5 evidence-based weight loss tips that actually work.
I already resent myself for writing this. I don’t think weight should be the focus of anyone’s life. How you feel inside is so much more important than a number on the scale or how you look in the mirror. Putting the emphasis on the latter is a recipe for disaster and disappointment.
Having said that, I have had so many requests for this article. I do understand that you may be hoping to lose a certain amount of weight, and I can understand why. Our weight can put us at risk for a number of diseases and can impact our confidence and ability to enjoy life. Just make sure the main priority is your health and wellbeing, above all else.
Moral lecture over! Here you are, my top 5 tips on how to lose weight in a sustainable method that is good for your soul.
1. Stop weighing yourself.
Your weight will vary significantly depending on when you last urinated, how much food you have in your stomach, what clothes you’re wearing, how sweaty you’ve been recently, how much sodium you’ve eaten this week, and how much muscle you have. And yes, it’s true that muscle does weigh twice as much as fat. What I’m trying to tell you is that ‘weight’ as a measure for health, is pretty useless.
A much better indicator of your health is actually your waist circumference. This gives you an indication of your visceral fat, rather than your subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat is just below the surface of your skin and does not pose a high risk. Visceral fat is the kind of fat we want to reduce as it has much greater implications on our health. This kind of fat surrounds the organs and is associated with diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. That beer belly, it needs to go.
To measure your waist circumference, get some measuring tape (a string may be more convenient) and wrap it just below where your ribcage finishes, usually around the belly-button line.
For women: a waist circumference > 80cm puts you at an increased risk, and > 88cm puts you at a greatly increased risk.
For men: a waist circumference > 94cm puts you at an increased risk, and > 102cm puts you at a greatly increased risk.
If you are above the healthy range, don’t stress. You can do something about it, starting today (hint: read on)!
2. Know your body type and treat it accordingly.
This is a really interesting one. There are typically two body types; the classic apple, where people tend to put fat on their abdomen, and the pear, where people put fat on their butt, thighs and arms. As we go through puberty, testosterone will cause weight to go on the belly whilst oestrogen will cause it to go everywhere else. Consequently, men typically put fat on their stomachs and women put fat on their thighs. However, in reality, many women put fat on their belly (particularly during menopause, when oestrogen levels drop) and many men put fat on their butts too. We’re a beautiful, mixed bag of specimens.
What can you do about this fat?
Well, if you’re more of a ‘pear’ shape, I have good news. While you might despise your ‘chicken wings’ and ‘thunder thighs’, this type of fat is subcutaneous, and therefore very low risk. You are much better off than us apples and are at a much lower risk of heart disease.
Don’t worry apples, I have good news for you too. While the belly fat is risky, it's much easier for you to lose fat on your belly than anywhere else on your body. The fat cells on your belly have b-receptors. When exercising intensely, you produce adrenalin. Adrenalin targets these b-receptors and tells your fat it’s no longer welcome.
Because of this, you will find that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is very effective at reducing belly fat. This can be short bursts (e.g. 30 seconds to 2 minutes) of intense exercises such as running, cycling, rowing, boxing, plyometrics or weight lifting. It doesn’t have to be a huge HIIT session, either. Twenty minutes is plenty! This an unbeatable mood booster too.
Prolonged, gentle exercise is also great for your health, but it won’t be as effective at getting rid of that belly. I like to get the best of both worlds and do 1-2 run/jog/walk intervals, in addition to 1-2 longer walks each week.
3. Say goodbye to your little friend; refined white carbs.
Eat mostly wholegrains. Wholemeal bread and brown rice. Oats, quinoa, millet and barley are all great too. You get the gist - part ways with white bread and white rice.
Let me know if you would like me to do a post about how to choose healthy bread. It’s surprisingly difficult to get proper wholemeal bread. Even at the finest, most gourmet bakeries, wholemeal bread is often mixed with a large proportion of refined white flour.
Rye bread? Usually it’s refined, despite the dark colour! Sourdough? Same again. Spelt? Same again! It needs to specify wholemeal or wholegrain in the ingredients list, otherwise it’s refined. Have faith, there are good breads out there, you may just need to read a few ingredient labels to find them.
I know I’m labouring the point here, but bread is the staple food in western countries. Converting to wholegrain is such an easy change to make that will have a massive long-term influence on your health.
The fibre in wholegrain foods will keep you full for so much longer and these foods typically contain a whole bunch of other nutrients that refined grains do not. You also fight off cancer, cardiovascular disease and improve your gut health in the process. Win.
4. Fill up on low energy density foods.
I’m guessing you’re probably fairly smart, and you know that there are no pills, tricks or diets that will magically shed weight for you. However, don’t you find that for some unknown reason, we’re always drawn to the idea that somehow removing entire food groups (e.g. carbs, fat, meat, dairy) will be the thing that solves all of our problems - acne, bloat, migraines, and weight gain. Everyone should be aware, there have been countless studies comparing the effectiveness of every diet you can think of for weight loss. Every single time, we see the same result.
If you burn more calories than you eat, you lose weight, regardless of which diet you are on. Not one diet is consistently more effective than the other. Perhaps the diet most suited to you is one that you find easy to stick with. However, as a general rule of thumb, I don’t recommend eliminating entire macronutrient groups (e.g. carbs, fat or protein), as this can lead to you missing important nutrients.
I really don’t like macros or calorie counting either. I think it leads to an unhealthy and stressful relationship with food, one where you end up quantifying your self worth by whether or not you’ve met your numerical targets.
So what should you do?
I recommend understanding which whole, non-processed foods have higher fibre and fewer calories, and filling up mainly on these. This is your best strategy, as it means you can both be FULL and LOSE WEIGHT.
Please, allow me to underline the importance of whole foods here. Please (I’m begging you now), get rid of all of those diet food and drinks. They are full of weird ingredients that, in my humble opinion, we haven’t researched enough. We really don’t understand their long term effects, nor their effect on our sensory perception and microbiome. They aren’t necessary, and I dare say they aren’t doing you any favours.
It’s awful to think people are starving themselves in an effort to lose weight. It’s harmful and totally unnecessary. You can’t live a full life on an empty stomach. Focus on eating nutritious, low energy density foods. This leads me to my final point…
5. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and fewer animal products.
At least fifty percent of your plate should be vegetables at lunch and dinner. Vegetables are incredibly filling but have low energy density. This means you can eat more and consume far fewer calories. Fresh vegetables are most effective at filling you up, as they typically contain more water than cooked veggies. I encourage you to limit your consumption of meat and processed foods, but eat as many vegetables and fruits as your heart desires. Make them interesting and tasty with a creative mix of herbs, spices and healthy oils. Vegetables don’t suck, they just need to be seasoned well, like you would do with meat.
I hope you find these tips helpful! Subscribe to my newsletter below if you would like to receive updates from me once a month. Also, please get in touch via my social media pages if you have any specific questions or ideas for a blog post.
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