Weight loss is by far the most common goal requested by potential clients. That’s no surprise; two-thirds of the adult population in the UK are overweight or obese.
Many of them come to us having tried and failed to lose weight. They’ve tried various approaches with limited success. Why is it so hard?
Well, for a start, our genes are against us. Our genes evolved when food was scarce and storing body fat was advantageous for survival.
But now, in a world of plenty, that trait is a curse. It means that we gain fat easily and defend a higher weight.
But there are plenty of slim people around, even those with an increased propensity for weight gain. So what are they doing, or what have they done to attain and maintain a healthy weight? Probably quite a lot. Weight loss isn’t as simple as eating less and doing more. There are many components to any weight loss journey, and your chances of success increase the more of them you have in place.
In this post, we highlight the ten weight loss essentials that should be part of any weight loss programme.
Of all the weight loss essentials, this is perhaps the most critical.
You can exercise all you like, but if your calorie intake is too high, you will not make progress. This is the number one mistake people make when trying to lose weight: they fail to adjust their calorie intake, underestimate it, or feel they are allowed more calories because they are exercising.
To combat this, you first need to know roughly how many calories you burn daily. If you don’t have an activity tracker, your estimate of your calorie intake will be a shot in the dark. On our weight loss programmes, we calculate this for you if you don’t have a tracker. Once we know your calorie burn, we can calculate a calorie intake allowance that will enable you to lose weight at the right pace.
Knowing your calorie allowance is one thing. But how do you know if you’re eating within that limit? You’ll need to know. That’s why we get everyone to log their food initially. The food log will tell you how many calories you’re consuming. Research has shown that food loggers enjoy more weight loss success than those who don’t log their food.
Food logging is outstanding education. You’ll learn about appropriate portion sizes and the protein, carbohydrate, fat and calorie content of some of your favourite foods. You’ll be surprised what you find out about some of your current choices. Slowly but surely, you’ll adjust your eating habits, making better calorie-sparse and nutritious choices along the way.
But we don’t just leave you to fend for yourself. We’re there to troubleshoot. That’s why we ask you to set up a password to your food logger that you’ll be happy to share with us. That way, we can log in and look at your food log. We’ll make helpful suggestions to improve your weight loss, or we’ll investigate and identify reasons why you’re not making progress.
Education not prescription
Another important aspect of nutrition is education. You could go on a prescriptive diet where all the meals and recipes are provided, and you must stick to the allowed meals. And that might work for a while. But what do you do if you don’t like some of the meals? Or perhaps you’ll get bored with the same meals all the time.
And what do you do when you reach the end of your weight loss journey? You’ll likely go back to what you knew before because that’s all you know. But remember, your former eating habits made you gain weight in the first place. So, returning to those old habits is the last thing you want.
It’s far better to educate yourself. Learn as much about food as you can and make your own choices about what to eat. The more you learn, the more freedom you will enjoy regarding your food choices. And the more likely you’ll stick to a healthy eating regime.
That’s why our focus is on education, not prescription. We have a nutrition course consisting of two and a half hours of videos about weight loss. They will help you make the right choices for your goals, keeping you from feeling hungry and preserving muscle as you lose weight. Along with food logging, this is your education. All you have to do is put it into practice with our help. Then you’ll have eating habits that will last you a lifetime – a longer and healthier lifetime.
Next up on the list of weight loss essentials is patience.
You didn’t put the weight on in a few months, so you shouldn’t expect it to come off in a few months. If you have falsely high expectations, two things could happen
You may lose heart when your progress turns out to be slower than your high expectations. And when you become demotivated, you’re more likely to give up, perhaps believing you have bad genes.
You may go on a crash diet, losing weight very quickly. If you do this, you’ll lose a lot of muscle, you may become ‘hangry’, your thyroid output will crash, and you’ll plateau early. With decreased muscle comes increased susceptibility to weight regain. When you come off the crash diet, you almost certainly put the weight back on and ‘overshoot’, ending up heavier than you were when you started. This is a known phenomenon and extremely common.
If you want a successful outcome and to be able to hold your lower weight, you must take your time. That way, you’ll preserve muscle, maintain healthy hormone levels and be able to sustain the lifestyle that helped you lose weight.
We’ll help set your expectations. We can do this because we see so many people lose weight. We know what works and at what pace you need to lose weight for the most successful outcome. We’ll provide a calorie allowance that will enable you to lose weight at the correct rate.
Set your expectations appropriately, take your time and lose weight well.
Everyone who embarks on a weight loss plan feels committed. But as the weeks and months pass by and the going gets tough, they discover they weren’t as committed as they thought.
You may be impatient. Perhaps when you get halfway to your goal, you get frustrated with what you regard as slow progress. You may say ‘that will do’ and call it a day.
Or perhaps you find that a series of social events test your resolve: Christmas, Easter, birthdays, holidays, weddings, parties, regattas, and social events. You want to enjoy those things. So, you relax your regime for a period. You make stuttering progress, and your weight follows a sawtooth pattern, never really descending.
