Here in North America about 50% of us are overweight and around 30% of us are obese. That ain’t good. That leads us all down some crazy roads like spending literally all of our government dollars on healthcare and human lifespans shortening for the first time ever form our lifestyle choices alone. That’s straight up crazy. That means seeing less of your grandchildren’s lives if you’re lucky your kids lives if you’re not. Maybe even seeing your kids say goodbye early to your grandkids all from obesity related concerns.
Maybe you’ve tried before and failed and that’s okay but this year is the time to finally make the change. It’s actually pretty easy it costs nothing, no food is off limits but there is a catch you gotta do it for the rest of your life. But what I’m asking you to do really isn’t that hard and not that bad in fact I think it’s kind of great. I’d love to say it’s just three easy steps and there are about three steps it might not be that easy at first, but I promise it will work. Try this for six months and if (when) it works for you do six more months and so on after that it’ll pretty much work for the rest of your life. If you get off track return to it and you’ll be happier and healthier for it. So here’s what your going to do:
Figure out your current activity level
You might already have a smart watch or pedometer in your house you can use to track your steps for a couple of days. If not I’ve seen them at the dollar store for a couple of bucks or you can download a free app for your smartphone. Carry it all the time in your pocket for a week and add up all your steps for 7 days then divide by seven, that’s your average daily step count. Now don’t do anything extra these days and decide on your activity level.
Less than 5000 is sedentary
5000 – 7500 is lightly active
7500 – 10 000 is moderately active
Over 10 000 is active
For reference I work in construction and unless I workout that day I’m in the lightly to moderately active category most days. There’s no shame in it most of the North American public is considered sedentary.
Calculate your Ideal weight and base metabolic needs for that weight
A healthy BMI (though it’s not a perfect tool) is between 20 and 25. Where it falls down is for very muscular very fit people and let’s be honest that’s not you. Pick a number between 22 and 24 and figure out what weight that means for your height. Yes a BMI of 23 is a great number to choose. You can use a BMI calculator like this one just play with the weight number for your height until you get a read out of about 23 and that weight is what we’re going to call your ideal weight.
Don’t worry about your metabolism at this point, or really any other time. If you reach this weight someday great if not meh it really doesn’t matter. If you have a slower metabolism while your final weight might be a few pounds heavier but chances are you’ll land with in 5 lbs of this eventually. Where ever you finally land it will be a much better place than where you are now.
For me at 5’8” that is a weight of 153 pounds for a BMI of 23
Calculate you daily calorie needs for this ideal weight
Here is where you get to take into account your age activity level and height to find out what number of calories you need to eat in a day. Here is the thing we’re going to calculate this for that ideal target weight we found in the last section. Here’s a good calculator that I found but feel free to take a few and average them if you want a more solid number. This is how many calories you are going to eat in a day.
For me to maintain a weight of 153 pounds in the low active category I need to eat 2245 calories a day
Start tracking what you eat
This is the only hard thing I’m going to ask you to do and it’s not really that hard it’s just sort of a pain in the butt. Download an app for your phone, my fitness pal is amazing, free and has other tools we might use too but it’s the best out there for portions and brands. Here is the thing every single thing you put in your mouth has to go into the app in a measured way. If you drink half a bottle of wine it goes in as half a bottle, a large pizza that goes in too EVERYTHING! This app is nice because you can use potions like cups and slices but you might find it worth it to get a kitchen scale, they have those at the dollar store too.
With in the app you’re going to set your daily calorie goal to that number you found from the calculator and override the settings for 1 or 2 pounds a week. The thing is almost (if not all) of the work you’re going to do to loose weight happens in the kitchen not the gym (we’ll get to that if you want to later). Also put in your current weight and if you want your measurements as well. Now eat that number of calories everyday and when you get there stop. That’s pretty much it. Now I would love for that to be all carrots and cauliflower, no not really, but making some healthier choices will work itself out. Also know that most people who track what they eat underestimate what they’re actually putting in their mouths, don’t let this be you!
If you blow all your calories over eating at breakfast for a few days you’ll naturally start to save a few for later in the day because you’ll be hungry later. You’ll soon realize you can have three, or five, smaller meals in a day or just 6 doughnuts and naturally make some changes. I personally love a really big supper and that’s totally fine, you’ll be planning for that soon enough. Nothing is off limits completely, just track it. If you know you’ll be going to a party later have a lighter lunch. The app will essentially train you to at least to eat the right amount of calories and more than likely make some better choices. Don’t worry about how much is fat, carbs and protein just aim for that number. And look at it everyday at the end of the day.
Alright so what if you mess up a day or two. Don’t, just kidding! We’re all human and just last night our neighbors dropped off a large pizza box full of Christmas treats. It’s half full now and that’s mostly my fault. What we’re going to aim for is in fact that every day is as close to that number as possible but we’re not going to stress if Tuesday was a big day. Instead we’re going to measure our diet adherence by the week’s average. That means if you go overboard one day we’ll cut back by a few calories for the next few days. At the end of the week if your average is where it should be then it’s all good. This way we don’t let ourselves get too far off track and we don’t stress too much and still get to enjoy our food. A note though, if you go so overboard that or there isn’t enough week left to reasonably fix it just let it go. What I mean to say is never stop eating entirely to make your numbers work, even for a single day. Let’s pick a number and say never eat less than 1400 calories in a day. Less than that and you’re just setting yourself up for another overeat since you’ll be starving! Next week is a new week after all.
