What’s The Best Exercise For Weight Loss?

As a personal trainer, it’s common for people to ask me, “What’s the best exercise for weight loss?”. Most people don’t get too specific about what they mean by weight loss – the body is made up of different tissues, including skin, fat, muscle and bone – but usually they mean fat loss – we don’t get too many people who want bone or muscle loss.
Best Exercise For Weight Loss
The honest answer to the question, “What is the best exercise for weight loss?” is simple – there is no ONE best exercise and exercise alone isn’t enough, you also need to reduce the amount of food being consumed in order to reduce the amount of body fat you’re carrying around.

Why Exercise is Vital for Fat Loss Success

People who are physically trained, meaning they work out three to five times a week doing both cardiovascular (or aerobic) training as well as resistance training (using weights, machines and body weight) are better able to use and break down fat than people who are unfit and who do not train regularly. The muscle cells of regular exercisers are more efficient at using the energy from body fat to fuel their activities. This tells us that in order to get your body to a point where it easily uses its fat stores, you have to work out regularly and consistently – not for a couple of days or weeks in a year, but every week. There is no such thing as a “quick fix” when it comes to increasing physical fitness and creating a body that can burn fat efficiently.

The Role of Resistance Exercise in Fat Loss

Resistance training helps to preserve muscle mass. Muscle is the most metabolically active tissue of the body – it’s the “workhorse” tissue and uses most energy, so it makes sense that you would want to preserve as much of it as possible. Resistance training also results in calorie burning during exercise as well as afterwards when the muscle tissue repairs itself (known as “after burn”).

Cardio to Torch Body Fat

Cardiovascular training will really burn calories while you exercise. Changing the type of cardiovascular exercise you do will help you avoid overuse injuries. Examples are: jogging, cycling, elliptical training, rowing, swimming and so on.

Stretching Makes It All Possible

Flexibility training (stretching) doesn’t have much of an effect on your ability to burn calories, but it’s important because it supports both cardiovascular and resistance exercise – when the muscles are overly tight you will not be able to perform other exercises properly.

If you are honestly interested in improving your muscle mass and reducing excess body fat, you will need to commit to regular and effective exercise as well as improve your diet. How do you ensure your exercise is effective? You get help from a qualified and experienced trainer who cares enough to do a full fitness analysis that includes posture, strength, cardio capability, and flexibility as well as a complete body composition analysis.

Email Rudi if you are interested in getting your fat-loss questions answered with a free, obligation-free fitness consultation.

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Obesity Gets Even More Controversial

August 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Articles, Weight Loss Articles

Obesity – Officially a Disease According to the AMA

The American Medical Association officially labelled obesity a disease in June 2013 and guess who jumped on the bandwagon for even more reimbursement for its treatment?

Was it nutritionists? How about fitness professionals? No. It was the same-old, same-old… bariatric surgeons and Big Pharma. Popping pills and stapling stomachs don’t have a very high success rate for long-term weight loss compared with helping people change their eating habits and get active but that doesn’t seem to matter when there is so much money to be made with a “quick fix”.

Obesity Gets Even More Controversial

What Are the Real Solutions for Long-term Weight Loss?

According to data from the National Weight Control Registry (Registry members have lost an average of 66 pounds and kept it off for 5.5 years):

  • 98% of Registry participants reported they modified their food intake in some way to lose weight
  • 94% increased their physical activity
  • Most keep their weight off by continuing to maintain a low calorie, low fat diet and doing high levels of activity (90% of participants exercise on average about 1 hour per day)

Note that successful long-term losers work on their nutrition and their exercise. They don’t pop pills.

Is It OK to Be Fat if You’re Fit?

Recent research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting showed that being fit is actually more important in terms of combatting the harmful effects of obesity (Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and so on) than losing weight. In other words, being fat and fit is healthier than just being thin.

Let’s Get Exercise Prescribed!

