Fitness, Nutrition

Setting the Record Straight: The Answers to your Weight Loss Questions

When it comes to weight loss, there is so much confusion about how to eat, how to train, and what will best help you to reach your fat loss goals. I’ve tried to (hopefully) clear some of that up for you. Here we go:

WHAT IS THE BEST DIET FOR WEIGHT LOSS?

The best diet for weight loss is a diet that is maintainable for you long term. Despite popular belief, there is no superior diet in terms of it’s ability to help you to lose weight. What do people that lose weight on Atkins, Keto, High Carb, Paleo, or Vegan diets all have in common? They eat in a calorie deficit. What does this mean? It means that they eat less than their body’s required maintenance, which results in weight loss. It really is that simple. Now, this doesn’t mean that every diet will work for you in terms of personal preferences. The idea is to find a diet that is sustainable long term. If you love carbs like I do, then going on a Low Carb High Fat diet probably wouldn’t be ideal for you. If you prefer eating meat and dairy, then instantly making the switch to a Vegan diet likely wouldn’t be maintainable for you long term.

The idea is to be able to find a method of eating that works for you and your personal preferences, and sticking to it. Yes, you’ll hear of some people claiming that they lost weight on a Vegan diet. You’ll also hear others raving about their dramatic weight loss on a Keto diet, but the number one thing that those diets all have in common when it comes to weight loss is the calorie deficit

HOW CAN I LOSE WEIGHT FROM MY LEGS/STOMACH/BREASTS?

Unfortunately we cannot “spot reduce fat.” What does this mean? This means that we cannot pick and choose the areas of our bodies from which we would like to lose fat. So, for example: Let’s say that you have a goal of losing 50 pounds. You like having large breasts, but you don’t like having fat around your midsection, and you really don’t like carrying fat on your thighs and lower body. Can you lose 50 pounds exclusively from your midsection and lower body, while not losing any fat from your breasts? NO. Your body will lose fat from the areas that it chooses, some areas of your body will shed fat quite quickly, while other areas will be far more stubborn, and tend to hold on to that extra fat for far longer. 

Now, just because you cannot spot reduce fat, doesn’t mean that you can’t lose fat from those stubborn areas of your body. It simply means you can’t target them directly. So, how do you do this? How do you lose fat from those areas? You do this by losing fat overall, aka by lowering your overall body fat percentage. Instead of focusing on losing fat from one specific area, focus on losing fat overall. 

CAN I PREVENT OR AVOID LOOSE SKIN?

Unfortunately, we cannot prevent or avoid the presence of loose skin following weight loss. Some people are left with some loose skin, whereas others are not. It really comes down to two factors, the first being how significant your weight loss is, and the second being the elasticity of your skin. For example, it’s highly unlikely that you would have loose skin following a 10 pound weight loss, but after a 100 pound weight loss, it is plausible that you may have some loose skin. Because our skin responds and adapts to weight gain by stretching, this means that it’s ability to tighten following weight loss is limited. (More on this can be found here: https://www.mensfitness.com/weight-loss/burn-fat-fast/can-you-get-rid-loose-skin-after-major-weight-loss). 

Because there is no way to know as to whether or not we’ll be left with loose skin following weight loss, my genuine advice is not to stress about something that you can’t control. And certainly to never allow your fear of loose skin to prevent you from setting weight loss or health related goals. 

DO I NEED TO USE SUPPLEMENTS?

Supplements are everywhere – protein shakes, BCAA’s (Branched-Chain Amino Acids), Creatine, pre-workout, the list goes on. So, do you need to use supplements? The answer is no, you do not need to supplement, but of course there are some potential benefits to certain supplements. Things like BCAA’S are not essential, and you certainly don’t need to use them in order to reach your goals. Some people do choose to supplement with them, as they are believed to help aid in recovery, however, you do not need to use them, the choice is yours. When it comes to protein, protein shakes, powders, and bars, you also don’t need to use these if you already have sufficient protein in your diet, however they can serve as a fast and convenient way to reach your protein intake each day. There is no one single supplement that you need to take in order to lose weight or change your body composition. If you do choose to use certain supplements that’s completely fine, but the idea that you need to buy a bunch of products monthly in order to tackle your weight loss goals is entirely false. 

WHAT ABOUT FAT BURNERS, CARB BLOCKERS, OR SKINNY TEAS?

No. No. And no. These things exist solely so that companies can make money. And they do make money, because models and celebrities are paid to promote them on Instagram, and in turn, unsuspecting people purchase them. (Only to realize later that tea is not going to be the catalyst for weight loss.)

I’VE BEEN EATING HEALTHY AND WORKING OUT, WHY WON’T THE SCALE BUDGE?

