How to Lose Weight: The Complete Guide
How to Lose Weight: The Complete Guide by Coach Matt Hartsky, CSCS, PES, CPT
It doesn’t matter if you are trying to lose six pounds or more than sixty, the same healthy weight loss principles apply when determining the right amount of fat loss and how long the process of changing body composition should take for each individual.
By applying my advice from more than twenty-five years of nutrition coaching experience, you will finally be able to overcome the challenges you’ve been facing with finding the right approach and take control of your eating habits safely and without any gimmicks, starvation tactics, medications, or surgeries. My goal is to help you learn how to lose weight and guide you to permanent lifestyle changes.
Let’s begin by making sure we are on the same page with a few key bodyweight and nutrition terms and ideas:
- Of course, the human body is made up of bones and organs to include the skin. But what else determines our body weight?
- We could break bodyweight down into lean mass and fat mass. Lean body mass and weight is everything in your body that is not fat, including bones, organs, muscle, water, etc. Likewise, fat includes all body fat in every area to include visceral or the fat around your organs.
- Our body fat mass is determined by the amount of food we eat that can be turned into energy versus the amount of energy we burn throughout daily activities.
- The body’s system for energy control is called metabolism.
- The energy we eat or burn is measured in calories.
- The amount of energy you need to survive and your organs to function properly without any extra activity is called your base metabolic rate.
- If your body fat mass has slowly increased, it means you are taking in more energy (calories) than your body needs for your base metabolic rate plus daily activity.
- If body fat mass is steady, your energy consumption and expenditure are balanced.
- If we decrease the amount of energy (calories) you eat to an amount that is less than the amount of energy you burn through your base metabolic rate plus daily activity, you will begin to lose weight and decrease body fat.
- Fat loss happens when the body uses your fat stores as energy to balance out the amount of energy you burned in a day.
- Most adults wanting to lose weight or have better nutrition, are in control of the foods they eat, so they are also in control of how much energy they consume.
- Likewise, most adults looking to get healthy are in control of how much activity they get in a day, so they are also in control of how much energy they burn.
Please read those last two points again because YOU are in CONTROL of your weight and body fat.
In terms of how much energy each person needs, it’s important to note that no two bodies are the same. The amount of energy your body requires at rest and without any activity changes based on how much bodyweight you have. The more weight a person carries, the more energy is required to maintain its base state. For example, a person weighing 150 pounds needs less energy and should eat less food and fewer calories than a person weighing 250 pounds.
Additionally, work demands will have an influence on our energy needs for the day. A person who has a sedentary work life or “desk job” will need far less food than someone with a more intense physical demand. For example, a secretary versus someone who pours concrete all day.
The more active you are each day, the more energy your body will need and the more you will get to eat to provide this fuel.
Learn How to Fuel Your Body With a Proven: Nutrition Coaching Program
So, how do you lose weight with this knowledge?
All diets, regardless of their claim to fame, achieve weight loss by reducing the number of calories you consume until those calories reach a point that is lower than the number you burn each day. This can be achieved through nutrition adjustment alone, by increasing activity levels alone, or through a balanced approach that does both.
To understand how much fat loss (or gain) is possible, we have to learn the correlation between calories and body fat. 1 pound of body fat is equivalent to approximately 3,500 calories. This means we have to burn an extra 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat. Conversely, when we consume 3,500 more calories than we burn, we gain fat.
This battle of loss versus gain usually doesn’t happen in a day, but over days, weeks and months.
For example, when you eat 500 more calories than you burn each day over a seven-day week without changing your physical activity level, you will have gained one pound of body fat.
Similarly, if you consume 500 fewer calories than you burn each day over a seven-day week without changing your physical activity level, you will have lost one pound of body fat.
One of the challenges with making eating adjustments based on calories is all the foods and beverages people don’t realize calories can add up from:
- Ten cherry tomatoes = 100 calories
- One 5oz. glass of red wine = 125 calories
- Two tablespoons of creamy salad dressing = 130 calories
- One spoonful of peanut butter = 100 calories
- 5 oz. of pastrami = 210 calories
- One cup of pasta = 200 calories
On the plus side, small chunks of physical activity can also really add up over the day to help balance out our energy. For example, every fifteen minutes of BRISK walking you add to your day equates to nearly 100 extra calories burned each time!
