Have you ever tried to lose weight? Have you ever been successful? How did you do it? Did you reduce your calories or eat in a specific way? Maybe you cut out a complete food group.
We’ve all seen successful people who have lost weight and done just a fantastic job. The unfortunate side is that many of these successes do not last for the long term. This naturally begs the question: Why do we continue to have the same issue of people losing meaningful weight but not being able to sustain it and keep it off? Often this is because we focus on the quick fixes and we focus on not creating meaningful habits.
One of the ways that is talked about quite often is the need to burn calories. I am sure you have heard that you need to burn more calories than you take in. Honestly, that advice is not necessarily incorrect; however, the way in which you approach it can often be the difference between success and failure. In fact, a lot of people and trainers take that advice to literally mean, “hey, let’s try to burn as many calories as we can during this work out”, the problem that I see and what ends up happening is that the individual ends up overworked and stressed out. Progress stalls and goals are usually not met.
Guess what? Calories are absolutely important! Specifically, we need to be in a caloric deficit to lose weight. In fact, this is the only way to lose weight. If you have not been successful losing weight it is because you have not been in a caloric deficit. This is a sad reality that most of us need to understand. It is a concept that can be difficult to grasp and hard to come to grips with. It is easy to see how difficult this can be to understand because we see the calculators online that show us how many calories we need to eat. We see MyFitnessPal among other trackers that tell us where our calories should be. We don’t think we’re eating very much food but we’re still not losing weight and it simply comes down to the fact that you’re eating more calories than your body is able to burn.
Let me be the first to tell you that that is not your fault. The calculators are right for about 50% of the population (and that might be generous) but for everyone else it might not always be accurate. These calculators are a good starting point but we have to measure this for a long time to make meaningful change. I suggest weighing your food to begin with. This can seem quite tedious at first; however, this will allow you to see how easily extra calories can come into play. For example, I can measure out ½ cup of quick oats which comes to 150 calories and 27g of carbohydrates. However, if I weigh the same amount (The ½ cup) it comes out to approx 225 calories and 40g of carbohydrates. Now, obviously the protein and fat content matter here as well but I only use the calories and carbs to illustrate a point. The extra 75 calories can add up quickly and easily sidetrack your progress.
To accomplish all of this, you need to sit down and realize that to be successful you need to prepare for the long game. I know that you’ve heard before that quick fixes are not the solution and a quick fix won’t drive lasting change. I feel the need to repeat it again because our country, our society, and our world focuses on quick changes and things being instant.
Read this: if you lose 2 pounds in a month you have succeeded...now, read that again!
A lot of people would look at that and say “only 2 pounds!?, that’s awful”, but what they don’t realize is that they are moving in the right direction and they have successfully lost weight. You did not gain excess weight in a month or in two months or probably even two years so we cannot take it off that quickly either. We can set up the good habits that lead to that lasting change though!
Some of the other culprits behind the calorie burn issue are activity trackers and aggregate sites such as my fitness pal. Those sites like to promote how many calories you burn by working out and we see that in some of our daily activities. How many calories do you burn walking up stairs, mowing the yard, lifting weights, performing HITT cardio, just to name a few. Studies have shown these estimations to be highly inaccurate. They generally overestimate the caloric burn but can occasionally underestimate how many calories you are actually burning.
With that said let me be very clear. I don’t want you to count back in your calories from your exercise. I don’t care if your tracker device says that you burn 100 200 300 even 500 cal. I only want you to concentrate on how many calories you should be eating during the day. I recommend that everyone should track their calories for at least a month or longer to properly understand how much food you’re really consuming, as evidenced by my oatmeal example above 😉. Please understand that this is to empower you and not to cause any headaches or issues that could be frustrating.
The simple truth is losing weight is difficult and sometimes can be overwhelming. We need to be in a caloric deficit but we also don’t need to be so low in calories that we make ourselves miserable. Losing weight can be made fun and attainable for everyone. If you need help please let me know