It seems like everyone wants to lose weight … and fast. No one is satisfied with their appearance.
However, some people want to lose five pounds while others need to lose fifty or more. Clearly there can’t be a one-size-fits-all diet strategy.
Here’s what you need to know to determine which approach is best for you:
1. Set a Reasonable Goal Weight
This is the hardest part. Everyone wants to lose more than they are capable of doing.
One good way to figure out how much you should lose is to decide how many dress or pant sizes you want to drop. On average you have to lose eight to ten pounds for each dress size. For men the same amount is needed for every inch in their waist.
If the idea is to squeeze into a size eight dress with your size ten figure you will need to lose about 16 to 20 pounds. Or if you are wearing a size 40 pants and want to feel comfortable in 38’s then you need to lose the same 16 to 20 pounds.
Meanwhile if you have set your sights on significantly more weight loss, then it is a good idea to take it one step at a time.
Establish a mini-goal of say 20 to 25 pounds. When that goal is achieved reassess your position.
2. Set a Date for Success
If you have a size twelve figure and need to fit into that size ten dress by next Saturday night you’re not going to be able to do it. It is not possible to lose that amount of weight that quickly.
However, although you can lose five pounds in a week or two, most of that will be water wasting. (See here to learn why) Don’t expect to keep it off later.
A much more reasonable approach is to consider losing one or two pounds per week. That is a pace that can be maintained for a sustained period. Even better, a practical pace leads to long-term success.
Next take the number of pounds you want to lose and divide it by five That is the number of months you need. That may later prove to be too optimistic but the motivation is critical. The date can always be changed later as needed.
Finally, circle that date on a calendar. That is your goal.
3. Picking a Strategy to Lose a Little
If you want to lose five pounds to firm up before summer swim season, there are a variety of methods that will work for you. As always it depends on consuming fewer calories every day, on average, than you need to function.
Trimming a few extra calories combined with a modest exercise program should easily do the trick.
A couple of better food choices every week, say switching from a fried entree to a broiled one two or three times, along with a three-times-a-week 45 minute walk with your dog could easily save 1,500 to 2,000 calories.
In a month that adds up to a permanent loss of two pounds with almost no restriction in food choice or the burden of a difficult exercise program.
That may not sound like a lot but the goal is to lose five pounds and keep it off, not to win a race.
4. Picking a Strategy to Lose a Lot
If shedding twenty pounds is what you are looking for, then you will have to come up with a more rigorous program. Remember to set an attainable goal date.
Most experts would recommend trying to lose about five pounds per month on a moderately rigorous weight loss program. So it would take at least four months to lose twenty. Use that as your starting point. The back-end date can be adjusted if the pace proves too difficult.
If you are going to lose a little over a pound per week than you will need to save 500 calories per day, every day. To achieve that, you will need to make a more careful audit of the calories you are eating and burning.
However, subtle switches in behavior can produce amazing savings. This is a small sample: avoid oil-based salad dressings, use balsamic vinegar instead; use cooking methods that rely more on baking or broiling than frying; limit unnecessary calories wasted on soft drinks and fruit juices of marginal nutrition; and limit your intake of bread.
On the expenditure side, a 40 minute thrice weekly walk will contribute consistent and easy savings.
Some important rules:
Don’t deprive yourself of any guilty pleasures, just have smaller amounts less frequently.
Don’t depend on just one side of the calorie equation. Eat a little less and burn a little more.
5. If It Feels Hopeless
If you need to lose fifty or more pounds the thought of losing just a pound per week faces you with the daunting task of a year or more before your goal is achieved, if ever.
Motivational boosts and frequent interactions with weight-loss counselors have proven ineffective.
Furthermore, long-term studies show that the ultimate failure rate after the weight loss period is over approaches 95% for chronically obese people.
So, is it hopeless?
No it is not. There are effective weight loss strategies available for those who have to lose significant amounts of weight. However, as always, motivation and information are key to success.
Here is one simple strategy that can be an effective start:
1. Begin to learn how many calories are in the foods you are eating by looking them up. Get a calorie guide or search for a good website to do this. Look at the nutrition facts on store-bought packaged food before you buy.
2. Understand where the thousands of calories are hidden in the food you eat: Oil, butter and mayo are loaded with unnecessary calories. They are easily replaced with lower calorie substitutes.
3. Rapidly work to eliminate these and many more calorie-dense foods while slowly tapering down the volume that you eat. Portion control is important but the evidence is overwhelming that for long-term weight loss and maintenance, quality control is the key.
4. Begin to quantify the calorie savings you are making on a daily basis.