It’s taken me 5 years to lose 30kg. It may not take that long for you, and it may be even slower for others. We are all different and we have different lifestyles and complex issues to navigate through.
Over that long journey I’ve refined down what works to come up with this list of the top 7 best ways to lose weight and get fit, and I am absolutely convinced that these strategies can work for you too.
Top 7 Best Ways to Lose Weight and Get Fit
1. Calories in, calories out.
Counting calories continues to be one of the best ways to lose weight because it teaches you some of the science behind food, and give you a framework for making sound nutritional choices. It kept me, and many others like me, accountable.
It also helps to debunk the myth of “out-training a bad diet” by giving you a realistic measure of the ‘value’ of food, and how difficult it really is to burn off high calorie foods that are so easy to eat in large quantities.
2. A low carb, high protein, and high fat diet
The low carb approach won’t work for everyone, and it’s important not to go overboard but it really is one of the best ways to lose weight. When I say ‘low carb’, I mean that my body functions best when I eat approximately 25% of my daily intake in the form of low-GI (glycaemic index), ‘whole’ carbs, usually in the form of starchy or green vegetables.I feel lighter, leaner and more energetic. Experiment with your intake and see what works best for you. If you’re going to go low carb, obviously the rest of your food will be split between the other two macronutrients – protein and fat. Don’t be afraid of fat! Your body is an engine which just like a car engine needs oil to function smoothly.
Good oil is good for you.
Good fats help regulate your cholesterol and provide omega 3 fatty acids which are important for heart health. Protein is necessary for building and maintaining muscle. The combination of protein and fat seems to be a winner as far as helping me feel fuller, longer and more satisfied.
3. Drink LOTS of water
This is a no-brainer. I like to imagine that my body is in constant recycle mode on days when I’m drinking a lot of water, flushing out toxins, keeping my skin well-hydrated, etc. I know the body is more complex than that, but I’m convinced now that most of us survive in a state of perpetual dehydration.
Lots of water will help you feel more alert, and fills up some space in your tummy.
4. Strength training
Strength training is an essential component of any fat loss mission. Creating lean muscle mass will help to strip the fat, it looks good, and it feels good. Strong muscles help create strong bones, and in my experience, an even stronger self esteem 🙂
5. Enjoyable cardio exercise
I say ‘enjoyable’, because this is critical. Nothing is more demoralising than spending an hour a day on a treadmill or a cross-trainer, stuck in what they call ‘steady state’ mode, where you slog it out without varying the intensity and expect to see results.
You’ll drop weight, provided your diet is on track, but it won’t actually do much for your cardiovascular fitness or your body fat/muscle ratio. Cardio is important, and I know I really miss the endorphins when I avoid it, BUT what you should be aiming to avoid is exercise that is time consuming, boring, physically hard on your body, and inefficient.
You want bang for your buck, which you’re not going to find in steady state cardio land. That kind of exercise also stresses the body, releasing cortisol and other stress hormones like adrenaline and your body will then fight you to hang onto the fat like a kind of security blanket. Clearly, not one of the best ways to lose weight OR get fit.
6. Set small, regular goals as well as longer term ones
Staying motivated is really tricky and depending on where you start from, this is a loooooong journey. I’ve been going pretty solidly for 2 years now, and I don’t feel like I’m ‘done’, not by a long shot.
There’s no such thing as ‘done’ because what we’re doing is reprogramming and reconditioning ourselves for a healthier lifestyle to take us forward into the rest of our lives. But there will come a point, I hope, where I feel like I’m happy with my body and ready to just ‘maintain’ my weight and keep working on my fitness goals.
Realistically, this will mean bouncing around a few kilos either side of my goal ‘weight’, and keeping an eye on how my clothes fit and what I see in the mirror.
So given that this is an iterative, and likely never ending process, it’s important to have small, regular goals, that are varied and, most importantly I think, a mix of aesthetic and other goals.
For example if your goal is just a particular weight each week or month, or a particular item of clothing you want to fit into, it’s too easy to get fixated on this, and never be truly happy with how far you’ve come. My belief is that as much as possible we need to take this out of the realm of how we look (as a woman, I can confirm that that way lies almost constant insecurity), and focus on what our bodies can DO.
One of my goals is to do a real chin-up, which means lifting my own body weight. Currently I’m using the assisted chin up and pull up machine at my gym, and I have it set so that it takes 15kg off my weight. By the end of this month, I’d like to be able to do 5 chin-ups in a row, and minus 10kg off my body weight.
At the same time I’ve got a blue singlet top in a size 6 that I REALLY like and which is still a bit snug. Another goal is to be comfortable wearing that. At the same time, I’m continuously plugging away at my goal to run 5km at a time without injuring myself!!
The idea behind this is that obviously having lots of different goals, set at different time scales, makes it more likely that each week you’ll achieve one of them, and that should hopefully help to build self esteem and keep you encouraged and on track.
7. Believe it’s possible and act as though it’s already true
This is a biggie, which is why I’ve left it until last! I used to have this thing I would say to myself, years back when I was deep in the throes of hating on my body and my life, that all I had to do was do it ONCE, and I’ve proven it to be true. I.e, if you go for a hike, you’re a hiker, right?
If you go to the gym only once, you are “someone who works out”. If you want to be fit and healthy, how does a fit, healthy person behave? Do they routinely mistreat their bodies by over-eating or do they nurture them? Take it from me, there is no ‘truth’ that separates you from those people – nothing that can’t be overcome.
It’s simply behaviour. And you can trust me that when you change your behaviour, your body will respond. Obviously you need to make allowances for hormones and genetics, but these provide a margin for error, not a total inhibitor. Make allowances for the impact of your hormones and genetics for the rate of progress, but don’t use these as a reason not to try.
And even if you never end up running a 5k, deadlifting your body weight, or sporting a ‘bikini body’, who cares? You’ll be healthier for your efforts, and who knows what other life-changing benefits might follow! Acting as though it’s already true is absolutely one of the best ways to lose weight, get fit AND change your life.