In this article, I’m going to walk you through and show you how to lose weight.
In fact, I'm going to share everything you need to know so you can start losing weight right now.
I’ve been a personal trainer coaching clients on weight loss for over 12 years now.
Wait, you're probably wondering. Why am I going to share with you a step by step blue print to help you learn how to lose weight?
In all honesty, most people coming to our studio are working with us for the coaching aspects of helping guide them through the process of losing weight.
That means, accountability, teaching them how to keep themselves motivated and how to make the adjustments necessary to stay on track.
The Nuts & Bolts of How to Lose Weight
In reality, the nuts and bolts of how to lose weight aren’t the main reason most people are actually hiring us.
So, I’m more than happy to share with you all the keys to learning how to lose weight.
I’ll warn you this is a really long article. It’s not really even an article.
In truth, it’s a guide on how to lose weight.
If you’re overwhelmed by the length you can download a PDF version which you can upload to your Kindle or other E-reader app.
Just enter your email address here and we’ll send it to you. Or continue reading below.
Important, at Optimal Body Personal Training all of our articles are packed with practical “how-to’s.”
In general, most people love to skim articles (that’s how I learn personally).
For those people, we have tried our best to break the articles down into quick headlines so you can find the info you are looking for on your journey to learn how to lose weight.
Four Keys to Weight Loss
First, there are four different main sections to this article:
- Basics of How to Lose Weight
- Exercise for Weight Loss
- Nutrition & Weight Loss
- Common Barriers Stopping Weight Loss
Before we begin, I want to be clear on something. If you’re wondering how to lose weight fast and easy……that’s not going to happen.
Weight loss is hard work.
If there was some secret to weight loss that was easy we wouldn’t have 65-70% of the population overweight or obese. (1)
Section 1: Basics of How to Lose Weight
First, let’s start with the most basic principle. To lose weight you have to burn more energy out than you are consuming.
Now you’ll hear lots of different conflicting things on the internet about burning body fat. Let’s face it, it can get confusing and overwhelming to be overloaded with information.
We are going to simplify things for you. Most people over complicate losing weight.
Is it Just Calories In vs. Calories Out?
Yes…..and no. Okay, it doesn’t seem like I’m not following through on that simple promise so far. But, stick with me.
To clarify, It is energy in vs. energy out. It is that simple.
However, the problem is that people wind up taking it way too literal.
There are loads of inaccuracies in counting calories. Counting calories is not an exact science.
Far from it. As a result, we created an infographic to give you some clarity on the inaccuracies with counting calories.
What Does All this Mean? Simply means for most people counting calories isn’t a good long-term strategy.
It’s also why so many people feel like they can’t lose weight. They have done the math, and feel like they should be losing more weight than they are. But, they don’t realize it’s not an exact science.
How Do You Lose Weight?
Create the energy debt. For most counting calories is not the sustainable way to get there (doesn’t mean it can’t be a tool you use at times).
In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to lose weight without counting calories. We’ll get to that in the nutrition section of the guide.
For now, understand that how much food you’re eating matters. But, the quality of food matters greatly too.
The quality of the food you’re eating can change hunger levels, cravings, mental and emotional state. All of which, play a huge role in how well you’re going to sustain losing weight. Research has shown that food quality plays an impact on weight loss. (2)
It’s not just about how to lose weight. Also, how to lose weight and keep it off for good.
Is Having a Slow Metabolism Stopping You from Losing Weight?
Have you ever been diagnosed by a medical doctor with serious condition that impacts your metabolism? If not, then your metabolism is highly unlikely to be stopping you from losing weight.
How do I know this without ever having met you? Combination of practical experience coaching thousands of people to lose weight. Also, published research tends to agree.
First, the published research. I’ll use an example.
This study found a difference of about 5-8% in resting metabolic rate (how much energy you burn at rest). (3)
To put that into real world terms let’s pretend that you someone who has the same body weight/height/fat free mass is burning out 2000 calories per day. You’ll be burning out between 1840-2160 calories per day.
From a practical stand point. Everyone I’ve ever dealt with who thinks they have a slow metabolism isn’t showing any of the signs of slow metabolism. Except for their perception of difficulty to lose weight.
This usually relates back to other mistakes their making which we will teach you how to avoid throughout this guide.
Keep an Open Mind When it Comes to Weight Loss
I’ll be honest, some of the information I’m going to share with you is potentially going to make you feel defensive (the stuff already about slow metabolism probably turned some people off right away).
But, I want you to try and keep an open mind. I’m going to shoot you straight with no BS about how to lose weight. However, you have to keep an open mind.
If something seems to conflict with everything you’ve heard or “know” about weight loss. Good. If what you haven’t been doing isn’t giving you the results you want it’s time to try something new right?
Section 2: How to Lose Weight with Exercise
First, the basics on exercise and how to lose weight. Obviously exercise helps with weight loss.
Hopefully, you don’t just want to lose weight, but also want to be happy, healthy and have a body that gives you a high quality of life as you age.
If you are looking to do all of those things, exercise will be very helpful.
In this section, I’m going to be covering the following:
- What type of exercise is ideal for weight loss
- Why most people hate exercise and what you can do about that (I know it’s hard to believe, but you can enjoy exercise even if you think you hate it. Most people who come to our studio start off hating exercise, but actually learn to love it.
- How to lose weight at home without equipment
- Is spot reduction possible? (this means can you lose weight in a specific area of your body with different exercises)
- Best core exercises to help you get a flatter stomach
- What should you feel when you’re exercising
- How much of an impact does exercise have on weight loss?
Best Exercises to Lose Weight
First, I want to clear something up. The best form of exercise is the type that you’re going to consistently perform. Doesn’t matter what the exercise is consistency trumps everything with weight loss. It's not just about how to lose weight, but also how to lose weight and keep it off for good.
In light of this, you want exercises that you enjoy. If you’re someone that hates exercising don’t check-out on me here. Stick with me I’ll talk more about this in a little bit.
