Monday, July 2, 2012

The Magic Formula for Weight Loss

It's day three of my weight loss and fitness plan. I started the day with a healthy breakfast (good), brought a wonderful healthy lunch to work with me (good), played a great singles tennis match in absolutely sweltering heat for just under two hours (good, despite the heat), and went to Dairy Queen (not so good). But, I think this about sums up my weight loss plan. Moderation is key.

The number of different diet plans out there is astounding. And, while a few of them seem to be based on good science, and measurable results. Many of them make ridiculous claims and seem too good to be true. Lose 10 pounds in 3 days with the 3 day diet (note: I'm absolutely NOT endorsing this diet, and know next to nothing about it).The cookie diet anyone (note: I'm not endorsing this one either, although I do love cookies)? 

As much as I wish I could lose wight and stay healthy eating nothing but cookies...I'm skeptical. I needed to find a diet that would suit me and my lifestyle. And, most importantly, allow for healthy, sustained weight loss. No yo-yo dieting. So, I made a list of my criteria.

My 10 Healthy Weight Loss Program Criteria
  1. Based on real scientific evidence
  2. Delivers slow, steady, healthy weight gain
  3. Does not have any forbidden foods
  4. Allows me to eat real food (no slim fast shakes, meal replacement bars, or frozen delivered food)
  5. Sustainable in the long term (so I don't gain all the weight back immediately after finishing the diet)
  6. Allows occasional treats (I have no intention of going a year without dairy queen)
  7. Inexpensive (I'm a grad student...)
  8. Allows me to choose the exercise I enjoy
  9. Flexible, easy to follow, and not time intensive
  10. Allows me to eat a varied diet (the grapefruit diet is out...of course that's not the only reason it's out)
And, the winner is...nobody. I haven't found I diet I like. So, it was time to find a strategy that would work for me.
Prevent Yo-Yo Dieting by o5com, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  o5com 

To Lose 1 Pound
The real secret to weight loss lies in one simple formula.

3,500 calories = 1lb of fat

What does this mean? If you burn 3500 calories more than you eat you will lose 1lb of fat. A reduction of 500 calories a day will result in a 3500 calorie weekly deficit, or one pound lost each week.  Generally 1-2lbs a week is considered a healthy rate of weight loss.

Simple right? To lose weight I just need to eat fewer calories. How many? This is where the tools at fitday come in. This is a really useful site. You plug in your stats and it calculates how many calories you burn and how many you need to eat to meet your weight loss goals. For me- 2,000 calories/day will get me there in well under a year.

The tools on fitday allow me to easily log my food every day to make sure I'm staying on track. And, also to log exercise, and track the nutrition (I'm also not affiliated with fitday in any way, but their site is fabulous).

How much of my diet should come from protein? Fat? Carbohydrates? I think there are a wide range of healthy options here. I know that I feel less hungry when I get at least 20% protein (is that true for everyone...probably not). And, so I usually end up with 20-25% protein, 20-30% fat, and 55-60% carbohydrates. I think this works best for me. But, perhaps I will continue to play with these numbers.

Obviously, it's important to ensure that I'm getting enough of the required vitamins and minerals. But, rather than spend hours agonizing over the amount of each nutrient I'm getting every day, I'm taking a simpler approach. These are my three steps to ensure adequate nutrition:

  1. Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day including at least three different colors. Why? The different colored produce contains different phytochemicals. To learn more about this go here.
  2. Eat whole grains instead of refined when possible (i.e.whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice).
  3. Limit overly processed foods with added sugars and fats.
When I follow these 3 criteria I find that I meet my recommended daily intakes of most nutrients, without having to spend much time thinking about it. It's easy. And, that is exactly what I want.

I'm not planning to change much as far as exercise is concerned. I'm already pretty active. I've made several attempts over the years to start running (because it seems like an excellent to burn calories). These attempts have lasted for a few short weeks or months, and then I give up. Why? Because I hate running (I know a lot of people love it...that's great).  After doing this a few times, I finally came to the realization that the best exercise is the one I love to do because I will be motivated to work out regularly. For me, this is not running. But, I do love to swim, take ballet classes, and play tennis, and manage to get these activities in every week. I also occasionally bike, hike, take zumba, along with other random activities.

My goal for exercise is to keep doing what I'm doing and make sure I get in dedicated exercise at least 4 days a week. I'm also making an effort to throw in a bit more activity in my day (every bit counts). So, I'll be taking the stairs (I work on the 3rd floor, so the elevator is pure laziness), doing push-ups or jumping jacks during commercial breaks, and looking for excuses to add more movement to my day.

My Plan
For those of you that didn't want to read all that (and I don't blame you). Here's the short version of my weight loss plan.
  1. Log my food and exercise daily
  2. Eat less than 2,000 calories per day
  3. Eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day
  4. Aim for at least 20% of calories from protein
  5. Limit processed foods
  6. Exercise at least 4 times per week
  7. Take the stairs
  8. Use commercial breaks for quick exercise
OK. I have a plan. Stay tuned for my weekly weigh ins to see how it goes. Here we go!

No comments:

Post a Comment