9 Basic Principles of Losing Weight
[updated March 2019]
If you’re trying to lose weight in Orlando, you know that it’s a challenging process. There’s constantly a new fad food or pill promising miracle weight loss results. Following these cult crazes won’t help you keep the pounds off; following some time-tested principles of weight loss will. Interestingly, you’ll find that most of these principles don’t revolve around food or exercise.
Keep reading to learn more about how to approach your weight loss plan.
9 Basic Principles to Losing Weight
1. Focus on Your Why
When it comes to weight loss we all have our own internal motivations for trying to shed some pounds. These reasons can include looking amazing at your wedding, not flowing into your neighbor’s seat on a plane, being able to play with your kids at the playground, improving your health, or increasing your confidence. In order to achieve success in any weight loss plan, you have to find your reason why.
While you can have multiple reasons, I find that there is usually one reason that is stronger than the rest. Make a list of all the things that are driving you to lose weight and see if you can find one that is stronger than the rest. The stronger your reason, the easier it will be to achieve your goals. Almost inevitably on any weight loss journey, you will have days that are tough, days when you want to quit. Having a strong motivating reason is what will help you get through those days successfully. Keep your number one reason somewhere you can easily reference it such as on your phone. Use it to remind yourself daily for why you started this journey.
In my opinion, this is the most important principle. If you don’t have a strong compelling reason driving you to lose weight it’s going to be hard to overcome the days when you want to give up and go back to bad eating habits.
2. Be Realistic
You’ve probably tried losing weight with various fad diets that had weird rules and restrictions—and they may have worked, for a time. However, losing weight and keeping it off is a different story. Basically, the diet plan that works for you is going to be the one that you’re willing to stick to for the long run. So be sure that you are realistic in laying down the rules for your diet. If a certain diet is so far from your current lifestyle that you can’t imagine sticking to it, you probably won’t.
In addition to a diet program that you can adhere to you also want to be realistic with the amount of weight you expect to lose each week. Set realistic goals that are easy to achieve. Hitting your goals each week makes you feel good and if you feel good you are less likely to fall off the wagon.
3. Measure Success in Multiple Ways
One of the best ways to mentally sabotage your weight loss efforts is by only measuring success in a single way – for most people, this is only using the scale. Here’s the problem with only using the scale:
- weight fluctuates on a daily basis which means whether you are weighing daily or weekly you may not see the results you want
- exercising can build muscle which replaces fat thus not leading to a decrease on the scale
It’s fine to use the scale but pair it with body measurements or the fit of clothes. For a lot of people, especially those who are also lifting weights, the needle on the scale won’t move but it doesn’t mean you aren’t making progress. Prior to starting your diet program, do body measurements. Measure your upper arms, upper thighs, chest, abdomen (from belly button) and hips. Then retake your measurements each month as a second way to measure results. If you don’t want to use measurements then go by your clothes. Find a pair of pants or shorts that currently are very tight or don’t fit and measure progress by any change in the fit of that clothing item. As you fit comfortably in an item then find a new piece of clothing to measure against. It’s easy to get frustrated and quit when you don’t see the needle on the scale move but having a secondary way you are measuring success will help keep you on track.
4. Avoid the Morality Mentality
You might have heard people say that they put on a few pounds because they were “bad,” or even that the scale didn’t go down despite the fact that they were being “good.” Don’t let yourself fall into this trap—it can do more harm than good in the long run. Remember, weight loss isn’t a war between good and bad. It’s a change that occurs when you burn more energy than you consume. So that means you could “be good” and eat nothing but tofu all day—but if you eat more than you burn off, you’re still not going to lose weight.
Forget about thinking of things in terms of good or bad. Think of this as a lifestyle change and you are choosing to make healthier decisions. Oftentimes when we tell ourselves we can’t have something because it’s bad it makes us want it even more. Instead, think of this as a lifestyle change and that no food is off-limits but you are simply making the choice to not eat the foods that will hinder your weight loss efforts.
5. Use Exercise as a Supplemental Tool
While diet is a more important factor in the weight-loss equation than exercise, using these two tools together can help you get the best results. And that’s not just because exercise burns off additional calories. Exercise produces endorphins, making you feel more positive and confident. The better you feel about yourself, the less likely you are to sabotage your weight loss with a “reward” of chocolate cake. Instead, you’ll realize that feeling good is the ultimate reward.