The scale measures the weight of your body at a given time. What it DOESN’T DO is differentiate between muscle mass, skeletal mass, body fat, or water weight. It knows no difference. It also doesn’t factor in daily/weekly weigh fluctuations that occur due to sodium intake, water intake, fiber intake, or time of month (ladies…) Weight fluctuations are entirely normal. Your body weight, whether you notice it or not, will fluctuate throughout the day, week, and month. Which is precisely why relying solely on the scale to track your progress often isn’t the best option. Instead of relying on the scale to determine whether or not you’ve made any progress, use progress pics, circumference measurements (aka Chest, Waist, Hips) and the fit of your clothing to measure your progress. 

WHAT EXERCISES SHOULD I DO? 

When I first made the decision to change my lifestyle, I knew I wanted to exercise, but I didn’t know where to begin. I would take exercises out of magazines, take screenshots of some from Pinterest, find a few on Instagram, and before I knew I had like 40 exercises that I wanted to try. I was so overwhelmed, and I had no idea which ones I was supposed to be doing or how I was supposed to do them all in one session.

It helps to have a plan. If you can find a workout plan that interests you, it can take away a lot of confusion and uncertainty. With BBG, I didn’t have to decide which exercises to do, or which days to do them on, or how often to train – because the guide does all of this for you. All you have to do is follow it. While I’m not suggesting that you need to purchase a workout plan, I am suggesting that you have a concise plan. Whether you purchase a plan, consult with a professional, find a free workout plan online, or come up with your own combination of exercises – it helps to have a set plan as to what exercises you will be doing, rather than stepping into the gym with 30 different exercises that you want to try all at once.

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO SEE CHANGE?

Everyone is different. Our bodies, lifestyles, and goals are all different. Which unfortunately means that there is no “set” amount of time that it will take before you see change or progress. Two of the most important things when it comes to weight loss are: Patience and Consistency. Change takes time. Just as it takes time to gain weight, it also takes time to lose weight. If you’re consistent, change will eventually come, so the key is to be patient in the mean time. Don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than you had hoped – if you quit the time will pass anyway, so why not use that time to work towards your goals? 

WILL LIFTING WEIGHTS MAKE ME BULKY?

I’ve received this question a lot from different women that are interested in weight training, but don’t want to end up looking bulky or “manly” (their words not mine.) So, what’s the deal? Will lifting weights make you bulk up? No. Weight training is great for building strength and muscle, and for burning calories not only during your workout, but throughout the day, because the more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn. Weight training allows you to shape your body and to change your body composition, aka to “tone up” (as many express the desire to do.) 

“If lifting weights won’t make me bulky, then why do bodybuilders lift weights to put on mass?” In order to “bulk up” or gain a considerable amount of muscle mass, you would need to 1) Lift heavy loads. (And I mean very heavy.) 2) Eat an excess of calories daily. So don’t worry, lifting weights will not make you bulky, but it will make you strong and “toned.”

WHAT IS LISS? AND HIIT?

LISS stands for Low-Intensity Steady State, or Low-Intensity Sustained State. This includes any cardiovascular or aerobic activity that is performed at a steady, low intensity pace for a prolonged amount of time. Examples of LISS: Walking, cycling. Typical Duration: 30 – 60 minutes. 

HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training. This type of training involves alternating between short bursts of intense exercise, and short periods of rest. Examples of HIIT: Interval sprints on a treadmill, stationary bike, or rowing machine. Typical Duration: 10 – 15 minutes. (30 seconds on/30 seconds off.)

DO I NEED TO HAVE A GYM MEMBERSHIP?

Whether you workout at home, or at a gym is a matter of personal preference. Of course there are endless benefits to working out at a gym: You have access to machines, group classes, and far more equipment than you would at home. However, you don’t need to go to a gym in order to lose weight. Weight loss comes down to a matter of effort and consistency, so if you’re able to be consistent with your at-home workouts, and you have access to some equipment (things like dumbbells and resistance bands), then home workouts can work very well for you. 

While I love working out at home, I do believe that going to a gym provides you with more options in terms of your training. However, I also firmly believe that the quest to lose weight or regain your health should NOT cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars. So if you can’t find room in your budget for a gym membership or group classes, don’t panic, home workouts can still be very effective. 

SHOULD I COUNT CALORIES?

There are pros and cons to counting calories, and ultimately I believe that it works well for some people, and not so well for others. My advice if you’re just starting out on your weight loss journey would be to count calories for the first month (or first few months.) This will help you to learn serving sizes, portions, and how many calories you’re consuming each day. (It’s really easy to underestimate how many calories we eat in a day.) This being said, I don’t believe that you have to count calories long term in order to achieve your weight loss goals. 

