In the previous parts of this series we went on a crash diet weight loss journey, during which we lost 5kg of body weight and had a closer look how and why crash diets are bad for your health. Then I showed you how to lose weight in a healthy way. In the last part of this series, I want to give you a few ingredients to create your own successful weight loss protocol.
What you’ll learn at a glance throughout the article series:
- we analyze how any crash diet works in part 1
- in part 2 we focus on why the crash diet is potentially bad for your health and your metabolism
- next, in part 3, I’ll show you how to lose weight in a sustainable way and
- finally, part 4 will provide you with all the tools you need to create a successful weight loss protocol for your personal lifestyle
How to create a successful weight loss protocol
To conclude this article series, I want to help you create your successful weight loss diet with a few guidelines and tips to get things started:
- Find a diet that fits into your lifestyle that works after the weight loss is over
- Understand that it takes time
- Set realistic and achievable goals
- Find your maintenance calories and go on a deficit from there (10-20%)
- Weigh your food (especially at the beginning) and track it with a nutrition app
- Increase NEAT
- Start to increase your BMR with resistance training
- Cycle out of your deficit every few weeks for a few days to find your current maintenance and go back to the deficit
- Find an accountability partner (a friend, colleague, or even a coach)
Let’s go through these points quickly and let’s set you up for success!
Finding the diet that fits your individual lifestyle is the most crucial aspect of any weight loss journey. The fact that your current lifestyle is the reason that you ended up with additional weight and out of shape, ought to give you reason enough to understand this.
While having pizza, spare ribs or cheesecake (to name my favourite foods), as part of your lifestyle diet, you need to find a way to add all the healthy ingredients too.
Often people claim that they don’t like the taste of [fill in your least favourite health food] and while that’s true for them, it doesn’t mean that things cannot change. The way to get your taste buds used to the new things in your diet and later on even enjoy them is to reset your pallet.
Resetting your palate is simple but it’s not going to be easy. There are many ways of doing such a reset, but what they all have in common, is that they are very low in sugar and very low in processed foods. These foods are often highly palatable and processed foods, in particular, are designed to taste amazing and override your instincts of healthy eating.
Did you find a diet that looks great but you aren’t sure if it’s a crash diet? Or maybe you want to create your own weight loss diet and don’t want to fall into the crash diet trap. Get my free “Crash Diet Worksheet” with 8 red flags to watch out for!
In a way, they’re designed to be as addictive as possible. Have you ever felt like you couldn’t stop eating plain potatoes, or steak? Probably not. But did you ever wonder how you could have finished that bag of crisps or bowl of ice cream without being hungry? Probably yes.
For your reset, you could go on a keto diet for a month and then slowly incorporate more and more carbs to what your lifestyle demands. But that’s hard for many people. Yet, going keto for a month will have the added benefit of training your body to use his fat metabolism again.
A more practical way to rest your palet, is in my view, a (very) low carb diet. This is especially true if you target your carbohydrates around your training routine. It also allows you to partake in social events.
Create Your Own Reset Protocol
So, here my suggestion, for a month:
- cut out all processed foods
- remove all added refined sugar
- avoid empty calories (basically anything that’s fried)
- go (very) low carb
- drink enough water
- don’t drink your calories (no juices, no insane coffee creations, no protein shakes)
After that month, slowly adjust your diet back to your idea of a healthy long lasting and sustainable lifestyle diet. Try your go-to foods and see how they taste. Chances are that sweet things are too sweet and won’t taste as good as they used to.
Try all the foods
Try all the things you didn’t like and see how things changed. You most likely won’t love them (yet), but they’ll likely be way less gross than before. Now give the vegetables that used to be OK a try. You might like them. Eat the veggies you already like and find ok and keep out the rest. After a few months, maybe years, more and more vegetables will find their way to your lifestyle diet.
Here are my favourite vegetables:
- various mushrooms
- green asparagus
Here are what used to be my least favourite (read: I feel like vomiting) vegetables:
- various mushrooms
- green asparagus
This transformation didn’t happen overnight. It took time and I was willing to try. But the transformation happened nevertheless.
The crash diet uses time as the main marketing gimmick (next to weight loss). The promise of losing quickly is the USP of the crash diet. That’s what you need to consider for your own lifestyle changing diet: it happens overnight, but it takes many nights to get there.
Consider this: it took you (often) years to get to the point where you are now. Even if you fell of a balanced lifestyle only for a few months, it’s still not a one-time eating orgy that ended up in a 10 kg fat gain.
While time is essential, setting goals properly is even more important. Way too often, people think that it’s a perfectly normal goal to get rid of 10 kg of fat in a month. That’s a lot of weight and simply not realistic because, in order to get there, you’ll need be in a very high caloric deficit and with high likelihood bounce back some of the weight. That is, if you get there at all.
It also depends on how much excess fat you carry around. If you’re already very lean and aim to get rid of 5kg of fat in a month, chances are this endeavour is going to be hard work. If you are obese and have 60 kg of excess fat, then 5 kg is a different story.
No matter how much you want to lose, a hypocaloric state is the one thing that you cannot neglect. If you’re not in a caloric deficit over a given period of time, you simply won’t lose weight.
In order to find your deficit, you have to find your maintenance calories. You start with an educated guess.
Calculate Your BMR
Get an idea of your BMR, there are formulars and calculator online. This gives you a rough estimate of your BMR or at least a good starting point. Then add a multiplier for your lifestyle and you found your non-exercise calories.