We would like to see more doctors prescribing exercise as medicine for obese patients instead of having them take medication or undergo dangerous bariatric surgery. We realize Big Pharma has unlimited funds to lobby for more attention and reimbursement for obesity drugs and surgery but wouldn’t it be great if doctors learned more about exercise and diet in medical school? Wouldn’t it be great if they could get as decently reimbursed for counseling their patients in exercise and nutrition as they do for prescribing medication?

Diagnosing Obesity is Faulty

What’s more, diagnosing obesity is most frequently done using body mass index (BMI) which is simply someone’s body weight divided by the square of their height. It doesn’t discriminate on composition so increased muscle mass will increase a person’s BMI in exactly the same way as increased fat mass. Using BMI as a measure of obesity labels more than a third of Americans and 56% of NFL football players as having a chronic disease. I have seen a healthy athlete with low body fat but lots of muscle mass check in as “overweight”. It’s insane.

The Bottom Line…

A significant shift in focus off of obesity and onto physical activity is definitely needed. Regular physical activity, no matter the size or shape of the individual, delivers massive health benefits that should no longer be ignored.

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Fat Loss Fun Facts

June 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Articles, Weight Loss Articles

Let’s cut to the chase on the subject of fat loss. There’s so much nonsense written about it, so much time spent worrying about it.

Here is a short summary of fat loss facts. Snappy, to the point and hopefully there are a few facts you can use easily right away…

Alex holding 5 pounds of fake fat

FAT LOSS FACT NUMBER ONE:

The more muscle you have, the higher your resting energy expenditure (in other words, you’ll burn more calories without actually doing anything than someone with less muscle).

FAT LOSS FACT NUMBER TWO:

It takes energy to process and digest the food you eat. This is known as the thermic effect of food. Protein comes in highest in terms of its thermic effect, followed by carbohydrate and then fat. In simple terms, you burn more calories digesting protein than either carbs or fat.

FAT LOSS FACT NUMBER THREE (here’s where it gets fun):

On average the human body stores 130,000 kcal of fat, primarily in the form of triglycerides.

FAT LOSS FACT NUMBER FOUR:

A lean adult may have around 35 billion fat cells, while an extremely obese person may have 140 billion – that’s 4 times as many fat cells!

FAT LOSS FACT NUMBER FIVE (this is interesting):

The fat cells of obese people store two to three times more triglycerides than the fat cells of lean folk.

NUMBER SIX (this explains a lot):

Carbohydrate is stored in the form of glycogen, which is bound to water in the liver and muscle. This is why when you eat a lot of carbs, you weigh more (water retention) and also why, when you cut carbs out of your diet, you lose weight fast (water weight).

FAT LOSS FACT NUMBER SEVEN (why we do what we do as personal trainers)

Reducing calories only (energy input) without also increasing activity (energy output) will result in loss of muscle mass. Why is this bad? Because it has a direct effect of slowing the metabolism and the body starts to use fewer and fewer calories making it harder and harder to burn fat.

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Avoid Overeating – 4 Simple Tips

December 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Articles, General Articles, Weight Loss Articles

It’s no secret that we have an obesity epidemic going on in the Western World. From Australia to America, waistlines are growing. So is the cost of health care. We know that staying active is your Number One best defense against the onset of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, depression and the like but what you eat plays an enormous role in how you feel, look and in maintaining good health.

Here’s a scary fact (and one that corresponds with the growing number of fat people) – since the 1970′s portion sizes in America have increased by an average of two to five times (Young 2006)! The average daily energy intake of a U.S. citizen has increased from 1,803 calories in 1977-78 to 2,374 calories in 2003-2006 (Duffy et al. 2001). That’s a rise of nearly 32%.

Part of the problem is that we are in the habit of viewing large portions as ideal, and not only in fast food restaurants.

Here are a few strategies to help you strip down your portion sizes and simultaneously reduce your daily calorie intake without having to resort to crazy crash diets or depriving yourself in any way.

