Effective weight loss means losing weight steadily, adopting new eating and exercise habits while doing so in order to maintain the target healthy weight when achieved. There are many ways and approaches but lose weight but really, it comes down to 3 steps to effective weight loss:
Step 1: Calorie Control
Following the classic advice to aim for 2lbs weight loss every week will ensure a safe, steady progress and help you to maintain the loss. A quick weight-loss diet is hard to maintain, and also puts you at risk of not getting sufficient nutrients. It's also important to remember that it took you a long time to gain the extra pounds, so you shouldn't expect to get rid of it much faster than you gained it. But if you're going to achieve that steady weight loss, you need to check your calorie intake carefully.
So how can you determine how many calories to consume every day in order to achieve that 2lb weight loss? First of all, you need to know how many calories you're consuming now. This means tracking your calorie intake over a week; do choose a week when you're eating your typical diet, or you won't get a true picture of how much you're taking in. It's pretty easy to track your calorie intake, thanks to all the apps around. You can also look at online databases and if you're eating prepared foods simply check the labels.
Calorie control works in conjunction with consuming macronutrients and exercise, but is the most important step in weight loss. Why is this so? Because while exercise is important, it can have the unwelcome side effect of making you feel hungrier. Your body will also adjust after the initial weight loss when you begin an exercise programme. It's also more productive to consider what you're taking into your body, rather than trying to get rid of it once it's there!
Step 2: Macro Nutrients
Macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Some experts consider that it is more effective to consider macronutrients rather than calories when you want to lose weight, as focusing on calories can lead to you losing track of what are the right things to eat. For example, you could eat 1,800 calories a day and lose weight if you've previously been consuming 2,200 calories, but if the bulk of those 1,800 is sugary foods, it clearly wouldn't be a healthy approach.
What is the right proportion of each macronutrient to eat for weight loss? A typical split is 40% carbs, 40% protein, and 20% fats. Once you've worked out how many calories you want to cut down to in order to lose weight, divide those calories according to the proportion you've decided on. So, for the 40:40:20 split on 1,800 calories, you should eat 720 calories of carbs, 720 of protein, and 360 of fats. This is only a guide, however, and you may wish to split the three groups evenly, or have a higher proportion of protein and divide the remainder evenly between carbs and fats. Do ensure that you consume healthy fats though, such as the essential fatty acids omega-3s and 6s.
Keeping track of your macros is made much easier by using an app. Useful options include myplate or mymacro. They allow you to scan barcodes so that you can easily add up how many calories you have eaten, and show you how much of each macro are in your meals. But do remember that calorie control is more important than staying within your macro target, as even if you're consuming the right proportion of macros you won't lose weight if you're taking in too many calories overall.
Step 3: Exercise
Although exercise alone will not cause you to drop the pounds, it will certainly help as part of your weight loss programme. Working out will cause your body to "burn off" more calories, and also assists in the maintenance of a lower weight - very important if you are to avoid "yo-yo" dieting. In addition, exercise helps you build up your muscle mass, and this is beneficial for weight loss. Having a greater muscle mass gives your metabolism a boost, and therefore ensures you use more calories - even when your body is at rest.
A common mistake among dieters is thinking that they can eat what they like providing they burn off the calories in exercise. It is certainly true that you can benefit from exercise as part of a weight loss programme, as it will back up your decreased calorie intake and help you to lose a little more weight. Don't however, succumb to the temptation to eat poor-quality, high-calorie food on the grounds that you can burn off the calories on the treadmill. You won't be any healthier for it, and you also won't re-educate yourself towards a healthier way of eating that will help you maintain your target weight.
What kind of exercise should you do for weight loss? You don't have to go to the gym; even simple daily activities like gardening or cleaning can count. The idea is to get your heart pumping; if you aren't exercising hard enough to break a sweat, it won't be that effective. You need therefore, to pick an aerobic or cardio exercise, although weight training will also help to build up your strength. If you want to do weight training, a routine called Strong Lifts is a good place to start if you're new to this type of workout.
Stay motivated, set reasonable weekly targets, track your progress without being obsessed by seeing the number on the scale drop, adopt new healthy habits in what you eat and how much you exercise and you will lose weight and keep it off.