The reason you want to enjoy what your exercise routine is giving you is that it will increase your consistency which is key to getting results past the initial few weeks.
Most Effective Workouts to Lose Weight
You want to make sure you’re enjoying your workouts because that is the most important thing. However, what type of exercise in terms of actual physiology is best for weight loss?
Generally, higher intensity workouts are more efficient for weight loss. With higher intensity exercise you will burn out more energy for every minute of exercise you perform. Burning more energy is a big part of how to lose weight.
The higher the intensity of work you’re doing the more energy it requires. Makes senses right. I mean the harder you push down on the gas pedal in your car the more gas you’ll use, right?
Most people are spending all their time with lower intensity exercise (or what’s called the “fat burning zone.”)
This sounds good. I mean fat burning, how could that not be appealing when you’re trying to you know burn body fat.
The lower intensity exercise is referred to as the fat burning zone because a larger percentage of the energy used during exercise comes from fat stores. (4)
Although this may be true, you actually burn out more energy with higher intensity exercise for every minute you exercise.
Remember you want an energy debt. Despite the fact that you burn more carbs with higher intensity exercise it won’t matter in the end because it’s all about getting into an energy debt.
If your body burns through all your carb stores do you know what it starts doing? Dipping into more of your body fat stores to use those as energy.
Consequently, higher intensity exercise is a better option.
How to Boost Your Metabolism with Exercise
In addition, you won’t just burn more energy with higher intensity workouts. You’ll actually increase how much energy you burn after the workout is complete. Boosting your metabolism up is a big part of learning how to lose weight.
Essentially, researchers have found that you will continue to burn out more energy after your workouts is complete for a total of anywhere from 10-72 hours after the higher intensity workout has been completed. (5)
Factors that can impact how much energy you burn out as a result of what is often call the “after burn” effect can vary based on:
- Type of exercise (cardio or weightlifting)
- Workout intensity
- Workout duration
- Training status
These types of higher intensity exercises can continue burning out more calories post workout.
For example, this one study found 45 minutes of intense cycling caused the participants to burn an extra 190 calories in the 14-hour period post workout compared to at rest. (6)
Although, it’s important to note that many people in the real world (that aren’t athletes) won’t hit the high intensity levels that studies using during after burn though.
However, you still will get a nice little boost.
In addition, with this higher intensity exercise you’ll also help to build more lean muscle which will help to boost your resting metabolism as well. Plus, that extra muscle will help you have a leaner looking body too.
Where to Start with Exercise for Weight Loss
Alright, having said all of this for many people starting off who are are confused about how to lose weight should be starting off with lower intensity exercise like walking. Or, in some cases starting off with moderate intensity exercise is a great start for others.
It’s going to depend on your current conditioning levels. Again, I want to stress this it will also depend on what type of activities you enjoy.
It’s been my experience that most people enjoy higher intensity exercise a lot more than long-slow cardio training.
Don’t be afraid to start slow and build up to the higher intensity workouts for weight loss.
How Hard is High Intensity Workouts?
When I’m mentioning high intensity workouts too boost your metabolism how intense are these?
Again, I want to stress this if you have been sedentary starting with going for walks or other lower intensity exercise may be the best fit.
On the other hand, if you are looking to get into higher intensity workouts to help boost up your metabolism how do you know how hard to exercise?
First, understand everybody is different. But, there are some guidelines with heart rate to help you figure out approximately how hard you’re exercising.
Here are some charts that will help guide you on heart rate ranges for higher intensity exercise. If you are in the green ranges you are going to be getting more of a boost in your metabolism post-workout.
If you are in the red heart rate zones you aren’t going to get as much of a boost in your metabolism.
Important, this is not an all or nothing thing. Most people look at things like a light switch. It’s either on or off. That’s not how this works.
If you are in the top range of the red you still will get a boost in your metabolism. Just not as much as if you are into the green. And the higher into the green the more of a boost you’ll get.
How to Lose Weight - Workout Don'ts
But, don’t kill yourself. You should not be feeling nausea, you should not be sore for days and days after your workout. You’re not an athlete, you don’t have to push yourself that hard.
Make workouts fun, enjoyable while still pushing yourself. The most important thing with weight loss is consistency. If you do not enjoy your workouts you will not consistently keep performing them.
If you don’t continue performing your workouts results won’t last.
I can't stress this enough. Having horrible workouts that leave you feeling drained, exhausted, nausea and sore for days is not how to lose weight.
How to Lose Weight with Higher Intensity Workouts
Here are some fat burning workouts you can do from home. I want to make sure we cover not just how to lose weight. But, how to lose weight from home without equipment.
So, here is an example of a fat burning workout you can perform from home. You can find more on our Youtube Channel
Obviously, the longer you perform these workouts the larger the energy you burn in the hours after the workouts are complete.
Section 3: How to Lose Weight with Nutrition
Here, we have what is one of the most important and confusing parts of the weight loss equation. What to eat to lose weight.
One of the biggest problems is information overload. There are so many conflicting things out there about what works and what doesn’t.
You hear things like:
- A calorie equals a calorie
- Calories don’t matter it’s all about quality
- You’re eating too little you’re in starvation mode
- Hormones are stopping you from losing weight
- You can’t eat INSERT FOOD if you want to lose weight
These are a just a few of the things you hear about there about how to lose weight.
It gets really confusing trying to sort through it all.
Consequently, we are going to really try and simplify nutrition and how to lose weight.
What Are You About to Learn About Weight Loss & Nutrition?
Below, are some of the things I’ll be covering on how to lose weight with your diet.
- Basics of portion sizes
- How to get into an energy debt without counting calories
- How a slow metabolism can impact weight loss
- The most common road blocks that stop someone from losing weight and what to do to avoid them
- Is starvation mode real? Can it stop you from losing weight?
- How dieting, age, menopause, hormones and other factors impact weight loss
The Basics of How to Lose Weight & Nutrition
First, we are going to go through the basics. Do calories matter?
