Weight Loss Goals

To understand weight loss goals and weight gain, there is one main principle you need to understand, and that is:

Energy In – Energy Out = Energy stored

Energy In is from the food we eat, Energy Out is from the natural workings of our metabolism and any energy burnt through exercise, and energy stored of course is stored as FAT.

Therefore, in order to set weight loss goals, you either need to reduce the energy in, or increase the energy out – hence the common principle of weight loss and control through diet and exercise.

But of course, weight loss goals are not quite as simple as that, so keep reading to find out more must know facts for setting weight loss goals.

And always check with your doctor before embarking on any weight loss goals, to make sure you are healthy enough to do so.

Understand your metabolism

You’ll hear people talk about sluggish metabolisms and those luck people with fast metabolisms – but what exactly is your metabolism?

Just think of it as your body’s engine that powers your vital organs – brain, digestion, temperature – as well as all the activity you do during your day.

Whether you have a fast or slow metabolism depends on your DNA – it was hardwired in when you were born. Most people have a normal metabolism though, but what you do with your body can greatly affect how your engine runs.

If your metabolism is your body’s engine, it needs to get its fuel from the food you eat. And you need to eat a certain amount of food to keep it running at its optimal rate. Whether you exercise or not, your engine needs to keep firing to power your brain and other body functions – this is called your basal metabolism.

You need to eat a certain amount of food to maintain your basal metabolism – if you eat less than this, your body will think you are starving and will slow down your metabolism to conserve energy. Not only will this leave you feeling slow, lethargic and sometimes even feeling cold, you won’t burn a much energy [or fat] either.

This is why very low calorie diets [starvation diets] just don’t work – the less you eat, the slower your metabolism gets and the less energy you burn.

So the key to weight loss goals is to maintain your metabolism by eating just under your basal metabolic rate [the Health Checklist in the ToolBOX under the Section on 'Health Tools' shows you how to calculate your basal metabolic rate].

So if your basal metabolism is 6000 kJ, then a diet targeting 5000 kJ per day is about right – you’ll lose weight but your body won’t go into starvation mode and shut down your engine. There are also a few things you can do to get the most out of your metabolism:

  • Eat breakfast – your engine is usually a little sluggish in the morning, so give it some revs by eating a good breakfast. Oatmeal is excellent for breakfast as it releases energy slowly during the day and keeps you feeling full.
  • Eat smaller but more regular meals – your metabolism will function a lot better if it is fed regularly, with small meals throughout the day. Aim for 5-6 small meals and snacks, and try to avoid eating too much within 2 hours of going to bed.

    And as the process of digestion also burns energy, by eating foods with lots of fibre and low calories (such as vegetables) you can actually burn more energy digesting these foods than to gain from the foods. So include lots of salad vegetables and greens in your diet.

    But remember that everything you eat counts – there’s no such thing as calorie leakage from broken cookies, and even condiments and eating your kids’ leftovers count towards your calorie intake. Watch out for the cumulative effect of these small nibbles.

  • Avoid sugar spikes – eating a high energy meal or snack can tell your engine that there’s heaps of spare fuel in your body and your metabolism may just tell your body to store it [as fat] for a rainy day. Avoid this by avoiding high energy [sugar] snacks and eating foods high in fibre and complex carbohydrates.
  • Eat spicy foods, caffeine and green tea – a natural chemical in capsicum, peppers and chilli will give your metabolism a little boost, so add these to your low fat cooking. Similarly, caffeine and a chemical found in green tea boost your nervous and circulatory systems, increasing calories burnt.
  • Eat dairy and fish – calcium intakes of 1200 mg/day have been shown to improve metabolic rates and weight loss. Similarly, the Omega 3 fatty acids and Iodine in fish like sea Tuna and Salmon have a proven effect on weight loss.
  • Exercise – aerobic exercise gets your engine running, and keeps it revving at a higher rate for several hours after you’ve stopped. This is why aerobic exercise is critical to any weight loss program. And as muscle burns more energy to keep them functioning, building lean muscle through weights/ resistance training will increase your basal metabolism.
  • Music and essential oils – don’t laugh, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that energetic music and invigorating essential oils can boost your energy levels and therefore your metabolism. Find a track of music and a scent that works for you and wake up in the morning to these sounds and smells.

So build your weight loss goals around the above tips.

Keep your body healthy

It’s not just your metabolism that affects your weight loss goals – all body systems have a role, and all of your body systems therefore need to be kept healthy to optimise your health and ability to manage weight.

