To lose weight can often seem like an impossible goal to reach. You sign up for a gym membership, go a few times then lose motivation. You try a new diet, but then decide it’s cutting out too many things you enjoy.
If you’re serious about losing weight, I’ve got a good post for you. If you want to try and lose weight overnight, I’m afraid this isn’t the post for you (and I doubt one exists). Losing weight does take effort and it does take persistence. However it doesn’t need to be as hard as everyone makes it out to be.
In this post I’m going to walk you through the 3 most challenging areas of your weight loss journey. I would recommend working on one of these areas at a time. If you try to do everything at once it’ll likely be too big of a change; this is where most people quit. Make the process as easy as possible for yourself; choose which area you think is the most achievable and follow the advice given for it.
Eating Too Much
Have you ever asked yourself the question “Why can’t I lose weight?”. You try over and over again at different diets, different workout plans to lose weight yet nothing works? One of the big problems with trying to safely lose weight is that we are unaware of how much we are actually eating in a day. We might hold a rough idea in our heads and perhaps know deep down we snack a little too much. However, have you ever actually sat down and totalled how many calories you eat per day? Not just guessed it but with each meal or snack written down how many calories, according to the packaging, you’ve just consumed?
One of the biggest contributors to why you can’t lose weight is likely how much you’re eating. For the meantime, forget about what you’re eating and a having a healthy diet (that’s covered later on). Instead, for a couple of days simply note down how many calories you’re eating; I’d recommend using an app such as MyFitnessPal to do this.
Reviewing your calorie intake:
Dropping down the amount you eat will result in weight loss. You can lose weight without exercise; if you are eating less than your body needs then you will begin to drop mass. The more drastically you drop your calories, the quicker the results. Having said that, to lose weight safely and achieve your weight goals you should drop your calories down gradually. I wouldn’t recommend going much below 1500 calories a day. You’ll likely find it impacts your energy levels and will be unpleasant; it will therefore be much more difficult to sustain (remember, you want to try and safely lose weight, be patient with the process).
Remember if you are ever in any doubt about if you should be more drastically reducing your calories, think about past failures reducing how much you eat. Why did you quit? Was it because you felt miserable from feeling too hungry? That your initial calorie deficit goal was too ambitious too soon? Give yourself a chance; allow yourself time to drop down your calories. I guarantee you will lose weight and be closer to your weight goals. The key to weight loss with a calorie deficit is patience; don’t expect to lose weight overnight, however you probably can expect to see some changes after a couple of weeks.
Tip! Struggle to drop your calories down a lot? Try going out for a walk for an hour each day; walking is a surprisingly good way to burn calories and as it’s low intensity it also targets fat. A simple leisurely one hour walk for me burns between 300-400 calories.
A quick look at my calorie deficit strategy can give you an idea of what I did to drop down my calories. Below shows when I was eating a minimum of 3000 calories per day whilst being very inactive (surprise, surprise I put on a lot of weight).
You might also like: How not giving up led to me achieving weight loss
Reviewing my current diet:
The above image shows on average my eating habits. When I look back I’m physically shocked how much I used to eat, especially how much came through snacking. Reviewing your diet and weight goals can be a great way to wake yourself up to how much you are overeating. Remember, on average women need 2000 kcals per day and men 2500, even less if you are not particularly active.
Stage 1 – removing some snacks from my routine:
From previous attempts at dropping my calories, I struggled with how drastically I dropped them. So this time, I only removed 400kcals a day for the first week from my usual diet. I felt hungry, but it was very manageable. It took me about a few days to adjust to this new amount; the first couple of days are always the worst but that’s why you need to take it slow. This means you can more easily manage your hunger.
Stage 2 – removing more snacks and having a smaller portion for dinner
This was probably my most challenging week as I really struggled not to have two snacks in the morning. However I found replacing a snack with a drink such as a tea or coffee (careful on the added calories in drinks here) helped me to only eat once after breakfast and before lunch. In addition, I knew I always felt full about 2/3rds of the way through my dinner. As a result, I dropped down the portion size so that additional food wasn’t available for me to eat.
Tip! If you recognise you no longer feel hungry when you’re eating, grab your plate and put it in the fridge to save for another time. If you put it close to you it’s likely you will pick at it until it’s all gone.
