OK, get yourself a drink, sit down, put your feet up and forget everything you think you know about weight-loss. This article is your COMPLETE guide to weight loss, explaining how to lose weight safely, how to create the body shape you want, and how to maintain that weight loss for the rest of your life.
1. EAT ENOUGH FOOD
Wait, what? Yes, food is essential, no, you don’t need to starve to lose weight. There is one rule to weight loss, and one rule alone. Burn more calories than you consume. Calories in/calories out will always be the most important rule to follow for weight loss. Does this mean you can live off pizza and beer? Technically yes, as long as you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming, but you’ll feel like crap. Here’s what to do:
- How much food should you be eating? There are two ways to look at this, the scientific way, and the… less scientific way. Either method will set you off on a good start to healthy nutrition and weight loss. Check out my blog post on “What’s in a Portion?” which explains both methods in detail.
- What kind of food should you be eating? I get plenty of people asking me “what should I eat before I go to the gym?” and my answer is always “it doesn’t really matter…” but what I explain is it doesn’t matter (within reason) what you eat directly before or after training, but rather what you eat over the space of a week. If you’re bringing a banana and a protein shake to each training session, but you’re living off McDonald’s every evening, you need to reassess your lifestyle choices.
- OK then, what should I be eating over the course of a week? As we now know, the most important thing here is how many calories you eat/drink per day, BUT regardless of how many calories you’re eating, there are a few things to work on too. Base your diet around real food, you know, food that has actually grown in the ground, or run around a field (sorry, vegetarians), never buy anything that says it’s “low fat,” “reduced fat,” or “fat free” (because the fat is usually processed out and replaced with sugar which is a BAD idea), and make sure most of what you eat is wholegrain, a lean protein (meat, chicken, etc), a vegetable, or just a real, unprocessed food.
- What about falling off the wagon? OK, how about this, there is no wagon. It’s highly unlikely that any of us will stick to a 100% nutritionally-balanced, healthy diet all of the time. Yes, the old “it’s a lifestyle, not a quick fix” line is true, but you have to make your lifestyle enjoyable. The way to do this is to plan. If you’re planning to eat out, planning a “cheat meal” or planning a night out on the booze, just make sure you’ve cut down a little bit throughout the week and then go enjoy your evening! If you cut down by an extra 100 calories per day, you’re allowing an extra 700 calories to play with at some point in the week. Just be sensible about it and play the long game over the course of your week. It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to spend the next 3 months living off chicken, broccoli and wholegrain rice for every meal, so make sure you’ve planned to have a life too…
2. LIFT WEIGHTS
Yep. Even if you’re a woman. Actually, lifting weights has been proven to reduce the risk of osteoporosis in women, so step away from the treadmill, and get lifting. One more thing – those pink 1KG dumbbells probably aren’t doing much for you either, so get yourself into the weights room at your gym, and learn how to lift.
- Where the hell do you start? You have a few options, you can either do your own research and learn how (and why) to safely perform different exercises, then practice at the gym, or you can tag along with a friend who knows what they’re doing (just make sure they DO actually know what they’re doing – safety first!), or you can find a Personal Trainer to show you the ropes. If you don’t want to sign up for a full training plan, most Personal Trainers will be happy to book a couple of one-off sessions to get you kick-started, so just ask around until you find a good trainer who will teach you what you need to know.
- Will you end up with arms like Arnold Schwarzenegger in two weeks? No. If you do, tell me how you did it, I will revolutionise the fitness industry. For men, it’s difficult enough to build muscle to that extent with a “perfect” nutrition and training plan. For women, it’s even more difficult due to the lower level of testosterone in your body. It takes years of dedication, extremely hard work, and excellent nutrition and training to get the “bodybuilder” look, so it’s fairly unlikely that Susan down the road is going to be walking like she’s carrying rolls of carpet under her arms after a few squats and lunges.
- “But everybody is looking at me and I don’t know what I’m doing!” They’re not. I can guarantee you that the other members of your gym are either focused completely on trying to look like they know what they’re doing themselves, or they’re looking at themselves in the mirror.
