America, it’s no secret, is facing an obesity epidemic. With more than 66 percent of the nation’s adult residents being either overweight or obese, people who fall into the healthy-weight category are in a minority.
Nearly half of the people whose BMIs indicate they should lose weight for health reasons are actually trying to shed pounds. The most common weight loss strategies are, according to the CDC:
- Exercising more
- Eating less
- Eating more vegetables, fruits, and salads
- Drinking more water
- Eating less junk food
- Cutting down on sugar-filled snacks like candy
- Eating less fat
- Reducing carb intake
- Skipping meals
1. You can’t lose (a lot of) weight without exercising
Sixty-two percent of Americans who want to lose weight turn to exercise as a primary way to make it happen. It’s clear that most people believe working out is their ticket to a thinner waistline and a lower BMI, but is that true?
Not according to research. Not if exercise is your sole weight loss strategy, anyway. People who try to lose weight just by incorporating more aerobic exercise or weight training into their weekly routines lose, one study showed, somewhere between zero and two kilos. If you want to shave more than that off with exercise alone, that’s gonna take an awful lot of cardio.
This is actually good news for folks who just don’t like to exercise that much. Don’t get us wrong, physical activity is still crucial for your overall health, but you can absolutely drop half a kilo to a kilo a week simply by creating a deficit of around 500 calories a day — exercise not necessarily included at all.
2. You need to starve yourself and skip meals to lose weight
The fact that over 16 percent of Americans who are currently on a weight loss journey attempt to lighten their load by skipping meals is concerning. While skipping a meal here and there won’t cause long-term damage and may even be beneficial, people who purposely eat only once a day experience detrimental (though reversible) metabolic changes. These same people may actually end up consuming more calories in one meal than they would have over the course of the entire day, had they chosen to plan three meals.
This is, again, good news for people who enjoy eating but have picked up the idea that losing weight requires skipping meals and snacks, and feeling hungry all day. That kind of thing leads to irritability, frustration and, ultimately, falling off the diet wagon and quickly regaining weight. Healthy weight loss is slow and sustainable. It requires sacrifices, but people trying to lose weight don’t have to go without or swear off their favorite foods forever.
3. Reducing your calorie intake will make you feel hungry all day
Weight loss doesn’t require tons of exercise or starving yourself. It does depend on a calorie deficit — to lose weight, your body needs to burn more calories than you consume. Committing to a calorie budget doesn’t mean you’ll be hungry all day, however, as long as you choose foods that will fill you up:
- Upping your protein intake will make you feel fuller for longer, so you won’t crave empty carbs anymore. High-protein foods include eggs, tuna, fish, nuts, shrimp, and milk.
- You can eat a whole lot of broccoli, spinach, watermelon, berries, carrots, celery, and many other fruits and veggies prepared without added fats — without even coming close to your daily calorie budget. Are you one of those people who needs to eat to feel good? Stocking up on these low-calorie healthy options will allow you to continue enjoying larger meals while still losing weight.
- You don’t have to give up on bread, rice, and pasta either — just choose whole-wheat versions instead. They’ll make you feel full for longer than their highly-processed cousins.
4. You need to follow a special ‘weight loss diet’
Nope. You just need to create a calorie deficit — by consuming fewer calories than you burn through a combination of physical activity and just being alive. Most people who follow special diets actually end up gaining most of their weight back within 12 months. That’s probably because weight loss diets are often boring, lacking variety, and so strict they’re hard to actually stick to. You end up being so sick of your diet that you binge.
5. There’s nothing you can do to lose weight — and you’ll be fat forever
Are you convinced that you’ve cut down on portion sizes, still aren’t seeing results on the scale, and now think your body is “broken” and there’s nothing you can do to lose weight? You wouldn’t be alone. Research shows, however, that people routinely eat much more than they think they do. It’s simply not possible to “guesstimate” your calorie intake — you have to keep track of everything you eat and drink to get anywhere close to an accurate picture.
Once you do, you may find your weight loss doesn’t follow a predictable path. You may drop several kilos in a few weeks and then stay at the same weight for the next couple. This doesn’t mean you are not losing weight, just that the scale has temporarily hit a pause button. Keep on creating a calorie deficit, and those numbers will start dropping again.