In this instructable I'll be giving advice on how to come to terms with weight gain, and also how to motivate yourself to lose the weight through nutrition and exercise. I've got to warn ya'll - this will be quite long! I'll be naming the steps so that you can skip forward to what you're interested in, though. Hopefully this will make for easier reading!
This will be an instructable that is updated frequently! If you can think of something you'd like me to add, please say so. I will try to find resources and add information as needed. Please leave feedback and help me improve this instructable. :D
DISCLAIMER - This instructable is meant as a basic guide. I'm a public health educator, so I am aware what I'm talking about. This is what I talk about all day. :P I have a few years of experience under my belt and plenty of resources, whether they be teachers, websites, or books! I only hope that something I say or link to here will help someone!
Step 1: Consider How You Became Overweight. (Thinking Pose Alert!)
The first step on the road to weight loss is seriously considering your lifestyle and how you've gotten to where you are - sounds cheesy, but it is indeed true. Did something cause you to cease physical activity or just become less active? Is stress leading to weird eating habits? Have the people in your life or your job changed your eating habits? It is important to consider that our eating habits are altered by many influences, including our cultural and social backgrounds, our environments, our emotional (or psychological) links to food, our body image, and our economic standing among other things.
Once you get to actively thinking about this, you might immediately come up with answers. If not, consider the following ways to track your habits and figure out what needs to be corrected:
- Keep a food diary for a few days. Try to write down everything you eat or drink. If you would like, take calorie counts for all of the items you consume. At the very least, you will most likely see a pattern!
- Take an inventory of the food in your house.
- Watch the way you respond to stress. Also see how the people around you are eating and if they change the way you eat. If your coworkers eat at McDonald's every day and you keep going with them... that is a problem habit! But normally, these are things you might not consider initially.
- Keep track of the amount of physical activity you're getting in a day. (Count walking long distances, consider the amount of the day you spend sitting down)
- Talk with friends and family about your weight gain. Ask them if they've seen habits you've overlooked. Perhaps they can shine some light on the problem!
- And last but not least, consult your doctor. If you can honestly think of no reason you're gaining weight and you're sure you're getting adequate physical activity and eating well, it could well be that there's something else wrong. And be completely honest with the doctor, too! ;)
Step 2: Find Out About the Basic Needs of Your Body! Yay!
Weight loss is different for everyone, as is proper nutrition! It is important to see just what your body needs every day to survive as a basis for your weight loss.
This is called your BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate. The important thing to remember with BMR is that this is the minimum calorie requirement for you body to keep working - any physical activity will raise the amount of calories you need.
This is the easiest way I have found to calculate it:
BMR per day = 1C x body weight (lb)/2.2 x 24 (C = calories)
Here's an example, and I'll use my weight.
BMR per day = 1C x 120/2.2 x 24
= 1C x 1309.9
= 1309.9 Calories
This is useful information - many people who try to diet drastically cut the amount of calories they consume below a safe level. This is extremely unsafe and can lead to other complications which I will not go into here. :P
However, once you know this, you can move on to the recommended amount of calories you should consume per day.
Step 3: Find Out What Your Basic Needs Per Day Are and Try to Meet But Not Exceed Them.
There are many basic resources you can use to do this. My favorite is mypyramid.gov, but there are also many others online. I love mypyramid.gov because not only does it tell you the amount of calories you need, it also gives you a personalized food pyramid. It is a great resource for those curious about losing weight - and best of all, it's free and reliable.
I really recommend that ya'll check it out and also browse the site after you put in your information. You can browse "Subjects" to the left, or click on the links to the right for more information.
Other great weight loss and fitness resources include:
Mayo Clinic Weight Loss Center
Men's Health Magazine
All of the above offer free information on their websites ranging from diet and exercise plans to tips for dieters. :)
The most important part of finding out your recommended caloric intake is that you see what you should be getting. Once you know this, it is easy to see how many calories over you are. I recommend starting at your recommended calories for the day and trying to stick with it for a couple weeks. If you do not see any results (and you should be checking your weight every day) then drop your total amount of calories by 100-200 calories or increase the amount of physical activity you participate in - but never drop your calories by a drastic amount!
Just dropping the amount of calories you consume to your recommended amount can help immensely!
It is also important to look at your basic nutritional needs. Here are the basics:
- 1g of fat is 9 calories. 1g of carbohydrate is 4 calories. 1g of protein is 4 calories.
- 60% of your daily calorie intake should come from carbohydrates. There are two basic types of carbs: simple and complex. These are also sometimes just referred to as sugars and starches. Try to stick to complex carbs such as those found in fruits, grains and vegetables. Simple sugars are more likely to be empty calories.
