6 Weight Loss Strategies
And no, you won't find a super food, detox or cleanse on this list. #sorrynotsorry
This list comes from my personal experience as well as from years of working one on one with weight loss clients. I hope you enjoy!
Note: Since I am not working with you one-on-one and I don't know your history, the recommendations below are made assuming you have a healthy metabolism. If you are someone who has been chronically and severely restricting your intake for years and years on end I would recommend working with a coach to determine if now is an appropriate time to be losing weight and, if not, designating a period of time to work on building up your metabolism so that a future attempt at losing weight will be much easier and healthier.
1. Fill Nutrient Gaps
Every vitamin, mineral and antioxidant has an important role in our body and they are more crucial to maintaining a healthy weight than you might think. At the cellular level, we convert food into energy in a process referred to as metabolism. There are over 1,700 steps in cellular metabolism and each step is dependent upon co-factors made up of vitamins and minerals. Without them we are left with a sluggish metabolism that results in difficulty losing weight and low energy levels.
Aim for a variety of real foods in their whole, unprocessed form daily. Plant foods pack the biggest nutrient-punch and consuming produce from as many color groups as possible ensures the broadest intake of vits/mins/antioxidants as each color corresponds with specific nutrient profiles. Filling half of your plate with veggies or packing big 'ol salads for lunch that contain a ton of variety and colors is a great place to start!
In addition to a colorful, real-foods diet taking a high-quality multi vitamin is a great way to make sure you fill in any nutrient gaps that you may have. The truth of the matter is none of us get the diversity in our diets that it takes to get enough of ALL vitamins and minerals, not to mention the soil is pretty depleted today vs even 50 years ago. A few of my favorites are phytomulti from Metagenics, Mitocore from Orthomolecular and Multi Elite from Thorne. These are all pharmaceutical grade supplements, meaning you need to go through a practitioner to get them - you can do that here. At your next physical, see if your doctor can add Vitamin D3, ferritin and RBC-magnesium to your routine blood work - deficiencies in Vit D, magnesium and iron are common and most definitely stand in the way of weight loss.
Action Item: aim for a variety of nutrient dense, whole foods to build the base of your diet and take a high-quality multivitamin daily.
2. Create a Deficit
Despite the frequent claims of "calories don't matter" and "if you eat THESE foods or take THIS supplement, you don't need to care about calories" the science tells us otherwise. I know, I know - this is not the trendy thought at the moment and counting calories can be a pain but if you want to lose weight you need to be in a caloric deficit, plain and simple. Even the leading "no more counting calorie" approaches like low carb, paleo, etc. attain success through a caloric restriction camoflagued within the eating "rules" (i.e. cutting out the entire macronutrient group of carbohydrates on a low carb diet will most likely result in a lower overall intake due to the high satiety achieved from fats and proteins). Quality of food is extremely important but completely ignoring the quantity will not get you the weight loss you're looking for. I've seen plenty of clients eating a perfectly paleo diet chock full of nutrient-dense options and not lose any weight.
So, what are ways to create a deficit? First, track your intake so you know what you currently eat. Yes it is tedious but it is the ONLY way to know what you are doing and we can't change what we don't know. From there you can simply reduce intake by 10-15% and track your changes over time (*note this is a rough suggestion that doesn't take into account your personal biochemistry, for more detailed recommendations I always recommend working with a coach). Another option is a visual approach to portion control like this one from Precision Nutrition. You could also go the route of removing food options through one of the leading diet trends or reducing your feeding window through various intermittent fasting schedules - just know that any weight loss seen is a result of maintaining a lower calorie intake, not from some magical food ;). Lastly, see tip #3. Don't stress about right or wrong ways of doing this - there truly isn't a "best" diet, the best one is the one that helps you feel your best, provides adequate macro and micronutrients, gets you results and is something you can maintain consistently; that will look completely different for each person.
Action Item: Track your intake for a week and make an honest assessment of whether or not your calorie or portions match up with your goals.
3. Move More
Moving your body has countless benefits - one of which is an increased energy expenditure over the course of the day that can help you create and maintain the calorie deficit needed for weight loss. Start each day with 15-30 mins of movement (a walk, jog, some body weight movements or stretching) and make it a point to sneak in additional movement wherever it fits. Add a quick walk to your lunch break or set a reminder on your phone to stand up every hour and do 10 squats and 5-10 push ups. Instead of sitting on the couch, take a walk when catching up with a friend on the phone or in person. Keep an eye on your total steps each day on your smart phone or activity tracker and build toward about 10,000 steps per day. Our bodies are meant to move!