Yes. Is it a simple equation of calories in vs calories out. Kind of. I find it best if people think about it more as being energy in compared to energy out.
Why? Simple, it gets people thinking about it less in terms of actual exact measurements. Although it is all about energy in vs. energy out. It is not a simple equation.
There are so many factors. Your body isn’t just a bunch of numbers. It’s incredibly complex. You have all these factors. Emotions, hormones, neurotransmitters, social needs, environmental factors.
There are a lot of different things going on that impact the calories in vs. calories out equation.
Yes, you lose weight by burning more energy than you consume. But, you also need to understand that there are many factors.
Counting calories, the way that most people do is not a precise science. Remember the infographic at the beginning. It went through all the reasons counting calories isn’t an exact science.
But, don’t fall into the trap of thinking calories don’t matter. They do. A person can be eating all “healthy” food and still not lose weight as well.
Steps to Learn How to Lose Weight with Your Diet
So, how do you lose weight without counting calories? We will walk you through step by step what you need to do.
However, I’ll warn you. The what part of the nutrition is very simple. On the other hand, how to integrate these changes into your day-to-day life is very challenging.
This is where we spend most of our time coaching our personal training clients in our Lean Living Online Coaching Program.
This in reality is what most people are actually paying us for (whether they realize it or not).
What you need to do with your nutrition to lose weight is create an energy debt in a way that you can sustain the habits you’re using to create that energy debt.
Simple as that. Now, just because something is simple, doesn’t mean that it is easy.
How to Create an Energy Debt with Your Diet
With nutrition, there are five main points of importance for losing weight.
- Proper portion sizes
- Lots of whole foods
- Eating to the proper hunger and satisfaction levels
- Getting enough water
- Indulging in a way that doesn’t diminish your energy debt you’ve created
Are there other important parts to nutrition? Definitely. And we will cover almost all of those in later sections.
However, this is 95% of nutrition that will allow you to lose weight.
We will now unpack and explain each point in practical how to terms.
1) Proper Portion Sizes for Weight Loss
Alright, everyone always talks about watching their portion sizes to help them lose weight. But, where do you start with portion sizes?
I mean it’s tough everybody is different. How do you know how much is the right amount of food for you?
There are complex calculators out there that will tell you the “exact” number of calories you need to eat. But, these are often inaccurate (especially o if you have a serious history of on again-off again dieting).
The way we teach our personal training clients how to lose weight is through starting with portion sizing guidelines. Then, they adjust these amounts based on hunger and satisfaction levels to create the energy debt need to lose body fat. (We’ll cover this in point #3)
Below, are the graphics we use with clients to learn proper portion sizes.
They are based on your own hand size so they have some degree of individualizing if you have a naturally larger or smaller frame.
Begin, by trying to use these portion sizes. Usually, most people do not get enough protein or veggies. And they get too big a portion size of carbs and fats.
Try to get lean protein servings each time you eat (or as close to that as you can). Same with vegetables.
Then, at most meals try to get the proper serving size of fats and carbs. If you miss some meals that not a problem.
Finally, adjust the portion sizes up or down so you get the proper hunger/satisfaction levels (we’ll cover how to do this in step #3).
2) Whole Foods for Weight Loss
Before we get to proper hunger and satisfaction levels I wanted to talk about whole foods. You’re not getting enough whole foods. Almost no one does in developed countries.
Most people are not getting enough whole foods in their diet. However, most people think they are getting fat more than they are.
Typically, we will see a client in their first food log getting 20-30% of their food from whole foods. But, they typically describe their diet as “pretty healthy.”
Why do whole foods matter? A calorie is a calorie is a calorie, right?
Again, this is where people take the calories in vs. calories out thing too literal.
First, I want to note that it isn’t that a food is or isn’t processed. It’s far more beneficial to think of foods as being a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum foods are highly processed. On the other end of the spectrum is whole foods.
You have other foods in-between that are minimally processed.
Here is an infographic we share with clients that shows you the practical side of this spectrum and how it works. This infographic is only using carbohydrate dense foods, but the same concept applies to other foods as well.
How do Whole Foods Impact Burning Body Fat?
Wait, before you blow right over this section because you “already know that.” I want to break this down and explain why more whole foods is so important.
Generally speaking eating whole foods causes your energy expenditure (calories out) to increase when compared to more processed foods.
For example, one study found that a meal with processed foods required on average 73 calories to digest. On the other hand, the whole food meal required an average 137 calories to digest.
In real world terms, the processed meal 10% of the calories they consumed were burned to digest the food. Conversely, the whole food meal 20% of the calories consumed were burned to digest the food.
Again, look bigger picture and real-world terms. This adds up to quite a few calories. If you’re consuming 2000 calories per day that adds up to an extra 5600 calories burned per month.
Side note, in the study their definition of “whole food” meal is actually what we would think of as processed or minimally processed foods. If it was from actual whole foods it would probably be an even larger energy expenditure.
How to Use Whole Foods Help You Lose Weight
Obviously, the take-home from above is eat more whole foods. How do you make this work for you?
Remember, the “how to lose weight” game isn’t poker. You shouldn’t be “all-in or all-out.”
Meaning, you don’t have to eat all whole foods all the time. But, try to increase how much whole foods you’re getting.
First, take a food log for 1 week. Highlight every food that is a whole food. Whole foods meaning:
- Lentils, beans, chic peas
- Nuts & seeds (un-salted, un-roasted, with no oil added)
- Whole grains (still in their unprocessed whole grain forms ie. Not crackers, bread, pasta, etc)
These are your true whole foods. Keep in mind, there are lots of other minimally processed foods such as sprouted whole grain breads, cheese, yogurt, etc. But, the purpose of this is to find out how much whole foods you’re eating.
Second, count the total number of foods that are highlighted (whole foods) and the total number of food entries that aren’t highlighted (processed). See what percentage of your foods come from whole foods.
Most people are blown away by the results. Usually, most of our clients start with 20-35% of their diet from whole foods.
