(Originally Published 2013 - Edited 2/2021)
After over 10 years of periodically attempting and abandoning efforts to control my body I finally set myself to the puzzle in earnest when I got past a point I felt ok with. I learned that the hardest part of controlling weight is the learning; doing it has actually been easy and feels physically good. There are many moving pieces and the weight loss information scene is very all over the place so it took awhile to identify and put together the relevant information. So, here's my boiled down system. I didn't learn or do all of this in this order but this would be the logical progression of doing it had I known it all from the beginning:
- Figure out your ballpark ideal body weight.[Ideal Weight Calculator]
- Figure out how many calories per day you would need to lose at healthy rate [1-2lbs per week] [Calorie Calculator]
- Figure out your ideal macronutrient ratios [Protein, Fat and Carbs] for your ideal body weight. [Macronutrient Ratios]
- Start tracking your food as accurately as possible and seeing where you stand on calories and macro-nutrients. [Lose it] or [MyFitnessPal]
- Make small changes to your diet one at a time towards the calorie and nutrient goals you set. Basically, figure out what your body needs to feel happy and get better at delivering.
Exercise is actually not necessary to weigh loss and maintenance, though a useful supplement and in fact can be a hindrance if not used properly. I would suggest if you are new to fitness, don't try to throw in an ambitious exercise plan until you have a handle on your diet habits. Fitness is a big topic and an overlapping goal so I won't get into it here yet. Still, If you do exercise track it as well to figure out how many calories are burned from your daily total, and try to save your highest calorie meal for after exercising to make use of your temporarily increased metabolic rate.
The importance of macro-nutrients can not be overstated. Having a good macro ratio will make sure you feel sated. Sure you can hit your calorie goals eating lettuce all day but if your macro targets are not met you will feel hungry and that is not a sustainable or healthy way to live. The content of your diet needs to give you what your body needs to work, and if you're hungry you generally have a deficit in something you need. Diet should not be a large exercise of willpower because the harder your limit yourself the stronger the crash back to old habits will be, and the discomfort of maintaining severe limits I have found leads to greater emotional backlash as well.
I hate being told what to eat, so I eat what I want and just put some thought into meeting the calorie and nutrient parameters. Some days and weeks I go over my goals and my progress stalls or slows but who cares? Every day is a new day and short term variations don't mean a thing anyway. Don't dwell on weight variations of up to 5 lbs in a week, look at the longer trends. If you don't see progress over 2-3 weeks look back through your logs and double check what is putting the biggest calorie hits on your day, verify you aren't missing anything (like condiments, everyone forgets condiments) and see if you can make some more adjustments. Don't sweat the small stuff, and don't beat yourself up!
Some popular weight loss programs that work tend to use most or all of these principals (often with strategic exercise and food related additions to increase results) and then encrypt it for you or give you instructions without telling you “why” because they want your money and your dependence. Plenty of people who are healthy weights individually adhere to their ideal calories and nutrients due to good habits without actually knowing why it works, and many of people know how it works too but I haven't found a concise breakdown of these so I put one together. The tools are out there and the information is free so I've had a great time figuring out the science behind nutrition and weight loss and will always have the basic knowledge to attain any reasonable or healthy weight goal I set.
Details on Resources :
1. Ideal Body Weight : I use these types of calculators as ballpark estimates not as dogma. Most of them fall short regarding estimating your build and/or fat/muscle ratios.
2. Calorie Calculator : This is good if you want to know a set number at any point. Lose It (see resource 4) will automatically adjust your daily calorie goal based on your current weight because it changes as your weight changes.
3. Info on macronutrient ratios: I currently use the equation 0.8 grams of protein per lb of ideal body weight, 0.35 grams of fat per lb of ideal body weight and the rest of my calories from carbs.
4. Lose it and MyFitnessPal : Both have online and smartphone features so you can track anywhere you have internet or cell acess. Also Lose It has a very good charting system for weight, BMI, nutrients and other goodies.