- 25-30% of your daily calories should come from fat. While this sounds scary, it is important to note that there are different types of fats and that your body needs this fat to survive! As stated before, it is important to stay away from saturated fats as much as possible. However, it is safe for saturated fats to be 10% of your daily 30% fat allowance. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats will make up the other 20%.
- Protein should be at least 10-15% of your daily caloric intake.
- WATER WATER WATER! It is important to keep hydrated at all times. I take a 32 oz. bottle everywhere and I just try to go through two of them a day. If you set goals like that, it's easy to meet them.
For more information on the vitamins and minerals your body needs, you can head to Nutrition.gov.
Step 4: How to Watch Your Calories and What You Eat. FOOD LABELS FTW!
I want to say here that it is not mandatory to track your calories the entire time you're dieting - I think it's silly to obsess over calories and lose the big picture. However, I think it is important to keep a close eye on calories at first. This will help you realize the foods you're eating that you need to omit from your diet, and it will also help you get a feel for what you can and can't eat and still meet your goals. Once you have a few basic ideas down, you can stop counting the calories and just use your common sense and experience!
First of all - avoid fast food! I cannot stress this enough. Not only are the portion sizes insane, but fast food is generally lacking in nutrient density. And the absolute worst part about all of this is that most fast food restaurants do not keep their nutrition facts posted - it's a terrible "don't ask, don't tell" situation. It's better to just avoid it.
Also, make sure that you're reading food labels on the things you buy. If you're unsure about how to read a food label, check the FDA guide to reading a food label.
Check the serving size of everything you buy. When eating that item, try your best to eat the serving size. A friend of mine who was dieting would always pack her lunch in the morning, and measure out the proper serving size of everything she was eating. She had a set of measuring cups she used just for it. However, sometimes you'll find that the serving size is listed in "pieces" or "slices". This will make it even easier, and it will allow you to track your calories more efficiently.
Be more choosy when you go shopping! Here are some tips to both save money and lower the fat and sodium contents in your foods:
- Don't go shopping hungry! You'll wind up buying convenience foods and splurging on things that will only set you back!
- Buy frozen vegetables instead of canned. This way you avoid unnecessary fats and added sodium. I also think they taste much better!
- Stay away from pre-made and processed foods as much as possible. I realize that sometimes this is hard, but if you must buy something like this look for the lowest fat and sodium contents you can find. Also keep in mind that in this case, organic or natural does not always mean the healthiest!
- Don't get suckered by "buzz words". Don't buy something just because it claims to be a miracle food and it has pretty packaging. REALLY consider each item you put into your shopping cart.
- Invest in dried beans and rice. These are cheap and tasty additions to any meal, or they can be a meal on their own.
- Look for high fiber foods - remember that you need at least 30 grams of fiber a day! Fiber will also help you become full quicker and feel fuller longer.
- Buy some low fat cookbooks. As silly as it sounds, Weight Watchers is a great option here. I adore their cookbooks even though I don't follow their plan. I love having the nutrition information for every recipe!
- Get some healthy snacks! It is important to snack sometimes - maybe you're bored or depressed or you need something to hold you over until your next meal. In this case, it's a good idea to stock up on things like low sodium pretzels, nuts, dried or fresh fruit. etc. I normally buy things like this and make homemade trail mix. Just put small amounts into plastic bags and keep them on you at all times. This is lower your chances of grabbing a bite to eat somewhere and it will also keep your eating in check.
- Buy fresh foods - buy carrots, celery, onions, and garlic in bulk and try to use them in as many things as you can throughout the week. Buy fruits like oranges, apples or bananas to take with you on the go.
- Buy less beef and more poultry. Not only is beef higher in cholesterol and fat, it's also more expensive!
- If you like fish, try buying tilapia or mahi mahi fillets to use throughout the week. This is another cheap alternative to beef, and also healthier. Yay good fats!
Step 5: Teach Yourself How to Eat Again.
You there! Stop all that mindless eating! I know we're programmed to just cram food in our faces, but you can't do that if you're trying to lose weight. First of all - consider why you want to eat. Are you really hungry? Or are you just bored? Is that actually hunger you're feeling or something else? Hmm?
If you've decided that you're hungry, you must begin eating in a more mindful way. First of all, pick something good to eat by employing your food label readin' skills. (See step #4 for details!) Then let's find out how we should really eat.