Ideally, it’s been our experience that most people do best with 70% or more of your food to come from whole foods.
Finally, last step start integrating in more whole foods and working up towards getting at least 70% of your foods from whole foods. This will help with hitting proper hunger and satisfaction levels on less calories.
Whenever you get stuck you can always go back to step #1 and repeat all the steps.
#3 How to Lose Weight with Proper Hunger & Satisfaction
Another form of calorie control to help get you into and energy debt.
So, we want our starting portion sizes and getting most of those categories of foods from whole foods. Next, we want to individualize and adjust those portion sizes based on your hunger and satisfaction levels.
Should you be hungry when you’re eating? Is it better if you’re starving when it’s time to eat? Should you never be hungry?
What’s best for weight loss?
I’ll keep this really simple. Eat until you’re 80% full. Then wait until you’re really good and hungry before you eat again.
Now, this may be simple. However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Most people struggle to learn how to do this. Although there is a slower start to this because it’s a learning process it will produce much larger return in terms of results for weight loss.
When it comes to how to lose weight, this is one of the most important steps. We call this our foundational principle with our online coaching clients.
Here is a video that we used for another online course we used to offer. It will walk you through exactly how to eat to proper satisfaction and hunger levels.
#4 Drinking Enough Water for Weight Loss
This one almost everyone “knows.” But, almost no one actually consistently follows through day-to-day.
I’m going to keep this section pretty simple and to the point. If you aren’t getting enough fluids you can find yourself wanting to eat more often.
Getting enough water is important in helping to curb hunger levels. Previously, we mentioned the importance of proper hunger levels. If you are finding yourself hungry we suggest the first thing you do is drink 1-2 cups of water.
Then wait a couple minutes and see what happens. Typically, you’ll find your hunger levels diminish.
We have had a lot of clients over the years who have found this to be one of the most helpful ways to decrease hunger levels and help get their body into an energy debt and losing weight.
Finally, make sure that you’re getting most of your fluids from actual water. Make sure, it’s not coming from other sugar or artificially sweetened beverages. Try getting at least 2-3 liters of water per day (about 9-13 cups).
One easy guideline to help you know if you’re getting enough water is to look at your urine colour. Here is a chart that will help you with that. If you’re hitting above the upper black line with your urine colour you’re doing good.
#5 How to Lose Weight & Still Indulge in Your Favourite Foods
This is it, I can’t stress how important this topic is.
Most people trying to lose weight take all their favourite foods out of their diet. No alcohol, no processed sugar, no desserts, no chips, no INSERT ANY OTHER FOOD YOU LOVE!
Don’t do this. Unless, of course your goal is to lose weight and then shortly gain it all back again a few weeks later.
If you want to sustain the results you’re going to get using our blue print we’re giving you. You must learn how to lose weight while indulging in your favourite foods.
Remember, it’s not just about how to lose weight. It’s about how to lose weight and keep it off.
One of the most common trends we see in clients is that they are creating that energy debt that they’re looking for. Then they indulge. In their words, just a little bit.
They move from being into an energy debt and losing weight to sustaining their weight. Their indulgence is pushing them out of their energy debt.
The vast, vast majority of people don’t realize how many calories they consume when they are indulging, going out to restaurants, or drinking alcohol and sugary drinks.
My biggest advice in this area is this. Stop trying to use will power to avoid eating your favourite foods and start integrating them into your plan.
Most importantly, enjoy them without feeling guilty. (I’ll talk more about this later on)
How to Indulge & Still Lose Weight
How exactly do you integrate it into your plan? First, come up with a plan.
- How often do you want to indulge?
- What is the total number of calories you typically have when you do indulge?
- How many calories sneak into indulging in really small amounts? (I’m talking about that small piece of chocolate at work, or that extra sugar packed drink from Starbucks)
- If you over indulge past your plan what are the next steps you take?
These are the core questions that help you learn how to lose weight and indulge.
Don't Get Stuck Here
95% of people that read this article won’t take time to sit down and truly answer these questions. Even a lot of our coaching clients will struggle to sit down and answer these questions in full.
The difference between successful and struggling comes down to getting out of your comfort zone and actually answering these types of question. You want to know how to lose weight? Answer these questions for starters.
Earlier I was saying how counting calories tends to be a poor strategy for most people. Actually, in this case it can be a helpful short-term tool. A really helpful tool to lose weight.
Most food logs we get from clients are incomplete. They will not write down or track their meals where they eat what we call indulgent food (people often unfortunately refer to these as bad foods).
Only log your foods you consume that have sugar, artificial sweetener, deserts, snack foods, restaurant meals, large family dinner, holiday/special events, etc. For the next month log only those foods.
This is going to start giving you a clear indicator of how much you actually have at these. It’s a little reality check.
But, Then What?
Alright, next thing is to look to see if you are getting where you want to go. Essentially, indulging should provide you with two main things.
#1 You should enjoy yourself and not feel deprived
#2 You should be heading in the direction you want with your body composition
Most people think they can have one or the other, but not both. You can have both. This is how you lose weight and keep it off.
This is a learning process that we walk our personal training and coaching clients through step by step.
If you aren’t getting the results you want, but are enjoying yourself look at what you can change in terms of consumption (trying to decrease those calories in without losing nourishing foods).
In addition to that, can you add in more activity (energy out)?
Here are some of the most common strategies that we find help clients:
- Pick out the foods you really love to indulge in and pass on anything else that’s calorie dense
- Try to find more nutritious alternatives to foods you enjoy (that doesn’t mean completely take out the less healthy versions). If you can integrate in nutritious versions day to day it will help keep you satisfied more in-between indulging
- Figure out what works best for you. Smaller indulgences more frequently or larger indulgences less often
- If you know you have a larger calorie dense meal coming up don’t be afraid to skip breakfast that day or the next. Or combine lunch/breakfast into one smaller meal
- Instead of thinking of it as all or nothing think of it as let’s make a deal. In order to say yes to some things, you’ll have to say no to others.
