If you want to lose weight, get ready to work. There is nothing fast, easy, quick or instant about building your best body.
Unlike the contestants on “The Biggest Loser,” you probably won’t lose 100+ pounds in just a few months and you won’t receive $250,000 at the end of your journey. Don’t over-train, starve yourself, go on a liquid diet and dehydrate your body before every weigh-in just so you can see beyond the recommended weight loss of one-two pounds per week.
Bad weight loss practices often lead to weight gain, as the first winner of the biggest loser, Ryan Benson can attest to. He lost 122 pounds and has since gained nearly all of it back. So when the show’s newest winner, Rachel Frederickson, appeared Tuesday gaunt and emaciated after losing 155 pounds in just four months, my instincts told me hers wasn’t a healthy journey.
I know this as a woman who was 25 pounds overweight before having children, who gained nearly 40 pounds after each child and who still struggles daily to work out and eat well, all while keeping up with her duties as a working mom. The truth is that in the real world -- with real obligations -- losing weight is much harder than on “The Biggest Loser.”
It takes consistent planning, prioritizing, visualizing, reflecting and executing.
Many will say my fitness success is genetically advantageous, as if I was able to attain something without doing anything, but there is nothing easy about losing weight. After all, you have to change the patterns that led you to your current weight.
The good news is that it is possible. I know this because I’ve done it, and here’s how you can do it, too:
When my 5-foot 4-inch frame peaked at almost 160 pounds (before having children), I didn’t want to step on the scale. I avoided wearing anything besides my yoga pants and hated shopping. In order for me to measure progress, I needed to know my baseline. So I took body measurements, body fat percentage and blood pressure. I tested how fast I could run a mile and how many push-ups I could perform. I even wrote down what I ate for a minimum of three days to observe areas of improvement. Success is not determined by the number on a scale alone -- it is also dependent on inches lost, endurance gained and strength earned.
Create a fitness calendar
Since I don’t have a personal trainer, I need something visual and in a prominent place to keep me accountable. I write short-term goals and print out three blank monthly templates to fill in my workouts as they are completed. Keeping a visual poster board that tracks your success, highlights strong words and details physical goals is a responsible reminder to help you stay focused.
If I could acknowledge a single weapon in my workout arsenal that helped me lose weight, it would be strength training. Building muscle not only made me stronger and molded my physique, but it also increased my metabolism. Three days a week, I worked two muscle groups a day and performed three exercises for each muscle. I did three sets of each exercise, ranging from eight to 12 repetitions. I also incorporated a minimum of 20-minutes high intensity cardio for a grand total of four to five workouts per week, ranging from 30-60 minutes per session.
Eat more fiber
Many of the processed foods we eat today are stripped of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Fiber, which is found in oatmeal, fruits, nuts and vegetables, can help satiate your system. Consuming three apples is equivalent in calories to eating one bag of Skittles; however, you’ll have to eat a lot more candy -- or other processed foods to satiate your stomach the way an apple would, because processed food lacks fiber.
Speaking of sugar…
I call sugar the white devil. It’s addictive and found everywhere: In your drinks, cereals and condiments. Not only does sugar cause weight gain, but it has been linked to cardiovascular disease. As a former “sugar junkie,” I can tell you it won’t be easy to break the habit. When the craving hits, I reach for healthier options like a fruit, dark chocolate or cocoa powdered almonds.
Eating is not the enemy
One of the biggest mistakes I made in my history with diets is not eating important macronutrients. In order to lose weight, it’s important to eat lean protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. When you drop your calories too low (under 1200 for women), your body goes into starvation mode and your metabolism slows down. Also, don’t cut out your favorite foods. I shocked my metabolism one to two times a week by enjoying a “cheat” meal without regret. After years of not feeding my body properly and figuring out the importance of moderation, I finally dropped 25 pounds.
Set, plan, reflect and repeat
Most of my life is dedicated to setting goals, planning my journey, executing the plan, reflecting on my results and repeating until I get it right. If you are struggling, don’t give up, be patient and remember: Consistency is key.