The biggest culprit affecting our body systems is dehydration – which is caused by not drinking enough water.

If you’re dehydrated:

  • Your kidneys will struggle, which will place additional load on your liver (which is important for metabolising fat), your bowels (leading to constipation) and your heart – not a good thing to do.
  • Similar to your metabolism going into starvation mode when starved, your body goes into drought mode when you don’t drink enough water. Your body will retain fluid actually making you look puffy and bloated.
  • You’ll feel lethargic, but will often have trouble sleeping – both of these mean trouble for maintaining a bouncy metabolism and maintaining energy levels for exercise.
  • Your skin and hair will feel dry and horrible.
  • Your pee will be dark yellow or orange – you should be aiming for very pale yellow pee.

So drinking enough water is essential for maintaining good health and is also critical in managing weight. Females should drink 2 L per day and males, 3 L per day – more if you exercise or if it is hot. And caffeine drinks don’t count as water – they are a diuretic and will just pass straight through.

Also thirst is often mistaken as hunger, so if you feel hungry you could really just be dehydrated. Drink some water first.

And drinking water makes you feel full – so always drink a full glass of water before and after every meal. You can also add fibre to drinking water to increase the feeling of fullness and boost your fibre intake.

Know what you are eating and why

Sounds simple I know, but most people have no idea about how much they are eating in a day and how this compares with what they should be eating. And most importantly, you need to know WHY you are eating what you’re eating.

Once you know the “what” and ”why”, you can go about making appropriate changes for achieving your weight loss goals.

It’s useful to do this process for a week – eat normally and record everything you eat, when, how many calories it contained and why you ate it. Perhaps you were hungry, bored, upset, happy – whatever the reason, write it down.

Like a lot of people, I’m an emotional eater – I eat when I’m sad, I eat when I’m happy. And this is a common cause of weight problems around the western world. So be honest with yourself when you write down the reason for eating.

There’s a diet record sheet in the ToolBOX under the section on 'Health Tools' you can use for this analysis at the starting point of your weight loss goals.

Once you’ve recorded your eating habits for a week, it’s time to sit down and look closely at your eating habits. Firstly add up the total number of calories you ate each day. How does this compare with your basal metabolism? Are you eating too much? Not enough? About right – in which case is your weight stable or going up or down?

Keep in mind that for every extra 2000 kJ per day you eat and don’t burn, this turns into 0.5 kg of fat per week!

Once you know where you sit in terms of calorie intake, it’s time to analyse the ”why”. Are you an emotional eater? Do you have a sweet tooth or crave fatty/ salty foods? Do you just always seem to be hungry or need to eat for energy? Is your eating linked to social activities? Do you eat because there’s nothing else to do?

Once you get a handle on why you eat, you can start to look at an eating plan that will best suit your particular needs. For example:

  • If you’re an emotional eater, or eat when bored – find an alternative! Either surround yourself with healthy snacks [like a vegetable platter with tomato salsa, or sugar free sweets] or find something else to occupy your mind – go for a walk, read a book, talk to a friend – whatever it takes to resist the urge to eat.
  • If you’ve got a sweet tooth, try replacing sweet foods with fruit or low sugar alternatives. And also try taking a Chromium supplement (and possibly Magnesium, Calcium and Zinc) as these can have a positive effect on reducing sugar cravings.
  • If you just always seem to be hungry, try a diet full of fibre, vegetables and lean protein. Try oatmeal for breakfast, drink lots of water (in case you’re feeling thirst not hunger) and even try adding natural fibre to your drinking water to make it more satisfying. Protein takes longer and more energy to digest, so leaves you feeling full for longer, and is also vital for muscle development.
  • If you seem to lack energy, try a diet full of low GI fruits, grains and nuts as small meals and snacks throughout the day to spread the energy.

If the above tips don’t work for your weight loss goals, try seeing your GP or a dietician, as there are some health disorders that make you feel permanently hungry.

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Understand the different types of diet

If you are looking for a diet, you’ll be overwhelmed by what’s available and probably confused as to what works best.

The answer of course is that you need to find a diet that suits your particular needs, which is why it is so important to understand what you’re eating and why.

Some of the more common diet concepts are explained below.

  • Calorie controlled – the traditional form of dieting where you reduce your calorie intake to less than your body needs. This is the most healthiest form of weight loss if done properly – ie by choosing healthy eating habits and maintaining a calorie intake just less than your basal metabolic rate.

    Most of the original weight loss programs such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig use calorie controlled diets for weight loss goals – they ARE successful and promote healthy eating, which is much more sustainable than any of the fad diets.

