To really understand how to lose weight you need to learn a little bit about the human body, the mind and nutrition. Weight loss really is not a complex task – you really do just need to eat less and exercise more. The real challenge is overcoming the mind to control your appetite and combat lethargy.
Here we cover the main topics on weight loss. First we look at dieting and attempt to dispel a few myths and explain that although it is difficult to lose weight by dieting alone, it is certainly possible. We also look at the role of human biology in weight loss. We then review the “10 Scientific Ways To Lose Weight” which is based on the research published by the BBC in 2011. We also look briefly at “spot reduction”, which is another classic myth of losing weight.
After the information on how to lose weight we review some weight loss books. All of these books have been hand-picked and individually reviewed – they all provide a healthy and sustainable way to lose weight and get fit.
Finally we provide what is hoped to be some motivational advice and then one solution for tackling weight loss, i.e. adopting “SMART” plan.
If you are not sure whether or not you are overweight then you should use our BMI calculator. If you have any questions or need any guidance then please do not hesitate to ask below. There is also a list of resources and references to allow you to learn more on each topic discussed.
Understanding Weight Loss
Combining regular exercise with a healthy diet really is the best way to lose weight, however, often people are unable to exercise on a regular basis for various reasons. So if you are not able to exercise you have to adopt a healthy weight loss diet plan to help you to lose weight and then manage your weight.
Important note: The goal of a weight loss plan is to lose fat and ideally become fitter at the same time. If you are only restricting calories then it is likely that you will lose muscle tissue as well as fat. While this will still record as “weight loss” it is not what you should be aiming for. Muscle is healthy, fat is not.
To lose weight all we need to do is ensure that our daily calorie intake is less than our daily calorie requirements. So why is exercise thought to be so important for weight loss? Regular exercise makes this easier for four main reasons.
How Exercise Helps You To Lose Fat
- It increases the amount of calories you burn each day
- It increases your metabolism as your body builds new muscle tissue
- It helps to manage appetite by releasing hormones that suppress hunger
- It helps to use up glycogen reserves which triggers the fat burning hormone called glucagon.
So if you cannot exercise you are missing out on a huge advantage when it comes to weight loss. However, it is still possible to lose weight.
Why Fat Loss Is Your Goal
Everyone asks “how do I lose weight?” but the real question should be “how do I lose body fat while maintaining lean muscle tissue?“. A healthy body is lean and muscular – muscles give us our shape and tone.
Muscles are also vital for good health. Not only do they make us stronger and fitter, they also help keep metabolism raised. Muscle tissue is very “hungry”, it needs proteins and carbohydrates for growth, repair and function, and needs much more energy than fat tissue.
Another way to explain it is that muscles are the body’s engines, fat cells are the fuel tanks. When someone wants to “lose weight”, they actually want to lose fat. Understanding this helps to explain why very low-calorie diets can be counter-productive in the long-term.
The Problem of Very Low Calorie Diets
When people attempt to lose weight with diet alone they generally throw themselves into a low-calorie diet, or sometimes a very low-calorie diet (VLCD) which is defined by being below 1000 calories a day.
Often these diets do not provide the body with enough protein to sustain muscle tissue and so muscle wastage occurs. The body simply breaks downs its own muscle tissue to provide energy for other parts of the body. Fat loss will also occur, but not in isolation.
Biology: The Relationship of Food, Fat Storage and Hormones
To understand why this happens we need to explain a little about how the body stores and then burns fat. There are two hormones at play in the body that control fat storage – insulin and glucagon. Both are triggered by changing levels of glucose in the blood (blood sugar).
When we eat carbohydrates, especially high GI carbs, such as bread, blood sugar levels rise. This increase in blood sugar triggers a release of insulin from the pancreas. The role of insulin is to reduce blood sugar levels, it does this by aiding the uptake of glucose into fat storage (adipose tissue). The glucose is actually converted to glycerol and combined with fatty acids for TAGs (triacylglycerides) and this is what we call “fat”. Prolonged raised levels of sugar in the blood can lead to health problems.
So, in a nutshell, when we consume sugary foods our bodies release insulin that causes that sugar to be stored as fat. Understanding this is key to understanding how diet can help lose weight.
So When Does the Body Decide To Lose Weight?
