I’m starting to learn more about women’s struggles with weight loss and I’ve found a question that comes up repeatedly: when will other people notice my weight loss?
Unfortunately, the answers provided by academia and mainsteam media are impossible to understand.
There is one study covering the topic. It surveys both genders and quotes confusing results like this: “perceivers recognized differences as small as 1.33 kg/m2, changes of roughly twice that size were necessary to alter attractiveness.”
I pity anyone trying to understand what that means.
The articles on “authority” media sites are vague and covered with ads & videos that makes reading them unbearable. The Today Show website, for example, holds the top rated position on Google for the phrase “notice my weight loss” and here’s a paraphrasing of what they said on the topic: “a woman of average height would need to lose eight pounds to be noticed.”
Umm. Okay, but what if a woman is not 5’4” exactly?
LiveStrong ranks #2 on Google for this question. They must have something more comprehensive to say, right? Nope. The closest they get to a relevant answer: “A 10-pound loss on someone who has hundreds of pounds to lose will not be as noticeable as it is on a 120-pound person.”
I was surprised that there was not a better answer online, so I’ve created one.
Forums with women talking about online weight loss had the best information since it was real women sharing their real experiences (rather than theoretical studies).
The problem was that this data was scattered all about the web. You had to hunt to find it. So I hunted.
After going through 10 years of archives and reading over 1,000 posts across 5 different forums, I found 98 instances where women had shared their height and weight as well as how many pounds they lost before someone noticed. Statisticians will balk at that base size, but I felt comfortable trying to make some basic conclusions from the data. I consolidated the data for these 98 women into a spreadsheet (like the nerd I am!) and looked for trends.
I found that across 5 different weight brackets, women generally agreed on how many pounds they lost before others started noticing. I took my findings and created the simple chart in the next section.
Are you a woman who’s curious about how many pounds you need to lose before others will notice? Here’s the answer:
|Weight||Lose This Much To Get Noticed|
|< 140||5 – 10 pounds|
|141 – 169||10 – 15 pounds|
|170 – 209||20 – 25 pounds|
|210 – 249||25 – 30 pounds|
|250+||25 – 35 pounds|
Of note, at weights lower than 110 it may take only a few pounds for people to notice but I didn’t have a large enough base size of women under 110 to feel comfortable including it in my chart.
The table above isn’t altogether surprising, but I am pleased to present it in the most clear and comprehensive format on the web. Here are a few more things I learned while researching this question:
1 – Frequency of seeing someone matters. Your hairdresser might notice before your co-workers. The reason? Your hairdresser sees your weight loss all at once so it’s more noticeable, whereas your co-workers experience it incrementally. The frog in hot water analogy applies.
2 – Non-scale victories can help when no one is noticing. Take measurements and progress pics for additional positive reinforcement and validation.
3 – Your husband or mother will be first to notice. Your husband has the advantage of frequently touching your body so that helps. You mom must have your body image imprinted in her brain as some sort of evolutionary thing.
4 – Usually a few people notice early, then several pounds later, there’s a tipping point where a ton of people notice and offer compliments. So keep going!
5 – If you wear ill-fitting clothes that conceal your figure, it’ll take longer for people to notice. Consider having your clothes tailored if you’re dropping sizes.
6 – Comments typically come well after someone actually notices your weight loss. It takes courage and certainty for someone to comment. It’s somewhat similar to how you might not congratulate someone for being pregnant until you are 100% sure.
7 – Mrs. SkinnyPants recently lost 7 pounds, going from 138 pounds to 131 pounds, and we discussed whether or not anyone had noticed. She said “No” the night that I asked and then the very next day one of her co-workers mentioned how much thinner her face looked. She was thrilled.
What do you think about this post? Does my chart jive with your personal experience? How can I improve this information? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Mr. Skinny Pants
You’ve dieted and exercised for months, and finally the pounds are falling away. So, when do people start noticing the difference in your face?
Canadian researchers believe they’ve found out.
“Women and men of average height need to gain or lose about three and a half and four kilograms, or about eight and nine pounds, respectively, for anyone to see it in their face. But they need to lose about twice as much for anyone to find them more attractive,” Nicholas Rule, an associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Social Perception and Cognition at the University of Toronto, said in a university news release.
The face “is a robust indicator of one’s health,” said Rule. “Increased facial adiposity is associated with a compromised immune system, poor cardiovascular function, frequent respiratory infections and mortality. So, even a small decrease can improve one’s health.”
To determine how much weight people need to lose before they appear more attractive to others, the researchers compiled a collection of photos that featured the faces of men and women in their 20s and 30s. The people in the photos didn’t wear any jewelry, their hair was pulled back and they had neutral facial expressions.
Each image was duplicated and altered slightly to create a sequence of photos in which the person appeared to gradually gain weight.
The participants compared randomly drawn pairs of faces from each of the sequences and chose the one that looked heavier. Based on their responses, the researchers gauged the weight loss needed before all those dropped pounds become noticeable in a person’s face.
Rule’s team also found that people needed to lose twice as much weight to be perceived as more attractive by others beyond just “you’ve lost weight.” The average amount of weight loss needed to make the faces in photos more appealing was about 14 pounds for women and 18 pounds for men of average height.
The findings are important because, “when it comes to incentives for weight loss, some people are more motivated to look attractive than to improve their health,” study co-author Daniel Re, a postdoctoral fellow at the university, said in the news release.
“The difference between the groups suggests women’s facial attractiveness may be more sensitive to changes in weight,” she noted. “This just means women attempting to lose weight need to shed slightly fewer pounds than men for people to find them more attractive.”
The findings were published recently in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
- How Long to Notice Weight loss?
- How quick will your working out show off your muscles?
- When do you see improvements in fitness?
- Health improvements
- The 6 Weight-Loss Tips That Science Actually Knows Work
- Weight Loss: What Works for Me
- Brooke’s Story
- Nadia’s Story
- Daniel’s Story
- 1. Eat more vegetables
- 2. Eat less sugar
- 3. Eat more whole foods
- MORE FROM SAMANTHA CASSETTY, RD
- Can’t Lose Weight? Here’s How I Lost 60 lbs Eating Healthy on a Budget
- We’ve Been Sold On Breakfast
- What Does This Have to do With Money?
- What Are The Benefits to This Plan?
- How to Lose Weight and Save Money
- Does This Sound Like A Giant List of Don’ts?
- Ready To Lose Weight?
- The Blues
- Loose Skin
- Lost Love
- Stomach Pain
- Phantom Cravings
- Muscle Loss
- Powerful Hunger
- The Dreaded “Plateau”
- Sudden Urges to Remove Your Shirt
- 1. CONSIDER THE LAST TIME YOU WEIGHED YOURSELF
- 2. YOUR WEIGHT LOSS IS STEADY
- 3. YOU FEEL MORE ENERGETIC
- 4. YOU FEEL STRONGER
- 5. YOUR CLOTHES FIT LOOSER
- 10 Ditch-the-Scale Ways to Tell If You’re Losing Weight
- Start losing weight – Healthy weight
How Long to Notice Weight loss?
According to a 2014 review (1), unless your exercise training is really high, exercise alone won’t cause significant weight loss.
Current exercise recommendations of 2.5 hours per week of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, and strength training major muscle groups 2 days a week are not recommendations for weight loss, they are for general health.
Therefore, if you are trying to lose weight, you will probably need to exercise more than this base line recommendation.
Weight loss can be obtained from following a fad diet, but weight regain usually happens right after stopping the fad diet.
Combining healthy, sustainable eating practices with an appropriate exercise routine can help support chronic weight loss over time. Most health experts suggest weight loss between 1-2 pounds per week.
The first few weeks of changing your diet and fitness routine may encourage more weight loss in the beginning. Sticking with your healthy lifestyle can encourage weight loss long term.
You probably won’t lose a significant amount of weight in a few weeks. It’s important to stick with your goals and not get discouraged. Slow, steady efforts can mean your weight loss will be sustainable.
