When you’re trying to slim down, sometimes it feels like you can’t move for all the different tips and advice out there. And it can be really confusing trying to work out which advice is valid – especially when you’re being told things that conflict.
But to tell the truth, some of the most important things you need to know are sometimes underrated. Here are my top eight pieces of personal advice for anyone who wants to “lose weight” . . . Warning: some of these may run completely counter to what you’ve always believed to be true.
1. Losing size is YOUR responsibility
It can be really easy to blame your other half for always persuading you to eat junk – or your kids for leaving half their dinner on the plate, which you then don’t want to waste – or the supermarkets for putting the chocolate so close to the checkouts.
But in the end, it’s up to you and only you to decide you are going to lose size – and then to follow it through.
If you genuinely want to do it, you can do it – but if your heart isn’t really in it, you will probably fail. Friends and family make our world go round – but the only person you can truly rely on in life is yourself. So you need to accept that responsibility, starting from now.
Believe it or not, once you have put your mind to it, losing size can be an enjoyable journey – try it and see!
2. Your objective should be to lose size not weight
You probably know all about BMI (Body Mass Index) which is calculated from the ratio of your height to your weight. But did you know that the BMI is now often said to have been discredited?
For example, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania have claimed that BMI “is an inaccurate measure of body fat content and does not take into account muscle mass, bone density, overall body composition, and racial and sex differences”.
In fact the latest evidence-based research and guidance is more concerned about reducing your waist size than anything else. This is because belly fat is now known to be very dangerous. Carrying too much fat around your waist can increase your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
Some people have heard it said that “muscle weighs more than fat”. This sometimes put people off exercising, as they think it means that they will gain weight. However, it’s more accurate to say that muscle has a much greater density than fat. This means that a small amount of muscle can weigh the same as a larger amount of fat.
So it’s possible for you to become slimmer but still weigh the same, as your muscles develop. So your objective should be to lose size, not weight.
There is no quick fix to size loss – and then maintaining the size you want. Realistically, it could take as long as two years to get to the size you are happy with. You need to look on this as an important investment of your time and effort – which will pay dividends that could change your life.
3. You need a certain amount of fat in reserve so do not aim for a six pack but at a size that YOU are happy with
It’s easy to become demoralised by all the pictures of super-thin models in the media. But these bodies are not the shape we should aspire to, and in any case the pictures are often airbrushed.
So don’t get too hung up on “thinness” as an end in itself. As Naomi Wolf says, “A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one”.
In fact, being too thin can carry just as many health risks as being overweight. So remember – everything in moderation, including your quest to reduce your size.
4. Building good habits and losing bad habits is key
Our body is a power station; it takes in energy and then uses it to power us. If we do not use it, the energy is stored in batteries (Fat Cells) for later use. Your goal should be to reduce your energy intake and increase your energy usage during the period of size reduction.
And the best way to succeed at this to create the right habits. Human beings are probably hardwired for laziness and procrastination – and we also dislike change – so starting to build a habit is hard. But then on the other hand, once a habit is built, it is hard for us to stop. We need to be aware of this and build the right habits that allow us to grow and prosper otherwise the lazy animal within us will destroy us. It’s often said that you will need to do something around 21 times for the habit to form.
James Clear gives three awesome tips for habit building:
- You have to start with a version of the habit that is incredibly easy for you. It must be so easy that you can’t say no to doing it and so easy that it is not difficult at all in the beginning.
- You have to increase your habit each day, but in an incredibly small way.
- Even after increasing your habit, all repetitions must remain easy. The total habit should be broken down into easier pieces if needed.
Quality is better than quantity and small, sustainable changes are better than big heroic efforts that are too hard to maintain. Start with as few as 5-10 squats a day. When this becomes a habit, increase the number or add another exercise. Don’t try to do hundreds – you probably only need to build up to something like 3 sets of 30.
5. Reducing your calorie intake needs to be done slowly over time, and in a controlled way, for maximum success
Look at what you eat and change one small thing at a time (do not rush this step), either by reducing the quantity of what you eat or by switching it for something with fewer calories. It’s better not to just cut something out completely, as this is hard, and you will in all likelihood fail. So just reduce the quantity instead. Again start with small, achievable targets. So if you have something five times a week, reduce it to four times – or replace one portion a week with a lower calorie alternative. When this habit is formed make another small change.
As a generalisation, following diets is often unhelpful. They can often lead to your weight “yo yoing” – and in the long run will only really benefit the people selling the diet to you.
6. Similarly, burning more energy is better done “little and often” rather than through inconsistent exercise binges
As with reducing calorie intake learn to burn more energy, walk to the shop rather than drive. Instead of asking your child or partner to get something – do it yourself. Walk up the escalator rather than just travel up, or better take the stairs (try to walk up three flights of steps before you take the lift). Cycle, jog or walk rather than drive wherever possible. . . in other words: don’t be lazy – take the slightly more energetic option.
7. Bigger muscles burn more energy
Once you’ve understood this truth, it will transform your approach to size loss. Simply put, the bigger your muscles are, the more calories they burn – even when you are resting! Overbuild your leg muscles, as these are the biggest muscles in your body. And commit yourself to having large muscular legs for two years, or until you reach the size you want to be.
Think about this – everything you do involves your legs. So if these are more muscular, you will burn more energy doing exactly the same things you do now.
8. You do not need loads of complicated exercises – or access to a gym – or a ton of expensive home equipment
You just need a few basic exercises. As a starting point try these:
- Squats – Builds Quads and calf muscles
- Calf raises – Builds the calf muscles
- Thin tummy – Works the stomach girdle, the muscles that pull on the stomach to flatten it.
- Leg raises – Works all the core muscles
- The plank – Works all the core muscles
- Press ups – Builds chest, upper arm and shoulder muscles
- Sit ups – Works the abdominal muscles
As you can see these seven exercises will work all the main muscles that you use every day, When you have hit the size you desire you can play with other exercises to fine tune the tone of the body – but for now just stick to these.
Squats and calf raises will build the biggest muscles in the body and will mean you burn more just doing your everyday activities.
“Thin tummy” is important as the stomach is a bag and will expand to take what you put in it. The more you put in it regularly the more it will expand and need to make you feel full. Thin tummy tightens the girdle around the stomach to inhibit it over expanding. And this (more than sit-ups) will make your stomach thinner.
The other exercises either work on other large muscles or allow you to get a basic body tone. If you do not know the exercise have a look on YouTube, just stick to the basic variations of each for now.
If you need more detailed help or would like articles on other similar topics, leave a comment below or contact us