If you want to get the best results, make sure to incorporate strength training into your exercise regimen. Most people tend to focus on cardio when trying to lose weight and some fail to incorporate any strength training. While cardio is important, strength training will help you get even better results. When you strength train you are activating and building muscle which will help you burn more fat on a daily basis.
6. Embrace Water
Odds are you’ve read or heard somewhere to not drink your calories and this is true. Research demonstrates that aspartame drinks can promote fat storage and increase your body mass index so even if you are drinking diet drinks you are hindering your weight loss progress. Instead, learn to love water. Ideally, you should give up all your diet drinks especially those with aspartame but if you can’t (which is difficult for most of us) then make sure you are consuming water first and foremost. Properly hydrating the system is a key element in allowing the body to “self cleanse” and let go of the unwanted weight. It does not matter if it is water or herbal tea, your body needs a minimum of 2 liters per day.
7. Eat Natural, Avoid Processed
There’s a reason that there aren’t diet programs that advise you to eat Twinkies or drink soda. Pretty much every diet program focuses on lean proteins, vegetables, fruits and, in most, healthy fats. As technology advances, the world continues to search for ways to make life just a little more convenient for the next generation. And a lot of those conveniences have come in the form of food – except they aren’t always good conveniences. If you truly want to see long-term results it’s important to eat as naturally as possible meaning non-GMO vegetables and fruits and protein sources that are not stuffed full of anti-biotics and preferably are pasture-raised.
Processed foods are altered in some way during preparation to make them more convenient, shelf-stable, and/or flavorful for consumers. These foods tend to have harmful preservatives, sugars, and additives. Try to avoid processed foods as much as possible and read labels carefully.
8. Food Isn’t the Only Thing That Needs to Change
For most people, even when they know what to eat, how much to eat, when to eat it and combine all of this with exercise they still struggle to consistently eat healthily. And that’s usually because food isn’t the only thing that needs to be changed. Stress, emotions, changes in your routine, not getting enough sleep are all things that can cause you to fall off your diet program.
In order to successfully lose weight, you need to identify triggers for unhealthy eating. In the past, when you have fallen off your program what happened to make you crave bad food? Was it a stressful day? Not planning for a change in your routine? Craving carbs because you didn’t get enough sleep? Once you have identified what causes you to revert to bad habits figure out ways to alter this in addition to your diet program. For instance, if you stress causes you to eat poorly then figure out a way to make your life less stressful or find another outlet for dealing with stress such as exercise (I hear boxing classes can be great stress relievers).
If you aren’t sure what triggers you to revert back to bad eating habits, keep a food journal. These journals are great not only for identifying triggers for bad eating choices but are also super helpful for if you hit a plateau. Having an accurate record of food intake and exercise can help you know how to adjust to get over your plateau.
9. Consistency is Key
If you eat healthy five days a week but completely go off-book each weekend then it’s going to be hard to make progress on your weight loss goals. One of the most important, as well as one of the hardest, pieces to losing weight is being consistent. If you want to reach your goals you have to consistently work towards them each day. For some people, planning a cheat meal once a week helps curb bad habits because you know once a week you can indulge in whatever food you are craving. This is also why it is important to find a weight loss program you can adhere to long-term. Think you are being consistent but not seeing progress? Track how consistent you really are with a monthly calendar. Put smiley faces for the days you stick to your program and frown faces for the days you don’t. This makes it easy to see how consistent you really are.
Lack of consistency is the top reason most people don’t achieve their weight loss goals.
Sure fad diets can be great for seeing quick results but they don’t last. To achieve success in your weight loss goals stick to the basic principles and know that success won’t happen overnight but it can and will happen. While food plays a major part in weight loss, having a strong motivating reason and reducing or ideally eliminating the triggers that cause you to revert back to old habits are going to be two of the biggest contributors to success. These two principles along with several others are not only going to help you achieve your weight loss goals but ensure that you maintain your new weight!
About the Author – Suzanne Gil, M.D.
Dr. Gil obtained advanced training in bariatric (weight loss medicine) and opened Calla Slimspa in 2008 when the need for weight-related assistance became a huge priority. She is a member of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians (ASBP) and dedicates 100% of her professional time to helping as many people as possible achieve their weight loss goals and improve their health. She completed her residency at Orlando Regional Medical Center and is a Board Certified Pediatrician.