Less Is More

Try changing out your plates, bowls and glasses for smaller ones. You could even go so far as using a salad plate for your main course. A 2012 Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior study found that when participants were given a large-sized bowl, they served themselves 77% more pasta than when they were given a smaller bowl (Van Kleef, Shimizu & Wansink 2012).

Check out The Portion Plate website for great visuals on proper serving sizes for grains,meats, vegetables and fruits.

Fiber Is a Dieter’s Best Friend

A study in the journal Appetite found that volunteers felt fuller after consuming high-fiber bread than they did when they ate the same number of calories from low-fiber white bread (Keogh et al. 2011). Fiber-rich foods slow down digestion and help control blood sugar making it less likely you’ll feel like overeating during or after a meal. Try for lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Go raw whenever you can.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

A Cornell university study found that people eat fewer calories when they leave extra food off the table. They found that when study subjects had to serve themselves from dishes on the kitchen counter or on the stove they ate an average of 20% fewer calories (Payne et al. 2010). A good idea would be to put a portion of food onto plates then put the extra food away so once you’ve eaten what’s on your plate you don’t add more “just because it’s there”.

Eat Your Greens!

Serving yourself a large portion of leafy greens before you eat your main course can help fill you up so you’re less likely to want to overeat your main course. Having the dressing served on the side is a good idea, this way you can control how much goes on your leafy greens (a little goes a long way). This tip is my own and comes from testing on myself and a few of my clients who swear by it.

For an amazingly delicious and easy-to-make kale salad salad, click here. It’ll fulfill the fiber-rich tip and you can’t get greener than kale.

These tips might come in very handy during the Holidays when there is more food being “pushed” than at any other time of the year. My advice is to enjoy your food by eating the food you deserve – real, whole and good – you’ll feel better and your waist will thank you come January 1st.

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Weight Loss – Bad Idea!

Most people can count more than ten other people they know who “want to lose weight”. Losing weight is a very general concept and when people say they want to lose weight, what exactly do they mean?

How To Lose 10 Pounds In One Day!

My husband, Rudi, wrote a humorous article a while ago, something like, “How to Lose Ten Pounds in One Day” in which he told his readers they could chop off a couple of limbs and achieve the effect quite nicely. Obviously that’s not what people mean when they say they want to lose weight.

Usually losing weight means shrinking fat cells. People want to reduce the amount of body fat they are carrying around. This makes sense as it’s the fat under the skin (subcutaneous fat) that makes people look overweight, flabby, soft, swollen and dimpled. The fat around the organs and in the blood is important to reduce as well as this can affect the body’s ability to operate properly, clog up arteries and slow down the heart (trying to keep things light here but high levels of visceral fat is plain dangerous).

The Weight Loss/Fat Loss Confusion

Unfortunately a lot of people have losing weight confused with reducing fat. They go on very low calorie diets for short periods of time and lose anything up to twenty pounds in thirty days. There is usually no evaluation of exactly what they’re losing; no fat tests or blood tests are done. Fat is reduced, certainly, but so is muscle tissue and this is key to why, once the diet is over, the weight piles back on and people complain they are heavier (and fatter) than before.

“Weight Loss” Is BIG Business

The weight loss industry is big business. Millions are spent on it every year and yet people are statistically fatter than ever before. It doesn’t take a genius to know something is seriously wrong – could it be the general confusion most people have about what it means to lose weight?

Best Strategy – Forget Your Weight

Here’s a good attitude: forget about your weight! Get a fat test done with a competent health and fitness specialist, personal trainer or with your doctor.

Find out how much fat you’re carrying about with you then work out how you’re going to reduce this. Realize it’s NOT going to happen in a month (most likely it took you much longer than a month to build it up, right?). You will have to reduce what you eat, you will have to exercise (and that doesn’t mean just going for a walk, it means doing weights, doing some aerobic activity and stretching).

We’ve helped many people reduce their body fat (and their size). It does take effort and it’s hard to get started but, when people follow 100% what we direct them to do, they get results (and usually feel fantastic into the bargain). There is a science to all of this and it can be done but focusing on losing weight is 100% the wrong way to go – see a true health and fitness professional and take control.