Stage 3 – keeping snacking to a minimum and controlling portion sizes
In the space of 3 weeks I dropped my calories down to 1600 per day. That’s a whole 10,500 calories less than what I was eating each week, a huge improvement. The biggest problem I identified for me was snacking. Whilst I might have big portions for my main meals, snacks were consuming my daily calories.
From simply dropping down my calorie intake and consistently eating less I lost 5kg in 3 months (nearly a whole stone). There was definitely a temptation to drop my calories more drastically so I could lose weight fast, but I knew from past attempts this resulted in me quitting. Be patient, you are progressing forward.
Tip! Take a photo of yourself from the front, sides and back when you start. Quite often you don’t notice fat disappearing as it doesn’t disappear in obvious areas like your stomach or legs. I felt disheartened initially as I couldn’t see any fat disappearing from around my stomach, but then I noticed how much had disappeared off my back! You cannot control which areas of your body you lose weight from – do not let this dishearten you.
Review how much you eat per day and gradually decrease in small, manageable steps. This will make the transition more manageable. If you need more than 3 weeks to drop down your calories then that’s fine; you have to make a plan that works for you. That’s the reason why half these ‘How to lose weight’ guides don’t work; they’re guiding you on a plan that’s individual to them rather than one you have developed. I hope that by sharing my calorie review, it gives you a framework to build on.
1. Review how many calories you eat per day: this sets a goal for you to beat and helps you understand your eating patterns
2. Review your past struggles: identify your weak points, when you’re most likely to snack and have a plan in place to help with that. To drop my morning snack, I started by substituting it for a glass of milk. Just the act of consuming something gave me a bit of a mental boost and a glass of milk have far less calories in them than a chocolate bar.
3. Track your calories: it’s generally a recipe for disaster keeping an idea in your head of how much you’re eating. Use an app such as MyFitnessPal to record how many calories you are eating each day. You’re eating more than you think you are, tracking them keeps you honest.
4. Reflect each day: acknowledge what works and what doesn’t work. If you are struggling too much at certain times of the day, add a small snack back in. This plan has to work for you; it’s no good following a plan that makes you miserable as it’ll increase your chances of quitting and you’ll likely feel unhappy.
Following a healthy diet plan if you want to lose weight without exercise can be challenging. For a start, healthy eating is expensive. I remember the first time I put together an online order of all healthy food; I felt so proud of myself and motivated to eat well until I noticed the price of all the food.
Additionally, I always had a craving for something sugary after a main meal. It’s a habit I hate but one I struggle to part myself with.
My advice to get in the routine of healthy eating is similar to the advice for reducing your calories; do it in stages. If you try to change your entire diet overnight it’s a generally recipe for failure. There were countless number of food shops I wasted thinking I would be able to cook myself a healthy lunch and dinner every day, as well as resist the sugary temptations or the lure of a good takeout. I wasted a lot of money buying food ultimately I couldn’t be bothered to cook.
Find simple recipes
The easier it is to make, the more likely you are to stick with it. I try to look for recipes that have no more than 4 or 5 ingredients to them as not only is this cheaper, but it’s also more quick and simple to make.
Quite often in recipes we find, especially healthy ones, there are lots of additional ingredients used to spice up the dish. These ingredients can be hard to find and expensive and can make the whole process of healthy eating an unnecessarily difficult challenge. Substitute or remove ingredients you don’t think are necessary; you might not know straight away what is necessary or what can be substituted. This will come with experience; try cooking with all the ingredients and then gradually work out what you need and what you don’t. As is the case throughout this post, find what works for you.
Cook in bulk – Prepare on your days off
Going from buying pre made meals to preparing all your meals can be a bit overwhelming. I like to cook my lunch and dinner, so at the weekend I try to bulk cook for the next few days. Not only does this take the pressure off of cooking during the week, but it means when I get hungry I’m less likely to order something like a takeout as I have a readymade meal I can just chunk in the microwave to warm up.
The same applies to healthy snacks – think about when in the day you’re most likely to be craving a snack and make them easy to access. Likewise any unhealthy snacks such as chocolate bars should be put in difficult to access locations, or better yet not kept in the house. The more resistance you add to something, the less likely you are to do it.
