This text will unfortunately not give you the magic template to your dream body. What it aims to do however is to give you the structure that sets you up for a healthy, sustainable and enjoyable journey to better health and a happier life.
Health is a relatively difficult term to define since it could mean different things to different people and in different contexts. Some just look at lab values to determine if they are healthy or not, others go by how they are feeling, how they look, or how they perform etc.
For the purpose of this text I will define health in the context of weight loss as something that is both beneficial with regard to physiology (lab values, performance on certain tests and the likes) and psychology (meaning it is a way to lose weight that keeps you and your loved ones happy, or at least sets you up for keeping this goal).
I also want to mention that going from an obese state to a normal weight state is one of the most beneficial interventions you can do for your health. By just losing weight (or more importantly fat) you become healthier.
Common for most weight loss diets is that we want to lose as much fat as possible and preserve as much muscle as possible.
For a healthy fat loss, we want it to be sustainable, something that can be kept long term. In order to achieve this, we have to take the individual’s preferences and circumstances into account. There is not just one best way to lose weight, instead, aim to find a plan that you feel can fit your lifestyle and level of commitment. For example, if you only have a couple of hours per week to train and have to eat lunch at restaurants with your co-workers every day, then try to choose the most efficient way to train and find the healthiest alternative on the menu or suggest going to a restaurant focusing on healthy foods.
A fundamental concept when losing weight is that you have to eat less energy than what you consume. That means you have to eat fewer calories than you burn. By doing so you force your body to utilize stored energy to fuel essential and energy consuming processes (e.g. heart beating, keeping temperature, moving, digesting food etc.). The primary storage form of energy in our bodies is in the form of fat, but we can also utilize stored carbohydrates in the form of glycogen or protein from, for example, our muscles.
For weight loss, diet interventions seem to be key, even though the addition of exercise is beneficial, exercise alone does not seem to result in a great weight loss as diet interventions (1). Exercise, on the other hand, is important for physical and possibly mental health as well. A combination of the two is therefore preferred.
In theory, everyone knows how to lose weight. Many say just eat less and train more. While that might work, it is a simple advice that doesn’t predispose the individual to a successful diet and long-term maintenance of the new, lower weight. There are several factors to take into account when designing a weight loss plan.
Below are 4 simple steps that can improve the diet for many individuals, result in fat loss and a sustainable healthier weight with improved well-being. Following these steps doesn’t require much time, effort or work, it´s just an easy way to in small steps reach a healthier life.
Go over and review your current diet, it’s not necessary to be super exact, just acknowledge what you usually eat, the amounts you eat and your daily routines, a food logging app like Lifesum can in this situation be of great help.
If possible, do a daily weigh in the morning before breakfast, after going to the toilet in order to get a relatively objective outcome measurement.
After a week or two of being more aware of your diet, weight, and habits, you can draw some obvious conclusions:
Other questions that can aid you in creating a sustainable weight loss plan include:
These questions give you an idea where your diet is and what you can change.
The Lifesum app also has a function where it can estimate your calorie needs and you can also choose a diet that fits your preferences, making it easier to stick to your plan.
Another way to estimate your maintenance calories: Multiply your weight in kg by 30-36 (~13.5-16,5 per lbs) to get a rough estimate of daily calorie intake. Use higher value if you are really active or really muscular. E.g. for a 90 kg person, 90 x 34 = 3060 kcal/day.
In step 1 you identified possible pitfalls in your current diet and what changes you could implement to make your diet healthier and initiate fat loss.
In step 2 it’s time to make these changes and note the results.
Start off with minor changes. This is preferable because it´s easier to implement changes and new routines gradually. Another reason is that you if you stop losing weight, you will still have actions to take in order to continue losing fat. Try aiming for a calorie deficit of ~200-600 kcal/day.
Review the effects of the changes (through weight and body changes, performance improvements, changes in the mirror, etc.). It can take some time to see any noticeable changes. Therefore, it can be advised to stick to your plan for at least a week to 2 weeks (fat loss is a long-term journey).
Implement new changes if needed, usually after a couple of weeks of no progress or if the plan is unsustainable. See step 1.
Fredrik Wernstål is a final year medical student with a passion for nutrition, training, performance, and health. His goal is to help people reach a healthier and happier life by providing research-based advice.
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