lose weight

Losing Those Extra Pounds

In 2015, the #1 New Years Resolution in the US was to lose weight. On average, only 8% of people actually keep their resolutions (whether it’s losing weight or something else). If losing weight is on your to-do list, here are some tips to help you out.

First, Let’s Get Technical

To really understand how to lose weight, we first need to understand the calorie. You’ve probably heard the term before, but what exactly is it?

In short, a calorie is a unit of energy. When you look at a food’s nutrition facts label, it tells you the amount of energy that’s in a designated serving of that particular food, and then we burn off that energy as we go throughout our day. Whatever calories we don’t use are stored in our bodies as fat, and too many excess calories lead to weight gain. Calories are important, and our bodies need them to function. The trick is to consume the right amount.

Decreasing Calories Consumed

One way to lose weight is to consume less calories. The majority of people underestimate the amount of calories they consume daily by about 30%. If you want an accurate picture of your daily caloric intake, keep a food journal where you write down everything that you eat throughout the day (no exceptions). You can use a notebook, a planner, or your smartphone. There are lots of food journaling apps available (check out the link at the end for some of the most popular ones). Once you have a clear picture of your actual daily caloric intake, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions about what to eat throughout the day.

Increasing Calories Burned

If you’re not keen on cutting down the calories you’re consuming, an alternative is to burn off the excess calories by increasing your daily physical activity (and exercise is important whether or not you’re trying to lose weight). A good goal is to aim for 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Everyone’s fitness level is different, so talk to your doctor about what’s right for you and don’t push yourself too hard when starting out. There are apps that can help you track how many calories you’ve burned during your exercise, and seeing the results can be a powerful motivator. Figure out what motivates you and stick with it, whether it’s seeing your workout stats on your phone, the accountability of having a workout partner, or the financial obligation of signing up for a fitness group.

Change Your Habits to Work in Your Favor

Are there certain situations where you find yourself overeating? For a lot of people, eating while they’re distracted (e.g., watching TV, reading a book) makes them eat a lot more than they would regularly. If you’re one of those people, avoid eating and snacking during that time. When you’re eating, chew your food thoroughly and eat slowly. It takes your brain about 20 minutes to register that your stomach is full, so eating slowly will help you to not overeat. Finally, humans are creatures of convenience, to stock your fridge with healthy foods so you don’t have the choice to eat unhealthy. At the same time, remember that’s it’s okay to go off of your plan occasionally. Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t quit—just get back on track and keep moving forward towards your goal.

What about Zero-Calorie Foods?

Some people think zero-calorie foods are a shortcut to decreasing calorie intake (and therefore, losing weight), but research shows that’s not actually true. The majority of zero-calorie foods are made with artificial sweeteners and fat substitutes, and when you consume those things, the sweetness makes your body think that calories are also on the way. When those calories don’t show up, your body panics and starts sending messages to the brain that you need calories—and you need them now! As a result, a lot of people end up bingeing on snacks and other foods, resulting in weight gain instead of weight loss.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, set a realistic goal for yourself (an example of a realistic goal is losing one pound per week). A lot of people will give up because they have unrealistic expectations that they can’t meet. It may take some lifestyle changes, but you can do it. Surround yourself with support and things that motivate you, and start your journey towards a healthier self today.

For some helpful apps to help you get going, click here.