- Remember, you can’t “ruin everything” with one meal, or even one weekend. At least, you can’t if you’re truly making changes to your habits
- Try to get in a workout in the 1-3 hours before larger meals where you are likely to over indulge
These are just a few of the strategies that work well. Many people also have a lot of mental and emotional triggers around overindulging which can be a factor. That’s a much larger barrel of monkey we work with our individual coaching clients on. A little bit out of the scope of this article.
However, this gives you so many tools to start with. In our years of experience, I can tell you that a big part of how to lose weight comes down to learning how to indulge.
Section #4: Common Road Blocks "Why Can’t I Lose Weight?"
Alright, in this section I’m going to cover the most common road blocks (some genuine, some perceived) that stop people from losing weight.
Many of these often make people feel/think:
- Nothing works
- Why can’t I lose weight?
- I must have a slow metabolism
- It’s impossible to lose weight
- I’ve tried everything, but nothing works
To begin, open your mind. This is vital. With many of these roadblocks I’ll be sharing a completely different point of view than what you have. I will share views that are a full 180 degrees from what you hear in many books, TV shows, and out of expert’s mouths.
However, I want to remind you that you’re reading this because you’re not getting the results you want. If what you’re doing isn’t giving you the results you want you need to try something different.
If you don’t believe something I’m sharing here. I dare you to give it an honest try and see what happens. Like double dog dare you.
Weight Loss Problem #1 The Pretty Good Problem
This is something we see all the time in clients. They initially lose some weight and then all of the sudden the scale just doesn’t budge.
When we begin asking them questions about how everything is going they usually give us response on how everything is going pretty good.
If you feel like you’re doing pretty good, but you’re not losing weight you are not getting into an energy debt. There are numerous reasons why you may not be getting into an energy debt (we are going to cover the most common ones in this very section).
But, at the end of the day that energy debt isn’t being created. Often what happens is that people are focused on eating “healthy” or “clean eating.” A person can be eating incredibly “clean” or “healthy” and still not be losing weight.
Most people get catastrophic with this. When they’re doing “pretty good,” but not losing weight they begin thinking hormones, slow metabolism, genetics or other factors are to blame. Usually, they feel like their body is failing them and it’s impossible to lose weight.
If You're Struggling to Lose Weight Pause.....
Stop, if this is you take a deep breath in. It’s not that you can’t lose weight. It’s that what you’re doing isn’t working. There is something off in your game plan or the game plan isn’t being executed efficiently enough.
If this is you it’s time to learn. To discover what exactly you’re doing that isn’t working for you. It’s usually simple things done consistently.
Look through the other problems and you’ll probably find the answer. And if you’re really stuck comment below and I’ll help you out.
Weight Loss Problem #2 The Slow Metabolism
Maybe, the most common road block people feel is stopping them from losing weight.
“I just have a slow metabolism.”
A lot of new clients coming into us feel like their struggle on learning how to lose weight has to do with their slow metabolisms.
First, let’s look at how exactly most people define metabolism. The way that most people look at metabolism is essentially how much energy do I burn.
Therefore, the idea of a slow metabolism is that you burn out a lot more energy than a typical or average person.
There isn’t that big of a difference between metabolisms from person to person. At least, not the way that most people think (ie. I can’t lose weight because of my metabolism).
If you look at a person’s resting metabolism research has shown that there is a variance of about 5-10% between individuals. 11
Real World Numbers for a Slow Metabolism
To put that into real world terms, I’ll quote a well written article on the subject:
“Extending this into practical terms and assuming an average expenditure of 2000kcal a day, 68% of the population falls into the range of 1840-2160kcal daily while 96% of the population is in the range of 1680-2320kcal daily.
Comparing somebody at or below the 5th percentile with somebody at or above the 95th percentile would yield a difference of possibly 600kcal daily, and the chance of this occurring (comparing the self to a friend) is 0.50%, assuming two completely random persons.” 12
In addition, the same study found the following differences in other parts of the metabolic equation:
- 1-2% difference in energy expenditure due to exercise (that equates to up to 2 calories for every 100 calories burned on exercise)
- 20% difference in energy expenditure due to thermogenesis (energy required to digest food). This equates to a little bigger amount. For most people, this would be about 40-60 calories difference per day.
Bottom line, there is some difference between metabolism from person to person. However, it’s not as large as many people think. (unless you have an underlying medical condition)
How to Lose Weight with a Slow Metabolism?
Alright, we’ve established you are highly unlikely to have a slow metabolism. However, let’s pretend you do have a slightly slower metabolism than most people.
How does metabolism impact your ability to lose weight? What can you do to lose weight if you have a slow metabolism?
First, the good news. I can tell you having coached thousands of people, many of whom felt they had a slow metabolism. I have never had any of them consistently following through on the info I’m sharing with you in this guide and not lose weight.
On the other hand, I’ve had a whole lot complain about “nothing” working and not actually consistently follow through on taking control of the things they have control over with their metabolism. Unfortunately, most of these people put in effort for 2-4 weeks and then give up.
Here are the most important things you can do to help keep your metabolism stoked:
- Focus on eating lots of whole foods and making sure you’re getting enough fiber (fruits and veggies) and protein
- Higher intensity exercise (build up towards getting 5 hours per week)
- If you have a desk job get up on your feet more
- Decrease how time you spend watching TV/computer/smart phone
- Get at least 8 hours sleep per night (this plays a big role in weight loss)
- Manage your stress levels (another one that plays a big role)
Start with these. They may be really simple things, but they play a huge role in getting your metabolism up.
Weight Loss Problem #3 The Great Until the Weekend Problem
Wow, this is possibly the most common barrier getting in the way of people losing weight. How to lose weight? Don’t ignore your weekends or indulging throughout the week.
People do so amazing Monday-Friday. Then they reward themselves on the weekend. They feel like they’ve been crushing it so they can kick back and relax on the weekend.
