Being overweight is a nightmare. It feels like you’re carrying your biggest failure around for everyone to see. And despite all the “political correctness” and “you’re beautiful however you look”, You know people are judging you. Maybe you’re trying to get a job, or trying to get a date; maybe you just wanted to order a large fry, but you know wherever you go, people are judging you. And it doesn’t stop there. There are always the especially maladjusted people who mock you. They crack jokes about you eating everything in sight, and needing bedsheets for clothes. And they love to tell you how ridiculous you look when you run.
But anyone who’s overweight knows, it doesn’t end there. Take away all the social pressure and judgment, and there are still major health concerns. You dread going to the doctor, and getting on that scale, because you know what comes next. You hate what happens every time you eat out. You gorge yourself on junk food because it makes you feel better, but then you go home and feel like crap. Your stomach is at war with all the invaders, and your blood pressure has spiked and plummeted, making you worry about the “d” word – “diabetes”.
So why are we talking about this? You don’t need anyone to tell you the problems being overweight has given you – you live them everyday. So I want you to understand, I’m not here to make you feel bad about yourself, and guilty about your choices. I’m here to tell you that YOU CAN CHANGE!
My entire life, I’ve been overweight. I was the “fat friend” and the “chubby guy”. And it beat on me, year after year. I went through every experience I wrote up above, and it took a toll on my emotions. I learned to defend myself by joking about my weight, and pretending to never take any criticisms seriously. But it did hurt, and I did take them seriously. I learned to fake self-confidence and rely on my wit, but inside, I felt unequal. That was my life, and sometimes I felt slighted by it. My friends could eat just as badly as I did, and yet never gain a pound. It just felt wrong that I was stuck with this problem while everyone else seemed fine.
Eventually, all of this pressure built up into an extreme motivation to change my weight. You see, I had always imagined I would get in shape. But as I got older – and got heavier – it became clear that I had to take charge. A lot of hard work later, I’m here writing this article. I’ve lost over 60lbs., and for the first time that I can remember, I’m NOT overweight! It was not easy. If it was, none of us would be overweight. But it was achievable, and it is for you too!
In this article, I’m going to explain how I lost so much weight. Now don’t expect a diet plan, or a set menu, because you don’t need that. It may work for some people, but for me, diet plans are just the first step toward becoming bored, and stressed, and giving up. What you can expect is an explanation on how weight loss works, and suggestions on how you can lose weight yourself. I promise you, if you stick to these guidelines, you will lose weight.
Please do remember one thing: weight loss comes down to motivation. I can give you the tools and instructions to build a house, but you have to build it. So when it gets tough, remind yourself why you’re trying to lose weight. Focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. And keep track of your progress. It’s a long journey, but the milestones you hit along the way are worth celebrating. Now if you’re ready, let’s get to work!
The Only Rule To Weight Loss: You Must Burn More Calories Than You Take In. Period.
What does this mean? It means that your body burns a certain number of calories a day, and to lose weight, you must eat less calories than what your body burns. The reverse is also true. To gain weight, you simply eat more calories than your body burns a day. Period. I recently read a study that really drives the point home. One professor took on a diet that some of us might call “the best diet plan ever” – eating only twinkie bars. However, he ate less calories than his body burned per day. The result? Our Hostess-lover lost 27 lbs.!* Now before you run off to the nearest convenience store to load up on candy bars, I want to emphasize that THIS WAS NOT HEALTHY! That kind of diet puts you at serious risk of a nutrient-deficientcy, not to mention increasing your risk of diabetes and other health problems. But it does teach us something. Weight loss is about calories. Now healthy weight loss, and higher-quality weight loss, that comes down to the things below. But weight loss, in itself, is only about calories.
So now you have the key to weight loss. But that still doesn’t help with implementing it. How do we eat less calories per day while avoiding diet fatigue? What do we need to do to have “healthy weight loss”? Here are four steps to answer those questions and get you losing weight.
Didn’t need my help figuring that out, huh? But let’s talk about how to do it. Not to sound like a broken record, but the answer is simple: eat less calories than you burn! Of course, that means you need to know how many calories you burn a day. This is your “maintenance” calorie intake. Now it would take some serious work (and equipment) to tell you exactly how much you burn a day, but then we don’t really need a “down to the calorie” answer. Instead, use one of these simple methods to get you in the ballpark.
A. Multiply your body weight x 15(men) or x 13(women).
– e.g. a 200 lbs. man burns 3000 calories per day.
B. Use an online calculator.
– I prefer this method, because it at least factors in age, gender, activity level, and the like. All you need to do is google “daily calorie calculator”.
