Weight loss is a slow process that requires time and commitment. When you eat food, your body stores the energy in the muscles to be used in your day to day activities. Any excess energy is stored as fat for a rainy day.
If you eat more than your body needs, it will store more and more energy as fat and with time, you will gain weight. The same can be said of losing weight: as you consume less than your body requires, it will dip into those reserves and use it to fuel your activities.
But your body still needs nutrients to function well, so you still have to eat a certain amount of calories a day. Many celebrity and fad diets where you reduce your food consumption drastically or eat only a select group of foods are not sustainable.
There are many factors that one has to consider when drawing up a weight loss plan –
1) Your body
The average female needs about 2000 calories a day and the average male requires just over that, 2500 calories per day. If you want to maintain your weight, you should consume the daily recommended intake and if you would like to lose weight, simply cutting out 500 calories a day should do the trick. If done consistently over a few months, you should lost roughly 0.5kg to 1kg a week, a healthy rate.
But this will vary from person to person depending on their height, weight, level of activity, any state of health, muscles and genetics.
2) Your BMI
How tall you are has an important impact on what your healthy weight is. Your height in relation to your weight is called your Body Mass Index or BMI, which calculates your ideal weight. A healthy BMI ranges from 18.5 to 25, anything below is underweight and over that amount is considered overweight, with obesity starting with a BMI of 30.
3) Your genetics and upbringing
This takes into consideration your genes as well as your family history. What you had as a child can have a significant impact on your dietary choices. The foods that we grew up around and are more familiar with will dominate our pallet. Cultural customs and family routines will have engrained themselves in your preferences. Perhaps your family ate dinner at 5 in the evening, or had savory foods for breakfast.
4) Your diet
It should come as no surprise that your diet will have a huge impact on your weight. What you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat all have a significant effect. Foods have different calorific values and it can add up easily in rich dishes such a curry and lasagna, just to name a couple. Read the labels on the food packaging when buying from a supermarket and try to cook food from scratch as much as possible. That way, you know exactly what is going into your meal and you can control every aspect from taste to quantity.
5) An exercise regime
Most of us sit sedentary at our desks for up to eight hours a day. Exercise should have a place of honour in your diet plan to burn of any excess energy you’ve built up. Sure, dieting by counting calories and eating healthier options can help, but in conjunction with exercise, you can half the time towards your weight goals. If the thought of exercise puts you off, start easy – walking at a reasonable pace for about 30 minutes a day. How about combining exercise with being social? Try a dance or spin class.
6) The workplace
It seems like there is a never-ending supply of office treats: vending machine snacks, international delicacies your colleague brought back from holiday, one birthday cake after another. And on top of that, there are the workplace parties and office events, with extravagant meals involving copious amounts of alcohol.
When you have a long day at work or it is dark, cold and generally grim outside, we tend to reach for our favourite comfort food and maybe even binge a little. We lack the motivation to cook ourselves and instead opt for a calorie-rich takeaway or eat out, where the portions are significantly larger than the body requires.
8) Your social circle
If you’re out with friends or family, there can be some peer pressure when it comes to your food options. That friend that eats nothing but junk food? You go along with the decision to avoid an argument, but there goes your diet plan. In the midst of conversation, you might not realise the amount you are eating. And if your family is involved, it is more than likely that your portions are slightly larger than they would be if you were eating solo.
9) Your goals
Before you start your weight loss journey, it helps to set some goals. What’s your target weight? How do you plan to achieve it – by dieting, exercise, healthy eating or a combination of all three? It is important to have realistic expectations and in a reasonable time frame so that it can inspire you rather than discourage you from continuing. Whether you want to be a healthier you or you are just looking for a change, it helps to remember why you are starting this journey.