How quick will your working out show off your muscles?
This can vary greatly. It can depend on how much body fat you have and what type of exercise routine you are doing. A 2004 study (2) had 25 sedentary men split into one of three groups for 6 weeks: cardiovascular exercise, strength exercise or a control group.
Men in the cardiovascular and strength groups exercised an average of 34 minutes 3 times a week. At the end of 6 weeks, both subjects and a test panel did not see significant changes in body composition or percent body fat.
This may not be surprising since the workouts were so little per week. However, this is a realistic outcome for someone trying to improve their appearance for working out 3 times per week for about 30 minutes.
According to this study, it may take more than 6 weeks to notice a change.
If you are working out more than the amount in this study, your chances of seeing a shift in muscle toning and fat loss are increased.
It’s impossible to say an exact time for when you may notice a change in body composition because there is much individual variance.
Give yourself at least 3-6 months to measure changes in body fat or muscle definition after starting a workout routine.
Balancing working out with recovery is key for improving muscle strength and growth.
When do you see improvements in fitness?
Although these bleak projections for seeing muscle toning right away might sound discouraging, there are small changes you can notice within a few weeks after starting to work out. This is the good news!
Your workouts will become easier, you may not get as winded as when you first started, you may be able to go faster or lift more weights, etc. Improvements in fitness may be the first thing you notice for seeing results after working out.
These small, but significant, changes show there are changes going in your body. Your muscles are changing in structure to increase their capacity, and your cardiovascular system is improving.
Even though this may not translate to drastic drop on the scale or a muscle defining 6 pack, these improvements mean positive shifts in health.
A 2014 study (3) examined the effect of increasing exercise (exercise 5 days a week for 40 minutes) and reducing sedentary time had on blood pressure, BMI and insulin improvement after 12 weeks.
Researchers found exercise lowered blood pressure, lowered BMI and decreased insulin area under the curve.
This study suggests changes in health improvements after starting to work out could happen in about 3 months. Other studies have shown that exercise can have a positive effect on lowering blood pressure, increasing HDL and positively impacting blood sugar regulation.
Working out longer than 3 months can provide other benefits.
A 2007 study (4) found after working out for 9 months, a group of previously sedentary adults had significant improvements in lowered cardiovascular disease risk and improved cardiovascular fitness.
The 6 Weight-Loss Tips That Science Actually Knows Work
Some of the weight loss articles out there these days are getting a little nutty. New scientific studies that shed light on how metabolism works are wonderful and valuable in their own right, but when findings get morphed into magical new “tips” for losing weight, something’s amiss. Some recent pieces in prestigious journals, which have sought to dispel the myths of weight loss and of the individual diets themselves, suggest that the medical community is also getting tired of the hype and the unfounded assumptions that permeate the public discussion.
When it comes down to it, the things we know to be true about weight loss are relatively simple, and certainly few. They’re also extremely effective when actually carried out. So, from the researchers who have studied this stuff for decades, here’s pretty much everything we know about weight loss today, whittled down to six points about how the body actually gains, loses, and maintains its weight.
(Photo credit: Wolfgang Wildner)
1. Dieting trumps exercising
We hear a lot that a little exercise is the key to weight loss – that taking the stairs instead of the elevator will make a difference, for instance. But in fact it’s much more efficient to cut calories, says Samuel Klein, MD at Washington University’s School of Medicine. “Decreasing food intake is much more effective than increasing physical activity to achieve weight loss. If you want to achieve a 300 kcal energy deficit you can run in the park for 3 miles or not eat 2 ounces of potato chips.” It’s as simple as that. Some studies have borne out this dichotomy, pitting exercise against diet and finding that participants tend to lose more weight by dieting alone than by exercise alone. Of course, both together would be even better.
The problem is that when you rely on exercise alone, it often backfires, for a couple of reasons. This is partly because of exercise’s effects on the hunger and appetite hormones, which make you feel noticeably hungrier after exercise. “If you walk briskly for an hour and burn 400 kcal,” says Klein, “and then have a beer and a slice of pizza afterwards because the exercise made you feel hungry…you will eat more calories than you have burned.” It may not always be beer and pizza, but people do tend to naturally compensate for the calories they expend.
“This is an adaptive system,” adds David Allison, PhD. “For every action there’s a reaction; that’s a law of physics, not of biology, but it seems that it also works in biological systems. This is why we often overestimate quite radically an effect of a particular treatment.” He points out that public health campaigns that, for example, urge people to take the stairs instead of the elevator or go on a nightly stroll – or, for that matter, even eat fewer calories – are unlikely to work, since they may fail to take into account the body’s compensatory mechanisms that can totally counteract the effect.
The other problem with exercise-without-dieting is that it’s simply tiring, and again, the body will compensate. “If the exercise made you tired so that you become more sedentary the rest of the day, you might not experience any net negative energy,” says Klein. Some of the calories we burn come from our basic movements throughout the day – so if you’re wiped out after exercise, and more likely to sit on the couch afterwards, you’ve lost the energy deficit you gained from your jog.
2. Exercise can help fix a “broken” metabolism, especially during maintenance
“People used to come into the doctor’s office and say, ‘My metabolism is broken!’” says James Hill, PhD, at the University of Colorado. “We never had any evidence that it actually was, until recently. We were wrong – it was!” While exercise may not be as important for weigh loss as calorie restriction, as Hill says, it’s important in another way: It begins to repair a broken metabolism.
“A lot of what we know in this area comes from NASA, of the bed-rest studies,” he says. “Within a couple of days of non-activity, the metabolism becomes inflexible. You start moving again, and it does start to change.” Your metabolism may not ever go back to “normal” (more on this below), but the evidence indicates that it can indeed pick up again, in large part through moving your body every day.
This is a large part of why exercise is critical in the maintenance phase, which is well known to be more difficult than the weight loss phase. Essentially, it buys us some wiggle room, says Michael Jensen, MD at the Mayo Clinic. “Exercise is very, very important for maintaining lost weight, and people who are not physically active are more likely to gain weight. We think it’s partly because in the extra calories burned from physical activity, you have a bit more flexibility in food intake, so you’re not so much relying on ridged changes in eating habits; it makes it more tolerable.”
3. You’re going to have to work harder than other people – possibly forever
Though exercise can help correct a metabolism that’s been out of whack for a long time, the grisly reality is that it may not ever go back to what it was before you gained weight. So if you’ve been overweight or obese and you lose weight, maintaining that loss means you’re probably going to have to work harder than other people, maybe for good. “The sad thing,” says Hill, “is that once you’ve been obese or not moving for some time, it takes a little more exercise to maintain. It doesn’t come back to normal.” It’s not a pretty reality to face, but coming to grips with it is important, he says, so that you won’t get frustrated when you discover that you have to do more work over the long term than your friend who was never overweight.
Building muscle can help your body burn a few more calories throughout the day, but it’s also likely that you’ll have to work harder aerobically in the long run. “It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is,” adds Hill. “Once you understand it, though, you know it and it’s better. Because you can work with it.”
4. There’s no magical combination of foods
We often think that if we can just discover the “right” combination of foods, we’ll magically lose weight or maintain what we’ve lost. There are low-fat diets, low-carb diets, low glycemic diets, Paleo diets, and a lot of iterations of all of these. Jensen points out that in fact there doesn’t seem to be any “right” diet, and there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that one particular diet will work better with an individual’s specific metabolism. “The big myth out there,” he says, “is that there’s a magical combination of foods – be it protein, vegetarian, and what have you – that’s going to be unique because of its unique interaction with your metabolism. We know pretty much that any diet will help you lose weight if you follow it. There’s no magic diet. The truth is that ALL Diets will work if you follow them.”