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The Right Way To Eat Anything!

April 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Articles, Weight Loss Articles

Is there a right way to eat anything? It seems like there are so many choices in ways to eat, what to eat, how many times a day you should eat, what combinations of nutrients you should eat that it can get downright confusing. A lot of people are trying to lose weight. What is the right way to eat to lose weight?

First, let’s define the word “calorie”. Everyone’s heard of them but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t really know what a calorie is. A calorie is a unit of energy (specifically the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 degree celsius).

  • Our bodies burn energy to stay alive, to breathe, to move, and so on. Obviously the more you move, the more energy you burn and that energy is measured by an amount of calories.
  • We eat food and food has energy (an amount of calories depending on what the food is).
  • The very simple formula for losing weight is this: Calories consumed have to be less than calories burned. If you do the opposite (eat more calories than you burn) you put on weight.

This is not a new idea, it’s been around for a long time and it turns out, it works. It doesn’t even particularly matter what you eat – check out the professor who lost 27 pounds on the “Twinkie Diet”. The point he made wasn’t that it was healthy necessarily, but that he was able to lose weight by eating fewer calories than he used throughout the day.

The trick to long term weight loss is PERSISTENCE. If you take a look at the National Weight Control Registry data where registry members have lost an average of 66 pounds and kept it off for 5.5.years, most members report continuing to maintain a low calorie, low fat diet and doing high levels of activity.

So you have to find a way of eating that you can maintain for a long time, maybe even a lifetime, not just a month or a few weeks. And you do have to make changes in how you eat, what you eat and very definitely, how much physical activity you do.

Here are a few tricks you can use:

1. Use a smaller plate when you eat a meal

2. Put vegetables (greens, salad vegetables – but not starchy vegetables like potatoes) on half of your  plate. Use the other half of your plate for equal amounts of grains and starchy vegetables on one side, and protein on the other side

3. Eat the vegetables first – all of them. Then the protein and lastly the heavy carb-loaded grains or potatoes.

By the time you get to the end of your meal you’ll be satisfied (eating the vegetables first ensures you start feeling full by the time you get to the end of your meal). Most likely you’ll have to eat slower because it’s harder to eat vegetables, especially raw ones, than to scoff down an all-in-one meal like a burger. It takes time for your body to recognize it’s full and this way of eating helps it do just that.

So what’s the RIGHT way to eat anything? On a plate in the way described above and for an extended period of time.

Tracey Thatcher

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Yo-yo Dieting, Break The Habit

February 29, 2012 by  
Filed under General Articles, Weight Loss Articles

The diet and weight loss industry is huge and growing every day. People want to lose weight, get thinner, look better and be healthier. They are bombarded constantly with news of America’s “obesity epidemic” and pictures of young, small-boned women modeling the latest fashions.

Today you can find such solutions as laser fat removal, stomach reductive surgery, super low-calorie diets involving hormones like HCG and sugar replacement products like aspartame cropping up in nearly every processed food product, including most chewing gums.

Laser fat loss example

There is an obsession with losing weight all over the world. You’d expect that with this much interest and investment that the People of Earth would be slim, toned and gorgeous. That’s almost the exact opposite of what’s really happening (go to your local Costco food court if you don’t believe this).

It’s no secret that the majority of people (95% is the figure quoted in Congressional hearings, research papers and books) who lose weight by reducing the amount of calories they ingest (dieting) alone, regain the weight they lost and then some in a matter of months. The term “yo-yo” dieting comes from this phenomenon. What do these people have in common? Dieting alone. No exercise, or very little.

These are sedentary people. Take a look at the photos below – they are MRI cross sections of the thighs of two 70 year-old men. The one on the top is sedentary. The one on the bottom is a triathlete (very physically active).

