Before my 30s, I never gained weight. I could eat anything and everything. And I did. It didn’t matter that my cholesterol climbed because I maintained weight. I never had to search “how to lose weight and keep it off.”
Then my 30s hit, and my metabolism disappeared. I quickly put on 20+ pounds in a matter of two months.
My diet was atrocious. Bags of chips and dip daily, cakes, cookies, fast food, and coke. You name it; I ate it. I also was sedentary, and I knew nothing about nutrition or working out. I had a gym membership that I used maybe once a year. I was a vegetarian who rarely ate fruits and vegetables, and I drank two glasses of water a day.
Suffering from health issues and general overall crappiness, I embarked on a journey to change my lifestyle and learned quite a bit along the way.
Here are 11 ways to lose weight and keep it off.
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1.) Find your BMR
Basal metabolic rate or BMR is the number of calories your body burns in a day to keep it alive. It would be the bare minimum you would need if you did nothing but sit all day. There are many free BMR calculators available online.
2.) Invest in a Fitness Tracker
It doesn’t matter which one you get, but it helps track how many calories you burn in a day. This number will be different than your BMR as it will consider daily activities. If you are sedentary (desk job), then your calorie burn will be lower vs. an active person, such as a waitress.
For a week, wear the tracker and go about your day as usual. At the end of the week, note how many calories you burn in a day. Let’s say, for example, you end up with an average of 2000 calories.
Eating anything more than 2000 calories in a day will lead to weight gain.
I use a Fitbit to track my activity levels. I’ve had it for 2 years now and I absolutely love it. You can track your calories, food intake, compete with friends and family through walking challenges and track your sleep and heart levels. It’s a pretty great tool for fitness and health maintenance.
3. Learn about Calorie Deficit
A caloriedeficit is the only way to lose weight. You don’t need fancy diets or pills to lose weight. Pretty much every fad diet works because it’s putting you in a deficit. Paleo, keto, whole 30, intermittent fasting, all work through a deficit.
It’s a simple equation. If you consume more than you burn, you will gain weight. If you eat less than you burn, you will lose weight.
It is important to note that a calorie deficit is controlled starvation to achieve a specific weight goal.
How does calorie deficit work?
It takes 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound per week. To lose that in a week, you would need a deficit of 500 calories a day.
For our example, a person that burns 2000 calories a day will need to eat 1500 calories a day to lose a pound weekly.
4.) Find a Fitness Regimen You Love
Slashing calories is one way to lose weight. Adding a fitness regimen can increase caloric burn during and post-workout. This expends how much you burn in a day, thus making it easier to stay in a deficit.
For example, if you walk for 30 minutes and burn about 150 calories, you’ve increased your daily burn to 2150. Subtract 500, and now you can eat 1650 calories and still lose a pound weekly.
When starting any fitness regimen, it’s essential to start slow and be consistent. You might not see changes right away, but you definitely will if you keep at it.
I started my journey by walking 30 minutes daily. From there, I switched to 30 minutes of cardio three times a week, then five days a week, and now I work out six days a week with a combination of weight training, walking, and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
Fitness should not feel like punishment. For you to stay consistent, you have to like it. Find something that interests you. It could be group classes, dancing, weight training, or cardio. If you get bored, change a bit up. Don’t do something because you feel like you have to.
Also, permitting you are able, continue to challenge your body as your fitness levels increase. Doing 30 minutes of cardio at the same speed for six months won’t have the same effect as adding resistance or increasing speed.The body adapts to stimuli meaning it gets more efficient the more you do it. You will, in turn, burn less than you think.
There are many resources online if you need ideas for workouts. Free workouts are all over YouTube and Instagram. Follow personal trainers. If you have the money, invest in a gym membership and or trainer. Sometimes having somebody watch over you and push you out of your comfort zone is something you might need.
5.) Use a Calorie Tracking App
It’s effortless to overeat calories. One tablespoon of olive oil has 120 calories. A tablespoon of peanut butter has approx 90 calories. A whole avocado is a whopping 300+ calories. Yes, all of these are healthy, but eating too much of any will lead to weight gain.
Using a fitness tracking app takes the guesswork out of it. It can be annoying to track your food, but it gets more comfortable with time, and it’ll become a habit.
Apps such as Myfitnesspal can even be linked to fitness trackers such as Fitbitor Apple Watch. Calorie tracking apps also can show you breakdowns of what nutrients you are getting. This can help you become more attuned to your diet and reveal any deficiencies.
6.) Eat Healthier and Drink Your Water
On a calorie deficit, you can pretty much eat anything and lose weight if you consume less than you burn. Yes, that means you can eat 1–2 bags of chips a day and lose 1 pound a week.
That doesn’t mean you should eat anything and everything.
Junk food is high in calories and low in nutrients, thus less satisfying and will lead to overeating. We all know eating chips is like eating air.
One way to stay satiated is by eating a high protein and high fiber diet. Protein and fiber will keep you fuller longer, and both are low-calorie. Meaning you can eat more and stay within your calorie budget.
The average person needs a minimum of 25 g fiber per day, and most are getting far less. Some high fiber foods are lentils, legumes, broccoli, and oats. When building your plate, try to add a fruit or vegetable and a healthy protein source. For fats, only focus on the healthiest ones over saturated and trans fats.
Water is also underrated. Most of us are walking around severely dehydrated, and often hunger is mistaken for dehydration. Drinking a glass of water before and after a meal keeps not only keeps your body working as it should, it also helps you stay fuller longer, which is essential when you’re trying to stay in a deficit.