5. A calorie IS a calorie!
And for energy balance, it’s the number of calories that matters. Weight loss on the Twinkie Diet proves this principle: Last year, Mark Haub at Kansas State University lost 27 pounds eating junk food. And this is pretty good proof of concept, says Yale University’s David Katz, MD, who has written extensively on the futility of the “is a calorie a calorie?” debate.
It’s certainly true – at least in theory and sometimes in practice – that all calories are created equal. “From the standpoint of body weight,” adds Marion Nestle, PhD, of NYU, “a calorie is a calorie no matter what it comes from. You can gain weight eating too much healthy food as well as unhealthy. From the standpoint of health, it’s better to eat your veggies…. It’s just a lot easier to overeat calories from junk food than healthy food. But it can be done.”
But the source of calories obviously matters for other reasons. One, says Katz, is that “the quality of calories is a major determinant of the quantity we ingest under real world conditions.” First of all, no one overeats veggies, so on a practical level, that’s a non-issue. “But where the calories come from does matter in that they influence satiety,” he adds, and this is partly psychology and partly biology. In fact, the food industry has carved out a whole new area of food science to study the “bliss point,” in which foods are created to increase the amount it takes to feel satiated and full. On one hand, says Katz, “we have the ‘bliss point’ science to tell us that the food industry can process foods to increase the calories it takes to reach satisfaction. We have the reciprocal body of work, including the Harvard study of the ONQI, showing that ‘more nutritious’ means, among other things, the opportunity to fill up on fewer calories.”
It’s true that types of foods you eat may, over time, affect your metabolic profile, so they may also matter in this way, but when it boils down, sticking to any reduced-calorie diet will create the energy deficit needed to lose weight. So the point is not to question what a calorie is, but rather to understand that we need to “trade up” our foods, says Katz – exchange the very dense, calorie-packed foods for foods that are less calorie-dense and more nutritionally dense: these are the ones that are bulkier, less energetically rich, have more or higher quality protein, are lower on the glycemic index, and more fibrous.
6. It’s all about the brain
As my colleagues have reported (here and here), when it comes down to it, it’s not the body or the metabolism that are actually creating overweight or obesity – it’s the brain. We all know intuitively that poor decisions are what make you gain weight and better ones are what make you lose it. The problem is that over time, the poor decisions lead to significant changes in how the brain governs – and, amazingly, responds to – the hunger and satiation processes. Years of any kind of behavior pattern lay down neural tracks, and overeating is no exception.
The good news is that there’s increasing evidence that the brain can, in large part, “fix” itself once new behavior patterns emerge (i.e., calorie restriction, healthy food choices, and exercise). While there may be some degree of “damage” to the brain, particularly in how hunger and satiety hormones function, it can correct itself to a large degree over time. The key is that the process does take time, and like any other behavior change, is ultimately a practice. “We want to change behavior here,” says Hill. “Anyone that tells you it’s going to happen in 12 weeks, that’s bogus. We’re trying to rewire the brain. Neurobiology has told us so much about what’s going on in weight gain and weight loss. It takes a long time to develop new habits, rituals, routines. This takes months and years. But it will happen.”
* * *
So boiling it down even further: reduce calories, eat better, exercise, and most of all, remember it is a practice that has to be repeated over time – months or years. The fact that you’ll have to work harder at maintenance than your never-overweight best friend is depressing, but it’s worth coming to terms with. And, most important to remember, your brain (the organ behind all this, after all) is plastic, and it will respond to the changes you make – better than you think. And so will your body.
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Weight Loss: What Works for Me
Real people share how they took control and lost weight their way.
If you’re like many people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, weight loss is part of your treatment plan. It sounds so simple: eat less and move more. But if weight loss were that easy, millions of people wouldn’t be struggling right now to do it. And you’ve probably noticed that even people who take the weight off have a hard time keeping it off.
More and more studies show that people respond differently to diets. For example, some lose weight on low carb; some gain weight. The same goes for other plans.
So how do you find your secret sauce for weight loss? Make sure to focus on healthy, nutritious food, and then experiment with eating, activity, and setting goals until you find a method that works for you. Here are a few success stories to get you started.
“Life is an adventure, and I want to be ready for it.”
Brooke is very active but has always struggled with her weight, and each time she tried to lose the extra pounds it got harder. But this time something clicked.
It was all about timing: her youngest child had left for college, so she had more time to focus on her own goals. And she had just hit an important milestone: turning 50. “I figured at this point in life, getting in shape is only going to get harder,” she said.
Having a clear goal helped: she didn’t want to miss out on a long bike ride or hike because she wasn’t fit enough. To jump-start her weight loss, she cut out all sugar and most carbs. She lost 15 pounds quickly, but the diet wasn’t sustainable. She then went on a commercial diet plan that provided portioned meals and snacks. “I liked all my meals being measured for me,” she said. “It gave me permission to relax about food.”
To support her weight loss and get fitter, Brooke stepped up her activity by going to the gym, riding regularly with a biking group, hiking, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work.
One of Brooke’s biggest challenges was visiting her parents’ house. “Food is everywhere all the time, on countertops, in cabinets, in the freezer—even the second refrigerator is full.” But Brooke knew her triggers. “I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person. As long as I didn’t touch any of it, I was OK.” For meals together, she brought her own prepared food.
Two years later, Brooke has reached her 50-pound weight loss goal and knows she can keep up her healthy habits for life. It doesn’t hurt that people who haven’t seen her for a while say, “You look great!”
What’s ahead for Brooke? A whole bucket list of places to go and mountains to climb. She’s fit for adventure!
“My doctor said something I never want to hear again.”
Nadia has been on many different diets and has lost weight, but she always gained it back. “I have a shelf full of weight loss books,” she said. “They make really good paperweights.” She was concerned about her health – she had sleep apnea, and type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke run in her family – but she had given up trying to shed the pounds. Then came a wake-up call during a checkup with her doctor.
“He started a sentence with ‘At your size . . . ,’ and it really hit home that I needed to do something about my weight,” Nadia remembers. “It wasn’t a good moment, but looking back I’m grateful.”
This time, instead of trying a specific diet, Nadia focused on healthy eating and activity that fit into her life. She ate real food, like grilled chicken and veggies, in smaller portions and began to walk every day. She applied what she had learned over the years about dieting to her own needs, and the weight started coming off. “None of this is new, but it’s working for me now,” she said. Some of Nadia’s tried-and-true tips:
- Walk longer if you’re going to a party to make up for anything unhealthy you may eat.
- Stay away from dinner salads when you’re eating out; the calories are surprisingly high.
- Check the restaurant menu and plan your meal ahead of time.
- Take half of your meal home.
- Eat slowly. It takes 20 minutes or more for your brain to know you’ve had enough.
- Drink water if you think you’re hungry. You may just be thirsty.
- Eat some protein at every meal and try to include fruits and veggies.
- Write down everything you eat and drink. It keeps you accountable to yourself!
Physical activity makes Nadia feel great; she actually looks forward to it, getting up extra early to walk before work. “There’s always time to watch TV. You have to carve out time to be active,” she said.
Nadia still has a few pounds to lose, but the weight she has lost so far has stayed off for 2 years. The closer she gets to her goal, the slower the numbers on the scale go down, but that’s OK. Her cholesterol and blood sugar levels have improved, and her sleep apnea? Gone. And there’s the added benefit that now she can wear anything she wants.
This tip from Nadia may be the most helpful of all: “If you regain weight, just start over. There’s nothing you can’t undo.”
“Let’s get in shape together.”
Between working and raising a family, Daniel couldn’t find the time to exercise and fix healthy meals. By his mid-40s, he had gained 40 pounds, and with the weight came high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and loss of energy. He knew being overweight raised his risk for other health problems, like type 2 diabetes. He decided to take action.
Daniel’s first move was taking the stairs at work to get more fit, and he was surprised how quickly his blood pressure came down. But after seeing a photo of himself on Facebook, he decided he needed to lose the weight, too. He downloaded an app on his phone and started tracking food and calories, and he quickly discovered he was eating more calories at a single meal than he should in an entire day.
