Want to lose weight – without starving yourself, taking strange supplements, eating boring foods or completely rehauling your life?
The trick to losing weight isn’t tricking yourself into liking celery (without first covering it in peanut butter!) or living off lettuce. It’s about introducing healthy, everyday habits into your life that are maintainable, enjoyable and enticing.
Rather than making weight loss a short term goal, aim to become a healthier you in the long term – and start by introducing everyday habits that facilitate fat loss, and encourage lean muscle growth and repair.
Not sure where to start? Let’s take a look at the 10 things most people don’t know (or understand!) about weight loss…
1. Don’t skip eating carbs
Low carbohydrate diets are commonly recommended to people trying to lose weight. Why? The theory is that by lowering the number of carbs you feed your body, you essentially lower your insulin levels, which in turn causes your body to use stored fat for energy – rather than store it.
The problem is, in practice this approach is flawed.
Carbohydrates are your body’s favourite fuel source and are great for keeping your energy levels constant throughout the day. By eating Low GI, whole grain carbohydrates you can effectively prevent energy spikes (or insulin spikes) throughout the day… which means fewer food cravings and binge eating. Whole grains also contain B vitamins which are essential for energy production, furthering adding to their benefits.
Eating resistant starch (or insoluble fibre) is also great for weight loss and management because while it moves through the digestive system it encourages the release of fatty acids which help preserve lean muscle and burn fat. Not to mention, it also helps keep you fuller for longer – which means less (unhealthy) snacking and cravings throughout the day.
The key to losing weight isn’t cutting carbs completely – it’s about eating healthy food in the correct quantities. Opt for healthy whole grains or starchy vegetables such as quinoa, oats, sweet potato and lentils, and you’ll start shedding the weight in no time.
2. Make sure you eat (healthy) fats
Healthy fats encourage the production of hormones in the body, enabling it to operate more effectively, regulate your different systems more efficiently and allow it to run at its most optimal state.
This means the consumption of healthy fats is essential for the building and maintenance of lean muscle – and the loss of stored fat.
But what healthy fats should you be eating – and how much of them – if you’re trying to lose weight? Try adding ONE of the following options to each meal:
- A small handful of nuts, such as almonds, walnuts or peanuts
- ¼ avocado
- 1 Tablespoon of greek yoghurt or feta
- 100g piece of fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna (this also doubles as your protein!)
3. Go crazy on the water
Drinking water is really a no brainer – no matter if you’re trying to lose weight, build lean muscle, boost your energy, support your metabolism, clear your skin, improve your brain function, assist your gut health… you get the picture.
You’re body relies on water for absolutely everything. So if you’re trying to lose weight, providing it with a substance that enables it to perform at its best is a great idea! Drinking water also has small thermogenic benefits, as your body needs to either chill or cool water to 37 degrees. This results in a boost in your metabolic rate – meaning extra calories burned. And, let’s not forget water’s key role in flushing your internal systems of toxins!
While drinking water alone won’t help you lose weight, it’s certainly an essential part of the process.
4. Opt for high protein ingredients
Everyone knows that a high protein diet is recommended for anyone wanting to lose a few pounds. But why?
Protein is what the body uses to repair and build lean muscle. And, the more lean muscle you have the more food you burn and breakdown efficiently. Protein also helps to keep you feel fuller for longer – reducing the urge to add in extra snacks throughout the day.
If you want to lose weight, develop a healthy physique and keep the extra pounds off, you need to build lean muscle. This doesn’t mean turning into a jacked gym junkie – all it means is build lean, toned muscle that comes only from exercising regularly and eating a healthy, balanced diet that incorporates high protein components.
5. Make sure you eat a wide variety of foods
Your body is very smart and likes to think it’s ahead of the game. This is why eating more (of the right foods) is key to losing weight, and why you should always try and introduce variety into your diet.
It’s common for dieters to create a ‘healthy’ meal plan that lacks diversity, as they repeatedly eat the same thing every day. While the meals in this meal plan may be great choices individually, this repetitive eating can be detrimental for you in the long run.
There are two reasons for this:
- Your body is very adaptable, and when fed the same thing everyday begins to anticipate what nutrients it is or isn’t going to receive. Based on expected intake, it may not absorb all of the awesome nutrients that are packed into every healthy meal. This means you’re eating empty calories and not making full use of every meal you eat. By constantly changing up your diet, you keep your body guessing and help ensure you take full advantage of every (nutritious) bite.