Action Item: Move your body whenever you can and aim for 10k steps/day.
4. Prioritize Sleep
When we sleep our muscles recover from our workouts, our brains process new information and our hormone levels reset and attain optimal levels (especially the hormones that control things like hunger and metabolism). When we don't get enough sleep weight loss is EXTREMELY difficult - not to mention it leaves us more susceptible to getting sick since our immune system requires adequate sleep. It is so important, in fact, that if you do nothing else but focus your efforts on getting 8-9 hours of quality, deep sleep it is very likely you will start to lose weight without addressing any other component. More sleep = better results from your workouts, easier weight loss, greater mental function and a better mood - if that's not motivation to focus on sleep habits, I don't know what is!
Start by determining what time you need to go to sleep in order to get that 8-9 hours. Now, do everything you can to protect that time - maybe this means getting work done earlier in the day, delegating some tasks, or setting aside time on the weekend to get some household chores done so you don't have to do them late at night. If you don't prioritize this sleeping time, tasks will continue to get in the way.
Next, decrease your screen-time about 2 hours before bed. The blue light emitted from computer, smart phone and TV screens interferes with our production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Power down the screens and switch to reading, listening to music, journaling, crafts or conversation with friends or family. Not ready to kick your nightly netflix habit? Try looking for some effective-but-nerdy glasses that filter out the blue light! (If you have an iPhone, the night-shift setting allows you to filter out the blue light after the sun goes down).
Trouble falling or staying asleep? Make sure you aren't having caffeine after about 2pm (note this cut off is slightly different for everyone). Getting exercise during the day is a great way to promote restful sleep but be cautious of highly intense exercise within a few hours of bed time. My all-time favorite supplement for sleep is magnesium! It is one of the most common deficiencies and this mineral is essentially nature's muscle relaxant, helping you to relax into a deep sleep. Magnesium glycinate is the ideal form (highly absorbable and doesn't cause any GI disturbances) - you can find this from Pure Encapsulations or Metagenics here.
Action Item: make sleep priority #1 on your agenda - it will make a HUGE difference.
5. Stress Less
The stress hormone cortisol has become a buzzword lately, and for good reason: chronically elevated cortisol contributes to fat storage around the midsection and the loss of muscle mass (the opposite of what we're trying to accomplish). The frustrating thing is that you can be eating all of the best, nutrient-dense foods out there but if your stress is unchecked, you won't see the results you should. Stress comes in many forms: work stress, emotional stress, lack of sleep, super intense exercise and restrictive dieting are all stress to the body. If you think stress is a culprit to your lack of results, take some time to evaluate the various sources of stress in your life and begin to cultivate some habits that help to manage it. Things like exercise, journaling, yoga and meditation are free and highly effective ways to get stress under control. One of my favorite tools for this is the Head Space app - give their 10-day trial a go and see how it transforms your outlook.
Action Item: evaluate sources of stress in your life and build in stress-busting activities into your daily routine.
6. Stay Hydrated
Drinking enough water is one of the best ways to boost your metabolism and improve essentially every system in your body yet it is one of the most often overlooked strategies. Aim to drink 50-75% of your weight in ounces of water as a baseline with additional water added based on activity (ex: 140lb person would need 70-105 oz water at a minimum). There are various apps that help remind you to drink more water or you can manually set alerts to go off periodically on your phone. The strategy that works best for me personally is to invest in a big water bottle! I have a 32 oz Hydro Flask and I know I only need to fill it up 3-4 times to reach my water goal for the day - this is way more convenient to me than having to add up a glass or two here and a few water bottles there. Start by tracking your current intake to see where you're at and slowly build up to your goal intake from there. It will take thought initially but soon it will be a habit and will have you on your way to reaching your goals while looking and feeling your best.
Don't love plain water? Try sparkling waters like LaCroix or infuse your large water bottles with some sliced citrus fruits, cucumber and mint leaves. Non-caffeinated teas can also count toward your water total.
Action Item: aim for 50-75% of your body weight in ounces of water daily.
As you can see, there are many, many factors that go into successful weight loss and some are super easy fixes! Work your way through this list and dedicate 1-2 weeks per tip in order to develop the habit before moving on to tackle the next one. These tips are straight forward but not effortless - dedicating the time and mental space to adopt these new habits takes work but it is SO worth it and I KNOW you can do it! As always, thanks for reading and please let me know if you have any questions!