Daniel started a Facebook group, “Let’s get in shape together,” and invited friends who were having similar weight and exercise challenges, as well as those who were successful. He then made a list of obstacles and how he planned to face them. One trigger was fried food, so Daniel had to find a way to quiet the inner voice that whispered “fried chicken.” He posted a contract on the group page, committing to change.
He began an eating plan based on lean protein, beans and other legumes, and veggies. He could eat unlimited quantities of some veggies, including broccoli, asparagus, and cauliflower. The plan also called for zero-calorie drinks only, water preferred, and a cheat day each week when Daniel could eat anything he wanted. It was easy for him to fit the plan into his life, and most importantly it worked.
After he began losing weight, Daniel started getting even more active, working out at the gym and running. The exercise made him feel terrific. All along, he continued to post his progress on the Facebook group page. For him, making it public made the difference.
“The tools are out there,” he said. “We just need to find what works for us. For me, it was dealing with one challenge at a time. Change isn’t easy, but when you can count on family and friends for support, online and off, it can be done.”
Call it what you will: An eating plan, a lifestyle, a diet, a philosophy, but few things garner such heated debate as how to lose weight. The truth is, whether you’re on a low-carb keto program, devoted to the Paleo lifestyle, all in on the Whole 30, or remain committed to low-fat eating, these plans have more in common than you think. What’s more, follow any one of them religiously, and you’ll likely notice results.
In one recent study, Stanford University researchers put more than 600 overweight adults on either a healthy low-fat or low-carb diet. It turns out, participants had similar levels of weight loss success on each plan. Researchers looked for clues (such as insulin levels and gene patterns) to see if there are any factors that might make someone more successful on either diet, but after combing through the data, they were not able to make any connections.
What they did note is that eaters on both plans followed some really simple advice. This advice is the common thread among all healthful weight loss and dietary approaches. So if you’re looking for the best way to lose weight, focus on these three commandments of healthy eating.
1. Eat more vegetables
Considering that 9 in 10 Americans fail to meet their produce requirements, it’s pretty safe to say you need to eat more vegetables. And no matter what food philosophy you subscribe to, vegetables are a big part of the program. Vegetables have a lot going for them: They fill you up for very few calories, and they flood your body with the nutrients it needs to fight diseases, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
If you follow food trends, you might think you have to fall in love with cauliflower and kale to reap all the rewards that vegetables offer, but that isn’t the case. Be it broccoli, carrots, red peppers, cabbage, spinach, asparagus, brussels sprouts or any other vegetable, the idea is to eat a variety of them and find plenty of ways to enjoy their goodness. So if you just can’t stomach steamed Brussels sprouts, try them roasted, or give sautéed brussels sprouts a try. If raw zucchini isn’t your thing, see if you like it spiralized into noodles or grilled on a grill pan.
Using a layered approach is another great way to build a good veggie habit. For example, start with a food you already enjoy — say, pasta — and layer some vegetables into your bowl. This can help you explore a new food with one you already love eating, and from there, you can try new ways to savor it. Take spinach, for instance. After trying it with pasta, you may want to fold it into an omelet or another favorite food, or explore it on its own with different cooking techniques (sautéed or steamed) or different flavor additions (garlic or golden raisins). The possibilities are limitless!
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I’ve converted countless veggie haters into veggie eaters, and upping your vegetable game can have tremendous payoffs in how you look and feel.
2. Eat less sugar
You can blame biology for your sweet tooth. We’re hardwired to have a preference for sweets, and this drive is universal and begins early on, according to research on the subject. Sugar makes food taste good, so food companies add it to everything from breads to soups to salad dressings to cereals, yogurts, and more. This adds up to way too much sugar!
On average, Americans consume more than 19 teaspoons of sugar per day — far in excess of the American Heart Association’s 6 teaspoon limit for women and 9 teaspoon limit for men. This is not doing your waistline any favors, which is why every weight-loss plan advocates eating less sugar.
There has been some confusion that a low-fat diet means you can feast on low-fat cookies and other treats, but this, again, is the food manufacturers’ influence. The true intent of low-fat dining is to eat more healthful foods that are naturally low in fat: fruits, vegetables, beans, lean proteins, and whole grains.
There is plenty of research to support a low-fat lifestyle, just as there is strong evidence that you can lose weight by cutting carbs. Different approaches work for different people, but if you want to slim down, cutting back on added sugars is consistent advice across all programs.
One more note on added sugars: Whether you call it agave, cane juice, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, fruit juice concentrate, date sugar, or any of the 61 names for added sugar, they all spell trouble for your health and your waistline.
3. Eat more whole foods
I’m in favor of any program that promotes whole foods over hyper-processed fare, and this is one thing the popular diet plans can agree on. Overly processed foods have been linked to weight gain, perhaps because many unhealthy packaged foods (think: potato chips, ice cream, frozen pizza, cookies, and the like) lack the fiber found in many whole foods, including vegetables. Fiber helps fill us up, and research suggests that by simply adding more fiber to your menu, you can lose weight nearly as well as a more complicated approach. Consistently choosing whole foods is one way to do this.
Newer research suggests it’s easier to overeat processed foods. Think of how long it takes to eat a fast-food sandwich compared to a plate of fish, salad, broccoli and brown rice. When researchers conducted a similar experiment, matching meals for calories, carbs, protein, fat and sugar, and allowing people to eat as much (or as little) as they liked, they found that people ate about 500 calories more per day when eating heavily processed foods — and they gained an average of two pounds during the short study period. They ate more, ate faster, and experienced some changes in their appetite-regulating hormones that can make it harder to feel full. But those same folks lost about two pounds when given the whole foods diet, suggesting that prioritizing whole foods can help you regulate your appetite and weight.
Whole foods include fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, eggs, seafood, chicken and so on. Food philosophies may differ around which of these foods to emphasize, but that’s okay, since the evidence shows that there isn’t a single best way to lose weight. The goal is to select an approach that feels sustainable to you. If you’d like to live without pasta, perhaps a low-carb method centered around vegetables and quality proteins, like seafood, chicken and lean beef would be a good fit. Vegans and vegetarians can lose weight by choosing fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant proteins. Nut lovers may do well shedding pounds with a Mediterranean-style menu. Whatever diet appeals to your appetite and way of life, focusing on whole foods is something that all plans promote.
CORRECTION (Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, 10:25 a.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated how many Americans fail to meet their produce requirements. It’s 9 out of 10, not 1 out of 10.
MORE FROM SAMANTHA CASSETTY, RD
- Bad nutrition advice dietitians want you to forget
- What you need to know about going vegan
- What is healthier: natural sugar, table sugar or artificial sweeteners?
- The MIND diet: 11 foods to eat to keep your brain healthy
Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling
For most people trying to lose weight, it’s a struggle. It takes more than good intentions and a lot of will power. One reason is that in order to lose weight, we are, in a way, fighting our own biology.
As we lose weight, the body adapts to resist it by lowering the resting metabolic rate — that’s the amount of energy spent while at rest, when the “engine” of the body is idling. Lowering the resting metabolic rate is a good thing if food is scarce and weight loss is occurring due to starvation. In that situation, it’s good that the body slows down to conserve energy and limit further weight loss.
But this evolutionary adaptation works against you if you are overweight or obese, and excess weight is a bigger threat to your health than starvation.
The experience of The Biggest Loser
Researchers have studied weight loss for decades to determine how the body responds to it. Among them are studies that enrolled participants in the television series The Biggest Loser. If you aren’t familiar with it, The Biggest Loser is a reality television series in which obese individuals compete to lose the most weight through an intensive program of exercise and dietary changes. A prior study found that after losing lots of weight, participants in The Biggest Loser had markedly reduced metabolic rates. But it was unclear how long those changes would last or whether they predicted regain of weight once the competition ended.
