I'm not overweight, but at one point I was. During the process of losing 35 lbs, I learned a lot about how we lose and gain weight as well as how I could do so as inexpensively as possible. Unfortunately, with the "I can eat whatever I want during marathon training" attitude and plenty of holiday eating opportunities present, I fell back into my old habits and ended up gaining back
a few seven pounds*. Now, while I'm back on the weight loss track, I'd like to share how I do the weight loss thing...
*After two years of heavy focus on my eating habits and activity level, I finally got to a point where I could maintain a healthy weight without counting any calories or cutting out specific foods. I only get back on the weight loss train when I stray five pounds or more from that weight.
1. Count calories and do the math
This is the most important thing you can do if you're trying to lose weight! Each extra cracker, apple, and glass of milk counts towards your total. The last thing that you want to do is to feel hungry all of the time (it's all mental) and still not lose weight. Knowledge is power, so take back control by learning the key numbers:
A. How many calories do you burn per day without exercise (your base)? Go here or here to find out (chose the no exercise option).
This is your base number if the foods you eat are equal to this number, you'll stay the same weight. If you eat less*, you'll start to lose weight.
B. How many calories did you consume?
Create a log on an Excel sheet, in a notebook, or through a web program (here's a free one, and here's a cheap, but good one)... it might seem a little tedious at first, but not doing this is what usually gives people setbacks. Plus, knowing the nutritional information on your foods (this site should have any food you need to find) will help you once you're no longer counting.
This number is all up to you. Work hard and you'll see many more benefits than you will with cutting back on food alone.
D. What is your deficit?
Take your base calories burned per day (A) and subtract the number of calories that you consumed for the day (B). Now, add that number to the number of calories you burned through exercise (C).
(A - B) + C = D (for deficit)
Don't forget your order of operations ;).
Now, you can use D (your deficit) to determine how long it will take for you to lose a pound...
1 lb weight loss = 3,500 calorie deficit
3,500/ D = Number of days to lose a pound
A. Base of 1,800 calories
B. Ate a total of 1,300 calories
C. Exercised a total of 500 calories
(A - B) + C = D
(1,800 - 1,300) + 500 = D
1,000 = D
3,500/ 1,000 = 3.5 days to lose a pound
At this rate, the example person will lose two pounds by the end of a week!
*Important note: 1,200 calories per day is the least usually recommended for a healthy weight loss program (aka eat at least 1,200!).
Without exercise, it's going to be a sloooow process. Think about it: your body burns 1800 without any exercise then you cut your calories down to 1300 (which isn't fun) and you end up with a 500 per day or 3500 per week deficit. That leaves you with a weight loss of 1 lb/ week or 4 lbs/ month. Why not go jogging for an hour and make it 2 lbs/ week; 8 lbs/ month (doing the elliptical machine at the gym can be a good substitute for jogging)?
I'm doing just fine without one.
Thrifty tip: Discount stores like Ross and T.J. Maxx are great for finding cheapo workout equipment and DVDs.
3. Weigh in/ measure in
You don't know if you're losing weight unless you weigh in, right? Some people warn against weighing in too often, but I like to know that I'm making progress. I'll jump on the scale as often as I want to, but stick to a weekly progress check that, you guessed it, I record in my little notebook. Weighing in also clues me into things that aren't working in my system. "Maybe that Paula workout DVD isn't burning as many calories I thought..."
*Important note: 1-2 pounds per week is the average recommendation for a healthy weight loss program.
4. Make some thrifty food choices
The diet industry is a zillion dollar business ( I don't know the real numbers, but I'm sure they're big). While I wish I had the money to buy some of the delicious alternative foods (have you had these?) or pay for one of those services that delivers fancy health food to my door, it's just not in the cards right now. Here are a few of my favorite low calorie food choices that make the most bang for your buck:
*soups (all of that liquid is really filling)
*microwave meals (really helpful for calorie counting!)
*red beans and rice
*salads with protein (always measure and dip your dressings)
*"stir-fry" using steamed brown rice and little oil
(don't get tricked into buying expensive prepackaged foods!)
*fruit like bananas, citrus, cantaloupe
*veggies with homemade hummus
*smoothies (buy fruit on sale and freeze)
See it's as easy as 1-2-3-4...! Okay, I know that seemed a little long-winded, but it's all important info that totally turned things around for me. Plus, there aren't any club subscriptions, gym memberships, nutritionist fees, or high-priced diet foods required!
What weight loss trick works for you?