For many, January is the most important month of the year. It marks the start of the New Year, a time when people generally feel renewed, refreshed, and full of hope and promise. January is also a time when people feel extra motivated to go hard in the gym (and in the kitchen), working aggressively to achieve the weight loss-centered New Year’s resolutions they’ve set for themselves. Problem is, without proper planning and foresight, people’s motivation tends to dwindle.
And by February, more than 90% of those weight loss resolutions fall by the wayside.
If you’ve resolved to lose weight in the New Year, don’t let this be your fate! Believe it or not, it’s actually possible to experience permanent weight loss success. To help you see light at the end of the tunnel, I’ve put together a quick list of simple strategies you can put to good use on day one. Follow these strategies and you’ll never have another weight loss resolution again.
Learn the Basics of Calorie Management
A basic understanding of how calories work is critical for 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.
Related Article: Estimating Your Metabolic Rate and Daily Calorie Needs
So, as you can see, calories are meant to be used, not abused.
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. This is known as calorie balance.
A basic understanding of how calories work is critical for successful and safe weight loss.
If you’ve gained excess weight, you’ve likely created continuous calorie surpluses over time. In this case, it’s important to understand that it’ll take 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.
Now, I would be remiss not to mention that effective calorie management doesn’t necessarily require calorie counting. I’ve explained how to lose weight without counting calories in a previous article, which you can find here.
Set Realistic Weight Loss Goals
It’s virtually impossible to achieve permanent weight loss in the New Year without setting both short- and long-term goals. Above all, these goals must be realistic. If you’ve resolved to lose 100 pounds by the summer, this might not be the most realistic goal to set for yourself. 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.
Though not impossible, doing so will require your expending and/or withholding an average of 2,100 calories every day. From the standpoint of calorie expenditure, attempting to work off 1,000-plus calories every day with physical activity is not the most realistic strategy. Might be possible among folks who are physically conditioned to do so, but virtually impossible for anyone who’s already 100-plus pounds overweight.
It’s virtually impossible to achieve permanent weight loss in the New Year without setting both short- and long-term goals. Above all, these goals must be realistic.
You can’t realistically withhold that many calories either.
When too many calories are withheld on a day-to-day basis the body will eventually start breaking down the protein that’s stored in muscles to obtain the energy it needs to function. When this occurs, you’ll be losing more muscle than fat, which is not at all ideal as muscle fuels the fat-burning process by keeping your metabolism in check. So, to preserve your muscle and metabolism during weight loss, shoot for an average weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week. This equates to deficits of 500-1,000 calories each day.
Related Article: Why You Shouldn’t Attempt to Lose More than 2 Pounds a Week
At this rate of weight loss, a realistic long-term goal for losing 100 pounds is at least a year. This will lead to more permanent results. And, 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 and effortlessly achieve deficits of 250-300 calorie a day (1,750-2,100 calories a week).
Be Physically Active, Every Day
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of incorporating physical activity into your daily routine. This might seem like common sense but, as both a health coach and personal trainer, more than 50% of my clients initially only dieted for weight loss prior to working with me. And, needless to say, they’d regained the weight they’d lost, 100% of the time. Ideally, calorie restriction should be accompanied by expenditures of at least 250 calories a day through exercise training and other forms of physical activity.
Cardiovascular (cardio) exercises like jogging, bicycling and group fitness training can help you burn up to 600 calories an hour while moderate-level physical activities like gardening, leisure walking, and recreational sports (tennis, basketball and soccer) can lead to calorie burns of up to 400.
Related Article: How to Perform Cardio Exercise the Right Way
Resistance (weight) training is another essential component of a weight loss program. Though you won’t burn as many calories as you would in a typical cardio session, this type of training increases muscle mass and, ultimately, boosts metabolism which leads to increased calorie-burning potential and weight loss over time.
For effective weight loss, exercise training and/or moderate-level physical activities should be performed for at least an hour on most days of the week.
Related Article: Weight Training 101: What You Need To Know Before You Lift
For effective weight loss, exercise training and/or moderate-level physical activities should be performed for at least an hour on most days of the week. Now, that’s on an average, as more intense exercises can be performed for as little as 30 minutes to as much as an hour a day while less intense activities could be performed for as much as 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.
Related Article: Target Heart Rate: Are You Working Out Hard Enough?
And there you have it—Three simple strategies that’ll get you on a path to permanent weight loss in the New Year. At the end of the day, resolving to lose weight 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.