A new study of The Biggest Loser
A recent study looked at how participants in The Biggest Loser fared six years after their 30-week competition. Researchers publishing in the medical journal Obesity found that:
- At the end of the competition, average weight loss was nearly 128 pounds. Since the average starting weight was about 327 pounds, that’s a drop of nearly 40% of body weight.
- On average, participants experienced a 23% drop in their resting metabolic rate.
- Six years later, competitors regained an average of 90 pounds, but the significant slowing in metabolic rate persisted.
- There was not a direct correlation between the amount of metabolic slowing and the amount of weight lost during the show. However, after six years those who kept the most weight off had the most slowing.
These findings confirm that weight loss may lead to significant changes in metabolism that, in turn, resist further weight loss. In addition, keeping weight off may be especially difficult because those changes persist over time. The metabolic slowing that accompanies weight loss varies, however, so it may create less resistance to weight loss for some than others.
The findings of this research may seem discouraging if you’re trying to lose weight.
On the other hand, maybe it should provide a measure of relief to know that the reason losing weight seems like an uphill battle is that it is! It’s not just that you aren’t trying hard enough —your efforts to lose weight are being actively undermined by biological adaptations of your body that developed centuries ago during evolution and are now hardwired into your DNA.
You might wonder: is there a diet, an exercise program, or a medication that can “reset” your metabolic rate or avoid its slowing during weight loss? In fact, you may have seen books or advertisements for certain diets or supplements claiming to do just this. Unfortunately, most have little convincing long-term evidence to back them up, or the changes are too small to matter much.
Knowing about the adaptations your body makes during weight loss and how that can frustrate your efforts to lose weight may make the effort seem futile. But it’s not. Determination, perseverance, and a sustainable plan are good first steps. It also helps to know what you’re up against. Contestants on The Biggest Loser know that well.
Can’t Lose Weight? Here’s How I Lost 60 lbs Eating Healthy on a Budget
Table of Contents Can’t Lose Weight? Here’s How I Lost 60 lbs Eating Healthy on a Budget
- We’ve Been Sold On Breakfast
- What Does This Have to do With Money?
- What Are The Benefits to This Plan?
- Does This Sound Like A Giant List of Don’ts?
- Ready To Lose Weight?
As I write this post, I am currently 60 pounds lighter than I was a year ago. And before that, I was…I don’t even want to say it. If you just can’t lose weight, I’m here to tell you that you can.
I get asked all the time, “how did you do it?” And my answer is a simple canned response of, “I stopped eating.” That’s a joke of course, I didn’t stop eating altogether, but I did stop eating 3 meals a day — like we’ve been told to do for a healthy lifestyle.
Truth is, we’ve been told that by marketers. And now it’s time for a little rant about how we eat as a nation.
We’ve Been Sold On Breakfast
I’ll admit that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, but not because of the time it’s normally eaten (morning), but because I like eggs.
Before the 20th century, breakfast was mainly for the rich. They would host hunting parties that sometimes lasted several days, and served up to 24 dishes.
The invention of the corn flake by John Harvey Kellogg, sliced bread, and the toaster, all started in the early 20th century, and marketers needed to sell these products.
That said, I eat breakfast foods, but not until I’m hungry. Sometimes I’ll wake up hungry right away. Other times, I won’t eat until noon. And when I eat, I skip the processed foods like…well…cereal and toast. In fact, I skip foods with gluten altogether, even though I don’t have a gluten intolerance.
As I’ve learned, bread is not a whole food. It has to go through a process before we humans can digest it. You can’t take wheat out of the ground and eat it, so it makes sense that our bodies aren’t adapt to eating this type of food.
Instead, I eat cooked spinach, eggs, and sometimes I’ll treat myself with fresh sausage or organic bacon.
This is my first meal of only two.
What Does This Have to do With Money?
I’m glad I asked. Because I only eat two meals a day consisting of only whole foods, I drastically reduced my grocery bill.
Now before you criticize, let me share with you exactly what I buy and what I eat everyday. I’ll warn you that this probably won’t work for everyone, but I suggest that if you’re trying to lose weight and save money, you need to serious adjust your mindset.
I spent roughly $70 a week in groceries and I eat breakfast/lunch and dinner every single day. My shopping list includes:
Now, you might be thinking that’s quite a lot of money for a single man to eat only two meals a day, but I choose to shop at Whole Foods and actually pay for REAL food. Sure, if I ate a box of cereal every morning, I would save more, but then I wouldn’t lose weight and feel better.
On the other hand, if I had to buy enough fresh food for a week that included three meals a day, of course, the cost would be a lot higher.
You’ll notice there are no drinks in that list. That’s because I only drink water (and coffee sometimes — but I don’t buy it every week).
With this list, I eat an incredibly healthy breakfast/lunch — that keeps me full for at least six hours — and a salad with grilled chicken for dinner. I don’t snack because I don’t keep snacks in the house.
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What Are The Benefits to This Plan?
Since I started on this very strict, yet satisfying, meal plan, I consistently lose about 10 pounds a month. And truthfully, I still enjoy a day or two where I’ll eat sushi or pizza or pasta, and I love my beer so I can’t go too long without indulging in the nectar of the gods once in a while. But this plan that I loosely follow has allowed me to drop a significant amount of weight.
With weight loss comes a shit ton of benefits.
For one, my clothes fit better. I no longer have to spend extra money shopping for bigger clothes. You could argue that bigger clothes means more fabric, means more loads of laundry, means more laundry loads…and it all adds up.
I generally feel better. I don’t have to eat as much and I have way more energy everyday. My work has even gotten better because I’m not taking a bunch of breaks to eat. For me, more work = more money.
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How to Lose Weight and Save Money
You can eat healthy on a budget. If you can’t lose weight, these are the actions I recommend:
1. Avoid gluten and sugar
I swear, if you cut those things out of your daily diet, you will notice an immediate change in weight and energy. Our bodies don’t handle sugar well.
As a beer home brewer, I know that taking barley or wheat and letting it sit in hot water for an hour converts the starches into sugar. Beer is sugar water with alcohol. So I always imagine my body as a mash tun (the vessel used to heat up grains to convert them to wort, which is beer before it has alcohol).
It’s a shame, but gluten and sugar products are cheap. They’re cheap because it’s easy to make, readily available, and everybody wants it.
2. Buy Only Whole Foods
I’m not saying you have to shop at Whole Foods, but you should buy foods that generally don’t come in a box. Whole foods include: vegetables, meats, fruits, nuts, seeds and eggs.
If you’re worried about price, and you should be, remember that whole foods can be cheap depending on what you buy and where. For instance, it’s hard to get avocados in the winter, so I would advise you follow the seasons if you can. Frozen vegetables are a great alternative to buying fresh. You can also shop at local farmer’s markets to get awesome deals.
I easily spend $30 for chicken breast at Whole Foods, but if I shopped at my local farmer’s market, I could get the same amount for $20, and it doesn’t come in a package like Perdue or Tyson — which I could go on a tangent about, but I’ll spare you for now.
3. Avoid Dairy
I’ll admit this is going to be hard for a lot of people, including myself. I love coffee with cream and sugar, and to be honest, I drink at least 2-3 cups per day. And I know I said to avoid sugar and dairy. However, I love it and it’s not that much, so I determined it was okay for me to drink coffee daily.
I experimented with this. I stuck to my diet, but added my cream and sugar coffee. After a week, I noticed I was still losing weight, so I keep it in. If I had determined that it was affecting my progress, I would have probably stopped drinking it, or limited myself to how much I could drink in a week.
4. Don’t Exercise
This is a joke, but I’ll admit that since I started this, I haven’t exercised once. Meaning, I didn’t do any scheduled workouts — all my exercise has been either walking or other spontaneous moments throughout my day.
For those exercise haters, this is awesome — and yes, I’m an exercise hater.
5. Avoid Alcohol
This is one of those guidelines that I have a hard time following — as I mentioned, I love beer. I enjoy drinking to both relax and socialize, and I don’t want to become a guy that doesn’t drink (I don’t trust those people).
