Weight Loss 101: Getting Started
First of all, thank you all so much for your kind comments in response to yesterday’s weigh-in post! I really couldn’t have gotten even this far without all of your support. And while I still have a little ways to go, it’s kind of strange to have such confidence that I’m going to actually get to my healthy weight this time! Who knew?
So, my first post in this whole “Weight Loss 101″ series o’ mine explained my weight loss story, how I decided to finally start doing things the right way, and listed some resources where you can do research on the proper way to lose weight before actually changing anything about the way you live. Today we’re going into some action items. You ready?
*Disclaimer: I am not a professional nutritionist, registered dietician, or medical doctor. All following information is simply based off of my own experience and research in attempting to live a healthier life.
While in the first post I went over some resources and tools for you to look into prior to starting your weight loss journey, these are now my general weight loss tips and to-dos:
1. Figure out your current caloric intake.
Before you even start dieting, you need to figure out how many calories you’re actually consuming. Carry around a small notebook for the day, or download an iPhone/Android app, and log every single thing you’re putting in your mouth. This includes not only meals and snacks, but that peanut butter finger you’re sneaking after breakfast, the two Hershey’s kisses from the candy jar at work, and don’t forget about LIQUID calories! You may not even be aware how many little things you’re overlooking on a daily basis, and those little things literally add up.
2. Calculate your BMR.
Weight loss really is pretty simple math. Calories consumed – calories burned = weight gain/loss/maintenance. It really is that simple! You can easily figure out how many calories you naturally burn just by being alive (your Basal Metabolic Rate) utilizing one of the ten kajillion online BMR calculators out there. Just remember, the more overweight you are, the more work it is for your body to function and the more calories you’ll burn naturally. For example, right now (at 196 pounds) my BMR is 1728.5 calories/day. However, at my starting weight of 246 lbs, it was 1946 calories/day. That’s over a 200 calorie difference that I now have to make up by either further limiting my intake or upping my exercise and burning more throughout the day.
3. Start Losin’
1 pound is said to equal about 3500 calories. So if you know how many calories you burn, and how many you’re consuming, you can calculate your intake/outtake for a 500 calorie deficit and lose 1 pound a week. If you discover that you were previously consuming 2300 calories a day, lower it to 1800 and see where that puts you. I started out by lowering my caloric intake to 1500. Obviously, the heavier you are to begin with, the more calories you’re likely to burn just by breathing and thus the more weight you’re apt to lose (I lost nearly 11 pounds my first week – unthinkable!) Use a calorie counter to help you with this! Estimating in your head will NOT be enough in the beginning. You may be able to get to that point in time, but for now you really should be counting every single thing you eat in order to get a realistic perspective of how to balance the rest of your day.
4. Eat! (Nutritiously.)
I know that I’m putting a lot of emphasis on calorie counting here. And I do think that is important, and is the most integral tool in how I’ve lost my weight so far. However, I made the mistake when I started this journey of only concentrating on the caloric content of food, and not any other nutrition facts. I was living off of frozen Lean Cuisine dinners and diet sodas for the first few weeks before I started getting really tired of eating all that processed, sodium-laden crap. So, my suggestion for anyone who is contemplating starting a journey of their own is to start eating whole, nutritious foods right off the bat! The good news is that many of the foods that are so good for you, are also super low in calories! You can eat more, get more nutrition, and feel less deprived. That’s a win-win-win in my book.
Go crazy with your fruits & veggies, though be wary of high-calorie ones like , potatoes, avocados, and bananas. Definitely eat these nutritional powerhouses – they taste awesome, after all! — but just be sure to factor in their caloric density. Leafy greens, apples, pears, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes (different than reg. potatoes), celery, broccoli, berries, tomatoes, mushrooms, sea vegetables… the list is endless. And delicious.
Stick with lean proteins – poultry & fish. Red meat is much higher in saturated fat and calories. Obviously don’t deprive yourself of steak if you’re feeling a serious craving for it, but measure your portions (a 3-ounce portion of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.)
Try out new ways of cooking that don’t require the use of lots of oil or butter. Steaming is a fantastic option. In fact, I would say to cut out butter as a cooking ingredient completely if at all possible, replacing it with heart-healthy olive oil instead (but still be sure to calculate the oil into your daily caloric intake!)
Replace all white flour products with whole wheat. If you’re going to be eating things bread, pasta, and rice anyway, you might as well make it better for you, right? Go for the whole wheat varieties of these carbs. They are better for you, will keep you full longer, and taste really good! I love the hearty texture of whole grain bread (and be sure you’re getting “whole grain” and not just “multigrain” varieties — they’re not the same.) Try Ezekial 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Flourless Bread for something different (and uhhhmazing!) Just be aware of the fact that just because it’s whole grain (and good for you) doesn’t mean you can eat as much of it as you want — I’ve made this mistake more than a few times, haha.
Sidenote: If you have an issue with the heartier texture of whole wheat pasta, my suggestion is to overcook it. Cook it longer than you’re “supposed” to, and it will more closely resemble the softer, looser texture of white pasta.
Enjoy nuts, seeds, nut butters, with a conscience. These are amazing for you, and will help keep you full and satisfied. However, they are also VERY calorie-dense. Just measure out your servings and you’ll be fine!
If you don’t already own a set of measuring cups, spoons, and a food scale, invest in them. Measuring your portions takes time and can be kind of annoying, but is especially important in the beginning. I bet you’ll be surprised from both sides when you actually start measuring. For example, 2 ounces of pasta (about the width of a quarter when you wrap your hand around it) is admittedly less than thrilling when you measure it out, but 2 tablespoons of peanut butter is actually a lot! I was really surprised by how off my own personal estimations of portions are.
I feel very strongly that you need to have a realistic idea of how many calories you are consuming and burning in order to lose weight properly. My weight loss journey has NOT been a miraculous, speedy one! It’s taken me almost 8 months to lose just shy of 50 pounds, and I’m most definitely not done yet. But I really feel, and believe me, I know how hard it is to hear, you have to lose the weight slowly in order to do it right. I’ve lost weight quickly in the past (crash diets, Atkins, etc.) only to have it surge back in a vengeful fury weeks later (and naturally, it brought along a few extra pounds, too!) You didn’t gain 20, 50, or 100 pounds overnight, so you can’t expect to lose it that quickly either.
I hope that someone is able to find these posts helpful! Please comment with your own weight-loss tips, to-dos, or regimens! Look forward to future posts covering fitness (what I’m still working on most!) and meal planning (another thing I suck at, but want to improve on.)