Learn How to Eat on Purpose with one of the most valuable nutrition articles I’ve ever shared: https://transformingstrength.com/personal-training-tips/learn-how-to-eat-on-purpose-for-weight-loss-health-performance/
Now that you know how the calories in versus calories out game works, how fast should you try to lose weight?
Most nutrition coaches and weight loss experts agree that a healthy weight loss range is between 1/2 to 2 pounds per week, but like many fitness answers, ultimately, it depends on many factors and should be based solely on the individual.
One thing is for sure, the most successful, long-term diets, that cause permanent lifestyle changes and build strong habits are the few approaches that focus on balanced eating habits along with consistent exercise. Extreme diets that cause rapid weight loss are both unsafe and unsustainable.
Other hazards of rapid weight loss from extreme dieting such as fasting or completely cutting out carbohydrates include difficulty in maintaining steady levels of blood sugar, poor hormone regulation, mood swings or depression, poor insulin sensitivity, lack of mental focus, and headaches, just to name a few.
Adhering to one of these unbalanced philosophies can also result in yo-yo dieting, binge eating, and a poorly functioning metabolism that results in cyclical weight gain.
Avoid diet extremes in favor of a balanced eating approach that leads to permanent weight loss.
I often refer to this sensible whole food portion control as Eating on Purpose.
Eating on Purpose simply refers to making the nutrition adjustment process as simple as possible by treating food as fuel to help make better food choices.
One example of Eating on Purpose is cutting out highly processed “food-like” and sugary carbohydrate choices from a box or bag that provide little or no nutritional value like pasta, bread, cereals, chips, etc.
Replacing these fake foods with healthier choices like oats, rice, sweet potatoes, and quinoa you’ll not only reduce your overall calories but also provide your body with the fuel it needs to function optimally.
Let’s take a look at how we can tie together all of this information about calories, making healthy choices, and exercise with an example of one of my typical weight-loss-focused personal training clients.
A 42-year-old wife and mother of 3 explains she has gradually put on 16 pounds over the last several years of focusing on her family and stressful job, without taking time to care for herself, and she is ready to make her health a priority again by losing some weight.
We know that since her weight gain has been over years, that she has simply fallen into a rut of eating more calories than her body needs for fuel. After explaining the way calories in versus calories out works, she decides losing 1 pound of fat per week is a healthy and realistic goal. To accomplish her goal, she will need to burn 500 more calories than she eats and drinks per day. This rate of weight loss would allow her to safely lose 16 extra pounds of body fat in about 4 months.
She also agrees to accomplish her goals with a balanced focus on nutrition adjustments and by starting an adult strength and conditioning class 3 days per week.
After adjusting her nutrition to a more structured plan that allows her to better control her calories, and replacing some processed items with clean whole food, she cuts out about 300 calories per day from sweetened beverages, breakfast cereals, and some random daily snacking with chips and crackers. While Eating on Purpose she stays full longer, has more energy in the afternoons, and has fewer cravings, while still eating fewer calories than she is used to.
In like manner, her fitness class burns up an additional 350 calories per day and she agrees to add two 15 minute BRISK walks into her day on work breaks on the two days she doesn’t attend her strength and conditioning class for a 200 calorie benefit on those days. On the weekends, she commits to one 30 minute BRISK walks each day, which burns 200 calories per day.
So, let’s look at the math to see how she stays up against her goal of 3,500 calories per week needed to lose 1 pound of body fat:
Daily Calories Cut From Nutrition Adjustments: 7 x 300 = 2,100
Daily Calories Cut From Strength & Conditioning: 3 x 350 = 1,050
Work Day Brisk Walks: 2 x 200 = 400
Weekend Brisk Walks: 2 x 200 = 400
Total Calorie Decrease Per Week: 3,950
The math doesn’t lie… our properly focused client surpassed her 3,500 calorie deficit goal and lost just over a pound of body fat while feeling in control of her nutrition and fitness, has more energy, and is sleeping better than she has in years.