However, I noticed with myself that drinking puts a serious monkey wrench in my weight loss progress, and since losing weight is vastly more important than wasting a day nursing a hangover, I just avoid drinking as much as I can.
Does This Sound Like A Giant List of Don’ts?
I’ll admit that you might be thinking this all seems like a way to make your life more miserable. It doesn’t have to be, but as I mentioned before, it’s going to take some mental shifts on your end. With that, here are some things I encourage you should do:
1. Eat More Vegetables
Vegetables are the best thing you can put into your body, and they grow right out of the ground! If you are serious about losing weight, you need to learn how to love your vegetables. This might take some experimentation.
I found that I love spinach with roasted garlic, and I don’t mind eating it every single day. Both spinach and garlic are great for you, and spinach has so much fiber that it will keep you filled for much longer than a bowl of cereal will. This is why I decided to eat it as my first meal.
I also experimented with homemade salsa that I used to fill omelets, but I quickly realized how much of a pain it was to make, so I decided to make my life easier with spinach.
If you want to seriously save money, grow your own veggies.
2. Drink Water
This one is easy for me because I love water. However, my mom hates drinking water, so she has to add flavoring to her water, and it’s usually Crystal Light (the devil’s cocaine). If you have to add flavor, try fresh lemons or cucumbers.
I drink at least 64 oz a day. I use a Camelbak water bottle and I fill it up with either tap water or filtered water from my refrigerator. Sure, I pee a lot, but that’s not a bad thing.
3. Eat Meat For Protein
This is a tough spot for me since I consider myself a liberal. On one hand, the way they mass produce meat makes me sick to my stomach. I’ve watched every food documentary on Netflix. On the other hand, it’s fucking delicious.
I know this is not for everyone, but in order to keep my conscience clean, I decided that I’d rather pay more for meat that I feel has gone through the proper channels of manufacturing. I buy grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, and organic pork. And I know some of you will disagree, but the meat is a billion times better when it’s not sold in a styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic. Butcher-style brown paper fresh, man!
Ready To Lose Weight?
Everyone’s body is different, so you’re gonna have to play around to see what works best for you.
I didn’t start with this meal plan, it formed after trying a bunch of different foods and figuring out which ones I enjoyed and that I could stick to eating everyday.
To mix things up, I’ll add variants to those meals. One week I might do seared tuna on my salad (a little more money), or do a spinach omelet instead of just scrambled eggs with spinach on the site. I even switch up my first meal with bacon, sausage, or no meat, just to keep things interesting and new.
The bottom line is, by following the guidelines I set for myself, I was able to lose over 60 pounds and spent way less money in those six months as opposed to the six months before that on food. No more of this “I can’t lose weight” crap. It’s time to take action.
I hope this article has either inspired you to take action, or become angry at me for being such an advocate to a gluten-free, “hippie-dippy” lifestyle. Either way, I want to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Hey, I’m Matt (Gio), a swimming pool and coffee blogger. I used to be terrible with money until Andrew helped me out. Now, I’m a financial big whig… sort of.
I live South Jersey (actually, I just refer to it as Philadelphia). Follow me on Twitter and we can chat about pools, beer or internet marketing.
There are countless benefits to dropping pounds if you’re overweight or obese. You’ll have more energy. You’ll look and feel better in clothes. You’ll slash your risk of developing diabetes, depression, sleep apnea, impotence, back pain, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer.
But every so often, losing a large amount of weight comes with some strange side effects, too, says Tricia Leahey, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School.
While the pros of slimming down outweigh the cons, the following potential consequences may stall your progress or—even worse—discourage you from reaching your end goal.
Read on to prepare yourself so you can stay on track.
You should feel elated with each lost pound, so why do you feel so unhappy? Dropping weight may actually increase your risk for depression, according to a study from University College London.
Researchers observed nearly 2,000 overweight adults for four years. Subjects who lost at least 5 percent of their body weight were 78 percent more likely to report depression than those who didn’t move the needle on the scale.
“Often we have really high hopes for weight loss,” says Alexis Conason, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist based in New York. “When we lose weight but find ourselves still struggling with the same problems, we may feel frustrated or discouraged.”
Your move: Get plenty of sleep and eat healthy foods when you’re hungry to reduce your risk for depression, Conason says. Being well nourished and rested will help give you the resilience to cope with challenges.
If you become totally preoccupied with weight loss—such as abandoning plans with friends to go to the gym or obsessively counting calories at every meal—see a psychologist for help.
Ditto if you experience signs of depression: Feeling pervasively sad, isolating yourself from others, and losing interest in things you usually enjoy, Conason says.
Sadly, melting flab doesn’t automatically come with tight, taught abs. If you lose a lot of weight, you may wind up with sagging folds of excess skin.
“Skin stretches over time to accommodate extra body mass,” says Adonis Maiquez, M.D., director of wellness and regenerative medicine at the Miami Institute for Age Management and Intervention.
When the fat is gone, your skin may not have enough elasticity to shrink back down to your current body shape, Dr. Maiquez says.
The amount of loose skin you wind up with depends on how old you are, how quickly you dropped weight, and how often you’ve lost and gained weight in the past, he says.
Your move: In cases of extreme weight loss, plastic surgery may be the only way to get rid of your extra skin, says Holly Wyatt, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Colorado.
But if you have just a little sagging, build muscle to make your skin look more taut, Dr. Wyatt suggests.
Teaming up with your partner to lose weight can increase your chances of success. But if they’re not on board, your relationship may suffer, according to a recent study from North Carolina State University.
Researchers surveyed couples in which one partner had lost weight. The one-sided lifestyle change often led to arguments and hard feelings between partners, says study author Lynsey Kluever Romo, Ph.D. Be aware that weight loss may leave your spouse feeling neglected, guilty, or jealous.
Your move: Explain why losing weight is important to you. If she understands your motives, she’ll be more likely to support you, Conason says. Don’t ask her to adhere to your gym plan, though. Your insistence may be misconstrued for nagging.
Some people who lose weight fast develop gallstones—hard lumps that form in your gallbladder, Dr. Wyatt says.
If you cut down on fat in your diet, your gallbladder doesn’t contract as frequently, allowing bile to become concentrated in the organ, which leads to the formation of stones, she explains.
Your move: Include fat in your daily diet to keep your gallbladder functioning properly, Dr. Wyatt says. Fat is often viewed as a dietary demon, but studies show that the nutrient doesn’t inflate your belly—too many calories do.
Fat may also make your meals more enjoyable, as long you keep portions in check. See your doctor if you’re experiencing gallstone symptoms like intense stomach pain, nausea, and fever.
Maybe it’s a pint of Cherry Garcia. Maybe it’s a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos. Whatever your craving is for, it’s probably not going to be for kale.
Look, it’s fine to give in to temptation—in fact most dietitians will tell you that it’s a healthful way to manage a good diet long-term.
But the best solution for avoiding cravings is to focus on foods that keep you feeling full longer. That means “focusing on high fiber, moderate protein and healthy fats,” says Shelby Cox, a registered dietitian nutritionist and director of the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center at Colorado State University.
Your move: Fill up on at least 30 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber at each meal. These amounts will help you increase satiety, also known as your fullness between meals.
When you lose weight by changing what you eat, “two thirds of the weight you lose is fat, and about one third is muscle,” says William Samuel Yancy, M.D., director of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center and associate professor of medicine at Duke University.
Not only can that leave your skin a little loose, but loss of calorie-burning muscle doesn’t help you keep going in your weight loss efforts as quickly.
Your move: “If you maintain a good protein intake and do strength exercises as you lose weight, you can shift that ratio a bit so there’s less muscle loss,” Dr. Yancy says. If you’ve been doing cardio exclusively, make an effort to increase the amount of strength training you do. You can get muscle gains even with body-weight exercises, like this set for abs (no weights required), or get started in the gym with this total-body workout.