When glucose levels fall the pancreas then releases glucagon. The role of this hormone is simply the opposite of insulin, it causes blood sugar levels to rise again. Glucose is the prime energy source of the brain which is our prime organ as it controls the functions of all other parts of the body.
So glucagon’s prime objective is to ensure that the brain is supplied with sugar. It does this by breaking down the fat tissue to extract the sugars locked up in the TAGs (glycerol and fatty acids). This is what we call fat burning.
It is not easy to get the body to release glucagon though. You have to allow your blood sugar levels to fall to very low levels. As soon as you eat a sugary food, such as some bread, pasta, high GI vegetable like parsnips and pumpkin, processed breakfast cereals, rice, any junk food (cakes, cookies, donuts), you blood sugar rises and therefore glucagon production stops and insulin takes over, so you quickly go from a fat burning situation back to a fat storing one.
This is why unhealthy diets are so likely to lead to weight gain – most of what is unhealthy is also high on the glycemic index (high GI) which means it causes blood sugar spikes, insulin and fat accumulation. So by limiting high GI foods you can help to lose weight with diet alone.
The Importance of Protein
Protein is important for two reasons:
- Without adequate daily protein muscles start to waste away as the amino acids locked within the muscle tissue are used to help with the ongoing repair of vital organs.
- When protein is digested the body releases another hormone, PYY, which helps to suppress hunger.
This is another reason why very low-calorie diets are bad – people eating less than 1000 Calories a day to lose weight often fail to consume enough protein, instead just eating their favorite sugary snacks. This sugar heavy diet not only causes fat to be stored but also the lack of protein causes muscles to waste away and lowers BMR (basal metabolic rate) which determines how much energy is used to maintain the body at rest.
The Role of Exercise
Although it is possible to lose weight through healthy diet alone, as detailed above, it is far easier and quicker to lose weight by combining diet with exercise. But when is the best time to exercise? Is there a best time at all? One school of thought is that so long as you are active and burn additional calories it does not matter what time you exercise. However, there are other opinions on this, so lets take a look at them.
Many people advocate that the best way to lose weight is to exercise on an empty stomach before a meal. It has long been believed that this fasted exercising will increase metabolism and help lose weight, then eating afterwards will provide the body with essential proteins, carbohydrate and fats to start building healthy new muscle tissue.
However, recent collaborative research carried out by Surrey University and Imperial College London and published in the Journal of Endocrinology suggests that exercise after eating can help people to lose weight more effectively than vice versa.
The research found that exercising after a meal boosts the release of hormones PYY, GLP-1 and PP which then suppress appetite, meaning that you stay full for longer which reduces snacking.
Dr John McAvoy, a GP with a special interest in obesity, said “For exercise to contribute to weight control it should be sustainable over the long-term and enjoyment remains a critical factor to this end.”
As is often the case, the real conclusion is that to lose weight, lifestyle change is required. There really is no quick fix to fitness and health. People that keep healthy remain active throughout their lives and generally socialize with more active people.
One specific hormone that we are currently aware of which affects appetite is the PPY hormone. PPY helps to reduce our appetite when it is in the system. It is created in the body in response to two specific activities; exercise and the digestion of proteins.
Previously it was assumed that the increase of PPY in the body would not last long enough to make exercise after a meal a useful approach to weight loss. However, research has shown that exercise does not result in a reduced calorie consumption. In fact, people who exercise tend to eat more food than the sedentary people!
The Relationship Between Exercise and Diet
Sometimes people really do like to complicate matters. There is already enough confusion regarding weight loss, which leads to many people making costly weight loss mistakes. In recent years two pieces of research were published which really helped to confuse matters. One study concluded that exercise does not help you to lose weight while the other concluded that diet does not help you to lose weight either. So neither work! Well, let’s try to bring some sanity back to the relatively simple task of reducing body fat.
Exercise Alone Does Not Help You Lose Weight
The British Journal of Sports Medicine published a report which concluded that exercise fails to help many people lose weight. A team of sports scientists conducted a study which involved monitoring the calorie expenditure of a group of people on a rest day and then again on a controlled exercise day.
The results showed that exercising did not generate a calorie “after burn” that many people believe. In fact, in some cases people burned less fat on their exercise days than on their rest days.