This multiplier is called PAL, which stands for physical activity level but could as well mean personal activity level. There are lists online for which kind of job/lifestyle fits what. I found that for sedentary office jobs a multiplier of 1,3-1,4 seems reasonable.
If you do any sports, you have to add these calories too. Then you have your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). Let’s say the amount is 2400 calories. Now let’s put it to the test and eat these calories for 10 days.
If it was truly your maintenance calories, then you won’t see any weight shifts. If there are shifts, you either are over or under your calories. Adjust your TDEE accordingly, by either going up or down 100 calories and repeat the test until you found your maintenance.
After the two weeks go back to maintenance for a few days and then back to the deficit. Repeat this cycle until you reached your weight goal. As you can see, it takes time but in the end, that’s how you achieve sustainable weight loss.
Track your intake
I am all for intuitive eating. When it comes to starting your sustainable weight loss journey though, I highly recommend tracking your intake (unless you get negatively triggered by tracking).
Tracking your macronutrients will be highly beneficial. You’ll learn to understand much better portion sizes, get a great idea how many macros are in given foods. But ultimately, you’ll learn how many calories you’re actually consuming on a daily basis.
NEAT, “non-exercise activity thermogenesis is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks and fidgeting.” (39) In this technical definition of NEAT, we see that many different activities can increase our metabolic rate.
That’s why I recommend to simply move around more. There are different ways of approaching this. They all have one thing in common, it ought to be very casual and not break a sweat from it. Here are a few ways to add more steps to your lifestyle:
- go on 10 minute walks after breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is also going to be beneficial for your digestion
- go on a walk first thing in the morning. Ideally, you get a few minutes of sun exposure on your skin too. This will reset your circadian clock, telling your body to start a new day.
- do more by foot if it’s within walking distance. This is something that highly depends on your current living situation of course.
- if you have to drive everywhere, make sure to park as far away from the entrance as you can. That’s another way to get more movement.
- in case you ever thought about getting a dog, now would be a great way to go for it (if your current situation lets you). Walking your dog will increase your NEAT a lot and you’ll have the chance to bond with your new family member. As an added benefit, it has been shown, that people with dogs in their lives are less depressed.
- stand and walk around if you’re on your phone talking to someone. This will also let you sound better. While you’re at it, smile more.
- if you’re a fit enough individual you can take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you’re in a huge building, maybe you don’t walk up all the 45 floors. Instead, consider getting out on floor 42 and walk up the rest.
- the same idea applies if you’re riding a bus or a subway. Get out a station earlier and walk the rest.
- take more care of your garden, clean up your flat more often and increase NEAT that way too.
This list isn’t exhaustive at all. There are plenty of ways to increase NEAT in your life. The best NEAT increase, though, are the ways that you enjoy and are no hustle.
I personally enjoy going on 10-minute walks after I had something to eat. Also, my current living situation lets me do most of my grocery shopping on foot too.
Besides that I can walk to my gym, which is great, as this lets me use the walk back home as my way to unwind with some box breathing, shifting my physiological state from sympathetic to parasympathetic. As I can take the subway to work, I have the opportunity to talk to the subway, and occasionally get out earlier and walk more (I don’t do this all the time).
The common thought when it comes to lose some weight it still cardio. I’ve explained in length why this is the wrong signal to send to your body.
Lifting weights or resistance training in general is the way to go when it comes to lose weigth, or rather positively impact your body composition. Changing your body composition doesn’t necessarily mean you will lose weight. It means that you’ll lose fat, might gain some muscle (40), but overall aesthetically look “better”. It also can help you with your self-esteem (41).
Resistance training is also the proper way to keep as much lean body mass during a caloric deficit as possible (42). This is what you want, as it will keep your BMR as high as possible. Which will make the transitioning to a maintenance diet that much easier.
When it comes to the actual training program, you might want to go to the gym and lift weights ideally 3 times a week. Try to aim for compound exercises, as these will target the biggest muscle groups of the body.
This includes movements such as:
- bench press
- overhead press
Stimulating your muscles with these exercises will create enough momentum to either build muscle with the right diet, or as in this case keep as much of it as you can during your caloric deficit.
Mix things up
Now that you have all key parts figured out and set up for success, you want to make sure to mix things up.
This means you want to change your training program (exercises, rep ranges, number of sets) every couple of weeks (4-8 seems to work for most).
More importantly you want to change your calorie intake. It might be counter-intuitive but you want to get back to maintenance calories. This gives your body a break, tells it that things are ok. Besides that it lets you actually figure out what your current baseline for maintenance is.
Another thing you might want to throw into the mix, are high calorie days. This depends on how well you can handle these; in terms of not getting triggered to binge eat etc.
This is not a cheat day. It’s a refeed day. The difference being, you don’t eat any piece of empty calories that gets close to you. You rather increase your calories by 10-20% above your maintenance for one day. You’ll end up eating very similarly.
Something that can run in different instances are accountability partners. You could have one for the diet, someone else for the gym or any other way you can add support to your journey.
Finding an accountability partner can be a huge saving grace. It helps you when you don’t feel motivated or when you are stressed. On these occasions, you might fall back into old habits. If you then have a partner on your side, overcoming these habits can be a big help.
I can help you on your journey. If you want to get the most out of the experience and would like to work together on your goals with me, then get in touch below. We’ll see if we are a good fit. From there on we make changes happen together.