- How much weight do I have to use? If your goal is to “tone up,” you need to lift a weight that you can only lift 8-10 times in one go. You should be doing three or four of these sets, with a 60-90 second rest in between. Put away the tiny pink dumbbells, you’re better than that. You’ll surprise yourself with how much you can lift, and you should be proud to be strong too.
- Why can I not just go on the treadmill for an hour? Good question – here‘s an entire blog post about just that topic.
3. DO INTERVAL TRAINING
Now that we know that we have to burn more calories than we’re eating and drinking to lose weight, it’s time to learn about Interval Training, and why 10 minutes of this is better than spending an hour on the treadmill.
- What is it? Interval training is any kind of exercise that involves changing the pace or intensity so that you are working at a higher intensity for a short period of time, then a lower intensity for a short period of time. You should be aiming to do about 10-20 minutes of these intervals AFTER you lift weights in your training sessions.
- Why should you do it after weight training? Cardio workouts deplete your glycogen (energy) stores, and you need that glycogen for lifting weights. If you’ve used it all up before lifting weights, you won’t see the benefit of weight training, because you won’t be able to finish your training properly.
- So what’s involved? There are lots of options, you can use one of the cardio machines at a gym (treadmill, rower, cross-trainer, bike), go at a comfortable pace for 50 seconds, and sprint for 10 seconds, then repeat for 15 minutes. If the outdoors is your gym, just walk or jog for 50 seconds, and sprint for 10 seconds, then repeat. You can also go to exercise classes, plan your own burpees/lunges/squats/mountain climbers routine, or even find a HIIT workout on YouTube to follow from the comfort of your own home.
- How does this burn more calories than steady-state cardio? Research has shown that Interval Training enables our bodies to continue burning calories at a higher rate long after we have finished training, it’s called the Afterburn Effect. You won’t get this from steady state cardio, so you would have to stay on the treadmill for much longer to get the same impact. Oh, and the Afterburn Effect can last for up to 38 hours too!
4. GET YOUR NETWORK ON BOARD
Here’s the funny thing, most of my clients tell me that they struggle to stick to a plan because they feel tempted to snack too much, or to skip the gym, and once they “slip up” (their words), they chuck it all in. What’s interesting is that these feelings often come from OUTSIDE influences. I have lost count of how many times I have heard the following:
- The girls brought in cakes for somebody’s birthday, so I had to eat one
- I’m going out with the lads so I’ll have to have a load of pints or they’ll be annoying me
- My friends are always saying I’m no fun now that I don’t drink as much
- One of my colleagues says “I thought you were meant to be on a diet” every time I eat
- I went over to my girlfriend’s house and she insisted on getting a pizza
How are we supposed to deal with this? It’s difficult enough to build the mental strength to stay on track to reach your goals, without having everybody feeling as though they can intervene and derail you. Here are a few of the tips I give my clients to deal with peer pressure:
- Say “I don’t eat that” instead of “no, I’d better not, I’m on a diet.” This type of assertiveness (without aggression) just closes off the idea that you might indulge in a little workplace treat that’s not part of the plan for you. Don’t get me wrong, treats are fine, you just need to plan around them.
- Check who you’re spending time with. It’s said that we are the sum of the 5 people we spend most of our time with. Do you want to surround yourself with supportive people, or people who wear you down? If your friends are constantly saying “she’s back on that diet but she’ll be off it again at the weekend” then it’s time to sit them down and explain to them that your health is no joke, you’re taking it seriously, and you need their support, not judgement.
- Take control of your own nutrition. If you’re having a few friends round, just make sure you’re doing the cooking, or you’re bringing your own food and staying on plan. Yes, you might become known as the person who’s always eating out of tupperware, but focus on a few months down the line when everybody is complimenting you on your transformation and asking your advice. It’s worth it.
- Go easy on the alcohol. If you’re having a night out and you know it’s going to revolve around drinking, work it into your plan. You can cut down on the amount you drink in loads of different ways. Try spacing every drink out by having water or sparkling water in-between. Swap pints of calorie-laden beer for vodka, soda and lime – just bear in mind that you might feel the effects a little faster!
5. GET STARTED
OK, that’s it! You’re all set – you have the complete guide to how to actually lose weight and keep it off. If you need some help with your training and nutrition, get in touch, just send me a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.