Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What can I do to lose weight?

I'm running a small weight loss (peer pressure only) challenge for people at work, so I thought I'd finally put up what I normally recommend to people when they ask me what they can do to lose weight.

Hope it helps!

Image: winnond /

1. Assess the situation

The first thing you should do when you decide you want to make a change and lose weight is figure out where you're starting from. Be honest with yourself and take your measurements. I recommend tracking weight, body fat percentage and waist (plus bust and hip for women) measurements.

If you want to track body fat percentage, you can pick up an Omron HBF-306C Fat Loss Monitor on Amazon for approximately $27 dollars.  Any old garment measuring tape will suffice to take waist measurements.

Additionally, I believe that just writing down what you eat for a couple of days gives you a good starting point for dietary change. Don't assess how many calories are in what you're eating right away, just write it all down. People have a tendency to forget when they have snacks and that can add up during the day. Successful weight loss (and maintenance) are achieved by making many tiny changes that accumulate into one large change over time.

2. Establish a method to track what you eat

I'm a huge fan of logging what I eat on a website called Calorie King. It allows you to set a calorie target and the food database is extensive. Many people resist the idea of counting calories, considering it to be to tedious and associate it with dieting. There is another methodology of eating healthy and it's been coined as the "Intuitive Eating" style. To eat intuitively, you only eat when you are hungry and stop when you are no longer hungry. However, I personally believe that if we were capable of eating intuitively, we likely would not be in a predicament where we wish to lose weight. Regardless, you should establish at this point which method or combination of methods you'll use to achieve your goal.

3. Set a S.M.A.R.T. goal

No matter how much weight you have to lose in total, you should start by setting a smaller reasonable goal. Set goals to lose weight in 5-10lb increments and your overall goal will seem less daunting.

4. Water, water, water!

Staying adequately hydrated will help keep your appetite in check and help you learn to recognize hunger signals.  It will also help your digestion and many other necessarily bodily processes. Hydration is a critical element to successful weight loss.

Hate plain water? Try adding a slice of lemon or lime to it. If that still doesn't do it for you, there's always the flavor packets.

5. Move more, sit less

Moving burns more calories than sitting. It's pretty straight forward.

6. Toss regret and deprivation out the window

You can't be perfect 100% of the time, so don't regret the times you aren't. There's no point. Just keep plugging along.  

Any food can be part of a healthy diet in moderation, so don't subtract foods from your current diet.

7. Reassess the situation weekly

Make your measurements once a week and compare them to the previous set you have.  If you aren't making progress, then you need to assess, diagnose and replan. Think of this like a big science experiment in how to eat correctly for you.