The National Weight Control Registry tracks 10,000 people who have lost weight and kept it off. The average member of this registry has lost 70 pounds and remained at that weight for six years

There is no consistent pattern to how people in the registry lost weight – some did it with Weight Watchers, others with Jenny Craig or the Atkins Diet. A very small number did it through surgery (that’s very telling with all the promotion about these days for procedures like the “Lap Band”). What is consistent is that, among other things:

1. These people eat fewer calories and exercise far more than a person who maintains the same weight naturally

2. Registry members exercise about an hour or more a day

3. They eat breakfast regularly

4. Most watch less than half as much television as the overall population

So folks, it CANNOT be ignored. You have to exercise if you want to maintain your weight loss successfully. Going on diets is a massive waste of time and money unless you’re prepared to get active and stay active in a pretty big way.

How to exercise to get the best results; well, we can get you lots of good information on that (there is a LOT of garbage out there on that subject so it pays to pay attention).

You could start with the book Fit Lean Healthy, 8 Simple Steps to get you up and running – it’s based on a very successful and time-tested method for getting personal training clients on the right track.

Tracey Thatcher

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Carbs – How To Eat Them And Lose Weight

December 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Articles, Weight Loss Articles

Here’s some food for thought. I was reading over the American College of Sports Medicine’s recommendations for consumption of carbohydrate, protein and fat and was surprised to learn they really push the consumption of carbohydrates over other nutrients for athletic performance and general good health. The ratios are: carbohydrates 55 to 65% of daily food intake, fats at 25 to 35% and protein at 10 to 15%. Their suggestions for meals included pasta, potatoes, bread, fortified cereals, small amounts of protein and fats and there was even mention of the Zone diet (that promotes 40% carbohydrate, 30% fat and 30% protein) being non-optimum for athletic performance.

My daughter recently took a nutrition course at a local junior college and the data she was taught was very much aligned with what ACSM was promoting – high daily carbohydrate consumption and relatively low protein consumption. It leads me to wonder who is paying for the research? We know that the money in the food industry mostly comes from corporations that sell carbohydrates – Coke, Kellogs, Cadburys, Nestle, etc. Smaller food producers don’t have the kind of money available to finance longer term scientific studies. Just a thought.

On the other side of the coin, some people subscribe to very low carbohydrate diets (the Atkins Diet is a famous example). There was a study done and reported in the October 2007 issue of the  Journal of the American Dietetic Association to determine whether low-carb diets might result in early fatigue or affect the desire to exercise – keep in mind that for people who work out, the degree of carbohydrate restriction is very important because reduced tissue glycogen stores (a form of carbohydrate that supplies instant access energy to the muscles) are known to cause increased fatigue during exercise.

There were two groups of untrained, overweight people. The ketogenic* group ate a diet very low in carbs (5% of energy), high in fat (65% of energy) with the rest of daily energy coming from protein (30%). The control group ate a conventional low-carbohydrate diet (40% carbs, 30% fats, 30% protein). At the end of the study it was found that both groups were equally effective at inducing weight loss and reducing fat mass (no data on whether they also maintained muscle mass) however, the “ketogenic” group had greater feelings of fatigue during exercise and also believed they’d worked harder than the group that ate more carbohydrates.

The researchers went on to suggest that people who want to lose weight should eat, “Moderate amounts of carbohydrate (35 to 40% of energy) from vegetables, fruit, whole grains and also should eat ample protein (up to 30% of energy).”

So what’s our recommended course of action to lose weight effectively? Definitely maintain an exercise routine (exercise has too many health benefits to leave it out of the equation, including the fact that people who exercise are more likely to maintain their weight loss than people who don’t exercise) and eat a diet with 35 to 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat – check out The Zone for a great example of how to do this effectively.

*ketogenic: describes a state in which the body, after all carbohydrate stores have been used, produces ketones (water-soluble compounds that come from the breakdown of stored fatty acids and are used as a source of energy for the heart and brain when there is no carbohydrate for the body to use as energy). It occurs when the body doesn’t get enough carbohydrate and so has to get energy from its fatty acid stores.

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Weight Loss – Common Approaches And What Really Works!

