Weight loss journeys are hard no matter where you start or how far you have come. At some point, most people have tried to lose weight and ended up quitting due to plateauing or receiving improper guidance. There are also seemingly endless weight loss gimmicks out there that advertise to be the only thing you need for weight loss which is simply not true, NO 1 THING WILL HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT. It is a combination of puzzle pieces that must all fit together to complete your weight loss puzzle. Here are some Do’s and Don’t that you need to know while on your weight loss journey:
Don’t do only cardio
While cardio should be a part of your program, it should not be the ONLY thing in your program. Yes, cardio is great for burning calories and obviously needed for good heart health but when it comes to weight loss, cardio is only a small piece of the puzzle. Now I’m not saying to skip cardio because, it does need to be done, but it is not the biggest point of emphasis in a good weight loss program. You will still want to work up to about 5 days of cardiovascular activity per week for best results.
Do lift weights at least 3 times per week
Lifting weights and strength training is an absolute necessity when it comes to weight loss as it facilitates building muscle. Why is that important? When you build muscle, your metabolism increases and allows you to burn more calories. Building muscle is also great for bone health as your bones become stronger as your musculature increases. For beginners, 2-3 days of weight lifting per week is sufficient but eventually you will want to get to 3-5 days/week depending on your program.
Don’t go too fast
Trying to do too much too fast is just as detrimental to your adherence to a fitness program as not doing enough. Too often, people try to do too much starting off end up burning out after 2-3 weeks and reverting back to old habits. The typical 4 week weight loss guru on Instagram touts a 20 pound weight loss program that’s easy to follow but truth be told, those programs are not maintainable and don’t encourage long lasting healthy habits. Do not get caught up in these “inspirational” 4 week transformations because most of the time, those people end up putting back on that weight and then some in a couple of weeks. Go for the slow and steady approach, you are much more likely to succeed!
Do set realistic short and long term goals
To compliment the above, setting realistic goals provides for steadier results. Aiming for 0.5-1 pound of weight loss per week is a very realistic and possible goal for pretty much anyone, no matter how overweight you may or may not be. If you aim for an average of 2-4 pounds of weight loss per month over the course of a year, that’s 24-48 pounds lost in a year! Not to mention, you will have established long-lasting, healthy habits that you can carry on with you for the rest of your life.
Don’t take fat burning supplements
These are usually a waste of money packaged with fancy advertising and less than true claims on how they work. Most “fat burning” supplements do not actually burn fat! If they do anything, they help you burn more calories by increasing your metabolic rate which can lead to weight loss but if you do not burn more calories than you consume, then you will not lose weight. Some supplements will claim that they can “target belly fat” which is absurd. There are no supplements that target fat in specific parts of your body, that’s not how your body works. When you are losing fat, your fat cells decrease in size throughout your body and everybody reacts differently. You are better off spending your time and money on focusing on your nutritional plan and making sure you are burning more calories than you consume.
Do spend most of your time and effort on your meal plan
As I mentioned above, you will only lose weight if you burn more calories than you consume. With diet being about 70-80% of your results, you should spend the most time on this aspect of your fitness program. Meal prepping takes less time than you think and will make your entire week much easier. Meal prepping takes out any guess work for what meal should you eat next because your meals are already prepared and ready for you to heat up and eat.
Don’t drink liquid calories
Liquid calories are sure to derail your weight loss journey for many reasons. One of those reasons is that it contains extra calories (often sugary) that don’t help you feel satiated. Now, having protein shakes is still acceptable as long as it is only whey protein with out the extra added sugar. The extra protein will help you recover for the next workout. The liquid calories you need to avoid are sugary drinks (juices, Gatorade, soda, etc… ) and alcohol. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram compared to carbohydrates and proteins which are 4 calories per gram and also have addition carbohydrates attached to them. Alcohol can also disrupt your sleep cycle and getting your beauty rest is a critical piece of recovery. What about wine? While some is good for heart health, it still contains those extra calories that you most likely do not need.
Do drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water
The majority of your body is made up of water so be sure to drink up! A good rule of thumb for how much water you should be drinking in a day is half of your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should drink 100 ounces of water per day.
Don’t focus on the scale
This may seem counter intuitive but hear me out. It is a great feeling to see the numbers get smaller each week on that scale and can give you a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. When you start to plateau and the numbers on the scale aren’t changing as frequently, it can be easy to get discouraged. It is important to remember that the scale only tells part of the story when it comes to results so don’t put all your stock in what the scale says. A more important measurement to also keep an eye on is your body fat percentage. When used in conjunction with the scale, your body fat percentage will be able to help you determine how much of your body is fat mass and how much is fat free mass. It is not uncommon for the scale not to change very much but the body fat percentage does. If you maintain the same weight and your body fat percentage decreases, then you are a rockstar! This means that you were able to decrease your fat mass and increase your lean body mass (most likely muscle mass)! Circumference measurements and progress pictures are also more helpful in determining progress than the scale.
Do focus on improving your overall fitness
Sometimes it is just best to shift your focus to different, but related goals in order to kick start your results. Instead of weighing your self weekly, try tracking and improving upon your fitness levels such as improving your run time on a 3 mile run or instead of running 3 miles, try to go 4 or 5. For strength, focus on trying to lift heavier weights and improving your overall strength levels. You can also try different programs to improve how many push ups or pull ups you can do. The main point is to get your focus off the scale and to work on your strength, flexibility or cardiovascular fitness.