So you’ve decided to lose some weight and are trying to figure out how to begin?! Treat it just like any other project! Below are 10 steps (or project management strategies) to get you off the right start:
1. Get some numbers – weigh and measure yourself (waist, hips, thighs and forearms), write them down along with the date. This is your starting point. In order to set concrete goals and track progress we need to quantify them.
2. Set your goals:
a. How much weight do you want to drop
b. If you have an idea of how many inches you’d like to shrink – write them down as well
c. By when do you want to achieve your weight loss goals – you have to be realistic here – setting a very early date will most likely make you anxious and frustrated because many weight loss factors are outside of your control. Think conservatively – anywhere between 3-5 lbs a month (depending on how much you have to lose) is a realistic number. It might not look like much, but weight loss is not a linear process, some months you’ll lose more and some – less. Your hormones, appetite, water fluctuations and caloric consumption will all play a role in your journey.
3. Find out your caloric needs and create deficit of 10-15%:
a. To calculate your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate – how many calories you burn during the day without any activities, just the needs of you functioning body):
i. Harris-Benedict Formula:
Women: BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )
Men: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) – ( 6.8 x age in years )
b. Multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:
· Sedentary (little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2
· Lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375
· Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
· Very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.725
· Extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training): BMR x 1.9
Your final number is the approximate number of calories you need each day to maintain your weight.
c. Don’t be an overachiever – cutting too much will backfire, slow and steady is the way to go with weight loss!
4. Download an app to track your calories – some examples are ‘LoseIt’, ‘MyFitnessPal’, ‘Livestrong’ and create a habit of tracking everything that goes in your mouth – VERY IMPORTANT! I prefer to use an app instead of writing food down as technology a=has all the necessary tools – like rich foods database with calories and macros already in them.
5. Choose your diet or eating plan/pattern:
You can either eat whatever you want (within your allowable calorie budget) or choose a specific diet approach like a couple I briefly describe below:
a. Very-low carb/Ketogenic diet
i. provides rapid weight loss (at the beginning mostly due to water weight loss);
ii. some studies suggest that following this plan will not slow your metabolism, like other diets may;
iii. macronutrient distribution – CARB – 5-10%, FAT – 70-80%, PRO – 10-20%;
iv. People feel more satiated due to high fat content and find it easier to stick with the plan
i. Keto flu – an adaptation period (due to low carb consumption) during which people may feel fatigues, lethargic, achy; goes away once people become “keto-adapted”
ii. May be hard for carb and sugar-junkies
b. Intermittent Fasting -abstaining from eating anywhere between 12-24 hrs.
i. Naturally cuts calories since you are down to 1-2 meals from 3-5
ii. Offers other health benefits like anti-aging effects and cognitive health improvement
i. May not be suitable for everyone – for some people it’s hard to not eat for prolonged periods of time due to blood sugar abnormalities or other conditions
ii. May be difficult to incorporate into your life due to social activities involving foods, kids, family matters
6. Track your weight and measurements – but not too often (once a week is enough). Weighing too often might generate some frustration especially when your body is undergoing such changes as diet and physical activity. At the beginning the weight might not budge within the first 3-4 weeks – don’t get discouraged, your body has a natural set point (your current weight if you’ve been at it for a long time) and it is trying very hard to defend it. Losing weight is unnatural to humans – from evolutionary perspective. Back thousands years ago it was advantageous to gain weight for protection and energy reserves to get us through winter and famine. Even though times are different now, our bodies, surrounded with abundance of food naturally tend to overconsume. But don’t overthink it, just stick with your “project” and be patient.
7. Clean up your kitchen cabinets – get rid of most junk and processed foods and take on a habit of meal planning and prepping. And don’t whine that you don’t have time for it – this is your health and body, YOU MUST FIND TIME FOR IT! Put it on your calendar and stick with it. Who’s in charge here?! Set up priorities and follow them! No room for excuses, keep yourself accountable!
8. Choose your physical activity: daily walking, strength training 2-3 times a week, biking or spinning, zumba or boxing – whatever moves you. Just make sure it is something you like, otherwise it won’t live on. While you won’t burn that many calories through exercise, it will tone you up (muscles burn more calories), speed up your metabolism, put you in good mood and give your body definition. Body composition greatly depends on your exercise routine. If you want a svelte physic – get moving.
9. You will encounter setbacks – and it’s normal! We are humans, not machines. Life is wonderful with all birthday parties and celebrations, winter colds and blues, ice cream cones and brownie fudges, sleeping-ins and lazy Sundays, bottomless mimosas and pot luck dinners. Have your cake and eat it too, and then get back to business. Just be mindful of what you are doing – remember your goals and stick to them 90% of the time, all the while leaving room for indulgements for the remainder 10%.
10. Get support from family, friends, coworkers – they don’t have to jump on your bandwagon, but their understanding and compliance will definitely help with sticking to your goals. They might get all inspired seeing your marvelous results and next thing you know – you have a team!