PROS OF COUNTING CALORIES: A great way to learn serving sizes, portion control, and how many calories are in the foods that you eat on a regular basis. Indicates whether you’re eating in a calorie deficit, surplus, or at maintenance. 

CONS OF COUNTING CALORIES: Can be mentally or emotionally unhealthy for anyone with a past (or present) of disordered eating. Has the potential to become an obsessive behavior. Difficult to do when eating at a restaurant, or eating food that you did not prepare.  

WILL EATING CARBS/EATING FAT/EATING SUGAR/EATING LATE AT NIGHT MAKE ME FAT?

No. Eating more calories than our body requires, on a regular basis, will cause weight gain. Eating at a certain hour, eating carbohydrates, eating fat, sugar, or anything else will not alone cause someone to gain permanent weight. Eating an excess of calories consistently, however, will. 

SHOULD I TRAIN EVERYDAY?

I know from firsthand experience what it’s like to be so eager (or in my case desperate) for change that you throw yourself headfirst into a workout plan that has you working out for hours a day, every day. And then after a few days, you realize how unrealistic that goal is, your body burns out, and you quit. The key to long lasting results is to find something that is maintainable for you long term. And unless you’re a professional athlete, working out 7 days a week for several hours a day just isn’t plausible (nor would it be healthy for your body.) 

My advice is always to ease into it. If you’re just starting out, aim for 3 sessions per week, for 30 to 45 minutes at a time. Over time, as your body adjusts to your new routine, you can add in extra sessions if you choose to. But 3 days is a practical place to start. Your body will have time to recover in between sessions, and you’ll find yourself in a  consistent routine. More isn’t always better. So focus on quality instead of quantity, and gradually up your workouts (in length or frequency) over time. And remember that rest days are important for your body (and mind.)

DO I HAVE TO CUT OUT ALCOHOL IN ORDER TO LOSE WEIGHT?

I’m not a doctor, so I won’t weigh in on whether or not you should drink alcohol. (Spoiler alert: I do drink on occasion. So I’m not here to judge.) Here’s the best and simplest way to look at alcohol when it comes to your weight loss goals: Alcohol, just like food, has calories. Alcohol is often high in calories, depending on what you’re drinking and/or how much you’re drinking. So, if you’re drinking an extra 1000 or 2000 calories on a regular basis, then this will impact your weight loss. Now, if you’re able to fit a drink (or two) into your daily calories, then no, generally speaking it will not impact your weight loss. It’s not the vodka, wine, or beer that causes you to gain weight, it’s the added calories of the vodka, wine, or beer that can cause you to gain weight if you’re drinking it frequently in addition to your daily calories. Calories, whether solid or liquid, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, count all the same. 

Weight loss is difficult enough as it is, but when you add in the mass confusion and misinformation about what works and what doesn’t, it can become quite overwhelming. My advice is always to do what works best for you, physically, mentally, and financially. If you’re not sure which diet or exercise routine works best for you and your goals, experiment until you find something that you enjoy, and something that is sustainable long term. It’s always about you and your goals, and not about what anyone else is doing to reach theirs. 

-SK 

4 thoughts on “Setting the Record Straight: The Answers to your Weight Loss Questions”

  1. Hey, first, I need to say I haven’t read the whole article, which I’m sure is very interesting but I had to stop at this sentence you wrote: “What do (…)Vegan diets all have in common? They eat in a calorie deficit.” Just wanted to set the record straight on this particular point. Veganism has nothing to do with a diet. You don’t become a vegan to lose weight. You become a vegan because you refuse to have animals suffer to end up on your plate or on your back. It’s a philosophy and a choice that has nothing to do with losing weight. On top of that, being a vegan doesn’t mean you “eat in a calorie deficit” You can be a vegan and eat way too many calories for your own good. You can be a vegan and eat in a very unhealthy way too. You can be a vegan and overweight. So please avoid treating veganism as just another diet! It simply isn’t. 😕

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    1. This is why it is encouraged that you read an entire article before commenting. The statement actually reads “What do people that lose weight on a Vegan (I also listed several other diets or nutritional preferences) have in common.” The article is about weight loss, and why people lose weight on a diet. You lose weight when you consume less calories than what your body requires. Meaning, if you lose weight while eating Atkins, Paleo, Vegan, or in any other way, it’s because you are in a calorie deficit. It has nothing to do about people’s personal preferences, or why they eat the way that they eat. I stated that in terms of weight loss, and weight loss only, there is NO superior diet.

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      1. Ok, thank you for your explanations! 😊 (and I hope my comment didn’t sound too harsh, it wasn’t my intention at all!)

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      2. No worries! I’m actually on the same page with you in terms of a lifestyle free of all animal products. I don’t eat meat or eggs (for ethical reasons) and I’m hoping to cut out dairy as well in the near future!

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