The principle of energy balance — or, as most people refer to it, calories — determines whether you maintain, lose, or gain weight.
You want the calories you consume to be less than the calories you burn, especially if you're trying to lose weight. This is referred to as negative energy balance or a caloric deficit.
But, while the concept is straightforward, the question remains:
Is weight loss easy?
It is a matter of personal preference. It can be for a select few. But, from where I and many others stand, it isn't, owing to the fact that losing weight necessitates people stepping out of their comfort zones, changing their lifestyles, and developing new, healthier habits.
Furthermore, some people find it difficult to follow the basic calories in vs. calories out equation, due to differences in metabolism, genetics, hormonal imbalances, and other factors.
But, while it may be difficult, it is not impossible. You can make it even easier if you separate fact from myth, are realistic about your goals and timelines, and understand which foods have a significant impact on your weight.
Today, we'll go over all of these topics, as well as a weight-loss tips and tricks. Let us begin with facts and myths.
Weight loss knowledge
Each individual has a unique metabolism.
We briefly discussed energy balance earlier, but here are some additional details:
For starters, you can physically track the number of calories in virtually any food you eat, making it easier to keep track of the calories you consume in relation to the calories you burn.
However, metabolic rates vary from person to person, even among those with similar physiques and lifestyles. As a result, some people burn more calories than others, and vice versa.
The primary reason for this is what is known as resting metabolic rate (RMR) or resting energy expenditure (REE). RMR/REE, or whatever you want to call it, is essentially the number of calories you burn when you are not exercising.
According to research, your RMR is affected by your gender, age, and obesity status. These factors also contribute to the fact that losing weight is easier for some people but more difficult for others.
Exercise can boost your metabolism.
…which makes losing weight easier.
On that note, any type of exercise will cause you to move more, which will result in more calories burned. Different types of exercise provide different benefits, with cardio vs. strength training being the most frequently debated topic.
To cut a long story short, cardio workouts typically burn more calories than strength training. So, if your goal was to burn as many calories as possible while exercising, cardio might be the best option.
Strength training, on the other hand, has metabolic effects that can last for hours after your session has ended, especially with more intense workouts. In the gym, this is referred to as the afterburn effect, but in more scientific terms, it is referred to as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).
In any case, cardio is generally superior to strength training for overall weight loss, whereas strength training is far superior for muscle growth. Choose the type of exercise that best fits your goals and preferences. Or, even better, do both.
Muscle increases your metabolism (but not as much as you might think)
You've probably heard that building muscle increases RMR. However, it is not as drastic as these muscle-bound social media influencers make it out to be.
According to research, gaining 2 kg of muscle will only increase your calorie burn by about 50 kcal per day. Also, the amount of time required to gain that much muscle varies from person to person, but on average, it would probably take around 3 months.
I'm not saying that muscle building is pointless. After all, 50 kcal per day adds up in the long run. That's an extra 1400 calories burned in a month. Increase your RMR by more than 2 kg.
All calories are not created equal.
Here's something else you may have heard. This is also true.
Simply put, carbs and protein have 4 calories per gram, according to the USDA. Fat, on the other hand, has a score of 9.
From there, it should be fairly clear how an excess of fatty foods can lead to weight gain. Surprisingly, recent studies have shown that carbs, not fat, are associated with the recent increase in obesity.
Added sugar, particularly sugar added to food and drinks, is the most problematic because it can alter your biology and eventually lead to insulin and leptin resistance. As a result, these imbalances increase your appetite and make you tired all of the time, resulting in weight gain.
To take it a step further, not all carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are created equal. These micronutrients are classified as “good” or “bad.”
When it comes to carbs, you should avoid refined carbs such as white rice, white flour, and any product made with white flour and instead opt for whole grain. Lean sources of protein, such as chicken and whitefish, are generally preferred, but fatty fish have their place due to their omega-3 content. When it comes to fat, you want foods high in unsaturated fat rather than saturated and trans fats.
Weight loss myths
Myth #1: Weight loss should be a gradual process.
It isn't, but to give you a better picture, are you familiar with the concept of a weight loss curve?
It's a visual representation of your daily weight loss habits. You can log your weight on a daily basis using apps like Libra (for Android users) and Happy Scale (for iPhone users), and the app will automatically show you your weight loss curve.