Were you able to get your number? Great! Now let’s take a look at your current diet. Chances are, you really try to avoid thinking about how much you eat. So if I asked you “how many calories you eat a day”, your answer might be off by a lot. Instead of “guess-timating” and ending up discouraged, try this: for one week, eat what you eat now. However, keep track of everything you eat in a food journal. You’ll probably find that you eat less just because you’re keeping track, but more importantly, you’ll know where you’re starting from.
Now that you’ve figured out your starting point, let’s cut back. By how much? Back to the numbers again. To lose one pound of weight, you need to burn 3500 calories that aren’t replaced by your diet. So losing one pound a week equates to eating 500 calories less than maintenance per day. Imagine that your maintenance intake was 3000 calories per day. That means you need to eat 2500 calories per day to lose one pound a week. If you want to lose two pounds per week, simply move the deficit to 1000 calories per day. So instead of 2500 calories, eat 2000 per day. Of course, these are just examples. But the math works the same way no matter who you are.
One suggestion I do want to throw in is having a “cheat day”. Now when you start off, it may be better to just make it a “cheat meal”. However, this is crucial to staying on your diet. After all, you’re going to get tired of eating healthy. And you’re going to crave junk food. So instead of going from eating “everything bad” to “not eating peanut butter because it’s too many calories”, have an outlet! How crazy should you go? I used to eat my maintanence level calories on my cheat day. But depending on your goals, that may not be much of a reward. So base it off your results. If you don’t lose weight one week, or not as much as you aimed for, cut back on your cheat day. If what you’re doing works, stick with it! Just remember, 3500 less calories than you burn for one pound. If results slack off, it could be that your cheat day infringed too much on that 3500 calories.
Since we all want to “just get it off”, you may want to know how much it’s safe to lose per week? The suggested amount is 2lbs. max, for a couple of reasons. Reason one is that losing weight too quickly makes people more likely to regain the weight later on. How so? If you lose weight quickly, you’re less likely to adjust to your new lifestyle(or “diet”). Also, you’re more likely to lose muscle mass(more on that later), which means your body will burn even less calories when you get down to a normal weight. Er go, when you stop your diet, your body needs so few calories that you start eating too much again. With all this said, I went through my first 50lbs. losing three to four lbs. a week. If you’re willing to commit to that kind of deficit, the steps below will help you avoid the aforementioned problems. If you’d like to take it a bit slower, the steps below are still necessary to stay healthy and motivated.
Some diets are all about “low-fat” or “low-carb” intake, and there can be merit in both of those ideas. However, if there’s any nutrient you need to worry about while losing weight, it’s protein. Now sports stars and bodybuilders are all about protein, but what does it matter to someone who’s just trying to lose weight? The answer is really quite simple. Protein is the building block your cells are made out of. So for your body to keep rebuilding itself, it needs more protein. When you start exercising more(step number three to weight loss), your body is being torn down at a much quicker rate. If your body can’t find the additional building blocks to repair itself, it starts taking away from what it already has. And this is a bad thing, because your body may take from something you want to keep – like muscle. On the other hand, if you keep enough protein in your body, there’s no supply shortage. That means retaining more muscle while you drop fat.
There was an interesting study done on this a few years ago. People who were interested in losing weight were taken and split into two groups. Both groups ate less calories than they burned per day. However, one group was fed a high protein diet, while the other ate a low protein diet. The results? Both groups lost the same amount of weight, but the high-protein group lost almost pure body fat, while the low-protein group lost muscle.*
Clearly, protein is important. So how much do you need? If you thought you were finished with math after graduation, think again! Here are some more numbers to play with. When losing weight, aim for 0.6 to 0.7 grams per pound of your body weight in protein. So using our 200 lbs. man again, that equates to 120 to 140 grams of protein a day. If that seems a bit overwhelming, don’t worry. Getting protein as a vegetarian isn’t nearly as hard as people think. I kept my protein intake at 144g for months, just by changing the way I ate. And you’re already going to change how you eat, so why not cover all your bases?
Where do you get your protein as a vegetarian? Really, there are a ton of places. After all, there are loads of other high-protein foods besides meat, and both meat-eaters and vegetarians get a large amount of their protein from these groups. Instead of delving into all the specifics, I’d like to reference you to a seperate article I wrote: Where do you get your protein? This article covers all the specifics of why we need protein, and where we, as vegetarians and vegans, can get it.
Up to now, we’ve only touched on how to change your diet. And there’s a reason: diet is just that important! However, if you want to lose some serious weight, you really need to introduce exercise into your lifestyle as well. But that’s a good thing. I mean, wouldn’t you feel bad if you were skinny as a twig but still got tired running out to your car in the rain?