Typically, what happens is that they actually move themselves out of a calorie debt that they were in prior to the weekend starting. This is usually a huge factor for most people struggling to figure out how to lose weight.
They were burning out more energy than they were consuming. All of a sudden, the weekend hits and they go overboard. Often, in large part because they are feeling so deprived from how they are eating during the week.
It goes back to enjoying how you’re eating day-to-day being part of your weight loss plan.
Usually when we suspect that this is what is happening to a client we get them to do a food log for a couple weeks. We ask them that they include everything they’re eating not just their “typical” day-to-day foods.
Do you know what usually happens?
Usually we will get a food log with a day or two missing. Or a meal or two missing. Or they will take 3-6 weeks to log one week of food.
Why does this happen? Usually they don’t want to acknowledge what they’re eating at those meals or on those days.
If Nothing Works to Lose Weight….DO THIS!
If you're really feeling like you don't know how to lose weight or like nothing works when it comes to weight loss. Here is what you do.
Log everything you’re eating for a four-week period. Not just the “good” foods, but everything.
However, I want to make one important note clear. And this is what stops most people from doing this and learning from it. THIS IS KEY!
Do this from the perspective of not feeling guilt about what you’re eating. Instead come at it from a perspective of just making observation without getting emotionally wrapped up in what you’re eating.
You want to do this so you can get an idea of how much you’re indulging in. Most of the time, we do not recommend calorie counting. It’s not a good long-term strategy for the vast majority of people.
However, it can be a helpful short-term tool in awareness.
Normally, the patterns that we see from most people is not enough nutritious calorie dense foods throughout the week. And too much calorie dense foods in too large an amount on weekends.
What happens when you aren’t nourishing your body with enough healthy foods throughout the week it will make it easier for you to overindulge on the weekends.
Obviously, I can’t say for sure this is what’s happening without seeing what a person is eating. However, this is incredibly common.
How to Solve this Weight Loss Problem
Start with the four-week food log and then start learning how to make adjustments based on what you’re seeing. Make sure you’re not trying to starve the weight off Monday-Friday and then eating far too much on the weekend.
Weight Loss Problem #4 The Small but Big Problem
What’s this? It’s extra calories that on their own aren’t that much. But, add up to create enough of a calorie surplus that it stops the person from losing weight. At least, losing weight at a “fast enough” pace.
Often people have really small habits that don’t seem that bad. And, most of the time these habits aren’t bad at all. However, these small habits slam the breaks on results.
I’ll use a real-life example to illustrate how this happens.
Our client Samantha, was doing well. She had lost about 3 dress sizes, but results had started to slow a little and she wanted to kick it back into gear. When we looked through her food log I had a couple suggestions.
- Cut down on the amount of cream on her coffee
- Focus on being tighter with her serving size with dressings
Do These Calories Really Matter?
I’ll explain each of these. First, she would often have 4 TBSP of cream in her coffee. That’s about 80 calories. 13
She would typically have 1 coffee per day. From time to time, she would have a 2nd.
Probably, a total of 8-10 coffees per week.
My suggestion to wasn’t to eliminate all cream. She’d probably hate making that change which means it wouldn’t stick long-term.
Instead, I suggested she just try a little less. And continue trying a little less until she hit a point where she could still enjoy her coffee. But, have less cream coming in.
Why Did I Suggest this to Help Her Lose Weight?
In her case, it wound up being at 2 TBSP. She still loved her coffee, but was getting ½ the calories. I bet you’re thinking what’s the big deal. That’s only about 40 calories less. Who cares about 40 calories?
Well, here is the thing. That small amount can add up to a big dent. For her that was about 320-400 calories per week. Which, still doesn’t seem that huge. However, throughout a year that adds up to 16,640- 20,800 calories less.
If you look at 3500 calorie deficit causing 1 pound of weight loss (I know we’ve talked about calorie counting not being exact, but it will give you some perspective).
That translates to 5-6 pounds over the course of a year. Remember, she didn’t enjoy her coffee any less by decreasing that cream. It was one of those small habits she had just gotten into.
What Else Could Help Her Lose Weight?
Next, let’s look at the dressing. She would have a salad for lunch every day she was at work. She would have 2 TBSP of ranch dressing.
I suggested she do the same thing and slowly bring that down and see where she was still happy. She wound up having 2 TSP instead of 2 TBSP. Again, she didn’t enjoy it any less she wasn’t feeling deprived.
Just making a minor tweak. This tweak added up to 97 calories less per day. Or, 485 calories less per work week. Or 25, 220 less calories per year. That equals just over 7 pounds of weight loss in the course of a year.
Between the 2 habits that equals an extra pound or more of weight loss per month.
For habit changes that she didn’t hate doing. Instead of being all-in or all-out. She made moderate changes.
Small things add up when done consistently.
How to Lose Weight with this Habit
Find out what small habits you have like this sneaking in daily. Make adjustments to them even if small. Most people have at least 1-3 of these small things throughout their day.
Remember, big picture. You want habits that you can continually do.
Weight Loss Problem #5 Expectations
First, take a guess what gets more searches per month on Google each month?
- How to lose weight
- How to lose weight fast
I’m going to simply state this. Most people have completely unrealistic expectations that they think are realistic. Most people want weight loss results far too quickly for what they're ready to do.
Instead of searching for how to lose weight quickly, people should be searching for how to lose weight and keep it off long-term. However, almost no one is searching for that.
But, it’s not entirely their fault. Mass media has pounded into your head that losing 1-2 pounds per week is sustainable and healthy.
When a new potential client tells me about their goal and they want to lose 4-5 pounds per month or more because they know that’s sustainable I ask them a question.
What makes that number sustainable for you? They usually look at me like a deer in the headlights. There usually isn’t a response or something to the effect of that’s what they say is sustainable.
Let’s take this concept away from weight loss. Let’s pretend I told every single person with a job that is was realistic to expect 3-5% raise every year.
