I get a lot of questions about weight loss, both from real life friends and colleagues, and from my many internet buddies and facebook friends. I’ve lost 99 pounds thus far and everyone has noticed. I’m feeling great and I truly enjoy “paying it forward.” I feel like there’s so much misinformation out there, pushed on people by entities that are only concerned with making money. And who’s going to speak up for sensible, skeptical, no-nonsense advice? I am, that’s who!
These are some of the most frequent questions I get and my answers, based on my own personal experience and knowledge. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a personal trainer. I’m just a woman on a weight loss mission with the power of Google at my fingertips and a very fitness-educated boyfriend who loves to dole out advice. Never take anyone’s word for anything. If it works for you, never let some internet stranger tell you otherwise, but this might be a good place to start. Most important first, as usual, in case you stop reading:
1. I started exercising and watching what I eat. Why haven’t I lost any weight?
This one is by far the most common question and it has a very simple answer that everyone should learn right away: When you begin a new exercise routine and you start doing things you weren’t doing before, you put new stress on your muscles. In order to repair themselves, they retain extra fluid. This can result in no visible weight loss on the scale or even a gain, but it doesn’t mean you aren’t losing fat. If you stick it out and wait or the fluid retention to pass, you will see results. Additionally, do not expect to see results overnight. Losing weight is a long term affair, better judged in weeks and months and years than in days. Give any new plan at least one month before passing judgement on whether it is working.
2. How many calories should I eat?
Complicated question! Simple answer: only you can know. Trial and error will help you here. There are many online calculators. I like the one at MyFitnessPal as a starting point. The tricky part is figuring out how many calories you burn without exercise. This will be different depending on your weight, sex, gender, muscle composition, etc. Every person is different and some have faster or slower metabolisms. As a general rule, never go below 1200 calories, though for an active person, 1200 calories is far too low.
3. I’m not losing weight, should I eat less?
Not necessarily. Oftentimes you will stop losing weight if you eat too little. The goal should not be only to lose weight but to do so with the least amount of physical hunger and the most enjoyment possible, to make your body a calorie burning furnace, not force it to conserve as much energy as possible. If you learn to enjoy what you are eating, it will be so much easier to maintain once you reach your goal. A miserable diet will almost surely result in weight regain. I’d say at least 80% of the people who have asked me this question are eating too little, yet it is extremely difficult to convince people of this. It took forever for me to get it through my own thick skull. I could have saved myself a lot of frustration if I hadn’t been so convinced that less is better. It isn’t.
4. How much Protein, Carbs, Fats should I eat?
Here’s the deal: depending which Diet you follow, the answer will be very different. All Diets work for weight loss. There is no evil macro-nutrient and there is no magical one. Better than thinking about the macro-nutrients: focus on getting real, whole, nutritious food, not empty calories. Total calories should be the number one concern for weight loss. Eating real food, number two. And avoiding unreasonable amounts of sugar, number three.
5. Do you allow yourself a “cheat” day when you can eat whatever you want?
No. Let me be very clear on this. There is no cheating on a lifestyle change. You are inventing a way of eating you are going to stick to for life. If you require a cheat day, you might want to reevaluate your day to day plan. I always eat whatever I want. I eat pizza, french fries, and chocolate. I eat all my favorite foods. But I eat them in moderation. If I eat more one day or go to a happy hour, it is not cheating it is part of my plan. Nobody can be perfect all the time, so don’t expect yourself to be. Allow yourself small indulgences. Food is not only fuel, but culture, socialization, celebration, and pleasure, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Do not deny yourself those things, you will only frustrate yourself. I know that for my health and fitness goals, there are certain foods that should be once-in-awhile treats. So I generally do not eat those items. But I do eat them sometimes. And I focus on what I should eat much more than what I shouldn’t. As time has gone on my diet has gotten healthier and healthier. But not because of some list of rules, because I chose to eat this way based on all I had learned and my changing personal preferences.
The short answer to almost every weight loss question is: you don’t have to do everything all at once. Don’t overwhelm yourself. If you had really bad habits, as I did, it is going to take time to change them. But it doesn’t have to happen overnight. Losing weight is a lifetime commitment, not a temporary plan. Each individual’s life circumstances and goals are unique, so there is not a one-size-fits-all plan that will work for everybody. In fact, if a diet plan claims to work for everyone that’s a really easy way to spot a scam.