How does exercise help us? It bumps up our daily calorie burn, which means instead of just eating less and less, we can actually burn more! Plus it helps us to build muscles, which also impacts how many calories we burn a day. Besides calories though, exercise just makes us feel better. It strengthens a host of systems in our bodies, and as you lose weight, it gives you that euphoric feel of “super-strength”. Just as an example, today I jogged a mile and a half around the park. Now when I was heavier, I couldn’t of even have dreamed of making it that far. But my exercise routine has helped me build up endurance so that I can “do what everyone else does”.
So how often do you need to exercise? Really, it depends on you. How quickly are you trying to lose weight? How much time do you have available? What do you feel physcially comfortable with? When you exercise, you have to push yourself. But that doesn’t mean hurting yourself. If you’re starting off from a very heavy weight, it may be that full-out sprinting is likely to injure you. If you have and old leg injury that still acts up, squating serious weights at the gym is likely to leave you down and out for the count.
Your goal when exercising should be to do something strenuous – whatever that may be. You want your heart rate up, you want your body sweating, but you don’t want to injure yourself. Ideally, aim to do both cardio and resistance-training(weight-lifting). Cardio gets your body moving and burning calories, and weight-lifting gets you building muscle. Even though muscle-building is not your primary goal, it is important. Like we said, it helps you burn more calories. And just as importantly, it convinces your body that those muscles need to stay, and your fat should be used to cover the lack of calories.
Now don’t forget to factor in your goals. If you are eating less calories than you burn per day, you will lose weight. If you are exercising, you will lose more weight. However, if you’re trying to lose massive weight in minimal time, it may mean upping your efforts. It’s not necessary to try to lose everything “all at once”, because no matter what, it will take months of hard work and dedication. And truthfully, for most people it’s an extreme that will cause them to stop dieting altogether. But if your heart is set on being the ultimate calorie burning machine, I would like to give you some guidance.
I lost 60+lbs. in a little less than five months, which equates to 3-4lbs. a week. My committment was basically obsessive, and my methods were fairly extreme. Furthermore, I had the time to commit to doing it. Now please let me reemphasize: YOU DON’T NEED TO DO THIS TO LOSE WEIGHT. Don’t let unrealistic goals stop you from making progress. However, if you’re the obsessive type and you know within your heart of hearts that this what you are going to do, go for it!
My workout plan was an hour-plus at the gym, six days a week (Don’t neglect having a rest day. If you’re body isn’t given a chance to recover, you won’t benefit from the extra work). My diet was at least 1500 calories below maintanence(although it was a few months before I finally calculated my daily burn). I basically took all the principles mentioned above and below, and maxed them out. So if weight lifting was good, I weight-lifted everyday (do remember that you can’t do the same muscle groups everyday). If cardio was good, I did High Intensity Intervals. If calories were bad, I said no to every temptation (Although I kept my cheat day, or at least “cheat meal”. Even the obsessive should reward themselves.). And what was the reward? It wasn’t that I did something no one else could do. It was simply that I did it quicker.
You’ve mastered your diet, and started an exercise routine to burn off those pounds! You’ve set out toward a healthier and happier you. There is, however, one more thing you need to think about – sleep. Chances are, most of us out there don’t need to be encouraged to sleep. We love sleep, and sometimes we hear that morning alarm and consider just staying asleep instead. But with work, family, and all the unexpected things that pop up in between, it isn’t hard for busy schedules to start stealing time from precious sleep. Unfortunately, this has a very negative impact on weight loss. If you fail to sleep enough, your body can’t recover from all the extra strain you’ve put on it. That means when you go to the gym, you’ll be extra sore and tired because your body was unable to recover from the previous session. And naturally, this will cause you to not work as hard, starting a cycle that ends with giving up on your exercise routine. Don’t let that happen to you! Adults are encouraged to sleep 5-8 hours a night. The highly active should aim toward the higher end, getting 7-8 hours of sleep.
So that’s it! We’ve covered four ways to lose weight, and all sorts of tips on how to make it happen. Now admittedly, it’s going to take a ton of work. But I promise you, it’s worth it! Besides, this isn’t like putting money in the bank until you finally have enough for that trip you’ve always wanted. The process of losing weight pays you back the whole way through! It won’t be long before you start to feel better. And then you’ll start to look better. Next you’ll be able to do more, and have more energy. Then pretty soon, your friends and family will start to ask you what you’ve been doing. Plus there’s the light at the end of the tunnel: a healthy, happy you. Keep your goals in mind. Track your progress. And most of all, keep going! Nothing worthwhile is easy, but with dedication and hard-work, it is achievable!