In the study all the subjects were overweight or obese, and the study only monitored progress over a short period. From practical experience we see that although in the very short-term people do not lose weight when they start exercising, on the longer term they do. For example, when people start jogging / running they often see no or little weight reduction in the first month. It is only in the second month of running when the body has become stronger and fitter that a person can push themselves hard enough to burn off enough extra calories to make a real difference.
Short Term Weight Loss is Not Possible
In the average 45 minute cardio session the number of calories burned is about the same as that for a sports energy drink, and less than that of a protein / carbohydrate replacement drink. So it stands to reason that without strictly controlling calorie intake weight loss is much harder to obtain. In fact the study showed that weight loss was not possible in the very short-term by exercise alone.
Another reason why people fail to lose weight is because they gain more muscle when they start exercising. Although there is no weight loss, there is sometimes some fat loss, which is the ultimate goal. Muscle is healthy, fat is not.
Diet Without Exercise Does Not Aid Weight Loss
The second study that was published in the American Journal of Physiology concluded that diet without exercise does not aid weight loss. The scientific community has once again thrown our understanding of health and fitness upside down. However, we have to listen to our scientists as they are the experts!
In this study it was concluded that eating fewer calories does not contribute a great deal to achieving weight loss goals and that eating healthy food, instead of unhealthy, does not directly aid weight loss either. This is the sort of conclusion that leads tabloid readers reaching for the donuts and pizza!
Explanation of the Research
The research group from the Oregon Health and Science University suggested that the reason diet does not always lead to aid weight loss was because when people eat less they become less active, therefore burning fewer calories, so the reduction in calories eaten does not lead to a calorie deficit because the body needs less.
“This research shows that simply dieting will not likely cause substantial weight loss. Instead, diet and exercise must be combined to achieve this goal.” Dr. Judy Cameron, senior scientist at Oregon Health and Science University.
The research was carried out on primates (18 female rhesus macaque monkeys). After being fed well for several years they were placed on a low-fat and low-calorie diet with 30% fewer calories than they normally ate. During the first month of their diet their weight hardly changed, with no significant weight loss.
What was surprising was that the monkeys became much less active. They became lethargic and sedentary to conserve energy. In the second month of the study calories were reduced again and this resulted in activity decreasing even further.
As part of this research another group of monkeys were given a standard diet and exercised for one hour per day. These monkeys lost weight.
“This study demonstrates that there is a natural body mechanism which conserves energy in response to a reduction in calories.” Dr Cameron, Oregon Health and Science University.
The key to fast and successful weight loss seems to be as it always has been – a combination of healthy diet with fewer calories and regular rigorous exercise!
But Humans Are Not Monkeys!
One thing to consider though, when we make an effort to lose weight by restricting calories, we often do not have the luxury of being able to become less active like the monkeys in the study could – we still have to work and carry out our chores. So for many people reducing calories is a good way to lose weight.
If you go on a calorie restrictive diet and maintain your activity levels, then you will certainly lose weight, although you need to be sure that you do not become more restful after workouts.
If you decide to just exercise more, the chances are that you will be eating less and eating meals that help with your exercise, i.e. meals that are lower in carbohydrates, less stodgy/easier to digest. These types of food will also help you to lose weight.
Exercise is Important
Exercise does help you to lose weight and it certainly gets you fit. But you need to ensure you exercise with intensity and do not over eat afterwards. So many people treat themselves to a big dinner or breakfast after exercising in the mistaken belief that they have worked hard enough to deserve it. This is rarely, if ever, true. Professional swimmers, athletes and bodybuilders consume considerably more calories every day, but they are super-fit and train for several hours each day at a much higher intensity than an overweight and unfit person can manage.
Exercise does have a vital purpose though. Most people who manage to control their weight long-term after losing a lot of weight do so by using exercise. If you are fit and exercise on the regular basis you can get away with a few more eating binges before the weight comes back on.
If you want to lose weight and shed the pounds, then the answer is to eat a healthy well-balanced, portion controlled diet AND do some exercise to get fitter so that you can maintain your healthy weight.
