Weight Loss Guide for the Perplexed...
Nutri-this, diet-that, Atkins, Zone, South Beach, it can all be very confusing - if not overwhelming. Here are some basic principles to start you off in your journey of transformation.
Weight loss or Fat loss?
When we talk about losing weight, we really mean losing fat. Weight loss can be muscle, water (fluid), or fat. Standing on the scales gives you no clue as to your body composition - so don't weigh yourself too much - it can really play mind games. Our weight is always fluctuating (often due to hydration levels). The mirror, clothes-fitting, old photos, etc -- can all provide feedback on our fat loss -- not just the scales.
How do you lose fat?
In a nutshell, it's a simple law of energy intake and expenditure. Eating more than you are using means you gain weight. Burning more than your eating means you lose weight... Unfortunately the real outworking of this is not so simple. Losing fat (for most people) is hard -- get used to the idea then you won't struggle so much with disappointment.
There are 5 principles to keep in mind - Diet (Nutrition), Cardio (Exercise), Dedication (Consistency), Goals, Weight training. It is possible to lose fat with correct diet alone (for some people) - but the best chance of success will be to apply all these principles. Even the perfect diet plan can fail if you cannot stick to it.
What's weight training got to do with fat loss?
Weight (or strength) training is not essential to lose fat - but it sure helps. A weight training workout boosts metabolism for the whole day and helps build lean muscle. Muscle is metabolically active - it needs fuel - and therefore helps you burn more calories all the time. If you are thinking about weight training - think on this:
Do I want my body to be strong and useful, or is my body only for people to look at?
Lifting weights makes your body strong and useful.
Can't I just eat less and skip meals?
It's naturally what we want to do - but it's not quite right. "I must lose weight so I'm gonna starve myself". This is where things get a bit confusing. Starve the body too much, and it gets the hint and slows down - you'll feel irritable, fatigued, and begin to lose muscle as well as fat. After clawing your way through hunger pangs and dreams of food, the chances are you will binge, or start eating back how you used to. Guess what happens? The weight piles on because your body is still in "slow" mode. Fat loss is all about calorie reduction, but a calorie intake that is too low will cause problems.
Why bother with exercise?
There are few people that have lost fat (and maintained it), without making exercise a part of their life. Cardiovascular fitness has many health benefits - primarily keeping your heart strong. Including some form of exercise as a natural part of your life will give you an even bigger chance of success. Just remember consistency! Cardio exercise could be something like; brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, treadmill, elliptical trainer.
There's so much to learn - Help !?
There are hundreds of diet books and weight loss programs out there. Many of them have terrific claims, but remember:
- There is no one-size-fits-all weight loss program.
- There are no magic bullets or miracle instant cures.
- There is absolutely EVERY chance that you can transform yourself.
- It is completely possible for you to lose the fat and get healthier.
- Believe in yourself.
Do I have to buy something (book, subscription, etc)?
No. If you have enough nutritional knowledge and a whole lot of motivation you can sort out your own lifestyle change. However most of us don't have the time or know-how to go-it-alone -- so we pay someone else to design, explain, or customize a fat loss program.
Do Online Weight Loss Programs Work?
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) decided structured on-line weight loss programs worked better than "just browsing around". (Vol. 285 No. 9, March 7, 2001). "Participants who were given a structured behavioral treatment program with weekly contact and individualized feedback had better weight loss compared with those given links to educational Web sites."
What's with all the different diets?
There are hundreds of diets. Some diets work for some - others don't. There are other diets that are clearly faulty. Here's some simple guidelines. Avoid extremes (e.g. very-low-carb or very-low-fat). Learn about carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Learn about whole foods and learn how to reduce your intake of processed foods. These factors seem to be common across the board.
We have a number of reviews of many popular weight loss programs. We do our best to try and have some objectivity, but the reality is - two different people can get two different results from the same program!
Where do I start?
It's possible to get started just by taking some of the higher-calorie items (soft drinks etc) out of your diet, and trying to get out for some exercise. However you will find that without some serious commitment and identified goals - you will soon lose interest. There's nothing like results to keep you motivated.
The chances are you will need some serious help, and this is where some of the commercial weight loss programs can help. Have a look at our picks for the best weight loss program, or the diet reviews, or fitness and workout programs to help get you started. Most of these programs have journals, goal-setting tools, and discussion forums with others to help keep you motivated.
Can it work for me?
Here's the trick - we are all unique. Different physical characteristics, different genetics. This is why each of us will have to do slightly different things to get the fat loss going. Be prepared for a long-term commitment, a belief in change, and a new lifestyle. Weight loss will not only help you to feel emotionally and physically better, but it will also save you money by lowering health and life insurance costs.
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