February 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Articles, Weight Loss Articles

Losing weight is possible on almost any plan that involves restricted calories, at least in the short term. One big problem is the definition of “weight”. The weight you lose can be from a variety of sources – muscle tissue, fluids or fat. When weight loss is very fast (more than one to two pounds per week) it is unlikely to be fat weight being lost but more likely to be a combination of fat, muscle and fluids. The other big problem is how to keep the weight off once the diet is completed.

Most people who manage to lose weight and keep it off long term are those who adopt healthy eating habits and engage in regular exercise as part of their normal every-day lives. The word diet Let’s take a look at some common weight-loss approaches along with their pros and cons.

  • FAD DIETS. These are diets that promise a lot of weight loss in a short time period often without also recommending exercise. They are called “fad diets” because they are wildly popular for a period of time then die out when the next fad is introduced. Often they involve the use of pills, supplements, fat blockers and other gimmicks. Their popularity stems from the fact that they often do cause weight loss – in the short term – but usually you put the weight back on once you stop the diet. Examples are the grapefruit diet or the lemonade diet.
  • GLYCEMIC INDEX DIETS. These are weight-loss diets that use the glycemic index to guide your eating. The glycemic index classifies carbohydrates according to their potential to raise your blood sugar levels; the idea being that you don’t want to eat foods that raise blood sugar levels, instead you should stick with foods that maintain an even blood sugar level as this promotes weight loss. Examples of glycemic index diets are the Zone diet and the Carb Lovers diet.
  • LOW CARB/HIGH PROTEIN DIETS. Low carb diets limit the amount of carbohydrates you can eat claiming that excessive carbohydrates (especially sugar, white flour and other processed carbohydrates) increase your insulin levels leading to imbalances in blood sugar levels, weight gain and cardiovascular problems. Most of these diets allow large amounts of proteins and fats while restricting carbohydrates which can lead to nutritional deficiencies and other health problems. Examples of low carbohydrate diets are the Atkins diet and the South Beach diet.
  • MEAL REPLACEMENT DIETS AND MEAL PROVIDERS. In the case of meal replacements you typically replace one or two meals a day with a low-calorie, nutritionally complete shake or bar. Then you eat the third meal, something healthy and between 600 and 700 calories of your own choosing. Meal providers give you ready-made meals that are calorie controlled. These diets can be costly due to their convenience. Examples are Jenny Craig and Slim-Fast.
  • LOW FAT DIETS. Low fat diets remove as much fat as possible from your diet in the belief that fat intake is largely responsible for being overweight. Unfortunately you can still get fat on a low fat diet if you ignore the total calories you are eating – too many calories from any source can add add pounds. An example of a low-fat diet is the Ornish diet.
  • VERY LOW CALORIE DIETS. These diets cut your calorie intake massively, allowing only between 400 and 800 calories a day. A doctor may recommend a very low calorie diet if you need to lose weight quickly before a medical procedure or if you have serious health problems due to obesity. Very low calorie diets should never be done without the guidance of health professionals as very close monitoring is needed to avoid complications and to ensure you are getting necessary nutrients. Examples of very low calorie diets are Medifast and the HCG diet.

The truth of the matter is that most weight-loss diets are hard to stick to long-term and some are downright unhealthy. It’s unpleasant to feel hungry and deprived but the biggest problem with most of the diets is that they don’t encourage long-term healthy lifestyle changes or exercise so any pounds lost usually are regained once the diet is stopped.

It’s well worth researching a system of nutrition that works for you from here on out, not one that promises a slim body in less than a month. Getting active is very important too and there will be times you overindulge but the more you understand about nutrition and how the body works and the more you exercise correctly, you’ll find it easier to get slim and stay that way even if it takes longer than a couple of weeks to get there.

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Weight Loss – So Many Diets, But Which One Is Best?

February 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Articles, Weight Loss Articles

Losing weight can be very confusing when you consider the vast number of possible diets to choose from. The pressure to be thin is amazing in our society and yet there are more obese people than ever before.