However, the graphs of people who have successfully lost weight appear wavy rather than straight. According to research, it almost never is.
This is caused by a number of factors, the most important of which is fluid retention. This can happen to both men and women, but studies have shown that it may be more noticeable in women because they retain more water during red days.
So don't be too concerned if your weight fluctuates slightly each time you step on the weighing scale. Realistically, just make sure that your weight loss curve continues to trend downward despite these bumps.
Myth #2: Saunas and steam rooms will aid in fat loss.
I try to avoid gyms with saunas (mostly because I believe they are overpriced), but whenever I do become a temporary member, I always run into people who spend more time in saunas and steam rooms than on the treadmill or weight rack. They believe it is a no-effort method of losing weight, but it is not.
It's partially true because it does cause weight loss, but only because you sweat out a lot of water weight, not fat.
Plus, there's a chance you'll just regain that water weight at your next meal, putting you back at square one.
Myth #3: Spot reduction is effective!
No, it doesn't.
Another thing I notice in nearly every gym I visit is people training specific body parts in the hopes of burning fat away from that specific area and that area only. That isn't how it works.
For example, a study comparing the amount of fat and muscle in tennis players' arms discovered that while their dominant arms (the ones used to swing the racket) were more muscular, the amount of fat in both arms was the same.
If spot reduction had been real, the dominant arm would have had less fat as well.
Working solely on your abs, for example, will not only result in a flat stomach, but will also result in weight loss elsewhere.
Myth #4: Weight loss requires supplementation.
This is something I can relate to because in my early college days, I was told that going to the gym without supplementing was pointless.
I didn't have any money for supplements at the time, so I went about my workouts without them. Years later, I'm better for it.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not against the use of supplements. They have a place in body transformations, but not above good and nutritious food, consistent physical activity, and overall healthy habits.
Myth #5: Carbohydrates and fat make you… fat.
Wrong. Excess calories cause weight gain. It makes no difference whether those calories come from carbs, fat, or protein. I will not, however, deny that there is some historical truth to this myth.
As previously stated, carbs — specifically, added sugar — have been identified as one of the primary causes of modern-day obesity.
Fat, on the other hand, is the most calorie-dense macronutrient, and the unhealthy kind is abundant in almost every type of junk food we consume.
The real culprit, however, is an excess of calories. It makes no difference whether those calories come from fat, carbs, or protein. You will gain weight as long as you consume more calories than you burn.
This leads us to…
Myth #6: Make a statement or go home.
This is probably not a myth, but it is something I hear frequently. It is not only unrealistic for most people, but it can also be unhealthy, in my opinion.
The problem is that not everyone can hit the ground running. Many people with excess weight, in particular, may have health issues that prevent them from training as intensely as most people would on their first day.
Knee pain, for example, may make squatting heavy loads impossible. Jogging may be unsuitable due to a lack of conditioning as a result of being chronically sedentary. Exercising while suffering from insulin resistance or diabetes can result in hypoglycemia if proper precautions are not taken.
The list goes on and on, but from the perspective of a medical practitioner, my point is that no one's efforts should be dismissed, no matter how insignificant they may appear in comparison to the perspectives of others. They may appear insignificant, but to the person doing them, they may represent a significant step forward.
Myth #7: A healthy lifestyle is more expensive.
To be honest, there is some truth to this. According to research, healthier diets cost $1.48 more per day than less healthy diets. Granted, this isn't a huge difference, but it can feel magnified if you're already working with a tight budget.
This does not include any fees for any fitness classes you may enroll in.
However, if you think about it, people with less money than you have managed to maintain a healthy weight and physique. As a result, it does not always have to be more expensive.
For starters, you could use less expensive cuts of meat. They are more difficult to cook and require more time, but they can be just as tasty. More tips on how to lose weight on a budget can be found later in the article, so keep reading.
Myth #8: Food for weight loss tastes bad.
Since we're on the subject of food, weight loss food doesn't have to taste bad.
I understand where you're coming from. After all, most of us believe that a pepperoni pizza with extra cheese tastes far superior to broccoli and spinach.
However, the truth is that all you need to do is learn how to cook healthy but delicious food. It doesn't even have to be the healthiest option available; it just has to be better than the junk you're used to.
