Monday, December 29, 2014
Weight Loss: The New Year's Resolution Edition
The new year is upon us, and just like every year, one of the most common resolutions is to lose weight. This comes as no surprise since almost 70% of Americans are overweight and around 35% are considered obese. Along with decreased fitness and self esteem being overweight/obese is also associated with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. With all the negative aspects of being overweight/obese it would be in one's best interest to figure out the best way to shed some weight in the coming year. That is what this post is going to focus on. I will present a priority list of what you should focus on if your goal is to lose weight and get healthier in 2015. If you only make a few changes than focus on the things at the top of the list first, but for best results I would focus on the complete list. So here it is:
This is the number one thing that you should focus on if you want to lose weight, change your body shape, and get healthier. You can exercise all you want but if your diet is crap then you will look and feel like crap. Seeing as the typical American diet is comprised of fast food, restaurant meals, packaged and boxed foods, and a plethora of additives and ingredients, you may have your work cut out for you if you are planning on a diet overhaul. I am not saying it is going to be easy but it is necessary. There are many diets to choose from and many have the potential to work. The key is finding the right diet for YOU. If you can't stick with it for the longterm then it is not right for you. In general I would stick to a diet that focuses on lean meats, fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts, and low fat dairy. One diet that I personally like is the Abs Diet. Although it does sound very gimmicky it is simply based on eating a variety of quality foods that pack a lot of nutrients with relatively low calories.
2. Strength Training
Strength training is number two on the list. Other than diet nothing has the power to change the way your body looks as much as strength training. Strength training makes your body look strong and healthy. It gives you curves and muscles in the right places, allows you to feel confident in your appearance, and boosts your self esteem. Strength training also increases your metabolism by replacing fat with muscle, increases your ability to perform physical tasks, and can also provide you with a heart healthy cardiovascular benefit. One book that I highly recommend for someone new to strength training is The New Rules of Lifting. It is packed with useful advice and quality programming, and it is much cheaper than hiring a personal trainer.
3. Physical activity
This is an area that people often overlook but it can have a huge impact on health and weight loss. You should focus on increasing your overall physical activity throughout the day. Take the stairs every time and avoid the elevator, park further away in the parking lot, bike to work, take walks on your lunch break, do 10 squats every hour on the hour, go on weekend hikes, do jumping jacks during commercials, carry groceries instead of using the cart, etc. The possibilities are literally endless. JUST MOVE MORE! It takes very little extra time to perform these activities and it will create a huge caloric expenditure when spread out over a typical 16 hour day that can accelerate weight loss.
Notice how this is number four on the list. Typically it is number one for most people trying to lose weight and that is why many people fail. Doing cardio exercise does help the weight loss process but it should be further down the list. Think about it; you could jog on the treadmill for 45 minutes and maybe burn 300-400 calories or you could adjust your diet to create a caloric deficit of the same amount. The former could take an hour out of your day while the latter takes zero time out of you day. Strength training also trumps cardio because it builds muscle, increases metabolism, and burns calories. Traditional cardio exercise primarily just burns calories. And remember when I said strength training can provide a cardio affect? Well it doesn't work both ways. You cannot increase strength with cardio exercise, but you can increase cardiovascular endurance (although minimal) with strength training. So it is great to include cardio in your weight loss program but if you are limited on time then don't make it your priority.
This is the last one on the list but could be considered most important of all in some aspects. You might not be building muscle or scorching calories while you sleep (although you do burn a large amount while sleeping) but the amount and quality of your sleep can have a huge impact on your day. If you feel tired and lethargic then you are less likely to exercise. But if you are well rested and energetic than you are more likely to charge through the day with calorie burning enthusiasm. Also, when you get adequate sleep your whole body tends to run more efficiently. A good goal to shoot for is at least 7 hours of sleep each night with 8 hours being optimal.
And that completes the priority list for weight loss. To recap you should focus on the following items in the order listed if your goal is to lose weight:
1. Get control of your diet
2. Start strength Training
3. Increase your overall physical activity
4. Include cardio exercise in your workouts
5. Get good quality sleep
As I mentioned before if you are only going to focus on one or two things than make them items that are higher on the list. If you can take care of all the items mentioned then you should have no problems meeting your weight loss goals for 2015. I hope that this New Year brings you plenty of health and happiness.