One final point on exercise – it boosts your confidence. Another study recent showed that people feel better about themselves after they exercise. Even when there is no real physical change, self-confidence is improved. This increase in self-esteem caused by exercise leads to more exercise and eventually you become healthier, fitter and slimmer.
Sometimes you have to be really careful how you interpret results of studies. The tabloids reported both of these stories in the most controversial way possible, that is diet does not lead to weight loss, and neither does exercise. The research is still important as it helps us to understand the dynamics of weight loss, diet and exercise and how our bodies respond to changing conditions. However, as far as the average overweight person is concerned, the same rules apply – exercise more and eat less to lose weight.
The key to losing weight and staying fit and healthy is to make a full lifestyle change which involves eating less, eating a well-balanced diet and getting regular exercise. Be more active every day, it really will make you fitter and leaner. Combine these weight loss articles with a specialist weight loss plan and you can lose weight even faster!
10 Scientific Ways To Lose Weight
The BBC decided to research weight loss and they shared their results in the program 10 Things You Need to Know About Losing Weight.
Medical journalist Michael Mosley decided to determine which methods of weight loss really work, based on biology.
The documentary first looked at visceral fat (also known as belly fat), the internal fat that surrounds the internal organs, and is very unhealthy. Visceral fat can cause heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. A larger waist is the first sign that you are carrying too much visceral fat.
Michael Mosley had a scan to measure fat and found that he was carrying a lot of visceral fat, so this made him more determined to lose weight to ensure that he did not develop diabetes like his father did before him.
Skip Meals to Skip Calories?
Many people make this mistake when they decide to lose weight. Science helps to explain why skipping breakfast often means you do not lose weight.
When you are hungry your brain actually gets more “excited” when you see high calorie foods. Your brain makes you want to eat the worst food, which leads to snacking and overeating. Curbing hunger is the key to managing calories and losing weight.
A hormone called grehlin sends a signal to the brain when hunger starts and this makes us want to eat. As a result we crave high calorie foods.
Painless Weight Loss Without Much Exercise
Michael Mosley decided that he wanted to lose about 5 pounds but wanted to ensure that his weight loss was painless and did not involve too much exercise. He still did a little exercise and stayed active, but the focus was on managing his appetite to learn to eat less.
1. Eat from a Smaller Plate
Reduce plate size from 12 inches to 10 inches and on average you will eat 22% less food. Various studies have shown that the more food you give someone, the more food they eat. So simply by serving less food on smaller plates you will start to reduce calories.
Sometimes it is simply little changes to the way that we eat that can help the most when it comes to losing weight. Research has shown that eating from a smaller plate helps people to lose weight, and can prevent childhood obesity.
When you have a large plate you tend to fill it, and all too often people eat without really thinking about how much they are eating. You just eat all that is on the plate. Using smaller plates at home means that you put less food on your plate.
You may be thinking, “but I will not eat enough!“. This is not the case! A smaller plate will still contain all the calories that your require, plus all the essential nutrients and vitamins. It really is a case that most people eat too much in every meal.
However, the size of the plate and the portion of food is not the only trick. More recent studies have shown that eating slower also encourages people to eat less. When you eat quickly, your body does not have time to send the signal to your brain informing you that you are full, and need no further food. By slowing down a little, you can feel full with less food.
In a study on children by Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, plates were placed on scales and children could see how much they were eating, children started to eat slower and less. Essentially a machine told the children when they were removing food from their plates too quickly, encouraging them to slow down. On average children ate 7% less food when they slowed down their eating.
Weighing the food as it is eaten is not really possible for most people though. So here are a few tips on eating less:
- Use smaller plates, especially for children. Do not serve children adult portions.
- Use smaller plates for yourself too. You do not need those giant plates!
- Do not eat in front of the television. You tend to eat faster and think less about your food when watching television or a film, and you are not likely to feel full at the right time.
- If you are a fast eater (people generally tell you if you are!) then eat with a slow eater, and match their speed. Learn to eat slowly.
2. Count Calories
Learn how many calories are in different foods. Most people eat too much calories just by eating high calories options.
A black coffee only has 10 calories. A single pepperoni pizza can contain 1400 calories. Just by choosing low-calorie foods can halve your daily calorie intake.