Or perhaps it’s simply too easy to quit. You only made a mental commitment, so nobody will be upset if you stop. No, weight loss is not for you. It’s too hard; it’s easier being overweight.
We won’t let that happen to you. For a start, we’ll agree on how long it will take you to reach your goals, and we’ll design a programme of that duration. You’ll then make an upfront written and signed commitment to follow the plan for the entire course. And you’ll commit money. Once you’ve done that, you have another good reason not to give up. You’ll want to get your money’s worth: you’ll be super-committed!
And what’s more, we’ll provide plenty of accountability to ensure you stay the course and put into it as much as possible.
If you’re accountable only to yourself, you’re far more likely to relax your eating habits, skip the gym or even give up.
It’s far better to be accountable to someone else.
For example, you could lose weight with a friend and train together. You’d be able to encourage each other, share experiences and keep each other on track. You won’t want to let your friend down by failing to turn up to your gym session.
With a Life Force Fitness programme, we provide plenty of accountability. To start with, you’ll have regular appointments with your coach. You’ll commit to the same slots weekly, so it’s easy to organise your diary. If you don’t turn up, you’ll lose the session. And your coach is going to have something to say about it!
You’ll also be required to submit your weight every Friday. We’ll chart your weight loss progress and provide a report with motivational commentary. If you stay on track, your chart will look great, and your commentary will be congratulatory. If you go off plan, your chart may not look so good, and your coach will give you some tough love.
And that’s not all. Every month you’ll have a check-in where your photograph will be taken and your body composition measured. It’s super motivating when your photos and body composition improve month after month. You won’t want to turn up at your check-in having gone backwards. You may even be a little nervous approaching each check-in. That’s a good thing! A slight fear of failure will help you stay focused and on the plan.
5. Weight training
We all know that exercise is one of the weight loss essentials and crucial for weight loss success. But most people will simply ‘do some exercise’ without considering if it is giving them the desired results.
If your only choice of exercise is walking, running, cycling or the elliptical machine in the form of steady-state cardio, this will help you lose muscle as you lose weight. When you lose muscle, you lose metabolism. And when you lose metabolism, you become more susceptible to weight regain. Holding on to your muscle as you lose weight could almost be one of the weight loss essentials.
Weight training is your number one exercise tool for any weight loss programme. It will
- Help you preserve muscle and burn calories for hours afterwards.
- Improve your posture and your muscle tone.
- Convey mental health benefits such as improved self-belief and mental toughness. That’s a good thing to possess when trying to lose weight.
There’s little value in having us watch you do cardio. Within our programmes, all your training sessions will be weight training. Weight training requires know-how, experience, and a spotter who can keep you safe. We’ll ensure you lift safely to the maximum of your ability, so you benefit as much as possible and get the best value for money.
Of the three weight loss essentials relating to exercise, this is the must-do activity.
Cardio on its own is an okay mode of exercise for weight loss. Weight training on its own is a good choice. But weight training plus cardio is an excellent blend.
The two modes of exercise have complementary benefits for weight loss and health. Weight training will help preserve muscle, while cardio will help improve your fat-burning capability. You get exceptional body composition results when you perform them in the same programme.
We won’t watch you doing cardio, but we will help you find the right form of cardio to suit your capability and lifestyle. We’ll provide recommended frequency and duration for your cardio and help you find ways of fitting it into your day. We even have a couple of tricks up our sleeve for helping you get the most benefit from your cardio.
7. Willingness to change
This is one of the fundamental weight loss essentials. Many people love the idea of losing weight but don’t appreciate the changes that are required. It’s not your genes that have made you overweight; it’s your lifestyle. And if your lifestyle is the culprit, then something about it has to change.
You can’t lose weight by maintaining your lifestyle and adding a few walks into your week. That simply isn’t enough of a change. You must implement a holistic change programme to see results. You’ll need to change your diet and your exercise habits markedly.
For some people, this comes as too much of a shock. Exercising several times a week seems like too much. But worse, being required to forgo beer, wine, munchies, pizza, chocolate and so on is a very tough ask. And being required to keep the calorie intake down at social events is a step too far. The former wins out when it comes to maintaining their lifestyle or losing weight. They don’t want weight loss enough; they’re not hungry enough for it. They’re not willing to change.
But making the changes doesn’t have to feel awful. You can still socialise and have indulgences. You simply have to be calorie conscious and make wise choices regarding food and social events. And with exercise, finding something you enjoy that fits into your diary is the key. We’ll help you figure it all out. We’ll give you tips and tricks for keeping most of your current lifestyle the way it is. You’ll still need to be willing to change and make those changes. But it doesn’t need to be 100% sacrifice. You just need to think about it and make good decisions.
8. Time and effort
In gaining weight, you probably spent a lot of time inactive. Or perhaps you saved food preparation time by ordering takeaways. Think of these periods of time as activity debt. You borrowed some activity time or food prep time, and now you’re in debt. All you have to do to return to where you were at the start is give the time back.
You’ve got quite a lot of time to give back. After all, it’s taken you years to put this weight on, and all that time spent being inactive or taking unhealthy shortcuts has added up.
