Aside from the philosophical advice I gave out (for free mind you, free advice!) last time I do have some pointers for folks who are really looking for some practical pointers on the topic of losing weight.
Let technology help you. There are sooooo many awesome things out there to help you from online communities to counters to calendars. Here are my favorite sites and apps:
- Sparkpeople.com This one is a combination community, calorie counter, workout log, and recipe finder. Plus, it is free! bam!
- Livestrong.com This one has amazing articles that are full of info and are really short. They go right to the punch without bogging you down in too much theory or diet fad lore. They also have an online counter and community.
- reddit.com/r/loseit This is a sub-reddit, which means it is an online forum made up of the hearts and minds of the very internet itself. Their FAQ page is really fantastic and it is a great place to read about real people and get some advice and motivation.
- BMR Calculator This is a good, standard BMR calculator- BMR stands for Basic Metabolic Rate and it is a number that roughly means the amount of calories your body burns if it was in a coma all of the time. The BMR is typically multiplied by 1.2 (according to the Harris Benedict Equation) to get the amount of calories you burn doing basic things throughout the day. These calculations are a very helpful tool if you know how to use them. Sparkpeople does this kind of calculation for you.
- SparkPeople App It helps you keep track of your diet while you are on the go.
- Endomondo This app will track your workouts with a GPS and tell you all kinds of stats about them. It will count calories, miles, and speed. This is great for biking and running.
Stick with the basics. Don’t fall for gimmicks, trends, or fads. The best way to lose real weight is to eat a nutritious diet and to work out. The basic formula is that the calories you burn needs to be less than the calories that you burn. What you eat < calories you burn from exercise plus your BMR. You can calculate this all yourself, or you can get a free account with a website that will help you do it. If you are trying to do something else it may or may not work- and most likely you will just be fooling yourself into thinking it will work. You cannot avoid the basics, so start off in the right place.
Counting Calories Sucks. There is no way around it. Yes, websites and apps will help tremendously. The food you will eat will usually be very tasty. But the act of counting and keeping track will suck. Here are some things to make it suck less:
- Get a kitchen scale. This helps so much!! Especially at the beginning of your diet when you will need to measure all of the things. When you get the hang of it you won’t need to measure as much, but it is still a great habit to make.
- Make a range. Eating within a range of calories will save you stress of being super exact. Most of the calculations are estimates anyways. Don’t get too relaxed with gestimations, but keep in mind your goal range. I don’t worry about things that are 5-10 calories, as long as they are not adding up too much. Set that range for each meal- eating multiple meals a day.
- Make a plan. Get to know what groups of foods give you calorie counts for each meal. This way you have several options for foods for each meal. Example: breakfast can be oatmeal and fruit or a bowl of cereal and fruit. Lunch can be a turkey sandwich with apples and cheese or a Lean Cuisine and a pear. Dinner can be stir-fry veggies with chicken or grilled fish on a salad.
- Low Calorie foods to embrace: Low-fat dairy including greek yogurt and cottage cheese, string cheese, lean chicken, canned tuna, frozen fish fillets, all of the fresh fruits and veggies, protein bars, 100-calorie packs, Frozen low-cal entries (Healthy Choice and Lean Cuisine are my favorites), pre-packaged portions, and fresh herbs and spices.
- Don’t forget to cook. It is easy to rely on diet food, but really the best foods for you are fresh. So don’t give up cooking- look up the millions of recipes online that will help you make fresh, healthy, low calorie foods.
Plan to Make and Take Food. Cutting down on eating at restaurants is probably the hardest part for me. Not only do I feel like I’m missing out on very tasty food, but also on the social act of eating out with friends and family. This is hard. The best thing to do is to cut our restaurant food as much as possible when it is not necessary, i.e. pack your lunch to work. If a restaurant has more than 20 locations it is required to provide calorie information- so look up options before you go and have a plan. Encourage your friends to go to places that are easy for you to eat at. When you have exhausted those options then the last thing is to implement a cheat meal every week. Just one meal, once a week. It will help keep your metabolism from getting used to the same calorie load and it will keep you more sane. Win-win!
Make Exercise Work For You. Do the things you love for exercise. Real exercise is not supposed to be easy, you are going to sweat and be sore so you might as well figure out how to have fun doing it. Going to the gym for the sake of going will get boring and aggravating. Take up a new physical hobby or get back into one you were doing in the past. Biking is one of my favorites! Also try work out DVD’s, especially ones that will help with core strength like Pilates and yoga. Take a fitness class with a friend. Reward your workouts by getting new work-out music to motivate you. One of my favorite things to do to make the gym time better is to take my Nook (e-reader) with me to the elliptical and read while I run. It amazes me every time how quickly the time goes and how hard I’m able to work.
Reward Yourself. Set reasonable goals and then reward yourself for them! Go out to a movie, buy a new pair of shoes, get a pedicure, have a cheat meal, etc.
I eat oatmeal almost every morning. I use whole oats (not the minute kind) and I put in two tablespoons of flax meal and usually a tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter and then top it off with fresh fruit. This gives you a ton of whole grains, fiber, and omega three fatty acids to keep you full of food and nutrition. This helps me keep my breakfast to a 320-400 calorie range, and I don’t get hungry mid-morning.
My other favorite go-to foods are: low fat string cheese, apples (fiber!), Healthy Choice/Lean Cuisine Meals (I always add other snacks to them), Special K Protein Bars, Yoplait or Oikos yogurt cups, canned tuna, carrots, zucchini, couscous, and Crystal Light drink mixes.