12 Weight Loss Tips
An estimated 40% of Americans will set a New Year's resolution to lose weight this year. Unfortunately, after just one year, as many as 95% of these people will be at their original weight or higher. The hurdles are numerous: time constraints, over-availability of unhealthy foods, peer pressure to live an unhealthy lifestyle, and so on. I know these hurdles well, in December of 2004 at 230 lbs I made the decision to lose about 30 lbs during the following months. Two years later I am still 30 lbs lighter. In this article I hope to educate you and give you some tips to help you reach and maintain your weight loss goals as I have. For a more detailed discussion of weight loss you can read my article titled “What You Need To Know About Weight Loss.” You must consult your doctor before engaging in any exercise or diet activities.
Some of it is in Your Work Out
Start Your Exercise Program Slowly
Since you haven't worked out in a while it is important to start slowly and stretch before each work out. If you jump back into working out too quick or without stretching, you increase your risk of injury. This will destroy your motivation and derail your weight loss effort, so start slowly. You should target 3 work outs spread out over the week at first then gradually increase frequency.
After you are done stretching (Don't forget to do upper and lower body), you are ready to start exercising. Start with your resistance training, it burns off extra short term energy stores and helps protect your lean mass during fat loss. Alternate upper body resistance training days with lower body resistance training days. A good starter upper body routine is bench press, military press, pull-ups, curls, and arm raises. For the legs, start with squats, lunges, curls, extensions, and standing calf raises.
Use a weight that you can safely lift for 3 sets of 8-15 repetitions using negative resistance. Negative resistance is when you provide extra force on the way back down (count to 3 while you let gravity return the weight to the starting position). This method promotes better muscle gains and allows you to use a lighter, safer weight. You should start on resistance machines instead of free weights until you become comfortable with the motions and weights for each exercise.
The most efficient way to lose weight and the whole focus of your work out should be aerobic exercise. At first, your target heart rate range should be between 50-60% HRmax (HRmax is 220 – your age) for at least 3 or 4 days per week. I suggest using the elliptical machine and swimming because they are both low impact. Both do put different stresses on the body though, so be conscious of your personal limitations.
Once you are already properly conditioned, continue to focus on aerobic exercise but don't forget about resistance training. You should try to work up to at least 5 sessions per week with each lasting longer than 30 minutes  with a target heart rate range approximately 70-80% of HRmax.
Don't Over Spot Train
Don't be fooled by the old tale that working out one area burns more fat specifically in that area. For instance, just doing sit-ups isn't going to burn fat specifically from your stomach. Actually you are better off doing something that burns more calories during that time like running. Sit-ups do make your abdominal muscles larger, which can help them stand out if a little bit of fat surrounds your waist so they do have a limited role in your regimen.
When to Exercise
Often people say that working out in the morning is best because you can maximize the benefit of post exercise metabolism increase. More importantly though, you need to choose a time to work out when you will consistently go. You don't lose any weight just planning on working out in the morning and sleeping through your alarm because you are a night owl.
That being said, many people will find that working out before work will help make exercise a priority in their life. By working out before work or class, you will be less likely to be sidetracked and justify skipping. Additionally, getting to the gym in the morning is more time efficient because you can avoid the after-work rush. Some people get an added benefit of feeling a sense of accomplishment by working out while other people are asleep.
Optimize What You Already Do
This is where you get to use some personal creativity to burn calories. Think of the things that you do on a regular basis and try to turn them into an opportunity to burn some additional calories. For instance you can park far from the entrance to work and walk, ride your bike to work, or walk up the stairs instead of the elevator. My personal favorite was using 5 lb ankle weights during work. It turned normal walking into an added calorie burning exercise. See what you can think of and try it out.
Some of it is in Your Diet
You should have approximately 26% of your calories from protein to protect against muscle loss (a good total calorie target is 1,500 calories /day for women and 1,700 calories /day for men). The rest should be a balance of carbohydrates (remember to maximize low glycemic index carbohydrates) and fats at a ratio of approximately 2:1. Fat is not as scary as once thought and is an essential part of your diet. At the same time, you should try to minimize trans-fatty acids found in foods containing “partially hydrogenated oils” due to their detrimental cardiovascular effects. For the same reason, minimize consumption of saturated fats found in butter, lard, coconut oil, cottonseed oil, dairy products and meat.
Drink Plenty of Water
One study found that drinking between 6-7 8oz glasses of water can actually help burn as much as 5 pounds per year . I contend that drinking water will actually burn more calories as drinking water will help you forgo drinking high calorie, high glycemic index drinks.
Avoid Cheat Days
Don't be fooled into thinking that it is good to have a cheat day. You are just hurting your cause and tempting yourself with the foods you are trying to avoid.
A Lot of it is in Your Head
Avoid Your Vices
All types of alcohol have have calories, no exceptions. If you need proof, pardon the pun, read the label. For instance Miller Lite, a low calorie drink, has 96 calories per bottle (Guiness has 210 calories per pint). If you go out and have 6 beers, that is 576 calories approximately 1/3 of your daily calorie goal. This doesn't even include the high calorie diner food and munchies you are likely to encounter after the bar. In my opinion alcohol is not worth the allocation of valuable calories.
Make it Competitive
It is so easy to revert back to your old diet and lifestyle after the novelty of your effort wears off. Since you are probably not the only person you know trying to lose weight this year, to help keep you focused, maybe start weight loss competition. This can be for personal pride or some other prize, that your group can award the weight loss winner. A competition can help you build a support network, increase your accountability, and provide the little extra motivation that may help you succeed.
Document Your Efforts
This is quite challenging, but amazingly valuable. You can use a spreadsheet program or just a small notebook. The point is to document all the calories that you consume for accountability. It is so easy to nibble a chip here and a candy there, but by writing down absolutely everything, you see how fast these calories add up. Writing down every calorie consumed keeps you honest and the pounds flying off. If you need some help getting started, you can find an example of my spreadsheet here: http://www.egbers.org. Feel free to edit and use it.
The following is a good website for how many calories burned doing common activities: http://www.primusweb.com/fitnesspartner/jumpsite/calculat.htm. You can subtract the sum of the calories you burn each day from the calories you consume each day. This way you can get a rough estimate with how you are doing and project if you will reach your goals. Remember that there are 3,500 Calories in a pound of fat.
Losing fat isn't easy or else everyone would be thin. Be realistic with personal expectations of weight loss, you have probably spent a long time putting the weight on, it isn't coming off overnight.
The suggestions in this article are just a starting point to lose weight. To live a truly healthy life, you need to permanently adopt healthy lifestyle changes and adjust your practices according to the most current reliable research on the subject. I wish you luck in your weight loss journey.
1. Jeff S. Volek, Jaci L. VanHeest and Cassandra E. Forsythe. Diet and Exercise for Weight Loss. Sports Med 2005; 35 (1): 1-9.
2. Boschmann M. Steiniger J. Hille U. Tank J. Adams F. Sharma AM. Klaus S. Luft FC. Jordan J. Water-Induced Thermogenesis. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 88(12):6015-9, 2003 Dec.
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