3. Slow Metabolism Problem?
Why are some people overweight even though they eat healthy food and are active? Many people say that they have tried every diet and do lots of exercise but yet still gain weight. So, many people blame on a slow metabolism.
However, most people do not have a slow metabolism at all. Being overweight due to a slow metabolism is just a myth, and an excuse, for many overweight people. So why some of us are overweight?
The actress Debbie Chazen was monitored to determine why she was overweight, as she was adamant that she did not overeat – she blamed her slow metabolism.
Debbie was asked to keep a food diary and what was found was that she was actually eating far more food each day than she needed. She recorded in her food diary that she was eating 1100 calories a day, but in reality she was actually eating 3000 calories a day. The BBC reported that studies have shown that people tend to under report how much they eat by up to 50%.
Healthy food is full of calories – all food is calories. So too much fruit, salads, vegetables, bread, pasta and rice all can cause weight gain.
4. Avoid Hunger With Protein
The key to losing weight and keeping it off is to avoid hunger and some foods are good at reducing hunger.
Protein rich foods, like lean meat, eggs and fish, help you to feel full for longer. 10% more protein in your breakfast can reduce hunger, which means you even eat less for lunch.
Tip – Eat eggs for breakfast every day.
When you eat protein your body releases more of the hormone called PYY which helps you not to feel hungry. Protein switches off your urge to eat!
5. Eat Soup
Eating soup makes you feel full for longer, even if the ingredients are exactly the same. So rather than eat chicken and vegetables, add water and make a soup.
Same calories, but with solid food your stomach starts to shrink quicker and you feel hungry quicker. As soon as your stomach is empty hormones start to send signals to the brain asking for more food.
Research by Abdou Himaya (1998) revealed that “there was a significantly greater suppression of hunger after the chunky soup than after the vegetables and water“.
Why does soup keep you fuller for longer? If you eat solid food plus water, the water passes quickly leaving just a small amount of food in the stomach which triggers the hormones that make you feel hunger. By eating soup you just stay full for longer as the water is not removed separately as it is with a drink.
Tip – Have soup for lunch every day.
6. Resist Temptation
Studies have shown when people are offered more attractive food they eat more of it. Increased variety leads to more eating. This is an evolutionary advantage. See the additional references below for more on this.
However, studies show that when we have a variety of food to choose from we can eat 30% more food.
Tip – Avoid buffets as they are bad!
7. Eat Dairy Calcium
If you eat dairy calcium the fats in the food combine with the other food you eat and the body cannot absorb it, so it passes through you. You literally just excrete more food rather than use its energy.
In a study it was shown that if you eat more dairy calcium you excrete twice as much fat which means you absorb less energy.
Tip – Eat cheese, milk and yogurt with each meal. But do not exceed calories.
8. Exercise Every Day
How effective is exercise? And what sort of exercise is best? Michael Mosley showed that moderate exercise does indeed help us to lose weight. By walking for 90 minutes you only burn around 19 grams of fat (190 calories, less than 1 sandwich). But, it was shown that after exercise he had burned an additional 49 grams of fat during the night. Why is this?
During exercise we use up our carbohydrate stores. Afterwards our bodies start to break down fat reserves to replenish carbohydrate to provide the body with energy. This is often called the after burn effect.
Simply moving more, walking about, using stairs, not sitting down unless you have to, you burn a lot more energy each day. In the study an overweight woman burned 240 calories more by being more active than she did on a lazy day. This could equal weight loss of around 12kg (around 26 pounds) in one year.
10. Do All The Above
Really the best way to lose weight is to make many changes to your lifestyle rather than just doing one thing. So use all the tips above. Eat breakfast each day, with proteins. Have soup for lunch. Eat cheese, drink milk and have yogurt. Do some exercise each day – without fail! Be more active, do not just watch television or sit at your desk all day. Count those calories, do not overeat.
This is how you lose weight. It is proven by science and demonstrated by Michael Mosley and the BBC. You can learn more about how the BBC aids weight loss here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/search/Weight_loss.
Weight Loss Depends on You
“A Weight Loss Plan Is Only Ever As Good As The Person Following It”
Many people spend a long time looking for the “perfect” or “best” weight loss solution. And as there are so many products, plans, regimes and systems on the market it often seems logical to assume that there must be a system that cannot fail.
