12 Ways to Lose Weight
By Michael R. Mansfield, MBA, CPFT
Most people are only aware of a few ways to lose weight. The reality is that a person becomes overweight by forming habits that lead away from fitness. Replacing the fattening habits with slimming/fitness habits is the way to achieve and maintain a slender body that functions well. It is important to acquire new habits that are targeted toward healthy, slim fitness instead of just away from fatness. “Crack” cocaine might aid in weight loss, but at the cost of health and sanity. If you want to lose weight, add some of the below listed habits and eventually your new good habits will overcome the old “fat friendly” habits. The general categories of habits that affect our bodies are food and drink, physical exercise, medication use, and mental attitudes about our place in the world.
Dietary Change is an obvious category of habits that can guide you out of the “wide world”. Let’s start with the fact that the fat you eat is the fat you wear. Most women in the USA are between 35 and 40% body fat. The average American diet is between 35 and 40% fat. What a coincidence! Since oil and fat are higher in calories per gram (9 calories per gram) than protein (4 calories/gram), carbohydrate (4 calories/gram) or alcohol (7 calories/gram), you can consume less calories and store less fat by reducing your dietary fat intake. A simple rule is to keep all or your food intake under 30% calories from fat. Check the labels and do the math. I keep all of my food intake below 20% calories from fat. Nobody has ever had a deficiency of fat unless they were starving.
On the same subject, we can gain a great deal health and weight loss advantages by increasing our intake of dietary fiber. We all know that we should eat more fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Instead of snacking on a candy bar, eat two pieces of fruit. A banana and a pear are about the same calories as a candy bar and are much more satisfying. Over time, as your digestive tract gets enough fiber, the digestive process will speed up and you will absorb fewer total calories. Also, fiber is an important part of eating satisfaction. If you ever watched any of those documentaries on super heavy people, you probably noticed that they did not get that way by eating lots of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. At the same time, reducing our intake of fibreless foods, we can reduce total calories and keep the digestion working well. Meat, fish, processed white grains, animal fat, vegetable oil and dairy products all lack fiber. Do not worry; nobody has ever died from protein deficiency. In fact bulls, horses and gorillas stay big and strong eating leaves, grass and whole grains. Two men became Mr. Universe on vegetarian diets.
Eating three times per day is not a good habit. Do not wait to get hungry. The recommendation is to eat six small meals per day. All you have to do is eat some fruit between your usual meals and you will not be as hungry, therefore you will eat less total calories. I find that by eating every three hours, I do not really get very hungry. By the way, eating more often has another advantage. Each time you put something that contains calories into your stomach, it increases your metabolism (meaning that you burn more calories).
Liquid calories are a good way to gain weight. Cut down on beer (ever heard of a beer belly?), wine, soda, juices, milk and you will see big changes. In the long run, eliminate all liquid calories. Nature has provided water and it has zero calories. I have heard numerous stories about people losing weight by cutting out carbonated, sugar laden drinks or eliminating alcohol. When I quit drinking alcoholic beverages, I eventually lost 130 pounds (in other words I lost the alcoholic wife).
Physical exercise is next.</a Since I have covered five ways to reduce caloric intake, let’s go to the other side of the formula for slimness and fitness. Each type of activity that burns calories can assist us in our quest for healthy weight loss in several ways. Years ago, a coworker went from 350 pounds to 175 pounds by walking 90 minutes per day. When a person does steady cardiovascular exercise (aka: cardio) at a medium heart rate, extra calories are burned during the exercise period. Also, cardio increase metabolism for three to five hours afterward (the body burns more calories) every time. At a medium level of effort/heart rate, a training effect occurs over weeks and months. This increases the body’s ability to burn fat and eventually it is necessary to increase intensity to attain the original target heart rate. So for the same perceived effort level, the exerciser will burn more calories per session. But the best effect of cardio training is in the long term, the ratio of calories coming from carbohydrates is reduced, while not exercising, and the rate of burning fat is increased. Normally, untrained individuals burn about half fat and half carbohydrates while not exercising. This can be pushed as high as 70% fat over a few years. To sum up cardio training, it gives us four ways to burn fat, only one of which happens while exercising. My specific recommendation is a total of 90 minutes of cardio per week at a heart rate of between 120 and 140 beat per minute.
