Common factors for weight loss

What really is the best way to lose weight? There is a plethora of information available on the social-inter-media-webs about the "best way". And every second person seems to consider themselves a fitness nutrition expert who is willing to sell you a shake or (even worse) a shake weight! Very few of us, however, consider asking people who have lost a lot of weight how they achieved it. These people are the real weight loss experts! 

So what is their secret? According to the National Weight Control Registry (NWLR) - a research group that investigates the characteristics of individuals who have succeeded at longterm weight loss - there is no one best way to lose weight. Not one. There are actually many ways! And the best way is that which is best suited to the individual.

Some people cut out refined sugar or processed foods; some go high carb low fat, or high fat low carb. Some join weightloss programs. Others achieve it completely on their own. Individuals who have succeeded at longterm weight loss do however, have three factors in common. These are:
  1. 1. Consistent self-weighing

  2. 2. Eating a smaller variety of food

  3. 3. Intense exercise.

To expand on these points:

Consistent self-weighing

Consistent self-weighing allows an individual to keep track of any sneaky weight gain and make immediate lifestyle changes to rectify the situation. During particularly festive periods (here’s looking at you Easter and Christmas!), it’s quite easy to put on an extra 500g+ of weight. It doesn’t sound like much, but that’s an extra 1kg a year multiplied by 5 years, 10 years…

To play Devil’s Advocate, there is a current movement to “ditch the scale", and there is some truth to this. We shouldn’t purely base our weight loss success on a number. There are many other ways to track weight loss - how do your clothes feel and fit? How much energy do you have? Are you making healthier food choices? Are you sleeping better? Are you managing your stress more appropriately? All of these things promote healthy and sustainable weight loss.

To find balance, weigh yourself once a week or fortnight, on the same day, and at the same time. This will enable you to stay on track without obsessing over it.

Eating a smaller variety of food

The NWLR found that individuals who succeeded with weight loss minimally varied their eating habits between weekdays, weekends and holidays. This isn’t to say we need to eat the same food 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year (boring!). But it makes sense to eat similar portions of food and similar types of food, ie: plenty of vegetables and fewer sweets everyday.

If dinner during the week consists of half a plate of vegetables, a palm sized portion of lean meat, and a few scoops of rice or pasta, then aim to order a similar type of meal when you go out to a restaurant on the weekend. If half a cow comes out on your plate (as most restaurants are wont to do), eat the portion you would normally eat and ask to take the leftovers home.

Intense Exercise

To give you an example of how much exercise might be required, the NWLR found people who have succeeded with longterm weight loss burnt an average of 2621 calories per week. For an 86kg male, this equates to a 1-hour brisk walk five times a week. When it comes to physical activity, find a routine that you enjoy and one that suits your lifestyle. If you’re stuck for ideas, go to Wikipedia and punch in “List of sports”. There HAS to be something on that page that tickles your fancy!

Intensity is one of the most important factors when it comes to exercise and fat loss. But how can you measure intensity when there are so many physiological differences within fitness, training age and gender? One of the most simple and effective tools to gauge how hard you are working is your own heart rate. 

There are two main ways to measure your heart rate whilst exercising, so check them both out and work with the one that you find the easiest to use:

1.Heart Rate Percentage.

2. The 180 Formula

Also consider making small changes to your daily movement routine. Park further away from the shopping centre. Walk up the stairs instead of taking the lift. Walk around your house while on the phone - or stand up if you’re in an office. Stand during TV ad breaks. Catch up with a friend by going for a walk together… There are many ways to get extra movement into your day! Checkout this link for more: Incidental Activity

So there they are. The three most common habits of individuals who have succeeded at longterm weight loss. Each point is easy and hard in its own right. In particular, it can be very difficult to find the motivation to even start. But that subject needs a blog post all on its own. In regards to the factors above, try to keep them simple. An example could be introducing more vegetables into your dinner meal. Practice this goal until it becomes part of your daily routine, then look to incorporate another goal, ie: drinking an extra 500ml of water everyday, or walking an extra 10 minutes a day. Most importantly, make your goals your own. Find what works for you! You know your body best.

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