Everyone has an opinion on which method is best but, clearly, not all diets work especially in the long term. With low-fat, low-carb, liquid-only, special injections, you name it; so many diets to choose from, which one is the best one for you? Which one will actually work so you not only lose excess weight but keep it off?

“Weight loss” itself is a confusing phrase. With no specification on exactly what you want to lose and only attention on a number on a scale you could be losing any number of essential things from your body as you “lose weight”. On very low calorie diets people are happy to report losing 5 to 10 pounds in a week, what they probably don’t know is that those pounds are mostly water, some muscle and a little fat. Most people, when they say “weight loss” really mean FAT LOSS and naming it exactly makes it so much easier to address.

The majority of people who lose a lot of weight on a strict diet gain it back (and more) once they end the diet. It stands to reason that spending a bit of time researching how to lose weight effectively – for you – would be time well spent. In addition, it’s important to keep in mind that each person is an individual so no one diet or weight-loss plan will work for everyone. If you consider your personal preferences, lifestyle and weight goals, you might have a better chance of finding the best diet to suite YOUR needs.

Before starting another weight-loss program, take a look at these factors:

PAST SUCCESSFUL ACTIONS. Think about when you were last in good shape. How and what were you eating at that time? How were you exercising? How long ago was it? Make a list of these things to determine what actually worked for you personally.

PAST DIETS. Think about diets you’ve been on in the past. What did you like or dislike about them? What worked and what didn’t? How did you feel emotionally and physically? Did you put on weight after you stopped the diet? Looking at these factors will help steer you to a diet that you’ll be more likely to follow.

BUDGET. Some weight-loss programs require that you buy meals, visit weight-loss clinics, join support groups or even consult a doctor. Does the cost of one of these programs work for you financially?

SPECIAL NEEDS. Do you have a health condition such as diabetes or allergies? Perhaps you have special cultural or ethnic requirements when it comes to food. These are important factors that should be taken into account when choosing a diet to follow.

As tempting as fast weight loss may seem, successful weight loss requires making permanent changes to your eating, exercise and lifestyle habits. In the quest for a thinner body it makes sense to look at the habits of people who are not overweight – how do those people manage to stay a healthy weight? What do they eat, do they exercise? What are their dietary habits?

Here are some features to look for:

BALANCED NUTRITION. A weight-loss plan should include proper amounts of nutrients and calories for your individual needs. Diets that require you to cut out entire food groups (such as fats or carbohydrates), eat large quantities of one type of food (grapefruit) or cut calories excessively may result in nutritional deficiencies. It’s very important to take into account any medication you may be on before severely changing your diet as you can also inadvertently cause nutritional imbalances with possible life-threatening consequences.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY. Every weight-loss program should involve an increase of physical activity. Beware of those diets that require no exercise. Exercise plus reduced calories can give you a big edge when it comes to weight-loss. Exercise not only helps to increase your metabolism to help burn calories faster, it also offers such health benefits as boosting your mood, strengthening your cardiovascular system and reducing your blood pressure. Studies show that people who maintain weight loss over the long term get regular exercise.

GRADUAL WEIGHT LOSS: Slow and steady weight loss is easier to live with and usually wins over fast weight loss long term. 1 to 2 pounds per week is recommended and is more likely to be actual fat weight and not muscle weight or water. Longer-term weight loss tends to result in a change of lifestyle and eating habits so weight stays off. Fast weight loss from severe calorie restriction usually results in weight gain once the diet is completed as actual healthy eating habits aren’t part of the diet and people often don’t have a workable maintenance plan once the diet is done – they can go back to old eating habits that made them fat in the first place.

The bottom line in choosing a weight-loss plan for yourself is to ensure you get the nutrition your body really needs to stay healthy, you exercise regularly (minimally 3 days a week) and you ensure your calorie intake is less than your calorie expenditure. Don’t forget, calories measure energy and if you don’t use the energy you take in in the form of food it will get stored for later and too much such energy becomes fat.

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