1. Follow a balanced diet, or choose a diet that is sustainable
One of the biggest steps towards a healthy lifestyle, that you’ve no doubt heard numerous times, is that a successful weight loss plan starts in the kitchen. As a personal trainer in Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur, I often face the question of what the best diet is for weight loss, and my answer is always the same: whatever diet works for you!
In my opinion, a good diet for achieving weight loss includes the following criteria:
- You don’t get bored with it fast. Chicken breast, blanched broccoli and brown rice, or perhaps garden salad with steamed fish. These two YouTube classics are certainly healthy, but it’s likely that after a few weeks you’ll be sick of the bland flavours and basic food types, particularly if your preference is for Chinese, Malaysian or other more flavourful cuisine. So, a good first step is to make certain that you’re consuming the type of food that you enjoy, as it will make it easier to sustain the diet you’ve chosen.
- It includes plenty of fruit and vegetables. This is one of the most important diet ‘rules’ in my opinion. When taking a look at the most popular diets (keto, vegan, paleo, low-fat, low-carb, etc.), you’ll find that this is a very common theme amongst them.
- It doesn’t contain processed food, or any kind of supplements. A good tip is to always prioritise natural food sources over their processed (or substitute) counterparts, such as meal-replacement shakes or protein bars for example. Although these products can be beneficial, a long term and sustainable weight loss plan should not depend on any kind of artificial or processed product, particularly as they can be very dehydrating.
- It has an overall calorie deficit. A day to day calorie deficit is a sure-fire way to lose weight, but it is also vital to ensure that the food you consume still provides you with enough energy to do your workout, while also not leaving you tired or frustrated throughout the day. Achieving a deficit means burning more energy (calories) than you consume in food during the day, and it is fair to say that this is a general rule of thumb when it comes to weight loss strategies. And once you identify the hidden and empty calories that you consume throughout the day (alcohol, sugary snacks), it becomes even easier to keep your calories in the minuses. Top this off with regular exercise and an active lifestyle, and you’ll be well on your way to your weight loss journey.
2. Set realistic targets and timelines for your goals
If the weight you hope to lose was not gained in the span of just a few weeks or months, it is perhaps unlikely to then believe you will lose it again such a short time, as well as keep it off. It is because of this that setting achievable goals for your weight loss journey is so important. If you could chose to lose 15 kilograms in 1 year and never gain it back again, or lose 15 kilograms in 3 months but gain it back after just 3 months, it is likely you would choose the former – there is no need to rush towards unobtainable goals. Although for some it may be possible to lose 15kg in 3 months without gaining anything back, it’s extremely rare for a person to maintain this level of weight loss – such a dramatic change requires a significant effort, many sacrifices and tremendous motivation, completely changing their habits and routines in a very short period of time. In my experience as a personal trainer in Mont Kiara, this alongside a full-time job, family and kids along with social commitments etc. is simply not the way forward for the most of us.
3. Don’t let Monday win!
If it so happens that you suddenly end up on a ‘cheat day’ because you went out with friends and ate or drank too much, it’s important not to take it as the end of the world. It’s completely normal and natural in our social world that we sometimes eat a bit more than necessary (weddings, holidays, etc.), or want to enjoy a dessert or some alcohol now and then. However, it is very common to decide after a day like this that you’ll start the diet over again from next Monday, next week, next month, etc... Try not to do this! The key is to bounce back as fast possible without feeling guilty about the ‘feast’, and without delaying getting yourself back on track. The faster you return to your diet plan, the faster you can get back to keeping the calories in a deficit, and therefore the more successful you will be in losing weight.
4. Plan your meals ahead
Meal planning doesn’t necessarily mean that you prepare and portion out your food ahead, but it more often means that you adjust your meals to your social circumstances. For example, if you know that you’re going to attend a wedding or party on the weekend, you can consume less calories than you would normally consume for 2-3 days prior the event. If you cross the mark during the event (or just decide to enjoy a nice slice of cake without feeling guilty about it), you would have still met your calorie target at the end of the week. This is a simple and effective way to avoid letting ‘cheat days’ get on top of you, whilst also giving yourself a bit more wiggle room on the days that matter.
If you’re going out to a restaurant this can be even easier, as you can often check the menu ahead of time and decide what you’re going to choose. This is also a good way to avoid allowing your impulses to dictate your food choice, by picking a healthier option and trying your best to stick to it.
5. Train smarter, not harder
It’s well known nowadays that physical exercise helps tremendously when trying to lose weight. Training as hard and as often as you can, however, might end up letting you down after just a few weeks or months. Even professional athletes have ‘off seasons’, and never exercise at maximum effort for every single workout session throughout the year. There is a sensical reason for this as, realistically, nobody can push themselves that hard for risk of it eventually leading to burnout or injury. Following a well-structured workout program, and changing workout style from time to time, will not only ensure that you don’t make this mistake but will also gain you progress in becoming fitter, and therefore help you start to shift unwanted weight. If you’re ever not sure how to design a good exercise program, hiring a certified personal trainer is usually a great place to start.