For example, a breakfast of banana pancakes with berries and yogurt on the side will provide you with a good source of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Sure, the pancake contains refined carbohydrates, but the meal is still healthier and more weight-loss-friendly than reheating two slices of leftover pizza. It also tastes pretty good.
Here are a few more foods you should have in your pantry:
Foods that are good for weight loss
Unsurprisingly, the best foods for weight loss are also some of the healthiest. These include whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats, all of which are high in vitamins and minerals.
If you keep these foods on hand and learn how to prepare them, you should never have to worry about eating bland food while trying to lose weight again.
When it comes to weight loss foods, eggs are perhaps the closest thing to perfect in my opinion. They're nutrient-dense, inexpensive, widely available, and there are a plethora of simple ways to prepare them.
In terms of nutrients, it's an excellent source of protein and healthy fat, which I think makes for a good way to start the day.
A high protein breakfast (eggs and beef were used in the study) may improve satiety and cravings, making weight loss easier.
Honestly? I'm not a big fan of seafood, but there's no denying how effective it can be for losing weight.
For one thing, according to one study, seafood contains functional components such as omega-3 fatty acids that are hard to come by elsewhere. EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish such as salmon, trout, and herring.
According to Harvard, omega-3 fatty acids are essential for cellular health, hormonal production, and genetic function. Omega-3 is also known to help prevent and regulate certain chronic diseases such as heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and others.
Whitefish and shellfish, on the other hand, have lower omega-3 levels but are excellent substitutes for lean meat.
When it comes to lean meat…
Breast of chicken
It, like eggs, is relatively inexpensive, widely available, high in protein, and can be prepared in a variety of ways.
I think it's bland on its own, but add some herbs and spices and grill it for an easy, quick, and flavorful meal.
You could also serve it as a main course, chop it into bite-sized pieces to toss into a salad, or use it as an ingredient in soup.
I believe that the versatility of chicken breasts rarely disappoints, no matter how you cook it.
Furthermore, many nutritionists believe that protein is more filling than both fat and carbohydrates. There isn't much research to back this up (that I'm aware of), but one study does show that a high protein diet boosts metabolism better than a high carb diet.
In any case, this makes chicken breasts and other lean protein sources (such as whitefish, lean beef, venison, and so on) effective weight loss foods.
Fruit of every kind!
Fruits, from apples to watermelons and everything in between, are high in vitamins and minerals while being low in calories. They're also high in dietary fiber, water, and naturally occurring sugar, which makes fruits not only filling but also delicious and healthy.
For example, tomatoes.
A cup of chopped tomatoes contains over 2 g of fiber, a lot of vitamins A, C, and K, and approximately 95% of its weight is water. All of this for just 32 calories. Not too shabby, is it?
Other fruits have similar profiles as well, with the main difference being vitamins and minerals.
Guavas, for example, are high in vitamin C, and you already know that bananas are high in potassium.
I understand that it is a fruit, but please allow me to focus on avocados for a moment.
Avocados, unlike most fruits, are high in calories because they contain a significant amount of fat. A single avocado contains nearly 30 g of fat and 322 calories, according to The SelfNutrition Data.
However, each fruit contains nearly 14 g of fiber. So, while it's high in calories, it helps you eat less overall.
Furthermore, research shows that avocado consumers were more likely to eat fruits and vegetables, had better diet qualities, higher levels of unsaturated fat, and were lighter and had lower BMIs.
Greens with leaves
Let's be honest: we all expected vegetables to be on this list, so don't act surprised.
Vegetables, like fruits, are great for weight loss due to their fiber, water, and nutritional content. This helps to keep the calorie count low while still providing essential vitamins and minerals.
Furthermore, the Mayo Clinic lists green vegetables as low glycemic index (GI) foods. This means that these vegetables will help provide you with a consistent source of energy, preventing you from becoming depleted and craving a quick, unhealthy source of sugar.
Spinach and kale are obvious examples, but collards, swiss chards, broccoli, asparagus, celery, and a variety of other vegetables also fit the bill.
Fruits and vegetables aren't the only sources of watery food in your diet. Soup does the same thing!
According to research, eating soup at the start of your meals lowers your overall calorie intake.
Furthermore, you can flavor your soup however you want. You want it to be a little more beefy? Make use of beef bone broth. You could also add vegetables to your soup for more fiber. You could also use herbs and spices such as cayenne pepper, black pepper, turmeric, and a variety of others, as they all have properties that aid in weight loss.