  • Low carb/ high protein – such as the Aitkin’s diet. Based on the ketones in protein being harder to convert to energy, this diet gets your body to get it’s energy from your fat stores rather than carbohydrates (which are easier for your body to convert to energy).

    You can achieve good weight loss goals on this type of diet, but it is not recommended in the long term due to the stress it places on your kidneys and heart. These types of diet often result in constipation, and most people who stay on a ketonosis based diet for too long start feeling generally unwell.

    If you are tempted by this type of diet, the key to success is to drink heaps of water (more than 2 L per day) and add natural fibre to your water to aid constipation, eat heaps of vegetables (but not potato, corn, sweet potato, peas or pumpkin), have a palm sized portion of lean protein 3 times per day and cut out all carbohydrates and sugars. You can have 2 pieces of fruit per day only.

  • Low GI – basically involves eating foods that slowly release energy into your system, so give a better spread of energy throughout the day and reduce energy spikes at meal times. Good for diabetics.
  • Detox diets – these are short term diets (typically 1-2 weeks maximum) that cleanse your system and result in rapid weight loss. They are not sustainable beyond 2 weeks as they don’t have any long term nutritional value and your metabolism will eventually go into starvation mode – so don’t be tempted to continue, even if you’ve had good results.

    A common detox diet is the “Cabbage Soup” diet – and it’s just that. Eat as much cabbage soup as you can for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks! Don’t eat any raw cabbage. Of course, you probably wouldn’t want to do this for any more than 2 weeks anyway…

  • Shake diets – these are very popular because they are so simple. Just replace 2 meals a day with a shake and eat a health dinner. Shake diets are either low calorie or low carb/ high protein – so consider the above notes for these types of diet.

    The main problem with shake diets is that, despite what the marketers claim – you DO feel hungry. So make sure you also drink plenty of water (with added fibre) and eat plenty of vegetables to take up those hunger pains.

Check out this online resource to help you achieve your weight loss goals through diet .

Talk to your GP or a dietician about which type of diet would suit you best.

There are some other pharmaceuticals and radical techniques that can help with extreme weight loss goals, but you need to see your GP for advice on these.

In general though, there is no such thing as a weight loss pill – certainly some supplements like iodine (seaweed), chromium and appetite suppressants can help, but these may only provide 5-10% of your weight loss. You need to put in the miles to get the rest!

The importance of exercise

Exercise is important for weight loss goals as it burns extra calories and builds muscle that increases your metabolic rate.

Both aerobic training (ie walking, swimming, cycling) and weights or resistance training have a role.

Follow the text link on the “Health Goals” tab to the page on “Fitness” to find out more.

Putting it all together

The key to setting and achieving healthy weight loss goals is to get the right balance of health eating [diet], aerobic exercise and weights/resistance training.

In a nutshell, to set and achieve your weight loss goals:

  • Start by doing the Health Checklist in the ToolBOX and analysing your eating habits. At the same time, do the DIET MUST DOS of drinking 2L of water per day and taking supplements to minimise cravings – make sure you’re getting enough calcium, chromium, magnesium and zinc.
  • Then aim for a daily calorie intake just under your basal metabolic rate and spread this over 5 to 6 small meals throughout the day. Always eat breakfast, and avoid eating within 2 hours of going to bed.

    Aim for a low GI diet full of fibre, complex carbohydrates, vegetables and lean protein including Tuna. Spice up your diet with peppers/ chilli and drink green tea.

  • Prepare a written menu of exactly what you’re going to eat and when – and stick to it! That way you know you’re only eating the calories you’ve targeted.
  • Prepare an exercise program including both aerobic and resistance training.

    Start with 10 minutes exercise per day alternating aerobic and resistance training sessions, and increase this every week until you are doing 30 minutes per day. Set your self strength and distance targets so you continue to improve your level of fitness.

And don’t forget that a journey of 1000 miles starts with the first step – you won’t lose 20 pounds overnight, but by setting realistic weight loss goals you can start losing weight now.

Set mini weight loss goals and milestones – 1 kg at a time. And as you achieve your first 1 kg weight loss, you’ll be motivated to achieve the next 1 kg and so on.

The best thing about weight loss goals is that you actually feel better – even after only a week or two! You’ll have more energy, more motivation and you’ll know that you are making a positive impact on your weight and your life.

And most importantly, you’ll feel in control of your weight – fine, you may not be at your ideal weight, but not you’re calling the shots with your weight loss goals.