It sounds pretty easy doesn’t it? Eat less and move more. Done. Close the books. You’ve set yourself on the yellow brick road to insane results!
Hold your horses there. We might have a few more things to look at.
Achieving a healthy lifestyle requires a few other foundational pillars to accomplish your goals. The key pillars when it comes to weight loss are: nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, and hydration. If you can get these under control, the weight loss will naturally follow.
Focusing solely on exercise as a means to lose weight will not end well. At this point most people know that nutrition is a pivotal piece of the puzzle. Nearly 80% of the puzzle to be exact! The calories burned from a workout can be erased (and then some) with one cruise through a drive-thru or one “treat-yo-self” ice cream. The fact is that taking your nutrition seriously is a major factor in getting weight loss results.
Coming up with a sustainable nutrition plan is what is needed to make progress. Too restrictive and it leads to late night binges or losing a bunch of muscle in the process which will cause long term failure of a diet. The goal should be to lose body fat and preserve as much muscle as possible.
Having a fun, effective, and progressive training plan is extremely important to getting your weight loss goals accomplished. Not only does training burn calories during the session but it also has an excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC, “the afterburn effect”) that burns extra calories. Now, this has been a bit overstated but it can still be 6-15% of the total calorie burn from the workout, which doesn’t sound like much but it can add up!
Secondly, adding muscle to your frame increases your resting metabolic rate (RMR). Again, this isn’t a ton but will add up over time and especially if you consider the EPOC from your workout as well. In conjunction they both will have a decent amount of extra consumption of calories throughout the day.
Sleep is also an extremely important factor when it comes to achieving a weight loss goal! Getting adequate sleep allows you to have the energy to workout in the first place, and workout hard, which won’t happen if you sleep like garbage. The energy to cook a proper meal, grocery shop, and meal prep is likely not going to happen either after a bad sleep. If you don’t prioritize sleep, everything else gets neglected.
The body also has far different cravings when you sleep poorly too. When you don’t get enough quality sleep, your body craves sugar and other empty calorie highly processed foods. With fast food and takeout options readily available, we are inundated with junk food and lot’s of it.
Sleep is also responsible for regulating our hormones. You could be doing everything right as far as habits to lose weight and your hormones will not allow the scale to budge a pound. That is why having a proper functioning endocrine system is pivotal to your health and for losing weight.
A study was done that showed people who slept 5.5 hours a night compared to 8.5 hours on the same calorie restriction lose 55% less body fat and 60% more muscle mass! This is the exact opposite of what you want for sustainable weight loss. Preserving muscle should be considered the highest priority while in a weight loss phase. Not only does it set you up for better results in the future but also gives the “lean muscle” look that many people are after.
Managing stress load is also an aspect of your lifestyle that needs to be considered. Life is stressful. There’s no way around it and it seems to be getting worse these days. But the key is to how you respond to it. Your perception of stress is what will make it a small speed bump or an unsurpassable mountain.
Exercise can definitely help with stress management as you can see it as YOUR time that kids, work, and the rest of your life can’t touch. It can help you deal with other stressors in life as you become less “fragile” and accustomed to hard work. When you complete difficult workouts or something like a marathon all the other problems in life get the dial turned down – you’ve dealt with far worse than a traffic jam before.
However, exercise is also a stress to the system and the body doesn’t know any different. For most people this will not really apply but if you’re the type to workout everyday and sometimes twice a day, then it needs to be monitored with proper rest. You have to have as much input as you do output.
A chronic high stress load can alter your hormone profile as well. With high cortisol your natural dianural hormone cycle can be altered which can cause difficulty losing fat or building muscle, which is crucial for long term weight management.
Poor stress coping skills can also lead to emotional eating. This form of eating is rarely ever on chicken and broccoli, it consists of high calorie heavily processed food and throws off your goals.
Lastly, hydration plays a huge role in the ability to lose weight as well. I’ve written about this in a previous article as well. We know that drinking enough water is important for your health.
Do you ever go to the store only to come home with a bunch of unhealthy food that you weren’t planning on buying? For starters the store is set up for you to make impulse buys. Ever wonder why they don’t have carrots at the checkout counter? It’s most likely because you went while hungry and/or thirsty. Having a small healthy snack beforehand and a good 500ml serving of water will greatly decrease your missteps at the grocery store.
Proper hydration is absolutely mandatory for the production and regulation of all your hormones as well. It is also a part of being generally healthy – which leads to weight loss! It leads to better workouts which will in turn increase calorie expenditure and muscle gain.
I understand this is a big list and can seem like a huge undertaking to correct. It doesn’t have to be! Finding methods to incorporate small changes into your current routine is where the success is found. I find that attempts at big sweeping changes usually fall flat but small incremental changes done over time add up to make a huge difference in someone’s overall health and weight loss goals. Having a coach to navigate the execution of these can be invaluable.
These are the “Big Rocks” that make up 90-95%+ of your goal! All the saunas, vibration guns, ice baths, massages… won’t compare to dialing in your lifestyle choices and having a properly designed and progressive training program.