Here come three more slimming methods. Cardio exercise is not the only exercise that assists in weight loss and slimming. In the long term, strength training can improve body shape and increase metabolism as much or more than cardio. I put a 29 year old man on a simple weight training program and told him to stick with it three days per week and ignore what all the other people were doing in the fitness center. In one year he tripled his strength and lost two pounds. His waist was slimmer, his chest and arms were bigger and people noticed the changes. I am not saying that everyone should be gung ho bodybuilders. I am saying that most overweight people are also under muscled. Here is how it works. During strength training sessions, a person will burn some calories; less than during cardio, but a calorie is a calorie. After each strength training session, the results get very interesting. The metabolism boost is going for six to ten hours after each session, which is twice as long as from cardio workouts. It gets even better. A good strength training program can add three to five pounds of muscle mass per year. Five pounds of muscle takes up the space of one pound of fat. Every pound of muscles burns 35 to 50 calories per day, 365 days per year. So a person who adds five pounds of muscle from strength training will burn an extra an extra 15 pounds of fat per year. Besides increased metabolism, a person with stronger muscles will automatically have stronger bones, joints and spine. For someone who needs to lose a lot of weight, do the math on adding 10 pounds of muscle, which is only the size of two pounds of fat. My specific recommendation is three strength training sessions per week on a three way split (push-legs-pull).
Professional assistance can make all the difference in the world. You could spend years reading book after book about nutrition, behavior change and exercise physiology. If you want to become a fitness training professional, a nutritionist or a mental health therapist, I will not get in your way. But if you just want guidance over the next six months to a year, hire someone who has knowledge and experience. Joining a fitness center is no substitute for hiring fitness trainer. Talking to a friend who has lost weight is not as helpful as meeting with a mental health specialist who understands many methods for changing habits. No book can give you a personal nutritional analysis and eating plan.
On this same subject, your doctor may need to help with adjustments in prescription dosages. Every time you lose 10 or 15 pounds, your medication should be weight adjusted. Be aware that many drugs have known side effects that might include weight gain. Insulin, prednisone, birth control and some blood pressure medications are a few of the examples I have seen inhibit the weight loss efforts of past clients.
12 Ways to Lose Weight“Habits to support habits” is the most important concept to make all of this work. To begin a new habit, there are other behaviors that a person must do to consistently follow the new path. For example, in order to get in the habit of getting to the gym three or four times per week, a person must have the habit of keeping their gym bag in the car and packed with all the clothes, shoes, towels and so on to get through the week. Another example is eating fruit. To support a habit of eating two pieces of fruit per day, a person must be in the habit of buying 15 or 20 pears, bananas, apples and peaches every week. The extras are in case someone else eats one, one is rotten or grocery shopping day gets delayed. In order to build a habit of drinking water instead of sugary soda, a person has to buy water or keep a cup/jug/bottle available at work, home and in the car. Along with these habits should be some rewards. When new levels of strength are reached, when stretching ranges improve, when clothes become too loose, it is important to buy rewards that support the new slimming habits. Athletic shoes, a tennis racquet, a basketball, registration for a road race are all examples of rewards that support new slimming habits and are actually more enjoyable and memorable than fried foods or chocolate.
Another habit to support habits is documentation. I always tell my clients that the measurements of waist, hips, thighs, weight and body composition are all beginner numbers that they will be proud of when the numbers have been changed by smart habit changes. Measurements should be done about at least every two months. A food log has been shown to support dietary changes. Dieters who logged calorie consumption consistently, lost more weight. The same applies to exercise. When the goal is to exercise four times per week, an exercise log can tell better than one’s memory if the goal is being met.
In conclusion, I promised 12 ways to slim down and gave you 14 new habits to use in your efforts to have a healthier, stronger, happier new year. I recommend that you add one of these new habits every three weeks. With each new planned habit, give some thought to the other new habits that are needed to support the new habits. Concentrate on making permanent changes in your habits and delightful changes in your body will follow automatically.
It is each individual’s own decision as to how to use the increased energy that results from the above written habits.
I take no responsibility for any costs incurred because someone’s clothes no longer fit.
No one should tell their doctor that it is my fault that they will be seeing her less.
Above all, everyone is on their own in dealing with friends, co-workers and even strangers complimenting them on the new body shape that happens as a result of these new good habits.
Under no circumstances should anyone share this information with anyone else.
Written by Michael Mansfield, a Sarasota resident and ACE certified personal fitness trainer who operates Super Circle Fitness Studio. His own path to fitness was cluttered with numerous obstacles including a low back deformity from birth, low thyroid since childhood, gluten intolerance, sleep apnea requiring two surgeries etc.