Ways to eat in moderation and really enjoy the food instead of just gulping it down:
- Chew each bite... I mean, really chew! Don't just chew a few times and swallow.
- Drink in between bites. Preferably water!
- Have a conversation with someone while eating - invite someone over or make sure to sit down with a spouse or roomate at meal time.
- Make sure you're eating an appropriate serving size.
All of the above things will lead to you eating more slowly and therefore eating less. This way, your body can let you know when you're full when you're really full, and not five minutes late because you've been eating too fast. This helps you control the amount you eat.
Also, keep in mind that will will get cravings for different types of food - savory, sweet, bitter, spicy, etc. This can also lead to overeating! If you incorporate many different flavors into your meals it will also help you feel more satisfied. This is generally the basis of the argument to cut the fat and increase the flavor. :D
Also, do not try to limit the number of meals you eat a day. Most publications recommend eating three big meals and then having small snacks in between. This should keep cravings at bay and keep you feeling fuller throughout the day.
Something else to consider to ease cravings is allowing yourself to indulge every now and then. I tend to eat a 80/20 ratio of good to bad (bad as in sweets, normally). If I feel like I really need chocolate, I'll have a little bit (normally the serving size.) of it. I think this is a much more healthy way to eat instead of telling yourself you're horrible and fat and that, no, you cannot have that little tiny muffin because you're on a diet, you fatty mc fat fat. Indulging in small amounts every now and then will keep you from going nuts for whatever it is you're craving and devouring an entire package.
Step 6: But What About Fitness?
One of the most important part of weight loss is to consider you calorie intake versus your calorie expenditure. You should really think about how many calories you're taking in and how many you're burning throughout the day. Here are a couple of calculators to tell you how many calories you're burning during certain activities:
UMMS Calories Burned Calculator
ACS Calorie Calculator
It is true that the obesity epidemic is blamed partly on our sedentary lifestyle here in America. I personally believe our diets to be more of a problem, but physical is just as important as nutrition when it comes to being healthy, which is really the whole point of losing weight!
I understand that in some areas it is harder for people to have access to physical activity. It is also harder once you've become overweight to start. However, here are some basic guidelines to follow to help you increase the amount of physical activity and help you understand just how much physical activity you need.
First of all, how much physical activity should a person get? And what types of activity are considered adequate?
It is normally recommended that adults get 30 minutes of exercise a day at least 5 days a week - for children and teens, they should get at least 60 minutes a day at least 5 days a week. When people normally ask me what I consider to be adequate exercise, I normally say anything as (or more) strenuous as simply walking. You need to feel a change in your heart rate. The easiest activity for most people to get into is walking, so it is the most frequently mentioned. However, some people might find it is impossible or near impossible to walk - in these cases it is important to consult a doctor before beginning an exercise program. Most times a water fitness program will be a good substitute, as it places less stress on the body.
But for the rest of us, it is easiest to begin walking either outside or even in place in our homes. You can then build gradually up from walking to jogging or biking, or even ease into aerobics or yoga when you're feeling more fit.
Here are some good ideas for getting you daily dose of physical activity:
- Get your friends, spouse or children involved. Not only is this a healthy activity, it will encourage the people you love to be more active and it will make it much more fun.
- Walk laps around the office or the block on your lunchbreak.
- Park farther away at the store. Instead of grabbing a cart all the time, use a handbasket instead or carry your items.
- Enroll in a fitness class. You can find many of these locally. Check with your local gyms, college campuses, and community centers.
- Try an exercise video. Yes, most of them are painfully cheesy and somewhat painful to watch, but some of them are quite fun as well! There are many offerings at the beginner level to help you ease into whichever activity you pick.
- Get involved with a sports. Try something new, like tennis, golf, or volleyball. This is an excellent chance to meet new people and form healthy habits and relationships.
- Exercise while watching TV. Get up during the commercial breaks and walk around the house. Do stretches. Lift weights. Do whatever you can to decrease the amount of time your butt is on the couch!
And here are some good resources regarding physical fitness:
The American College of Sports Medicine
The President's Council on Physical Fitness
Along with the sources I posted on step 3, you should have enough to read for a few years, haha! The ACSM site is my personal favorite. They even offer free online brochures on a variety of fitness topics.
As well as reading online, I think it's a good idea to get a magazine subscription or to even just pick one up that catches your eye from time to time. Magazines like Self, Oxygen, Fitness, Men's Fitness, etc. will provide you will tips, motivational stories, and complete workouts that can normally be done in the comfort of your own home. I find that reading about fitness and the consequences of being overweight and out of shape are enough to keep me going. ;)