Do this forever
What?!? She’s joking right? Sort of but not really, sorry. Do it for 6 moths for sure or maybe a year if you have lots of weight to loose. That’s a long time right, yup it is. But you’re your own person so you make your own choices about what feels right but let’s go ahead and commit to 6 months of food tracking now. Let’s instead talk about the alternative to tracking everything you eat and that is intuitive eating.
It’s basically a fancy term for just eating what you feel like. The reason I want you to track for at least 6 moths or even a year is that currently your food picker is broken so we need a long time to reset it. When you feel you’re ready try eating what you feel like with your recent changes in mind and see how it goes. If your weight starts to eek back up you need to go back to tracking for another 6 months. If you make a few attempts at intuitive eating and every time the weight starts coming back on fast you might have to just stay tracking forever. That’s okay you’ve just found a good system that works for you.
Weigh in weekly
This you’re going to be doing forever. Pick a day of the week and after you pee in the morning weigh in on the same scale. While you’re still loosing it’s really motivating to put it onto the app and check out that cool graph. You can add to this by also getting out the tape measure and track your measurements too in myfitnesspal. Even after you’ve lost all the weight and kept it off, keep weighing in weekly because it’s an overall heathy thing to do. It will help you catch any backsliding early.
Actively search for an activity you like for as long as it takes
As soon as you feel ready start searching for a ways to get vigorously active three to 5 times a week. Technically for loosing weight this is optional but you’ll be a healthier happier person for it. Plus as you get close to your goal weight the weight will start to come off slower and being active will help with that. As soon as you feel ready, hopefully by a year or 6 moths in I want you to start searching for an activity or a few that you love. Maybe you’ll never pick just one and bounce from walking, to racket ball (whatever that is), to zumba, to yoga to pole dancing and so on for the rest of your life. That’s cool too. Maybe you’ll start walking, then running and sick with that at the same time before work 4 days a week for the rest of your life, that’s fine too. Maybe you’ll play hockey in a beer league on Friday nights, (make sure to log the beer), take a Tuesday yoga class and walk during your kids swimming lessons each week, that’s fine too. There are hundreds, maybe more, options so keep searching until you find one you love to do.
For now we’re not going to add to your calorie budget for exercise. However we might later on. Remember that burger the size of your head and fries you ate in 2015? Yeah that’s the fuel we’ll rely on for workouts for now. And that’s it, that’s all you have to do, not so bad right?
What to expect/ Why this works
The genius of this plan is that you’re making some changes one time and then just going with that forever. This isn’t a diet plan it’s that all elusive lifestyle change you’ve been hearing about for years. Chances are on this plan you’ll be eating more than on any other diet before so hunger shouldn’t be a huge issue after the first few days provided you spread your meals out during the day. This is just treating you body as it should be treated. I would expect that at first you might have some missteps running out of food calories before you run out of day. Eating too many calorie dense foods in small portions which isn’t ideal either (think 5 doughnuts all day) but you’ll fall into a better pattern in short order. You also might find certain treats like alcohol or the pot munchies are really hard to manage and stick to this lifestyle.
If you have lots of weight to loose (50 or more pounds) you won’’t notice any difference in how fast you’re loosing weight at first. As you get closer to that goal weight (the last 15 to 20 pounds) will come off slower and the last 5 might even seem to take forever. That’s okay because you’ll get there eventually.
This solution will help you get to your body’s set point and a healthy weight for you. After you stop loosing weight for 6 months you can re-asses where you are and drop your goal by 100 calories per day if necessary. Remember in those last few months how far you’ve come and that the last few pounds are not the biggest part of the accomplishment. Remember that we picked a BMI of 23 right in the middle of the healthy range. Whether you end up a few pounds heavier or thinner it doesn’t really matter just aim to have your BMI as close to 18.5 – 25 as possible since that’s the healthy range. At this point you’re so much healthier and it’s just a number on the scale.
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When to make changes
Most people will never ever make a change to this plan, never.
- If you get into exercise in a big way. If your runs are stretching past an hour at a time more than three days a week go back and calculate for the next activity level up from where you started.
- You’re 30 pounds from your goal with and still loosing 3 or more pounds most weeks. This is too fast to be dropping weight at this stage. If this is the case add 100 calories to your goal. If it’s still more than 3 pounds a week at this stage continue adding 100 calories a day until it slows to that point.
- I’m putting this in there because it’s the responsible thing to do not because it’s likely to apply to anyone really. If you have negative health outcomes doing this check with a doctor.
- If you’ve been following the plan to a letter and haven’t dropped a pound in over a month with more than 20 pounds left to loose. In this case lower your calories by 100 per day.
- If you’ve past your ideal weight you might actually be eating too few calories per day. Go back to that BMI calculator and find your weight for your height at a BMI of 20. If you’re getting close to that add 100 calories a week until your weight stabilizes or get’s back to that BMI of 20. Even though the healthy range goes down to 18.5 that’s pretty thin for most people. Being below 20 doesn’t leave you with a lot in the tank should you get a couple of tummy bugs back to back.
That’s pretty easy right. Pick a healthy weight, be realistic about how active you are then eat for that weight. That’s pretty much it. Check your weight once a week and keep looking for a fun way to keep moving for as long as it takes. Try to take it day by day and if a few days get away from you keep your cool and aim for a good week. If that is off the rails too start fresh next week. Is this just crazy enough to actually work?
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