As we are setting up our summer vacation schedules, we are often struck by the realization that we must soon get ready to use our spring and summer wardrobe. Many of us try to make good on their New Year’s pledges and buy a monthly pass to the gym or ask around to find a yet untried new diet, in the hope of hitting upon the magical recipe to lose weight.
Before starting to apply any of these strategies, we’d better get a few things straight:
- In order to lose one kilogram of fat, the body must burn as many as 7000 calories. This can be achieved by either cutting down on food consumption (a bar of chocolate is about 500 kcal, a portion of French fries with a wiener schnitzel is about 800 kcal), or by increasing the intensity of training
- If we consume less energy through our diet as does our metabolism, we will fail to lose weight in the long run as the body adapts to this cut by switching to reservation mode.
- If we achieve the goal of low fat volume but fail to have sufficient muscle volume, it is not at all certain that the body facing us in the mirror will be the one we have wished for.
- Every diet where we radically reduce our carbohydrate and therefore our salt intake (breads and bakery products usually have a high salt content) will also reduce the water content of the body. The reason is that for it to get stored, each gram of glycogen needs to bind 4 and each gram of sodium needs to bind 180 grams of water. When that happens, our body loses water, which poses a real danger as hydration is vital for our health. Obviously, such a method of dieting cannot work in the long run.
What can we do to make a success of our efforts to lose weight?
- If we have tried to lose weight but to no avail multiple times, we need to get a thorough health check to find out whether there is some disease in the background such as insulin resistance or uncontrolled thyroid problems.
- Get a body composition test to measure your metabolism (this equals the minimal amount of energy to be provided by daily energy intake). The test will also determine your muscle-fat ratio, which is important because if your muscles are weak, it will be far more difficult to lose weight, - a point to consider when devising your weight-loss strategy. The additional task of increasing muscle tone requires a different diet and different training plan than the simple task of reducing fat.
- For a few days, record as precisely as possible what and how much you had to eat and drink; when you woke up and when you went to bed; whether you worked out and if so, what and how intensively; and, finally, what stress effects you were exposed to and when during the day. This way, you might identify a number of lifestyle issues that can interfere with your efforts. Here are some typical cases: If we do not get enough sleep, we won’t be able to train or work out, or will become more irritable, and then compensate for it by eating. Or, we munch too many sweets in the workplace, or do not drink enough and this is what makes us hungry.
- Write up a list of your favorite vegetables and fruits as well as a list of those that will be in season in the next three months, and then try to find some simple food recipes to include them in your diet.
- Find at least 4-4 different kinds of dressings or sauces made with vinegars or cold-pressed oils, to bring variety to salads and grilled meats.
If you are unable to identify what needs to be changed or what is your most important problem, or if you do not see the way to realize your goals, consider consulting a dietitian.
Try out various types of workout and training, and turn to an expert for help to make sure that you do it in the most efficient way. (If you are on a diet, it is important, to keep your pulse in the right range for example.)
Consider, too, whether a slimmer, more attractive body would really make you feel more at ease. If you are in doubt about the answer, seek the advice of a mental counselor, psychologist or personal coach.