Is that realistic for everybody? Or will it depend on numerous factors: the economy, their education level, their position, years of experience, performance, just to name a few.
It’s ridiculous to create a realistic amount you should expect to get for a raise across the board.
Can You Determine Realistic Weight Loss Goals?
It’s just as impossible for weight loss.
Do you have 0 kids? 4 kids?
Do you work 30 hours/week? Or 60 hours per week?
Do you travel frequently for work?
Have you dieted 1-2 times in your life? Have you dieted 10-20 times in your life?
Are you going through menopause?
Do you enjoy drinking 3-5 glasses of alcohol on the weekend? Or do you drink 3-5 glasses of alcohol per year?
Do you have huge family dinners frequently?
How often do you eat out at restaurants? 1-2 times/week or 1-2 times every few months?
These are just a few of the endless factors that impact what’s “realistic” and sustainable to lose in terms of weight loss.
Having a generic number of what’s realistic or sustainable to lose in impossible.
So How Much is a Realistic Amount of Weight to Lose?
Here is a video that will walk you through answering the question "what's a realistic weight loss goal?"
The big take home message I want to drive home is that having too large of expectations is a huge barrier for most people trying to lose weight.
They go in thinking it will be easy to lose 4-5 pounds per month. It’s not easy. At least if you’re looking to continue losing that amount for a prolonged period of time and keep it off.
If you don’t believe me stop and think about this for a second. About 70% of North America is overweight or obese…..if it was easy this many people wouldn’t be struggling.
If it was easy there would be hundreds of thousands of searches every month on Google for "how to lose weight."
However, don’t be discouraged by the fact that it’s challenging. How to lose weight? Go into it with realistic expectations based on what you’ve experienced. Not, what mass media has told you to expect.
Stop, actually take the time to figure out what habits you’re willing to change. What habits you’re not ready to change. And figure out what’s realistic to expect.
Often, people are losing weight, but they feel like they aren’t because of the pace they expect results at.
Weight Loss Problem #6 It’s Healthy……
Another, incredibly common weight loss problem. People have the belief that eating healthy = weight loss.
I believe healthy foods are an improtant part of learning how to lose weight.
Nevertheless, it’s very important to understand that although these two things can be mutually inclusive of each other they don't have to be either.
For example, The Hot Dog Diet . Not exactly what I would call the picture of healthy eating.
However, it does cause people to lose weight.
Conversely, I have eaten what most would consider very healthy for the last 365 days this year. I haven’t lost a pound.
Eating Healthy Doesn't Equal Weight Loss?
You can eat healthy and not be in an energy debt. That is why eating healthy does not equal weight loss.
It's actually much easier to eat healthy and not lose weight when compared to eating healthy and losing weight.
I cannot tell you how many people over the years have stated working with us at our personal training studio saying they want to lose 20-60 or more pounds, but their nutrition is already in their words "pretty good."
They explain they just need to start exercising to drop the extra weight.
Unless you are morbidly obese you are highly unlikely to lose anything past 3-5 pounds at most.
I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions to this.
But, for the vast majority of people you need to make some serious changes to your nutrition if you want to lose weight.
Something you have to understand is that it is very hard to create an energy debt large enough with exercise alone to lose weight.
Can You Lose Weight Just from Exercising?
Alright, let’s do some math here. It will be interesting don't worry.
How much energy do you burn while you exercise?
Let’s pretend you are a 50-year-old female who weighs around 180 pounds. Using a simple calorie calculator for exercise here are the estimates on how many calories she would burn per hour given the varying level of intensities:
- Maximal intensity: 575-700 calories (odds are unless you are an elite athlete you are not getting your heart rate in this range. If you do you are going to throw up.)
- Very high intensity: 485-575 (the vast majority of people will not push themselves this hard for the duration of an hour). Out of our 70 clients at our studio we don’t have anybody pushing themselves this hard.
- High intensity: 375-485 (this is the range that our everyday clients who work very hard would typically push themselves too. About ½ our clients at the studio push themselves this hard with the added help of a personal trainer)
- Moderate intensity: 266-375 calories burned per hour. This is the range that ½ of our clients are in during their personal training sessions.
Okay, so realistically our fictional person above can expect to burn 250-500 calories in a one hour workouts. With most people being closer to the lower to middle end of that range.
Assume that your typically in a calorie balance with your nutrition. Your plan is to add exercise to lose 1 pound per week.
Guess how many hours of exercise you would need to perform in that zone to reach that goal?
To lose 1 pound per week the calculator would tell you that you have to exercise 7-14 hours at the intensity we see the vast majority of our clients working at.
The Unfortunate "Secret" Your Treadmill Forgot to Tell You
BUT, there is something that the calculator and most experts don’t tell you.
Don't worry I'll share this little secret with you.
When you use a calorie calculator (website, a piece of cardio equipment, or fit bit) to calculate how many calories you burn while exercising it includes your resting metabolism as well (how many calories you’d be burning if you were lying in bed instead of hitting a really hard workout).
What does this mean? You're actually not burning that much more energy when you're exercising. At least, not as much as you are led to believe.
Using our same make-believe 50-year-old female weighing 180 pounds she would burn about 71 calories per hour if she was watching TV, sitting at the office, or sleeping.
So, if she hoped on the treadmill at it tells her she burned 250 calories after walking an hour. She's actually only burned an extra 179 calories (250 - 71).
So, factoring out the resting metabolism you actually need to exercise 8-19 hours per week assuming you make no changes to your nutrition to burn 1 pound of body fat per week.
Does Exercise Actually Help with Weight Loss?
Yes, but, not nearly as much as most people think it’s going to. Exercise helps to increase the energy you’re burning, keep your metabolism up, build more lean muscle (very important for aesthetics), keep you healthier, and improves your quality of life.
So, don’t throw out exercise all together. Just adjust expectations and understand it’s not going to stand alone for weight loss for you.
Also, I always make sure to note this to people. From practical experience I can tell you that exercising (especially higher intensity workouts including strength training) lead to big changes in terms of how many inches you lose.