Let’s do the sums. Let’s say, conservatively, an hour a day of missed activity for three years. That’s about 1100 hours. And let’s say, conservatively, 2 hours a week of missed food prep over three years, that’s another 300 hours.
I won’t take this any further because I’m sure you can see that you’re heavily in debt and will need to invest time to pay it back. But where will that time come from? You’ll need to find it. And you’ll need to put in the effort to find that time, shuffling priorities and swapping around the goings-on that occupy your diary.
Let’s be clear about one thing. Your weight loss project needs to take high priority. If it doesn’t, you’ll find reasons not to exercise or make your own healthy food, saying you don’t have time. You absolutely do have time for your weight loss activities, providing you make them a priority.
You’ll also need to put effort into the new exercise and food prep activities. Work hard in your exercise sessions and work hard to learn about food so you can keep your new eating habits healthy and exciting.
There are no shortcuts. Accept that it will take a lot of effort and a significant investment of time.
In our weight loss programmes, we can help you with this. You’ll have regular appointments with your coach, for which you’ll have to find the diary space. We’ll also hold you accountable for other activities, such as regular cardio. Remember, we have access to your activity tracker account, so we can see what you’ve been doing! We’ll give you ideas and help you rearrange your day to fit your new activities. And we’ll keep reminding you of your priorities.
9. Measurement and monitoring
How do you know if you’re losing weight? You’ll see it in the mirror. That’s a form of measurement. But if you simply remember how you were a few weeks ago, you can never be sure just how well you’re doing. That’s why we take photos every month on your weight loss programme. Taking pictures is better than looking in the mirror. You can line them up side by side and see pronounced differences straight away.
Weight loss progress
But that’s just once a month. How can you tell week on week that you’re losing weight? By weighing yourself, of course. It sounds obvious, but some people don’t like getting on the scales because they fear a higher figure than last week. You may well get a higher number than the previous week, but that doesn’t mean it’s body fat. Your water storage can fluctuate by two or more kg in a day. And one week to the next, you could have very different water levels, depending on what you’ve been eating, your hormone status, your recent exercise and so on.
Only by plotting your weight on a chart can you see the trend line. You may go up and down week to week, but, on average, when you draw a line through the measurements, you’re losing weight. That’s why we provide a weekly report of your weight loss progress plotted on a chart. And we’ll also provide you with commentary to keep you motivated and on track.
But how do you know if you’re losing body fat and not muscle? That’s more difficult to figure out. You can get body composition scales these days that work using bioelectrical impedance by sending micro currents through your body. But often, they are inaccurate because the electrodes only connect with your feet, and the current simply passes through your lower body.
We have a sophisticated machine that measures your body fat and muscle mass, visceral fat, mineral density and waist-to-hip ratio. It also provides a segmental breakdown of your muscle and fat distribution. We provide you with the perfect preparation guidelines before each test to ensure you see consistency from month to month. We’ll back up the body composition scan with anthropometric measurements of the chest, waist, hips, arms and legs.
In this way, at each monthly check-in, you get lots of different measures of how you’re getting on with your weight loss. It’s reassuring and motivational when you see improved photos to know that inside, you’ve improved your muscle-to-fat ratio and your waist has shrunk.
Measuring and monitoring progress is an essential element of any weight loss journey.
Our final entry in our list of the top ten weight loss essentials is prehab.
Prehab is a word that has been coined to describe rehab-type exercises done before any injury occurs. The idea is that you can avoid injuring yourself by doing prehab exercises.
We are firm believers in this philosophy. If you get injured, that will severely limit your ability to lift weights or even exercise. If you lose exercise, you lose your health and a vital component of your weight loss toolkit. But if you can lower the risk of injury, you stand a much better chance of reaching your goals.
Most people have postural and movement irregularities of which they’re unaware. Weight training can worsen these, and injury may be just around the corner. But if you’re made aware of them and have a series of activities to improve them, your chances of injury are significantly reduced. You’ll be able to lift with less stiffness or pain and with more stability and confidence. This will help you put more into your lifting and get more out of it, which will stand you in good stead for your weight loss goal and the future.
We perform a posture assessment and a movement screen on all our programmes. We then coach each client on prehab exercises tailored to their particular challenges. We’ll include prehab as a warm-up in every training session and ensure that any niggles are nipped in the bud before they become problematic. In short, we’ll keep you safe, and we’ll keep you lifting.
A summary of weight loss essentials
Weight loss is not easy. You need to put in place several different components to improve your chance of success. We call these weight loss essentials.
To start with, you’ll need nutrition knowledge and the right calorie intake to ensure weight loss.
You’ll need the right exercise regime; a combination of weight training, cardio and prehab.
Measurement and monitoring constitute the third component. You need to know how you’re doing.
But, above all, you’ll need the right mindset. You’ll need to be willing to change but have the patience to stay the course as your weight slowly reduces. Wholehearted commitment and the dedication of time and effort are also crucial. And finally, being accountable to yourself and others is a critical control factor for success.
Weight loss success should be much more achievable if you put these ten weight loss essentials in place.