For the next month, the fitness and weight loss industry will be fattening it's wallets while the rest of us hope to thin those waistelines. Here are a few tips to help you get on track and stay on track.
1. Assess your current status, count calories. Spend a week or more and record what you're eating. This can be done manually or digitally. One of my favorite sites is FitDay (www.fitday.com) because it calculates your calories and itemizes your calories to protein, fats and carbs. It also gives you an estimate of your vitamin and mineral intake. However, there are multiple apps and other sites out there that do essentially the same thing.
1b. You'll also want to get an accurate weight and body fat percentage measurement. More important than weight loss, fat percentage is associated with health and can help determine how much weight you want/need to lose.
Whatever you do, don't fib on counting your calories or you'll sabotage the whole program.
2. Analyze your food diary from #1. Eliminate foods you don't need and cut back on some of the other ones. Take a look at your distribution of calories (what percentage is going to protein, fats, and carbs). Normal distribution is about 10-30%, 20-35%, 45-65%, respectively. Make sure you're getting adequate vitamins and minerals.
3. Calculate your total caloric needs. Just to survive, you need a minimal amount of calories. This is measured as your resting metabolic rate (RMR). To calculate this, use either the Harris-Benedict model or Katch-McArdle model. A simple google search will get you the equations. All you need is your weight for the HB model and your body fat percentage for the KM model. In addition, you need to factor in your energy expenditure for your additional daily activities like running, biking, swimming, etc. Your total needs will be your RMR plus your additional activity expenditure. As an example: RMR of 1700 calories and a 5 mile jog for the day (about 500 calories) gives you a total of 2200 total caloric need for the day.
4. Set your goals. Set a specific weight goal or body fat percentage goal (preferred) and put it somewhere you can see it, like the fridge or pantry door. Give yourself a deadline. Ideal loss is 1-2 lbs. per week. To calculate your ideal body weight based on your body fat percentage, go to this link (an article I wrote for Livestrong several years ago).
5. Calculate the number of calories you need to cut to reach your goal. For one pound of weight loss per week, you should consume about 500 calories less, per day, than your needs (3500 for the week). Double that for 2 lbs. per week. So, if your calorie needs are 2500 per day, you should consume about 2000 per day for 1 lb. of loss and 1500 for 2 lbs. of loss. Many digital programs, such as Fitday, calculate this for you.
6. Come up with a way to track your progress. Use a computer program as previously mentioned, create a spreadsheet, or do it by hand. Regardless, continue to map out your progress as you go along.
Below is a screenshot of a simple spreadsheet I came up with.
7. Don't just do the diet. Use exercise and physical activity to help. Research confirms that diet (calorie restriction) and physical activity combined is the best way to lose weight and keep it off. The purpose is to create a lifestyle, not go through a one-and-done program.
8. Don't give up. This won't happen over night. It may take several attempts and it may take some time to get the weight loss momentum going.
**day to day measurement is important but weekly totals should be emphasized as weight is tightly regulated over long periods of time.
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Scott Flynn, owner, coach and triathlete of 10+ years with Threshold Multisport Coaching, holds a MS in Exercise Science and multiple nationally recognized fitness certifications (CES, CSCS). For more about Threshold coaching packages click here.