As I wrote earlier this year, I have been struggling with my weight since childhood and finally last year decided to do something about it. I will break down to you how you can lose weight steadily AND keep it off. Remember, I’m not a doctor so I’d suggest you check in with your healthcare provider before doing big changes like this.
If you are in normal weight range, please do not lose weight just to “fit in”. I grew up in 90s when Pro-ana movement was huge, and I do not want to see anyone to think that being thin is the way to go. If you – or someone you love – seems to be pro-ana, please seek help.
Even if you are overweight you should not lose weight only because it’s seen as “the right thing to do”. Do it for yourself – if you want to – to feel better in your own skin.
Also I have to mention that the 20kg I lost in 6 months was from my obese (BMI 40) starting weight. Clearly if you don’t have extra 20kg to lose, then you shouldn’t do that.
I wrote this post in spring of 2021 – and am only checking/editing it now in August 2021. I have kept off my lost 25kg even when I went off counting calories during May-July. But let me tell you it is easy to pick the weight back on! Knowing myself I would slowly start slipping back to old habits which is why I’ve picked up counting calories and going to gym now that I went back to work from summer holidays.
You do NOT need to hit the gym to lose weight, just saying!
1. Write down why you want to lose weight
This differs from person to person – some want to fit into their old clothes, some want to feel lighter, some want to become fitter. You can have a lot of different reasons as to why you should be losing weight. For me it was the fact that I was classified as morbidly obese and it started to affect me mentally as well.
You can put the written note up on your mirror, fridge or have it as daily notification on your phone – this way you get reminded on why you are doing this.
2. Track your calories
The only way to lose weight – and this is a fact – is to consume less calories than you burn. This means that either a) you eat less or b) you burn more calories.
I decided to go with the option A – eating less calories. Easiest way to start seeing how many calories you intake is to log everything you eat. And I mean everything, even that glass of wine or one piece of chocolate – to see how many calories you intake in average. I would recommend doing this for 1-2 weeks. I didn’t do this since I knew my calorie intake was way higher than it should’ve been.
The other option is to calculate how many calories your body needs to maintain its current weight with calculators provided online. I used to do this with many different calculators since they all give a bit different results. I took the average answer to maintain my weight and then deducted around 300 calories from that. This was my goal to start steadily losing weight. 300 calories isn’t that much difference a day, but in a week it makes a big difference.
If you go for option B it might be trickier since if you up your calorie burning, you might also start to eat more to compensate for the calories lost – you usually feel more hungry after a heavy workout. Also if you start exercising more, check online to see what you should eat before and after exercise. You should know when to eat protein, carbs or which macronutrients to incorporate to make sure your body burns fat and helps you recover.
Combination of A and B is usually the most optimal – in most weight loss apps you can use the extra exercises to increase your daily calorie intake – to balance out so you don’t go too much into calorie deficit.
3. Start small
You do not want to make extreme changes all at once to your life – this usually leads you to give up. Start with first eating according to the new calorie level, then after 1-2 weeks incorporate drinking more water (if you don’t already), then add slight exercises (just walking daily 30 mins is a good start). You can keep adding more things into your lifestyle change – since this is what it essentially is, a lifestyle change, not just a quick way to lose weight.
Please do not think you should go to full Dr. Now strict diet and only eat 1200 calories a day – this is not sustainable in the long run and can be really problematic if you don’t know what nutrients you need to intake.
Smaller the changes, more likely you are to stick with them.
4. Weekly calorie intake means more than daily
We’ve all been there, binging on a pizza or eating chocolate more than we should – and going over our daily calorie intake. Do not give up after a one – or two – hiccups! Weekly calorie intake means more than daily fluctuations. If you notice you went a bit overboard on one day, it’s not the end of the world if in the long run you keep hitting your goal. Even when I took 3 days off from counting calories over Christmas and I didn’t gain any weight back, just slowed my progress for a while. I gave myself the permission to eat what I wanted – without going on full binge – as long as I would just get back to the calorie intake I was supposed to after Christmas.
Important for me, but I don’t say no to any food groups – I eat chocolate, ice cream, crisps, pizza, burgers etc. as long as they fit into my daily calories. If I’ve eaten a bigger dinner and have no calories leftover, then I don’t eat any snacks that evening.
5. Weight fluctuation is normal
Especially for women, our weights can fluctuate during different days of the month. It’s normal for the weight to fluctuate on daily basis a bit but as long as the trend is downwards, you don’t need to make changes. Also plateauing is normal – there could be some days when your weight doesn’t seem to go down at all. Then it can all of a sudden pick up or you might need to check your calorie in take again – since when you lose weight, you need less calories than you did when you started.
My daily calorie intake has dropped around 200 calories since the start. I just keep recalculating it around every 10kg drop just to keep me ahead of plateauing.
6. Ask for help
If you realize you can’t do this on your own, find someone to help you with your journey. For me it helped a lot to start this with my boyfriend. He is now in normal weight range so he eats more than I do and can snack without feeling guilty – but I still stick to my daily calories since it’s now a habit. You can go to walks with a friend, find an online group to join to help with sticking to your diet, watch videos of others going through the same struggle etc. There are ways to make you feel like you’re not alone in this journey. And if nothing else, get professional help – either a therapist to help you realize why making lifestyle choices is bad for you, or a nutritionist to help make a meal plan for your needs.
You are not alone in this!
7. Make it a habit
What all lifestyle changes come down to is that you need to keep them long enough for them to become a habit. After some weeks it’s normal to log in every single bite you eat or exercise daily.
Just stick to it in the start and soon it will be normal part of your day!