However, every year people do fail to lose weight and get back in shape. Also every year we hear people saying “I have tried everything to lose weight and nothing works”.
So, are all weight loss plans a waste of time, and money? Well, maybe they are, if you are not prepared to put in the effort.
That is why we always say, “A Weight Loss Plan Is Only Ever As Good As The Person Following It“.
You can hire the world’s top nutritionists and fitness instructors to help you meet your weight loss goals, but if you do not put in the effort, if you are not fully committed, then failure is a real possibility.
Alternatively you could follow the simplest of plans, and if you are dedicated and work hard, you will succeed.
When it comes to losing weight and getting back is shape, the only person that can make that change is you. You have to follow the diets, you have to do the exercise, you have to control your appetite and not give in to your cravings in more difficult times emotionally. Only you can do it!
However, saying that, a good plan does provide a solid foundation on which to work. And being part of a weight loss or fitness group can help provide the support and encouragement that you need to help keep you on target.
“successful long-term weight loss maintainers share common behavioral strategies, including eating a diet low in fat, frequent self-monitoring of body weight and food intake, and high levels of regular physical activity” (Wing and Hill, 2001)
So if you do decide to follow a weight loss plan, remember, the plan will only work if you do too. Long term weight loss requires constant vigilance. Never stop monitoring and keep food and exercise journals if need be. The easiest thing in the world is to give up on the plan and revert to your old, unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle and put all the weight back on again. Do not let this happen. Once on the slippery slope to weight gain it is hard to stop.
All of these plans can be very effective. No weight loss plan will work if you are not committed to follow the rules, read all the guidelines and most importantly do the hard work, that is exercising or following a strict diet.
These plans will in the long-term do more than just help you lose a few pounds though (you can learn more about the health benefits of exercise here). They will teach you how to live a healthier and more fulfilling life. Regular exercise and a healthy diet will literally add years, maybe even decades, to your life. And it will also make those extra years more rewarding as you will remain more active into old age.
We are living in a society today where more people are growing older each year but many of these people are house bound, obese and very inactive. The quality of life for millions of people is well below average. Anyone who does not take action and strive to become fitter and healthier when they are young, risks crippling health problems later in life. So do yourself a favor and get active and start changing your life today!
Start A SMART Weight Loss Plan
We have mentioned before how careful planning improves the success rate of a weight loss plans. Each year thousands of people start a weight loss plan or a new diet and then give up after a month because it has “failed” to work. More often than not the failure to lose weight is due to a combination of poor preparation and attempting to achieve too much too soon.
As part of my ongoing studies into health care I came across the SMART strategy which is used by some medical professionals to help patients manage their condition. A SMART strategy is simply one that sets rules for 5 key areas. By thinking through, and more importantly planning these stages, we can greatly increase the probability of success. Below we provide some examples of how the SMART strategy can be used.
- Specific – You want to lose weight or get fit.
- Measurable – Define how much weight you want to lose, or how much fitter you need to be.
- Action – Define exactly what you will do – specific diet, exercise plans etc.
- Realistic – Set goals that you will be able meet, do not try to lose too much weight too soon.
- Time-limited – Set a time limit and then assess your achievements at the end.
So to break down this approach further you may plan your weight loss strategy further. Here is a more detailed example.
You want to lose weight and feel healthy again. Also you want to be able to fit into your favorite clothes that you have not worn for years.
The most simple weight loss goal to set really is to define an amount of weight that you wish to lose. So in this example, we wish to lose 10 pounds.
This is the easiest step, making this decision and putting it into writing. Now the harder work needs to be done, which is working out how to achieve this an in what time frame. If a time frame is not set then the plan becomes meaningless.
To lose weight you must be willing to change your diet and lifestyle. So action must cover both of these bases.
You will follow a low GI diet which involves cutting out all junk food, all sugar based snacks such as cookies, candy, soda and cakes. You will also drink only water, coffee and tea on a daily basis. Even natural fruit sugars will be limited as the ultimate goal for now is weight loss, and not optimum health.
One error people often make is trying to compromise health and weight loss so much that the focus is eating healthy food and not on reducing fat.
