We’ve all heard it before, losing weight is simply calories in versus calories out. But if losing weight is this simple, why does it seem like so many people struggle with it? Why are obesity and health problems associated with being overweight so prevalent in our society? While losing weight may be as simple as burning more calories than you’re consuming, putting this into action is where the real problem lies.
- The first problem: knowing how many calories you’re actually burning and consuming. While there are online calculators that estimate your daily caloric expenditure, it can vary greatly from person to person depending on a variety of factors including muscle mass, activity level, and metabolism. Knowing exactly how many calories you are consuming can also be tricky. Most people underestimate the number of calories they consume on a daily basis and unless you weigh and track everything you eat, it’s hard to be accurate.
- The solution: use an online calculator to estimate how many calories you should be consuming based on your goals, track your food for a week and see if you are making progress towards those goals. For example, if your goal is to lose weight and the online calculator suggests 1800 calories per day, track your calories for a week and eat 1800 calories. If you start losing weight, you know that you are in a calorie deficit; if you gain weight, you know you are in a calorie surplus; and if you stay the same, you know that you are eating at maintenance. Once you figure out where you are at, you can adjust the calories accordingly.
- The second problem: eating in a calorie deficit. You’ve decided to lose weight, you’ve found out how many calories you need to consume and you start the day with the best of intentions. As the evening comes around, you start to get hungry and want to reach for a snack to satisfy your hunger and cravings. You may even be a few days into your diet before this happens but inevitably it will happen. Our bodies know when we are in a calorie deficit so they signal to us that they’re hungry so we don’t lose weight. Our bodies are designed to hold on to excess weight so it times of famine, we have stored fat that we can use. However, now-a-days, most of us don’t need this excess fat in times of famine because food is abundant.
- The solution: There are a few ways we can make eating in a deficit easier. The first is to eat voluminous and satisfying meals. For example, a large salad with healthy fats, protein and carbs will keep you fuller longer and more satisfied than a small burger with the same amount of calories. By choosing foods you can eat more of that have less calories (i.e. carrots versus chips), you’ll feel like you’re eating more food and you’ll feel less deprived. This is true for satiating foods as well. Eating healthy fats such as peanut butter and avocados will help keep you satisfied longer than if you go on a low fat diet.
- Know that you’re going to be hungry. As mentioned above, our bodies know when we are not eating enough calories to maintain our weight and they will signal to us that we’re hungry. While you may be hungry during your diet, you shouldn’t be starving. If you’re starving, it may be a sign that you’re eating too few calories and losing weight too fast. Our bodies can handle being a little hungry for periods of time so just know that this will happen and learn to not give in to your hungry (which are usually just cravings.) You can go for a walk, listen to a song, clean your apartment or study a new language to get your mind off food.
- The third problem: losing weight is hard. This may seem like a no-brainer but I feel like a lot of people forget this one. Consistently being in a calorie deficit for multiple weeks or months is not what most people would consider “fun.” You have to continually say no to desserts, drinks, and other delicious food. You also may not see as much progress as you’d like which can be discouraging and make you want to quit. Healthy and sustainable weight loss is typically 1-2 lbs a week which means that depending on how much weight you want to lose, it will take awhile. 1-2 lbs a week adds up but it would also be a lot more encouraging to see 10+lbs per week being lost.
- The solution: Remember your goals!!! I can’t stress this enough; you have to continually remember your goals and why you want to achieve them. When you’re 3 weeks in, you’ve only lost a few pounds and you want to give up, you have to remember why you want to lose this weight, that it will be worth it and that a few pounds is better than none and way better than gaining weight! You have to remember your goals when you think to yourself, “Being overweight isn’t really that bad, I really want to eat whatever what I want, I think I’ll just live with this.” That being said, your goals need to be something that you really want because if you halfheartedly want to lose weight or you think you want to lose weight but you’re not sure, you won’t stick with it. Losing weight is hard but if you’re determined to reach your goals, you can do whatever you set your mind to.
- Mind over matter. Our bodies can withstand almost anything, it’s our minds we have to convince. I love this quote when I run because my mind wants to give up way sooner than my body does and I continually have to change the way I think. This is the same for weight loss. Convince yourself that you are capable of doing it, repeatedly tell yourself you can do it and you’ll do it!
- Learn to love the process. I know it’s hard to love losing weight, but when you focus on the positive instead of the negative it will help a lot. Learn to love creating new, healthy recipes, joining new workout classes, treating your body with love and fueling your body with healthy food and you’ll start to enjoy the process a lot more. The time will pass whether you stick to your diet or not so make it count!
I hope this helps anyone trying to lose weight! It’s a long and hard process but it can be done if you’re determined and set your mind to it! You didn’t gain the weight in a day and you won’t lose it in a day. Learn to love the journey and before you know it, you’ll have the lost the weight you wanted and hopefully gained a whole new appreciation for hard work and treating your body with love.