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This Is The Single Biggest Thing You Can Do If You Want To Lose Weight
Thoughts and emotions affect your health
Scottish whiskey distiller Thomas Dewar once said, “Spirits are like parachutes; they work best when they’re open.”
I want you to keep an open mind for the next five minutes it will take you to read this piece.
I want to introduce an idea that will prove useful if you want to lose weight and improve your body composition.
Self-help health experts remind us to refrain from using language like lose weight because of its symbolic connection with the weight back. You are ‘releasing’ unwanted body fat, they will let you know.
However, for the sake of this article, I refer to it as weight loss so as not to confuse the reader.
Why am I qualified to speak on this topic?
I started my career as a personal trainer many years ago, before transitioning into writing and speaking about health and self-empowerment.
In that capacity, I was fortunate to work with thousands of people who lost weight and kept it off while regaining their health.
I discovered a principle in her journey and my own around the key role that thoughts and emotions play in regulating our health.
I wrote a book that was endorsed by the internationally acclaimed author Dr. Eldon Taylor. It also received praise from Australia’s leading sports neuroscientist, Dr. Roy Sugarman.
How money and calories are the same
It occurred to me during this period that losing weight was like managing money. As someone who occasionally hacks their health, I track my calories and macronutrients in the name of personal observation and knowledge.
I followed a Ketogenic diet for three years, recording my food consumption and calories. I received a lot of information and knowledge, which helped me find the most effective ways to lose weight and keep it off.
This was supported by my program The Power To Navigate Life, in which I studied the role that thoughts, beliefs and emotions play in regulating health.
While tracking my calories during this time, I noticed that the process was similar to my spending habits, as far as their respective usage and expenses are concerned.
What I propose in the next paragraphs is not a cure, potion or remedy. It is a short-term intervention to make you aware of how you consume calories, to develop sound habits to avoid overeating.
However, it’s not just about the calories, as it proved on a ketogenic diet.
There were periods when I consumed as much as 3,500+ calories per day and continued to lose fat weight while regaining muscle composition. I took accurate body measurements and recorded my blood lipids to mark the changes, making sure I didn’t leave anything to chance.
I learned the old myth from calories in, calories out not applied while I was in ketosis. However, few people are willing to follow a low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diet because of its limitations.
So, for the rest of us, paying attention to our calorie intake is a way to manage our weight.
The American science writer Gary Taubes claims in Why do we get fat and what to do: “The one thing we absolutely need to do if we want to get leaner—if we want fat out of our adipose tissue and burn it—is to lower our insulin and secrete less insulin to begin with.”
Excess calories to blame
What I discovered was the following.
In relation to my money habits, if I didn’t track my financial expenses at the end of the week, I wasn’t sure where the money was spent. I had little recollection of the items or services I paid for, since the transactions occurred days ago.
From talking to people over the years, this was a problem that many faced. However, when I tracked my expenses, I was able to see where the money was being directed and implemented a budget to limit frivolous spending.
So far so good.
During this time I came off the ketogenic diet and gained 3-4 kg (6-8 lbs) in the winter.
What have I done?
I applied the same process to calories which helped me track my expenses. It turned out, I was snacking on excess calories during the winter months which led to weight gain.
Now I realize that gaining 3-4 kg is not a big deal in the scheme of things. However, it is not the weight gain, but the experience gained by recording the calories that was valuable.
Money and food have the same relationship, where you tend to spend money easily and consume food easily.
So, they should be included until you can manage both without having to consult an app or meal tracker.
So far I haven’t mentioned exercise and movement because I didn’t want this article to be an instructional piece on how to lose weight.
Exercise and movement play a role in maintaining a healthy weight, but not in the way we’ve been led to believe. For now I’m assuming you exercise or are involved in some form of regular exercise.
So here is my outline if you want to lose weight, big or small, the principles are the same:
- Track your food consumption and calories for 30 days
Thirty days is a reasonable period of time to collect enough data on how many calories you consume. As the saying goes, “If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
It is recognizing where hidden calories are being consumed that is important. I suggest using an app or software program to calculate your macronutrient ratios and stick to them as much as possible. You can see mine in the attached image.
An advantage of recording data is that it takes into account the times when you are likely to consume more calories, such as going out to dinner or a birthday party. Don’t worry about the total calories consumed for that day, but focus your attention on the total calories and macronutrients for the week.
“We don’t get fat because we eat too much; we eat too much because we get fat,” states Gary Taubes
The goal is to reduce calories over a four-week period to prevent weight loss. Again, I suggest you use an app or online program to calculate your minimum and maximum calorie intake per day, rather than the guest estimate.
If youcontinue this same trajectory of consuming your calculated weekly calories, you will continue to lose weight in the following months. You will also have cemented a new habit that will last beyond that time.
- Reduce your calories based on what you are tracking
This is straightforward. Reduce your calories per day depending on your weight loss goal. As a warning, I suggest starting slowly rather than trying to lose weight quickly.
It has been my personal experience coaching individuals over a period of ten years that what you lose quickly is likely to come back. As the saying goes: The best time to start a new habit is yesterday.”
- Continue the habit in the following months
As outlined in point number one, follow your custom once the 30 day period has passed. You will have collected enough data about what foods you have consumed in the past 30 days. If youare not sure about a food, track it and see what effect it has on your calorie intake.
If you experience setbacks related to illness, injury or personal circumstances, record your calories for two days and use that to get back on track.
- When you put the weight back on, track your calorie intake again
After coming off the ketogenic diet, I consumed more carbohydrates that I had previously eliminated from my diet. Naturally, I was drawn to these foods again in the winter and gained weight.
Instead of getting discouraged, I tracked my calories for a few days or sometimes a whole week to help restore my weight loss until I had reached my goal.
“To lose weight effectively and keep it off, you need to strategically change your body weight set point” explains Gerard E. Mullin in The gut balance revolution: Increase your metabolism, restore your inner ecology, and lose weight for good!
Remember, this is not a long term solution. Many will find that once they lose weight, they want to stick with the formula because it is successful.
However, there are downsides to restricting calories over an extended period of time, including depriving yourself of essential macro- and micronutrients. Not to mention the mental and emotional devastation caused by maintaining this way of life.
I was precise in my approach, using FitDay software to track my macro and micronutrient ratios and supplementing where necessary.
“You don’t get fat because your metabolism slows down; your metabolism slows down because you get fat,” is the reminder of Gary Taubes
It is worth restoring: this is not a system. It’s a means to check in to make sure you’re not consuming extra calories that lead to weight gain.
Most importantly, it helps you eat healthier because, like spending money, you can’t afford to frivolously spend calories if you want to maintain a lean figure.
The real message of this piece is that your health is your biggest priority.
Weight loss is a means to help you maintain a healthy figure with a higher muscle to fat ratio, no matter what body type or composition you are.
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