Diet also needs to set out meal plans, such as stating when meals will be eaten and what they will consist of. So, breakfast everyday with wholemeal bread, eggs or an oat based cereal. Lunch and dinner should be specified in accordance with the diet rules, so plan salads, fish meals, stews and other meals prepared with fresh ingredients rather than processed and ready-meals.
For each day of the week you should set out your exercise schedule. Just saying “I will exercise more” generally leads to failure as you start to find excuses for not exercising, or more common than that, you will just forget some days.
So for exercise you should write down each day of the week and plan at least 30 minutes of exercise. If this involves getting up earlier or going to bed later, you must make that change. Nobody has an excuse for not exercising, you can always make the time.
A healthy exercise plan will include 4 cardio sessions a week, such as jogging or running, swimming, cycling or aerobics, and then 2 resistance training sessions, such as weight training or kettlebells, and then one more gentle session, such as a long walk or a yoga class.
The key with exercising to lose weight is to do something everyday. If you have time to exercise twice some days, schedule it in and do it twice. Specify the time of exercise if that is the only way to remember to do it – make an appointment.
The goal that you set should of course be realistic. For most people who are overweight, losing 10 pounds is a realistic goal, so we have already covered this factor. If you were only 5 pounds overweight then a goal of losing 20 pounds would be unrealistic, not to mention unhealthy.
If you are 100 pounds overweight then an initial goal to lose 100 pounds may simply be too much to ask in one go. Which is why we set a time-limit.
This ties the whole plan together – choosing how long to perform this project for. It will depend largely on your current level of fitness and how much weight you need to lose.
As a general rule of thumb we lose 1 pound of fat each week when our daily calorie intake is consistently 500 Calories below our needs.
So if you think that all you can manage to start with (see realistic goal setting) is losing 1 pound a week, then the time limit is 10 weeks. Give yourself 10 weeks to lose 10 pounds and you just need to create a daily calorie deficit of 500 Calories. This could be as simple as consuming 250 Calories less than you need and burning 250 Calories through exercise. To learn how many Calories you need each day see this table of calorie requirements.
Putting The SMART Weight Loss Plan Together
For example, if you are a 30-year-old woman then you will need around 2100 Calories a day to maintain your current bodyweight. So to lose 1 pound per week you should consume 1850 Calories a day and exercise to burn 250 Calories. These 1850 Calories will be from a healthy and balanced diet with no junk food or any other unhealthy foods and a variety of fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts, fish, lean meat, eggs and dairy produce.
As you can see, if you use a SMART strategy to plan your weight loss then it will really help you to stay on target. You set realistic goals that are attainable through calculated actions over a set time period.
If you fail it will be because you have ignored some part of the plan, such as stopped exercising or started eating too much food again. If you are keeping a diary of your actions and progress then you will quickly see where you are going wrong.
If you set out a SMART weight loss plan then you will never be able to use the excuse that the plan did not work – the only thing that can fail is your ability to act on the plan that you have set. Hopefully as you are devising your own plan then you will be more determined to stick to it. This is the key to empowerment. People who are more involved in their own decisions feel empowered and in control and are more successful at losing weight.
About the SMART Strategy
Although it is now being used in the medical community the SMART Strategy was originally designed as a business planning strategy. The first known usage of SMART was by George T. Doran in 1981 in his paper “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives“. It was published in Management Review, Volume 70, Issue 11, pp. 35-36.
References and Further Reading
“Exercise after eating diet tip” – BBC News, Monday, 4 June 2007
“Effects of exercise on gut peptides, energy intake and appetite” by Catia Martins, Linda M Morgan, Stephen R Bloom1 and M Denise Robertson. J Endocrinol May 1, 2007 193 251-258
“The allure of forbidden food: On the role of attention in self-regulation.” by Esther K. Papies, Wolfgang Stroebea and Henk Aartsa. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Volume 44, Issue 5, September 2008, Pages 1283-1292.
“Obesity: genes, glands or gluttony?” by D. J. Chisholm, K. Samaras, T. Markovic, D. Carey, N. Lapsys and L. V. Campbell. Reproduction, Fertility and Development 10 (1) 49-54. http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/R98016
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Notes on the publication of this article: The first part of article was originally published in March 2009 with updates following. In February 2012 all parts were combined into the article you find today.