You can also check-out this article for more weight loss advice: How to Lose Body Fat Fast With 10 Simple Steps
This is how we Eat on Purpose to safely lose weight, fuel for activity and recovery, without extreme deprivation. Adjustments were small and realistic and can be maintained for a permanent lifestyle adjustment. No guessing involved.
Keep in mind, the best weight management strategy involves realistic dietary changes, having the knowledge to make healthy food choices, and learning how to lose weight through consistent calorie adjustments practiced with patience, not from crash diets that induce binge eating episodes.
A Few Tips for Smooth & Fast Weight Loss
- If you plan to eat out, plan ahead by looking at the menu ahead of time whenever possible. It’s also a good idea to choose restaurants that offer whole food choices to help you stay on track with your calorie goals. Even if they don’t have exactly what you would normally eat, try to adjust by choosing the healthiest options available. This might mean asking the waiter to hold the butter, picking a clean salad dressing, or opting for some kind of vegetable instead of a more calorie-dense choice.
- Likewise, try to avoid environments and places where you feel you might be tempted to make less than healthy food choices. Along with this, try to be aware of times when you are prone to have cravings or feel social pressure to overeat or make poor food choices. This may mean avoiding the break room, the after-work get-together, or the coffee shop. Whatever or wherever your weaknesses may be, try to plan ahead so you’re prepared with healthy alternatives as an alternate plan that keeps you on track.
- In addition, devote some serious time to researching healthy meals so you can plan out your shopping around exactly what you have time to make and want on hand for food for the week. the internet is loaded with healthy recipes. You can also check out the Transforming Strength Recipes Page for dozens of Eating On Purpose options.
- In a like manner, use your planning and researching time to find healthy foods to have on hand in your fridge and pantry. Remove any high processed, sugary “food-like” options from the shelves so you can avoid giving in to temptations and cravings.
- Furthermore, spend some time thinking about your support circle. You may have to make some tough calls about who you spend your time with by avoiding any friends or co-workers who have been known to sabotage your weight loss efforts in the past. Surround yourself with friends who fully support you and your goals to improve your health.
- By the same token, when it comes to how other people might influence your health goals, avoid comparing your weight loss journey to anyone else’s. A healthy diet happens at an individual rate based on the unique background, lifestyle, needs, and goals of each person. Stay focused on your goals and the plan you’ve created to make them happen.
- Speaking of goals, take some time in the beginning to set SMART ones. This means they should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Try to also have a bigger goal or two with several small goals to help you stay focused along the way.
- Along with goals, try to set up some rewards for achieving them. Since your goals are largely centered around food, your rewards should NOT be. Instead, you might schedule a massage after you’ve lost your first 10 pounds.
- Of course, don’t beat yourself up if you take a wrong turn on your road to healthier eating habits. Making a poor choice at one meal is just that… one meal out of hundreds that will happen between your start and end goal date. if you have a hiccup, look at what you might have done to avoid it and adjust accordingly in the future.
- The same advice applies to your fitness plan and goals. While we want to stay as consistent as possible, missing one or two workouts will have little impact on the big picture of achieving your goals. If you do miss your workout for whatever reason, analyze the cause and plan to overcome that challenge the next time.
- Another important tip is to avoid going hungry or skipping meals. Your brain, hormones, and blood sugar will react more favorably to consistent meal patterns. This will help you stay full and balanced so you can avoid overeating or making poor choices later in the day. One of the best advisements to help in this area is to plan ahead to have healthy choices on hand whenever possible. You’ll also want to plan for emergencies, and have something like a protein powder you can mix with water or a healthy protein bar tucked away in your car or purse.
- In the end, all the best weight loss advice in the world is of no use unless you are truly ready to commit to the process for the right reasons. Avoid starting down this path or seeking professional help if you only want to lose weight for someone else. Your desire to get healthy must be a passionate personal decision. If this is the case for you, work to apply the knowledge in this guide to your weight loss journey and you will enjoy a lifetime of healthy benefits.