For many, January is the most important month of the year. At the beginning of this month ereople generally feel renewed, refreshed, and full of hope and promise. January is also the month during which people start working towards their goals to lose weight. Unfortunately, without proper planning and foresight about 90 percent of these goals result in failure by the start of February.
Don’t let this be your fate!
If you’ve seriously resolved to lose weight in the new year, there are certain keys to permanent success.
First off, a basic understanding of how calories work is essential to a successful and safe weight loss. Calories are obtained from the essential macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat, and protein) housed in the foods you consume every day. These calories serve as energy (fuel) for the body to carry out vital functions like breathing, eating, and sleeping. It’s just like adding fuel to an automobile so it’ll run properly. Calories also fuel all types of physical activity from taking a shower to strenuous exercise.
There are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. Therefore, if you consume in excess of 3,500 calories over a given period of time you’ll gain a pound of fat. But, on the flip side, if you gradually expend the same amount of calories through physical activity, you’ll create a calorie deficit that results in a net one pound weight loss. When the amount of calories you take in equals the amount you expend, no weight gain or weight loss will occur and you’ll maintain your body weight.
So, calories are meant to be used, not abused.
If you’ve gained excess weight, you’ve likely created continuous calorie surpluses over time. It’s important to understand that it’ll take you that much more time to lose it. And in order to lose weight, the amount of calories you expend must exceed the amount of calories you consume until your desired weight loss is achieved. Once this occurs, the amount of calories you expend must continue to equal the amount of calories you consume in order to maintain your desired weight.
In light of these facts, it’s important to set realistic goals that support your efforts. This is the second critical step for success.
It’s virtually impossible to achieve permanent weight loss without setting both short- and long-term goals. Above all, these goals must be realistic. If you have a goal of losing 100 pounds by the summer this is not very realistic. Considering the 3,500 calories housed in a pound of fat, a grand total of 350,000 calories will have to be lost in a 6-month period which is equal to about 58,300 calories per month or 14,575 calories per week.
This requires expending and/or withholding about 2,100 calories each day. From the standpoint of calorie expenditure, attempting to work off 1,000-plus calories every day with physical activity is possible if you are physically conditioned to do so, but not if you’re already 100-plus pounds overweight.
You can’t withhold that many calories either.
When too many calories are withheld on a daily basis your body will break down the protein that’s stored in your muscles in order to obtain the energy it needs to function. When this occurs, you’ll be losing muscle and fat, which is not at all ideal as muscle fuels the fat-burning process by keeping your metabolism in check. In order to preserve your muscle and metabolism during weight loss, shoot for a weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week. This equates to a deficit of 500-1,000 calories each day.
So, in actuality a realistic long-term goal for losing 100 pounds is at least a year. This rate of weight loss will lead to more permanent results. In the interim, set monthly, weekly, or even daily short-term goals that support achievement of your long-term goal. This can include anything from swapping out your soda for water to performing 30 minutes of daily physical activity. By following such goals, you can easily achieve deficits of 250-300 calorie a day (1,750-2,100 calories a week).
Finally, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of incorporating exercise training into your daily routine. While this may seem like common sense, evidence shows that a lot of people view food restriction (dieting) as an exclusive method for weight loss. Ideally, a weight loss program should consist of a calorie restriction of 250-500 calories a day along with an expenditure of at least 250 calories a day through exercise training and other forms of physical activity.
Cardiovascular (cardio) exercises like jogging, bicycling, and group exercise can burn up to 600 calories in an hour while moderate-level physical activities like gardening, leisure walking, and recreational sports (tennis, basketball and soccer) can burn up to 400.
Resistance (weight) training is another essential component of a weight loss program. Although a typical weight training session does not burn a significant amount of calories, this type of training increases muscle mass and, ultimately, boosts metabolism which leads to increased calorie-burning potential and weight loss over time.
For significant weight loss, exercise training and/or moderate physical activity should be performed 5-7 days per week for at least 1 hour. More intense exercises like jogging can be performed for 30 minutes to an hour a day while less intense activities like gardening may be performed for 3-4 hours a day. Inclusion of at least two days of full-body weight training is also a must to further promote weight loss.
At the end of the day, resolving to lose weight in the new year should be a one-off activity. With realistic assumptions and proper planning (goal setting, strategies, and execution) this should be the last year you find yourself with a weight loss resolution.
Learn what it takes to achieve and maintain good health through weight control. Pick up a copy of Leaving Your Fat Behind.
Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a physician for advice.
Before starting an exercise training program you should first make sure that exercise is safe for you. If you are under the age of 55 years and generally in good health, it is probably safe for you to exercise. However, if you are over 55 years of age and/or have any health problems, be sure to consult with your physician before starting an exercise training program.