What’s “a good protein intake”? You don’t have to go crazy on it, just aim for about 30 grams at every meal. Most people load up on protein at dinner and have very little for breakfast. Try spreading it out a bit by serving up something like eggs for breakfast (21 grams of protein for three), or maybe even leftovers from last night’s dinner? Just be aware that yogurt isn’t a protein motherlode: it only has about 9 grams per cup, but that’s still better than what you’d get in toast (usually barely 3 grams). Protein can also be an extra weapon in helping you continue to lose weight. Find out exactly how protein can help you with weight and muscle.
Sure, part of your ferocious appetite may be due to the fact that you’re simply eating fewer calories, but it might also be because your metabolism hasn’t yet adjusted to your new diet. Or, maybe your calorie intake hasn’t adjusted to your new workout regimen. Whatever the case, know that this is normal.
Your move: Hit the gym (or hiking trail, or walking path, or swimming pool, or…). Sticking to a workout routine can help strengthen a region of your brain called the “dorsolateral prefrontal cortex,” which helps consider long-term consequences to short-term decisions. So, the more you engage in physical exercise, the more you may reinforce your mental fortitude too.
The Dreaded “Plateau”
Maybe you’ve lost 10 pounds and it was easy. And then you lost another 10 pounds at that, too, was easier then you thought. But then you stall and those next 10 pounds are more stubborn than the cauliflower rice that sticks to the bottom of the pot.
People call this fat-loss flatline the “plateau,” but it’s also common and not as difficult to overcome as you might think. And, actually, it may be your body’s way of signaling to you that it’s time to mix things up.
Your move: Change up your gym routine. It can be easy to fall into an “Exercise A, Exercise B, Exercise C” regimen—especially if it’s worked for you in the early stages of your weight loss. Don’t abandon those exercises altogether. Instead add a few new moves during the tail end of your usual workout to throw your body a changeup.
Okay, you’ve dropped a few pants sizes, but is this all worth it if you’re snapping at your partner, children, and beloved family pet? No, your soul isn’t growing meaner as you grow meaner.
Blame a lack of carbohydrates. Most diets have you remove simple (or processed) carbs in order to help you cut calories. But cutting too many carbs can deplete your brain of the vital energy stores it needs to function and generally be a nice human being.
Your move: Work carbs gradually back into your diet. And focus on more “complex” (or unprocessed) carbs, such as fruits and vegetables. These foods contain fiber, which will help fill you up, along with antioxidants and plenty of other beneficial nutrients.
Sudden Urges to Remove Your Shirt
You look good. You’re proud of it. You want to flaunt it.
Your move: Unless you’re at a restaurant, a grocery store, driving, at work, or in any other situation where it would be socially inappropriate to go topless, go for it. You’ve earned it.
“Weight loss doesn’t begin in the gym with a dumb bell; it starts in your head with a decision.” – Toni Sorenson
When you feel it’s time to lose a little weight, diet and exercise are the way to go. And it can be exciting to see the pounds dropping off your scale! Unfortunately, stepping on the scale won’t always tell you exactly what you need to see.
Sometimes, you can lose weight and it’s not really the loss of fat – it’s just water weight. When this happens, you may see the scale volley back and forth between weight gain and weight loss. Trying to figure out whether you’re actually on your way to your goal weight can be a frustrating experience.
Luckily, there are some tips and tricks to figure out whether or not you’re losing actual weight, or you’re just losing water weight.
1. CONSIDER THE LAST TIME YOU WEIGHED YOURSELF
If you weighed yourself at the beginning of the day, and lost a few pounds overnight, you might be just shedding water weight. Real weight won’t be lost overnight, but it’s definitely possible that your body can shed up to five pounds in water weight! To make sure that you’re actually losing weight, consider weighing yourself weekly rather than nightly. Your weight loss or gain will be more accurate, rather than having your scale tricked from losing water weight overnight.
2. YOUR WEIGHT LOSS IS STEADY
Water weight tends to fluctuate. If you’ve lost five pounds overnight, and then gained it back by the end of the day, you’re most likely not dealing with true weight loss. True weight loss is steadier, and will only show fluctuation in the terms of a few pounds rather than the large amounts that water weight loss can show. To make sure you’re getting the most out of your weighing sessions, try weighing yourself in the morning right after you wake up, before you have breakfast.
Make sure that you’ve already gone to the bathroom. This will show a truer number in terms of your weight loss.
3. YOU FEEL MORE ENERGETIC
With a loss of weight comes more energy. If you’re losing real weight and not just water weight, you’ll feel a burst in your energy as well as a change in the longevity of that energy. Since water weight is just a fluctuation of the water in your body and not fat, you won’t feel any significant change in your energy levels if the only thing that’s fluctuating is whether or not you’ve gone to the bathroom or are dehydrated.
When true weight loss starts to happen, you’re definitely going to feel more energetic.
4. YOU FEEL STRONGER
Fluctuating water weight is not going to have any effect on your ability to complete physical tasks. Once you start losing real weight, you’ll find that you’re able to stand for longer periods of time than you could before, or walk for longer, or run better. Strength comes in all kinds of ways, and once you start really losing weight, you’ll find strength where you least expect it.
Tasks that seemed to take a lot of your strength and energy will now be easier to complete, like climbing stairs or going for a jog.
5. YOUR CLOTHES FIT LOOSER
Since water weight tends to fluctuate, you won’t really notice if your clothes are a little looser than normal, because the water weight won’t really affect how your clothes fit. When you start to really lose weight, you’ll notice it in your clothes. You’ll go down a pants or dress size when the real weight starts to come off. This is the best indicator that the weight you’re losing isn’t water weight!
Tracking your weight loss progress can be both frustrating and exciting. Being able to tell what’s real weight loss and what is just your body playing tricks on you can help make sure that the frustration doesn’t get too overwhelming. Keep an eye out for these indicators that your weight loss is genuine, and not just your body trying to tell you that you’re dehydrated. Keep a photo journal of your progress so you can look back through the months and weeks and see the visible difference from the beginning, middle and ends of your fantastic weight loss journey! Good luck!
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10 Ditch-the-Scale Ways to Tell If You’re Losing Weight
We’ve learned so much about our bodies over the years. We know that weight fluctuates, that we retain more water after workouts, and that a pound of fat certainly does not equal a pound of muscle. So why is it that we still allow ourselves to be slaves to the scale?
Truth is, those numbers peering up at you from the cold bathroom floor are pretty much the worst indicators of health and fitness success. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to lose weight, gain weight, tone existing muscles, or discover new ones-experts agree the following methods are much better ways to determine when you’re on the path to fitness nirvana.
Listening to Your Body
Practice becoming more in-tune with your body, because if you listen, it will tell you much more than the scale ever will. “I often have clients come in and say, ‘I don’t know if the scale moved, but I feel so great,'” says Stephanie Middleberg, R.D., of New York City–based Middleberg Nutrition. “This means their energy is up, their skin is clear, they are going to the bathroom consistently, and their cravings are way down.”
Beating Personal Records
This is a great method for those who feel numbers are crucial to measuring success. “If you are going to focus on numbers, focus on something that you have control over, something that can only motivate you in a positive way,” recommends Boston-based fitness competitor and vlogger Taryn Gilligan. We’re talking about personal goals and records. Whether that’s adding an extra plate on the bar during your most recent trip to the gym, holding your plank for an extra 10 seconds, or running another mile, simply altering your quantitative-focused mindset can do wonders for your fitness journey going forward.
Tackling Everyday Tasks
Perhaps the simplest way to gauge how far you’ve come in your fitness journey is to pay attention to how you feel doing everyday tasks. Whether its carrying laundry up and down the stairs or cleaning up after the kids, mundane chores will typically become easier as you become stronger. These methods of measuring health and fitness success can be the most important of all because, as fitness expert and Get Healthy U founder Chris Freytag says, “they are real life.”