Tip! Struggle with buying take-outs? Remove all your bank details from your takeout app(s). You’ll be surprised how much resistance that could add to what usually is an easy process.
Replace sugary snacks with healthy substitutions
If you’re anything like me and have a real sweet tooth, use online resources or apps to find recipes for healthy weight loss snacks.
A few of my favourites are below:
Centr (7 day free trial – also includes some great half hour daily workouts)
Jamie Oliver (free)
Ross Edgley (free)
Tip! Dark chocolate is one of the few chocolates that has a lot of good benefits for you when had in moderation. As it is quite rich in nature, I find just a few chunks after lunch satisfies my desire for something sweet to snack on.
Exercising To Lose Weight
Onto one of the most difficult changes in your life to make – exercise. Trying to lose weight without exercise definitely is possible, however it goes without saying that the benefit of adding some exercise into your lifestyle will have a lot of benefit for you. But can you be consistent with it and how can you use it to lose weight?
Plan your exercise – do not be too ambitious
Consider your past attempts at losing weight – what were the biggest reasons you ended up giving up? For me, one of my biggest struggles was trying to do too much, too soon. It’s tempting to commit to exercising every day so you can lose weight in X months, but realistically if you are not an active person even exercising once a week might take it out of you at the start.
Plan how much exercise you’d like to do in a week and what kind of exercise you’d like to do. A good way to plan your workouts is to build implementation intentions. An implementation intention is a plan you make with yourself which specifies the time and place you will complete a task, therefore increasing your likelihood of completing that task.
E.g. If/when situation occurs then I will perform this action
- Set a realistic goal for doing exercise in your week – if you are inactive and new to exercise I would recommend beginning with 2-3 days a week
- Decide what exercise you would like to do and for how long
- Plan which day and what time you intend to do that exercise
- I want to exercise 3 times this week. One difficult workout, two easy workouts.
- I will do a body weight workout once this week for half hour and walk twice for half hour to an hour
- If the day is Monday, I will go out for a walk before work at 7am for 30 minutes
If the day is Wednesday, I will complete a home body weight workout at 12pm at lunchtime for 30 minutes
If the day is Saturday, I will go out for a walk at 9am for 60 minutes
You can lay it out in a table like this, for simplicity:
It’s important to plan out your exercise like this and to physically write out your implantation intentions (if x then y) as studies have shown this will increase your likelihood of following through on your intention and help you to actually lose weight.
It’s important to keep these implementation intentions very easy and achievable, especially at the start, as the less resistance you encounter when trying to form a new habit (doing exercise regularly), the easier it’ll be to form that habit.
You may also like: Achieving Your Goals: How to Form a New Habit
Struggling to keep to your plan?
If you find yourself still not being able to keep with your goals, drop either the intensity, duration or number of workouts you’re doing in a week until you can easily keep to your plan. Once you’ve done this, begin to slowly add to your plan. This might seem like the painful way of doing things and it’s tempting to try and rush your weight loss goals. However if exercise is something you struggle with you should take it slow (this will also help prevent injury).
Often many of us struggle with running – it’s very hard to get going. Running can be great way to lose weight but at the start of your journey it’s unlikely you’ll be able to run for any length of time which really burns calories. Walking is a great alternative form of exercise that not only targets fat, but it is also low intensity and very accessible for the majority of us. If you’re new to being active, try a daily step goal challenge. I tried walking 10,000 steps a day for 2 weeks and noticed a visible drop off in fat on my stomach (this was accompanied by not overeating and trying to keep to healthy eating as much as possible – remember you can still have treats!). Create a challenge that works for you.
Summary Of Tips To Lose Weight And Feel Great:
- Reflect on your past attempts – they will show you where you went wrong
- Be patient with yourself – do not rush your weight loss goals. It’s far better to take 3 months to drop a stone than overwork yourself in the first week or two and then give up. Consistency is key; if you are not consistent you won’t lose weight
- Create a plan and set intentions – create a realistic plan you know you will be able to achieve. The more you follow that plan, the more it becomes a routine. Once it’s a routine, you can then begin to add to it as it will become easier to up the intensity.