It’s new year’s resolution time again. Each year millions of Americans make new year’s resolutions to get a better job, quit smoking, or simply to live better lives. One of the big resolutions many of us make is to lose weight.
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? However, if you’re like many dieters, you may have found that it’s not quite that simple to start a decent weight loss program, and it’s even harder to maintain one.
Deciding to lose weight is really the first step, so congratulations. The second step – goal setting – is often the most bypassed, but it’s also the most important. I think goal setting really encompasses two parts:
- Why are you doing it?
- How much do you need to lose to accomplish the why?
Why are you doing it?
This means different things to different people. It can be anything from a health related goal of lowering your blood pressure or cholesterol, to wanting to look leaner and more fit by the summer.
How much do you need to lose?
Before starting any diet and exercise plan, it’s best to consult with a physician. Especially if your goal is to lose weight to alleviate a specific physical problem you may be having as a result of carrying a few extra pounds. Once you’ve done that, set a specific goal.
The 3rd Step
We’ve discussed steps one and two; the third step of course is the program itself. Any good weight loss program will mix both diet and exercise together. You can’t lose weight unless you cut 3,500 calories per pound that you wish to lose. These calories can come from both diet (reducing your caloric intake), and exercise (burning additional calories). Many weight loss plans fail because people don’t do both of these at the same time.
Remember, “diet” isn’t just another four letter word. A true diet is really an eating “lifestyle” that defines how, what, and when we eat. Typically, a diet that consists of five (5) smaller balanced meals will help keep your metabolism ramped up to burn calories more efficiently. While there are many fad diets out there, not all of them work for everyone. It’s best to consult a physician or dietician for the best information to fit your needs.
Try to lose no more than 1 – 2.5 pounds per week. More can be dangerous, and lead to poor long term results. Start with a gradual reduction in calories. If you’re used to taking in 3,000 calories per day, don’t immediately cut down to 1,200. This may make you feel week, unenergized, and could lead to other complications. Try cutting 200 – 300 calories/day for the first week of a diet, do the same for the following weeks until you reach your calorie intake goal.
Good diet practice suggests eating 5 – 6 balanced meals of smaller proportions throughout the day. Healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean sources of protein, and “good” sources of fats are the building blocks of any successful diet program.
Every good exercise program will combine both strength training, and cardio (aerobic exercise such as walking, running, biking, etc.). Remember, the goal is to burn fat, and this can’t happen without aerobic exercise. A little known fact is that it’s best to exercise first thing in the morning – before breakfast if possible. This way, you’ll burn up your body’s store of carbohydrates from the night before, and start converting body fat to fuel.
Again, this is an area where it’s often best to consult with your physician before beginning a program. This will help insure that a program is right for your body type, medical history, and condition. If you haven’t exercised in a while, it may be best to consult with a personal trainer too.
We have a number of exercise programs in the Personal Training section of our website to help get you started. Remember, we offer personal fitness training as part of our services.