It’s a new year, which means many people have set goals to lose weight. As a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, here is my advice: beware of the programs and products that promote quick weight loss, especially those who tell you that exercise is unnecessary.
Why? Because the type of weight you lose should matter. Quick weight loss, especially that which comes without exercise, results in a loss of muscle mass, not fat. When you gain the weight back (and research tells us that 95% of people who lose weight dieting will regain it in 5 years), the weight comes back on as fat, not muscle. This loss of muscle is why yo-yo dieters experience a slower metabolism after each diet attempt, as they have lost the metabolic advantage that muscle provides.
And this is one crucial reason why you should be exercising while trying to lose weight: it helps you maintain and build muscle while losing fat. It can also help suppress your appetite helping you to lose weight. In addition, there are many other physical and mental health benefits highlighted in this article from Healthline.
So, how do you proceed if you want to lose weight? Is it even possible when statistics say most diets fail?
The first step is to stay away from diets and products that have you strictly reducing your daily calories. Again, yes, you will lose weight on 1,000-1,200 calories a day, but you will lose muscle, not fat, and it is impossible to sustain this calorie restriction for long without it impacting your health. In fact, 1,000-1,200 calories a day is what many people require to meet their basic metabolic needs (the energy (calories) our body uses if we sit on the couch all day). Because this calorie restriction isn’t sustainable, you will more than likely regain the weight and then some because your metabolism has slowed down.
I recommend finding the highest amount of calories you can eat and still lose 1-2 pounds a week (any more than this, and you will start losing muscle). If you want to count calories, start by eating 8-10 times your body weight, track for a couple of weeks, and then adjust your calories up or down 50-100 calories a day depending on your results. More importantly, start becoming more mindful of what you eat. Diets just focus on taking away foods. Instead, I encourage you to focus on adding quality foods that fuel your body for health and performance. Over time, this focus on mindful eating and healthy habits (including exercise) practiced consistently will help you achieve long-term sustainable results.
In other words, no more dieting!