So in my last blog I wrote about the effects of weight on the musculoskeletal system, and how that's relevant to osteopaths overall. But how do we lose that weight? Well there's many ways, but most importantly, how do we do it healthy and sustainable way, so that once we “finish” dieting we don’t just pile the weight back on?
I feel I’m in a pretty unique position to explain this, as an osteopath, who has spent years studying the human body, its anatomy and physiology but also as a keen(some would say too keen) gym goer, I like to think I have a pretty good understanding of exactly how the body manages its fat stores. Now by no means am I saying that this method is the only method or the best method, but it do know that it is reliable, evidence based and sustainable. Disclaimer: I’m not a dietitian, all advice given is based on my knowledge of the human body and personal experience. You can choose to scoff and ignore me if you like, I won’t hold it against you.
First things first. Please ignore all fad diets. They’re called “fad” for a reason. They aren’t sustainable, most of them aren’t healthy and none of them allow for any enjoyment. It feels like the whole weight loss industry is just that, an industry that is too valuable to actually give people that information they need. Because as soon as they know the facts, they stop buying the fat burning pills and weight loss teas.
So, here is the method I use:
To begin, you will need to work out your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is the rate at which your body burns calories at rest. You can work this out roughly by using the Harris Benedict equation which can be found here.
Once you know your BMR you will need take 200-300 calories from this to create a deficit, then split what remains into macro-nutrients. I keep a high amount of protein in my diet when aiming to lose fat(around 1g per pound of body weight), as I want to maintain muscle mass and strength whilst I do this. As a side note, if you’ve been going to the gym for a few years and you’re losing weight its likely that you’ll be getting a bit weaker. I would also suggest keeping your fats at 25% of your calorie intake or above, lower than this and you risk developing hormonal issues. Fats are essential for the body to create hormones! Then fill the rest of your macros with carbs. To actually work out how many grams of each macro nutrient you need, their calorie values are as follows. Protein and carbs are equal to 4 calories per gram, fats are 9 calories per gram.
Once you have this breakdown it’s as simple as getting a set of food scales and the myfitnesspal app on you phone. Track your macros, filling it up however you like. If you want to eat a huge breakfast keep in mind that you’ll have to cut back calories at the end of the day and vice versa. The simple fact is that if you maintain a calorie deficit over an extended period of time, you will lose weight. 1lb of fat is roughly equal to 3500 calories, so at a deficit of 300 calories a day it will take 11~ days to lose a pound. If you add exercise into the equation it will speed up the process. On that note, when weighing yourself, please make it consistent. Your body is dynamic, it doesn’t stay the same weight all day as you put food and drink into it or dispose of waste products. The most reliable way to weigh yourself is first thing in the morning, after using the toilet and before eating or drinking anything. Its also best to weigh yourself in your underwear, seems obvious I know, but clothes are actually surprisingly heavy, and can really vary in weight from one garment to another. ALSO, please don’t let the scale take over your life, there will be times where the weight comes off easily, and other times when it doesn’t. The human body is weird like that, just know that weight loss is a journey, and a small set back shouldn’t be allowed to throw you off track!
On top of all of this I would suggest upping your water intake. Water will help you with weight loss! I aim for around 4 litres a day, but you don’t need to reach that volume, 2 litres should be plenty! When I say water, I do mean water. Low sugar squash is fine, but things like coffee, tea and fizzy drinks don’t count!
To add to the complexity of this just a little, you will find that after a certain amount of time, your weight will stop going down. This means you have hit a plateau. This occurs because as you lose weight your basal metabolic weight will reduce too. When there’s less of you, the body has to spend less calories on maintenance. The simple thing to do to break this plateau is to either decrease your calorie intake by another 100~ , or to increase the amount of calories you burn daily by increasing your exercise levels.
Once you achieve a "goal" weight, recalculate your BMR, and then try to stick to roughly this number of calories. Spend a week counting them, so you have an idea of roughly how much you can eat a day at maintenance levels. From there on just estimate, as long as your honest with yourself its fairly easy to maintain your weight without counting calories.
The best thing about this method is that it allows for you to eat the foods you want to, so long as you make the necessary adjustments for the rest of the day. I read a quote the other day from a man named Steve Cook, if you don’t know who he is take a look at his youtube channel etc. He’s a professional mens physique competitor, and advocate of a healthy lifestyle. Steve pointed out the fact that on this kind of eating regime people will eventually realise that they want to eat more fruit and veg, as you get a larger volume of food for less calories. It think this is one of the biggest positives of eating like this, as the micronutrients provided by fruit and veg are essential for a healthy body(but that's a topic for a different blog).
The only other ingredient for weight loss is dedication. Weight doesn’t fall off overnight, it will take time for results to be visible. That’s normal, the last thing you want to do is quit after a couple of days if you don’t see changes. I have personally followed this method myself on multiple occasions, I have been counting calories like this for 7 weeks, and have dropped 7.5kg so far.
So, there you have it, weight loss made simple. I encourage you to give this a try, and let me know how it goes for you!