- To function effectively your body needs a range of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients, which are found in different food sources. In order to perform optimally, you need to eat a range of different foods each day to ensure you expose your body to these. This is why people often suggest ‘eating the rainbow’ – it’s just another way of saying you need to eat a varied diet in order to live a healthy, balanced life.
6. Go wild on free foods
In order to lose weight, you’re going to have to cut calories – there’s no way around it. If you want to strip fat your body needs to use it as a fuel source, which only results from a decrease in ingested calories.
How many calories should you cut? To lose weight the average woman should eat around 1700 calories a day, while men should eat about 2000 (assuming they are also regularly exercising). This amount of food ensures you are getting enough nutrients into your body each day and doesn’t send you into ‘starvation mode’.
Of course, restricting your calories may leave you a little peckish. To stop hunger, curb cravings and keep yourself fuller for longer, make sure you fill up on free foods every meal.
Free foods are anything that is very low in calories yet still nutrient dense. Think blueberries, raspberries, spinach, broccoli, capsicum, cucumber, kale, beans, beetroot and brussel sprouts. In fact, any vegetable that isn’t considered starchy or as a source of carbohydrate (such as sweet potato, potato and corn) is a free food.
If you’re trying to lose weight, fill up on as many free foods each meal (or in between meals) as you like! They won’t be stored as fat and are totally good for you!
7. Manage your stress
Stress doesn’t just give you wrinkles – it can make you *ahem* fat as well!
When you’re stressed your body enters fight or flight mode, and your body’s adrenal glands will release adrenaline for your body to use in its response. Following this, your body will release cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone.
If the stressful trigger is taken away your body’s cortisol levels will naturally drop. If that trigger remains however, your body’s cortisol levels will remain very high. Over a period of time, too much cortisol can:
- Suppress the immune system
- Increase blood pressure and sugar
- Increase appetite
- Negatively affect sleep
- Increase weight gain…and much more!
When your body’s cortisol levels remain high, it will also turn to lean muscle for food. Compared to fat, lean muscle is much easier to break down, and is your body’s preferred fuel source when it’s in a bind (so to speak).
If your body is constantly functioning under high levels of stress, your body will enter a state of homeostasis. This means your body will start to use more of your lean muscle as fuel, food consumed will be stored as fat, and you’ll also be more inclined to experience food cravings – resulting in binge eating.
Obviously, there is a time and a place for everything – even stress – and you cannot control the world around you. You can, however, change your approach! Try and find ways to relieve stress in your day to day life, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
8. Watch your caffeine intake
Caffeine can be useful for weight loss and is a proven appetite suppressant. However, when consumed at the wrong time of the day or in too high a quantity, its effects on the body are quite similar to that of prolonged stress. Overall this typically reduces our lean muscle mass and increases our body fat percentage….which results in a slower metabolism (ie. we burn less calories at rest).
If you find yourself depending more and more on caffeine for energy, it’s likely you may be experiencing adrenal fatigue – in which case you should reduce (or eliminate!) your caffeine intake until your body ‘resets’, and you no longer experience energy spikes as a result of your intake and then depletion of caffeine.
If you aren’t dependent on caffeine, 1 to 2 serves per day (e.g. one 30ml shot of coffee) is perfectly ok – so long as you don’t consume it with high amounts of refined sugar or unhealthy fats!
9. Get plenty of shut-eye
Want to lose weight? Then you need to get some beauty sleep!
Sleep is incredibly important for the body, as it’s when it does its best repair and growth. While you get some shut-eye, your body releases HGH (Human Growth Hormone) which, as the name suggests, is responsible for the care and maintenance of your body.
And, sleep is when you actually burn fat – not while you’re at the gym! As your metabolism slows during the night and HGH is released, your body uses protein to repair itself and burns fat for energy. So, to make the most of this crucial period, ensure you eat protein before bed and get a full eight hours every night.
10. Be realistic
Don’t expect dramatic results in a short period of time. Realistically, if you’re losing weight you should be shedding about 0.5kg of fat per week.
One of the most difficult things to measure on a day to day basis is fat loss. As you lose fat you will also build lean muscle, which will simultaneously increase your weight (as muscle weighs more than fat!). Therefore, when losing weight it’s important not just to measure your success on the scales.
Take photos each week as you steadily shed pounds, and use this as evidence of your transformation. You can also measure the circumference of your stomach, arms and legs using a tape measure. If you would like a more accurate summary of your success, you can also use a body scan or body composition analyser to give you in-depth information about your body’s muscle and fat mass, amongst a range of other things. Many supplement stores are able to provide body scans, as well as some wellness and medical clinics.