How You Reward Yourself
There’s no denying we live in a world that automatically associates celebrations with food. A sign that you’ve reached a new level of health and fitness success is realizing you don’t need that chocolate cake or French fries to celebrate a major accomplishment or milestone, whether it’s being promoted, moving in with your boyfriend, or going down a dress size. “To celebrate, go dancing. You’ll have fun and you’ll get a great workout,” says Pamela Graham, a personal trainer and founder of Healthy Bod Fitness in New York City. “If dancing isn’t your thing, go to a play or a concert, or buy yourself a new pair of shoes-better yet, a new pair of sneakers or a cute new outfit for the gym that will keep you motivated.” (Here, some inspiration: The Best Sneakers to Crush Your Workout Routines.)
Zipping Your Jeans
Freytag believes so much in this method, she even has a saying for it: “Zip it up once a week for weight loss.” Grab your favorite pair of jeans and see where you fall on her denim spectrum: baggy (great!), fit as they always have (good!), suddenly snug (red flag!), or can’t even get into them (sound the alarm!). “Your scale is going to fluctuate,” she says. “But if your jeans are starting to get tight,” it might signal a change is needed in your health and fitness routine.
Acknowledging Your Power
It’s incredibly empowering when you’re not intimidated by food choices. When you reach this level of success, not only will the foods you used to consider diet staples become unappetizing, but formerly paralyzing food situations-traveling, a business meeting, a date-will become effortless. “There is no better marker for success than knowing you made the best possible choice you could in each situation,” says Middleberg.
Finding New Purpose
If you’re in the camp of people who started their health and fitness journey for appearance reasons, you are not alone. But as you continue on your healthy path, you may begin to uncover real intent behind your new lifestyle. “What’s your purpose? Do you want to feel strong? Do more things? Have more energy?” asks Freytag. “None of those things are tied to the scale. Have goals beyond your weight.” (What’s on Your Fitness Bucket List?)
This isn’t to say that your nightly coffee habit or an underlying sleep disorder isn’t what’s really keeping you up at night, but if you’re tossing and turning, first look to your diet and exercise routine, says Freytag. A solid seven to nine hours of sleep, as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation, is a great indicator that your health and fitness needs are being met.
Sexting and duck-face jokes aside, taking photos of yourself is a very effective way to measure health and fitness success. “The scale doesn’t tell you what’s water, what’s fat, and what’s muscle. It doesn’t know that you’re PMS-ing or that you had a killer leg workout the previous day,” says Gilligan. “Progress pictures, however, are instrumental in helping you see the changes in your body from one day to the next, one month to the next, or even from where you started years ago.” Ali Holman, co-owner of online workout website CoreCamper.com, recommends breaking out the measuring tape every four to six weeks along with the camera. “When we live in our bodies, we don’t really see the daily progress,” she says.
Sometimes, the ultimate indicator of health and fitness success is that you’ve simply found balance. If you’re starving yourself, working out incessantly, constantly punishing yourself for poor food choices, or stepping on the scale multiple times per day, that’s unhealthy. “Getting into health and fitness can make a lot of people feel like they’re chasing their tail,” says Gilligan. “Either it consumes them, or they feel like they can never find their groove and fall off the wagon.” But when you can enjoy an indulgent dinner or skip a workout without feeling guilty-because you know you’re being healthy the majority of the time-that’s the most important thing.(For a jumpstart on your health journey, begin with an easy-to-follow schedule, like this Monday-Sunday Diet Plan to Lose Weight in a Week.)
- By Taylor Selcke
If you’re struggling to lose weight, Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, has five tips to help you achieve success.
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1. Don’t skip breakfast, and get at least 10 grams of protein
Eating a balanced breakfast — including protein, fat and carbs — will give you the energy you need for the day.
“If you skip breakfast, you’re starting the day on a dead battery,” says Ms. Kirkpatrick. “Studies show that higher intake of protein in the morning is also essential for squashing cravings later in the day.”
Good sources of protein include eggs, plant-based protein powders, sprouted toast with natural peanut butter, and plain unsweetened yogurt with berries and hemp seeds.
Skipping meals can make your body think it is in starvation mode. “Think of Sumo wrestlers. They eat little or nothing all day, then eat a big meal late in the day — thus their size and high fat-to-muscle ratio,” she says.
2. Eat small meals, or consider fasting
Take your pick: three meals a day with two or three snacks, five or six small meals a day, or eating every three to four hours.
Each of these approaches will keep your metabolism even — and your blood sugar levels stable.
Balance will help your body function at its best and will help you avoid weight gain. “You don’t want your blood sugar to rise and fall as if you’re on a roller coaster. That will make your energy levels fluctuate and all your body processes work less efficiently,” Ms. Kirkpatrick says.
“It’s better to have blood sugar levels mimic a kiddie roller coaster. It may seem less exciting, but it won’t throw off your metabolism as much.”
Another option to consider is fasting, she notes. Studies show that people who adhere to either an intermittent-fasting or time-restricted feeding approach have a decreased risk of disease, lower mortality and more success in losing weight.
3. Exercise moderately, and add some weights
An intense workout regimen is great if you‘re happy with your weight and are in good health. But if you’re struggling to shed pounds, a moderate exercise program will work better for you.
Walking 30 minutes on a regular basis will benefit you more than an intense 90-minute routine you can’t maintain.
“Moderate exercise is especially important if you have problems with blood sugar. An intense workout will add more stress to your body by making your blood sugar spike and then fall,” says Ms. Kirkpatrick.
She adds that setting goals too high and failing to meet them will keep you from feeling successful. “It’s better to set small goals and surpass them.”
Also, adding in at least three days of resistance training will you help increase muscle, speeding up your metabolism and making weight loss easier.
4. Eat until you’re no longer hungry, not until you’re full
When you feel full, it means you have over-fueled. “Stop giving your body calories it does not need,” says Ms. Kirkpatrick. “Instead, listen to your hunger, and eat only when hungry.”
The amount of carbs, protein and healthy fat you need depends on lots of factors, including your weight loss goals, disease status, etc.
Another tactic is to start big (at breakfast) and end small, tapering off your portion sizes as the day goes on.
5. Be wary of ‘emotional eating.’
When you eat because you’re stressed out or starved for comfort, awareness is half the battle. “Many people get frustrated because they’ve joined a fitness or a weight loss program, have done everything right, and just can’t seem to lose weight,” says Ms. Kirkpatrick.
You may want to consider using hypnosis, meditation or holistic psychotherapy to help you let go of old eating patterns, such as eating for comfort rather than out of real hunger.
“People realize, ‘wow, I eat when I’m not that hungry,’ or ‘I remember how apple pie at grandma’s would comfort me when I was little. That’s what I think of when I crave comfort today,’” says Ms. Kirkpatrick.
After letting go of eating patterns that no longer serve you, you’ll find yourself fitting into clothes you haven’t been able to for years.
Start losing weight
Download the NHS 12-week weight loss plan and start your weight loss journey.
The plan, which has proved very popular online, is designed to help you lose weight safely – and keep it off.
Start the NHS weight loss plan
The keys to success:
- make realistic changes to your diet and physical activity that can become a part of your regular routine
- the best way to lose weight is to make long-term changes to diet and physical activity that result in a steady rate of weight loss
- aim to lose weight at around 0.5kg to 1kg a week (1lb to 2lb), until you achieve a healthy body mass index (BMI)
Below are some helpful tips to start your journey towards a healthy weight. Once you’re on the way, there is lots of information and advice provided in the plan.
Lots of us eat and drink more than we realise and do little physical activity. The result is often weight gain.
To lose weight, we need to change our current habits. This means eating less – even when eating a healthy, balanced diet – and getting more active.
Fad diets and exercise regimes that result in rapid weight loss are unlikely to work for long, because these kinds of lifestyle changes cannot be maintained. Once you stop the regime, you’re likely to return to old habits and regain weight.