium, salt, sugar, etc. To find out your answer, seek out a nutrition specialist.
Don’t rely on fitness apps
Apps like MyFitnessPal can give you a generic calorie and macronutrient baseline, but because they are not truly tailored to your individual needs, they can sometimes give you amounts that are significantly higher or lower than what your body needs. You will lose weight, but most of the weight loss will be from muscle loss. We often think we want to lose weight, but what we mean is we want to lose body fat. To do that your body has to be properly fueled.
Generic programs can also allow you too many calories when you log your workouts. Ultimately, this can create unhealthy relationships with exercise. Another reason to hire a professional to assist you with your goals.
How to keep the weight off
You have hired a professional; you know your eating plan; but how do you keep off the weight once you start losing it? An encouraging new study in the journal of Obesity, led by Dr. Suzanne Phelan, professor of kinesiology and public health at California Polytechnic State University, identified habits and strategies that can be keys to success for millions. Like most sensible weight-loss plans, they involve healthful eating and regular physical activity. But they also include important self-monitoring practices and positive coping measures that can be crucial to long-term weight management.
“Harvard Health Publishing” (Harvard Medical School’s online publication) has listed seven steps to help you lose weight and keep it off. They are:
Set small, specific, and realistic goals.
Find a support network.
Energize your exercise.
Make sure you're getting enough sleep.
Eat breakfast — slowly and mindfully — every morning.
Monitor and modify your screen time.
Maintaining weight loss gets easier over time. As the seven steps above become a habit, less intentional effort is needed to be successful. After a while, healthy eating habits become part of the routine. Healthy choices become more automatic the longer people continue to make them.
On the other hand, perfection is not realistic and striving for it can be self-defeating. People who successfully maintain their weight know there will be lapses of poor judgment. But they also know they can recover faster and how to get back on track. They accept slips and don’t engage in negative thinking. For example, “I was bad,” an attitude that is self-defeating. Rather, they know there will be ups and downs, and they have an empowering plan for coping with lapses.