How to Lose Weight
For such an exhausted topic, it seems some mystery continues to permeate the mythical weight loss process. “How do you lose weight?” is way too common of a question; however, I suspect that those who ask this question know the simple answer. I’m sorry to say it folks, but there is no shortcut to health and no fast lane to slim physique. The only healthy and sustainable way there is the tried and true method: diet, exercise, and calorie restriction. That’s how to lose weight.
Make no mistake, this is a good thing. Here’s why: health and wellness is a lifelong pursuit. There seems to be a misconception of “Oh, if I just diet and exercise for a month, I’ll have the physique I want and then I can go back to my old habits”.
I’ve said it before, and I will say it many times again, the body is an adaptation machine. It will adapt to your poor food choices, inactive lifestyle, and imbalanced posture and respond with excess fat, gastrointestinal issues, chronic pain, and general unhappiness. Here’s the good news: your body will adapt to your healthy food choices and lifestyle with excess energy, strength, longevity, and increased happiness. The reason that there are no shortcuts for diet and exercise being a good thing is that the habitual practice of these two concepts will ensure that you continue to reap the benefits of your labors long after you have achieved your short term goals; but that’s not the point of this article. The point is to answer the question “How do you lose weight?”
The Weight Loss Equation
The road to weight loss is very simple and it’s rooted in a collection of thermodynamic processes that can be summed up in one mathematical equation. Don’t be intimidated, it’s extremely simple:
Energy In (calories consumed) < Energy Out (calories burned) = Weight Loss
That’s it. Eat less than you need and you will lose weight. Socrates knew how to lose weight roughly 2400 years ago, so why is the weight loss question still around?
Well, as with everything in life, there is more complexity to it. However, this is the foundation of losing weight, and for the purposes of this article we won’t dive into the full picture just yet. You will come to understand the big picture as you frequent this site. For now, just know that you must eat less than you burn if you are trying to drop pounds (or kilos).
How to Lose Weight in 3 Steps
Now that we know the weight loss equation, we can begin our journey. For the purposes of example, I will use myself as the guinea pig to walk you through each step. The following are the steps on how to lose weight:
Step 1: Calculate your TDEE: In order to lose weight, we know we must eat less than we burn. This means that the first step to finding out how much we need to eat is finding out how much we burn. This is done by calculating our TDEE. Your TDEE is just an estimation of how many calories you burn in a typical day, which takes into account your age, height and weight, gender, and activity level. There are many calculators online. Do a quick Google search and choose the one you like best. I like mytdee.com because of its simplicity, but you could use something like http://www.iifym.com/tdee-calculator/ for something more comprehensive.
So using myself as an example: as a 26 year old male, weighing 130 lbs at a height of 5’8” and moderate activity level, my TDEE calculates to about 2,400 calories/day.
Step 2: Eat less than your TDEE: Now that you have calculated your daily caloric expenditure, all it takes is to eat less than that and thermodynamics will do the rest. A good goal is to eat about 20-30% less than your TDEE. Remember moderation. It’s important to choose a number that you can sustain. If you cut calories too much, you may end up crashing and burning, ending your well intended calorie deficit down a rabbit hole of cakes, donuts, and cakes made of donuts. Additionally, eating too little may result in your body going into “starvation mode”, which you may have heard before. This will make burning fat even harder, as your body will try it’s best to cling to your fat reserves for survival. Never eat below your BMR.
When I personally try to shed weight, I shoot for 30% below my TDEE. With a TDEE of 2,400 calories/day, I strive to eat 1,700 calories/day.
Step 3: Determine your Macronutrient Requirements: While you could lose weight simply by focusing on calories, it’s only half of the story. When trying to lose weight, our focus is on shedding fat, not pure weight in general. It’s important to balance your macros to ensure that you are losing weight from fat burn, and not from muscular catabolism and atrophy. We want to preserve muscle mass, as this helps us burn more calories. Figure out what percentage of your daily calorie intake should come from fat, carbs, and protein.
While your macro requirements can vary, I try to achieve 30% fat, 40% carbs, and 30% protein. In a 1,700 calorie/day requirement, this means I need to consume 57 g of fat, 170 g of carbs, and 128 g of protein.
And voila! If you follow these steps, it’s only a matter of time before the weight slides right off.
Understanding weight loss is relatively simple. Execution of the weight loss process is something else entirely. However, as you can see in this post, it only takes 3 steps to start losing weight. In following these steps daily, it’s only a matter of time until you achieve the results you are looking for. It doesn’t get much easier than that. There is a wise saying that goes: “There ain’t nothing to it but to do it”. Nike shortened it, but I like the longer version.