Remember, it's not just about the scale. It's about your body composition too.
I can't tell you how many clients we have who have dieted and seen their weight go up and down over the years. When they start working with us they are fitting into clothes that they normally had to weigh 15-20 pounds less to fit into without the dramatic weight loss.
This is how we teach people to transform their bodies in our Lean Living Coaching Program.
Weight Loss Problem #7 Is Starvation Mode Real?
This is a common thing you hear about. If you eat too little your body goes into starvation mode and this can stop you from losing weight.
Is there any truth to this? Is starvation mode a real thing?
Like many questions we’ve answered in this. Yes……and no.
The less you eat the less calories you burn. This is how the human body works. It takes energy to metabolize and store food you eat. Roughly 8-10% of all the calories you burn in a day are due to digesting and metabolizing food. 13
So, the more you eat the more energy it requires to store that food. The less food you eat the less energy it requires to store that food.
Essentially eating less means you burn less calories.
Your metabolism never actually decreases enough to stop you from being able to lose weight though.
What Happens with Real Starvation?
One famous starvation study done back in 1944 showed that people did continue to lose weight for prolonged periods with insane calorie restrictions. They also suffered numerous other negative sides effects. 14
I mean stop and think about this. Do you ever see people in situations where there is a severe lack of food with extra body fat? I mean think about starving children in 3rd world countries, prisoners of war. Not pleasant things to think about.
However, you'll note that all of their bodies are burning through their stores of body fat.
Although starvation mode doesn’t truly exist in the way people talk about it there is something of important to note.
As you lose weight your metabolism will slow. This has been shown in research. First, you’re carrying around less body weight which requires less energy. There are also some physiological adaptions that seem to take place that causes you to burn out less energy.
Again, it’s not something that prevents you from losing weight. However, it can make things a little trickier if you had dieted numerous times and seen your weight go up and down several times throughout the years.
How Much Does Your Metabolism Slow Down?
“According to a large review study, this amounts to 5.8 calories per day, for each pound lost, or 12.8 calories per kilogram .
What this means, is that if you were to lose 50 pounds, or 22.7 kilograms, your body would end up burning 290.5 fewer calories per day.” 15
There have also been studies which show these effects of decreased metabolism can last even if the weigh is regained. 16
So, what do you do?
Go back to the things we have listed in earlier sections on keeping the metabolism up. Focus on nourishing your body not starving it. Get the right type of exercise to boost up your metabolism.
Weight Loss Problem #8 The Most Common Weight Loss Problem
Finally, our last topic on how to lose weight. If you want to know the answer this one is the biggest key when it comes to weight loss. It’s the biggest problem I see which leads to people feeling like they just can’t lose weight.
Lack of consistency and patience.
This is by far and away the biggest problem that we see at our personal training studio when people are struggling to lose weight.
Typically, this problem relates to people making changes to their nutrition that they don’t enjoy. Which leads to the lack of consistency.
The patience end of the equation often has more to do with people having too high of expectations or losing sight of the big picture.
I’m going to use a real-world example to help you see where most people get into trouble. It has nothing to do with how to lose weight. This usually helps people see the problem more clearly.
Pause on Weight Loss for a Second
This example involves our personal training studio. We had operated successfully in the city of Ottawa for four years before we took a big risk and restarted everything in Sudbury to be closer to family.
Besides our family we had almost no contacts in Sudbury. So, we were really starting the business from scratch.
We created a 5-year plan. In our first year our goal was to sell $100,000 in personal training.
In the first couple months, we set up a booth at a Rib Fest in town, we ran some Facebook ads, we got a huge road sign in-front of our building, we got to the top of Google’s search rankings, we reach out to some local business.
After being open for 2 months do you know how much we had in sales? About $2,000.
We were on pace to sell about $24,000. A couple more months went by, lots of hard work.
By the four-month mark do you know what happened?
We had sold about $12,000. On pace to sell only about $36,000.
Things still were rough. It was scary. But, we kept plugging away despite many challenges.
At the end of one year we didn’t even hit our goal of $100,000.
We hit about $85,000. And, the following year we were under our target.
Finally, in year 3 we hit our target.
Then in year 4 and 5 we surpassed our targets.
What Weight Loss Really Looks Like
Imagine if you had talked to me 2 months in and I told you we are only at $2,000……all my hard work isn’t working. You would probably tell me it takes time to build a business. You can’t expect things to happen overnight.
The same is true for weight loss. I get it. When we weren’t making the money we needed to make it was stressful…..okay stressful doesn’t do it justice. It really sucked, but we loved what we did for a living.
We enjoyed the day-to-day aspects and had confidence it would work if we stuck to it.
Patience and consistency.
The reason most people give up each time they’re trying to lose weight is that they don’t have the consistency with their habits or if they do they don’t have the patience to give those habits enough time to work.
You can lose weight, get healthier, tone up, have more energy and sustain those results. But, it takes a long time to get there. It doesn’t happen nearly as quickly as you’d like.
And do NOT get sucked in by all the marketing of the weight loss industry.
“You can lose 30 pounds in the next 30 days with this easy diet and no exercise.”
Most weight loss companies are like get-rich-quick schemes. They make big, unrealistic promises. Pull back to reality and you can be successful.
I see clients do it all the time. But, you have to have consistency and patience to get there.
How to Lose Weight Wrap Up
Finally, you're done. At this stage you should feel confident you know how to lose weight.
It's one of those questions that no one actually asks us directly in person. Honestly, I don't think I've ever had someone walk up to me and ask how to lose weight.
However, people asking me many of the questions we've answered in this article. And to sum it all up that's truly what they all answer.
More importantly than looking at "how to lose weight." I'd suggest looking at what steps with your nutrition, exercise and lifestyle you can take to start having more energy, feeling more confident, improving the quality of your life.
Don't get too wrapped up in the scale. It's just data. Enjoy the process of getting healthier, getting leaner and learning how to lose weight.