Water is always a better choice than sugary drinks such as coke and even juices. A lot of those drinks have empty calories, meaning you are adding calories to your daily budget, and you’ll be left hungry. If you currently drink a lot of soda in a day, try swapping it out for water. You will experience overall clarity, fewer sugar spikes and lose weight.
7.) Slow and Steady will Win
Too often, people want to lose weight in an unreasonable timeframe. If it took me two months to gain 20 pounds, there’s no way I’m losing it in a week.
In actuality, it took me nearly six months to lose it, and I’ve kept it off for a year. The tortoise was definitely onto something.
Of course, I wanted to lose it fast. My jeans didn’t fit, and I wanted to change that now. But, I knew quickly wouldn’t be sustainable in the long run.
Instead, I focused on really paying attention to how I was fueling my body as I maintained a steady pound loss weekly. It wasn’t always easy. Some weeks I hit my goal whereas others, I stayed stagnant. But, I didn’t quit. It’s important to note that weight loss is not a downward linear path. There will be ups and downs, but over time it will be downwards if you’re consistent.
I read and researched whatever I could about healthy foods. I started to incorporate different recipes into my diet, focusing on nutrient-dense foods. Every week during a grocery shopping trip, I bought at least three mixed vegetables. I searched recipes specifically for these items to keep them interesting.
Along with nutrition, I learned about different exercises and ways to target the whole body. There’s a misconception that you can spot reduce by training a particular body part. Fatloss happens all over your body, and there’s no way to tell where it will come off. Therefore, doing crunches won’t make you lose your belly fat, nor will lunges make your thighs slimmer.
However, those exercises combined with others over time will gradually help with weight loss, which in turn will slim you everywhere.
The other benefit with slow and steady is that it will lead to sustainable habits. It takes time to create a schedule and lifestyle you can stick to.If you do something for over three months versus two weeks, it most likely will become second nature. This will lead to maintaining weight instead of gaining it back.
8.) Eat What You Like, but Healthier
The number 1 way to stick to healthy eating is to enjoy what you eat. Healthy eating does not need to be boring. Usually, people hear a healthy lifestyle and think a few sticks of celery and carrots.
If you like pasta, you can still eat pasta. Carbs will not make you fat. Overeating more calories of pasta than you burn in a day will make you gain weight.
Find better alternatives to traditional pasta. For example, regular pasta doesn’t offer much in terms of protein or fiber. But, lentil pastas are rich in both. I like the Banza brand that are made out of chickpeas. There are even versions for mac and cheese that are very good. And, an added bonus of extra protein!
If you like ice cream, try a frozen banana mixed with Greek yogurt and berries. Regular chocolate can be replaced with dark chocolate, and peanut butter can be substituted for oil-free PB powder.
Finding creative ways to eat what you like can be fun and satisfying. You’ll stick to your goals and still feed your cravings. We live in a significant era where Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook offer many recipe options.
9.) Read Ingredients on Labels
Stick to wholesome foods that have ingredients you can pronounce. There are way too many additives and chemicals in our diet. Natural foods are better for overall health and weight loss.
Packaged foods tend to be lower in nutrition, which could lead to overeating as your body won’t be satiated.
When it’s possible, try to find simpler foods. For example, sprouted wheat bread in lieu of enriched white bread. Or better yet, shop at farmer’s markets to get freshly baked breads. And, you’ll also support small businesses, which is a win-win.
10.) Enjoy Your Treats and Cheat Meals
Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too. In moderation. When I was actively trying to lose weight, I never restricted any food group. I also enjoyed eating out sporadically. This is because heavy restrictions can’t be sustained over time and will lead to binge eating.
Healthy eating can be sustained with an 80/20 rule. Follow healthy habits 80% of the time, and 20% of the time, enjoy what you want to. This could mean eating a piece of chocolate with dinner or Taco Bell for lunch one day.
I found that with time, I naturally stopped craving sugar and salty foods. I still eat cookies and chips now and then, but nowhere near the outrageous amounts I previously scarfed down.
Adding treats and cheat meals to your week also keeps your metabolism in check. As mentioned before, a calorie deficit is controlled by starvation. Your body will start holding onto calories to protect itself, and you might stall your progress. Adding more calories here and there can help the process along.
Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, is notorious for posting his cheat meals on Instagram. He happily enjoys his cookies and pizza once in a while, and still maintains his gains.
At the end of the day, none of this is punishment. If you add negative feelings to food groups, it’ll affect your relationship with food. Focusing on healthy eating is not a diet. It’s a lifestyle. Also, enjoying a treat or high-calorie meal here and there won’t screw up your hard work. Don’t beat yourself up if you overeat one day. The next day is a new day to start over.
11.) Take Progress Photos and Measurements
The scale is not everything. It is a data point when you are trying to lose weight, but we are often emotionally tied to it. If the number goes up, our mood changes. If it goes down, we’re happy. This can fuel disordered eating as well as depression. You are so much more than a number on a scale, and a healthy weight looks different on everyone.
There are so many reasons why the scale goes up and down — water retention, hormones, overeating sodium, and much more. Progress photos taken once a week or month can keep you stay focused on the gains you make. As with measurements as well. These are tangible ways to see that the time and investment you put in for your body are working.
Losing weight is a process, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. Whether you want to lose 20, 50, or 100 pounds, start with small steps that work within your schedule. A 10-minute walk one week or hummus and veggies instead of a cookie. As you become more comfortable, you can do more.
People generally quit because they attempt too much too quickly and then get frustrated when results don’t happen overnight, or they get burnt out.
Small, consistent steps will lead to continued progress. Trust the process and know that you can achieve your goals.
Hope these 11 ways to lose weight and keep it off help you on your weight-loss journey!