A major part of winning the weight loss battle is understanding that the relationship between consuming food and expending energy is pivotal to your success. If you're overweight it is normally because you are eating and drinking more calories than your body needs. Consequently, there are three ways to lose weight: reduce your calorie intake, increase your energy expenditure or the most successful way, do both together. That is, reduce calorie intake and increase energy expenditure by exercising and becoming more active in your daily life.
The advantage of the double edge strategy of reducing calorie intake and increasing your physical activity is not only will you lose weight faster, you will also get fitter and most likely develop healthy exercise habits that you will be able to sustain into the future. This will help you maintain your weight loss once you start eating normally again. In addition regular exercise also boosts your metabolism, so you burn more calories even when you are not being active.
Whilst the aim is to both reduce calories and increase activity, it is a good idea to start with reducing your calorie intake for a week before you begin your exercise program. This will allow you to adjust to your new eating habits and stop you feeling overwhelmed by having to take on two major lifestyle changes at once.
Reducing your calorie intake responsibly
A common mistake made by people looking to lose weight is to make a drastic reduction in their calorie intake. Very low-calorie controlled diets have the opposite effect. First they are extremely difficult to sustain. Your body needs a baseline level of calories in order to cope with every day bodily functions required to keep you alive.
For example breathing and keeping vital organs like your brain and heart functioning. The body normally requires around 1,400 cal per day to maintain these operations. If you give your body less calories than this, not only will you feel very weak, lethargic and miserable, your body will quickly go into starvation mode. This means instead of using your fat stores it will start attacking your muscles and use them for energy. You will also slow down your metabolism because your body will start using the fuel it has access to more efficiently.
Consequently, when you start eating normally again, you will have less active muscle tissue to burn calories. Your body will have gotten used to operating on a lower calorie intake and, therefore, will store fat at a lower threshold than it did prior to you going on an extreme diet. In a nutshell, you will likely gain weight quicker once you return to your normal eating habits as your body adjusts back.
To lose weight safely and in a sustainable way, medical advice is that you aim for a daily calorie deficit of 500 kcal. This equates to 3500 kcal per week and will result in a weight loss of 0.5 – 1kg per week. For most men, it means eating around 1900 kcal a day and for most women, 1400 kcal.
Your exact calorie requirement depends on your age, sex and size. You can get an accurate measurement by using a BMI calculator. Alternatively you can ask one of the Technogym personal trainers for advice. Remember to check with your medical practitioner before embarking on a calorie-controlled diet if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.
Staying motivated to lose weight can be difficult. However, you stand more chance of success if you set yourself specific and realistic goals, then track your progress. For example, if you want to lose 12 kg, at the recommended rate of 1 kg per week, it will take you 12 weeks to reach your goal.
Create a baseline for yourself before you start your weight loss program by taking key measurements, i.e. weight, waist circumference etc.. The Technogym app (available on both android and iOS) provides a convenient and easy-to-use way of logging and tracking your measurements.
Another challenge associated with reducing calories, is knowing how many calories are in what you are eating. Whilst meticulously measuring ingredients and reading food labels is accurate, it can also become rather tedious after a while. If you feel yourself flagging and resenting weighing your food, remind yourself why you are doing it.
Keeping your eye on the bigger prize is an excellent way to re-motivate yourself to achieving your goals. Remind yourself of what it would mean to you to achieve your weight loss goals. Then imagine yourself having already achieved your goals and how it feels. Reconnecting to the emotions associated with success is a powerful pull towards achieving a goal.
Using smaller plates and bowls can also help you reduce your calorie intake. You will eat less and still feel satisfied because your meal will fill your plate, reducing the perception that you are denying yourself food. Research suggest that doing this could reduce average daily energy consumed from food by 12% to 16% among adults in the UK - the equivalent of up to 279 calories each day.
Eating consciously is also a good tip. It means focussing on what you are eating, eating slowly, and chewing your food thoroughly (which helps release the flavours and aids digestion of nutrients), which also helps to reduce the amount of food you eat. Studies have shown that people who eat fast and/or watch TV, read etc. whilst eating, tend to over eat because they are eating unconsciously.
Including a large variety of different foods, new recipes, a regular treat or the occasional indulgence also helps with sticking to a calorie controlled diet. Acknowledge that there may be days when you don’t succeed in sticking to your daily allowance. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed or worse still that you are a failure. If this happens simply accept that it has happened and start afresh the next day. The road to success is rarely a straight line in any walk of life.
Increasing your energy output
Increasing your physical activity will give your weight loss strategy a massive boost. Just being more active in your daily life will increase the number of calories you burn per day. Simple things like taking the stairs instead of the lift, getting off the bus a stop earlier, and walking or standing up to do household chores like ironing, all adds up at the end of the day. The Moves feature in the Technogym app allows you to monitor how active you are in every day life too, which is also a handy motivational aid.
Taking part in sports and exercise activities raises your metabolic rate and keeps it raised for hours afterwards. A combination of aerobic exercise and strength training will improve both your cardiovascular fitness as well as muscle strength and endurance.
If you are new to exercise, it is unwise to embark on an intensive training program that leaves you feeling sore all over the day after because you’ve over trained and have DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness). This can put you off exercise.
In actual fact, if you are not used to training, starting slowly will have a significant beneficial impact on your fitness. This is because you only have to do more than you are used to doing for the body to respond to exercise. Activities like fast walking, jogging, cycling (outdoors or in the gym using equipment like the Technogym MyRun or Excite+ Bike), swimming or an elliptical trainer (Excite+ Synchro) are all low impact exercises.
Starting with these enables you to begin slowly and gradually ramp up the activity intensity as your fitness improves. All you need to do is work out at an intensity level that brings you out in a sweat and makes your breathing heavy. As you get fitter you will naturally have to work harder to reach the same intensity.
Once your fitness improves, you will be able to take on more challenging exercises like interval training, which is even more effective than steady-state cardio at boosting your metabolic rate.
You can do muscle work using body resistance, free weights or resistance machines such as Techogym’s Plurima range of multi gyms and cable stations.