Here are the 20 Best Herbs and Spices for Weight Loss.
But, before we go any further, if you decide to make soup, try to use as little salt (or anything else that adds sodium) as possible.
Food that has undergone fermentation
I'm referring to yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, and any other fermented food.
These foods are high in probiotics, or bacteria that are beneficial to the digestive system.
According to a Cleveland Clinic article, there isn't much research supporting probiotics as weight loss agents, but they do work well with a nutritious diet to keep you healthy.
And, according to any medical professional, personal trainer, or expert on weight loss, being in top shape will make weight loss easier in the long run.
Tea and coffee (no added sugar)
If you've ever looked through the ingredients of weight loss supplements, you've probably noticed coffee and/or tea on the list.
The reason for this is that both of these drinks are considered effective natural fat burners, especially due to their caffeine content.
Caffeine, according to research, suppresses your appetite while also increasing your metabolism.
Furthermore, green tea contains a high concentration of EGCG. According to research, this compound, like caffeine, is capable of increasing your metabolism while also promoting the use of fat for fuel.
There are additional weight loss friendly foods to choose from, and they are all on our list of healthy foods to eat every day to lose weight. After you've finished looking through that, you might want to check out our list of delectable recipes that use them as individual ingredients.
Moving on from food, let us discuss eating.
How frequently should you eat in order to lose weight?
Opinions on this topic are divided, as they are on many other aspects of weight loss. Furthermore, scientific experiments have yielded mixed results, adding to the confusion.
For one thing, some experts believe that eating increases your metabolism.
In theory, eating more frequently is better for weight loss.
There is some truth to this, but I believe it is exaggerated. According to research, your diet can increase your metabolism by 5-15 percent. That is a significant number, especially when considering the long-term value, but the problem with increasing feeding frequency is that it can also lead to increased calorie consumption.
Often, a 5-15 percent increase in metabolism will not be enough to compensate for a potentially massive increase in ingested calories. So, not only does this necessitate some discipline, but a lack of it may halt your weight loss, if not cause you to gain weight.
Should I then eat less frequently?
Again, the results were mixed.
There are studies that show low-frequency diets lead to better appetite control and faster metabolisms. However, there have been several reports of people skipping certain meals and then overcompensating on the next ones. This is frequently the case for intermittent fasting dieters who have not lost weight.
So, the bottom line is…
When it comes to weight loss, quality and quantity take precedence over frequency.
In other words, what you eat and how much you eat have a greater impact on weight loss success than how frequently you consume calories.
Choose good, healthy, and satiating foods, maintain a negative energy balance, and your weight loss curve should be on the downward slope.
How to Make Losing Weight Easier
As I previously stated, most people find it difficult to lose weight. Furthermore, the difficulty can feel amplified if you are not fully committed — which is difficult to achieve as well.
It's easy to say, “I'm going to lose weight,” but actually doing the necessary steps, such as eating right and exercising regularly, takes a lot more effort.
That being said, I believe that learning how to commit to losing weight is essential. Here are a few simple weight loss tips that should persuade your mind to help you lose weight:
1. Put in long hours in silence.
Keep your goals and efforts to yourself. It's a cliche quote these days, but it's true.
Rather than announcing your weight loss goal in public as a way to put pressure on yourself to get in shape, research suggests that doing so may give you a false sense of accomplishment.
Of course, this does not work for everyone, but it does for me. You can also “speak it into existence” if you are more of a “speak it into existence” type of gal (or guy).
2. Dress in athletic attire.
Dress the part even if you're just working out at home.
The term “enclothed cognition” was coined by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2012, and it means that both the symbolic meaning and physical experience of wearing a uniform influence how you think, act, and feel.
Assume yoga is your preferred form of exercise. You could always practice your poses in your pyjamas on your bed. However, according to the principles of enclothed cognition, if you wore yoga pants, did your poses on the mats, and maybe even put on some calming music, you'd be more focused and perform better.
The same idea applies to weight training, running, or whatever else you do. Consider this a mental hack that will help you naturally stay motivated to lose weight.
3. Set smaller goals that will help you achieve larger ones.
Setting smaller, more realistic short-term goals is another psychological hack you can use to make weight loss appear easier.
Dopamine, the “feel good” hormone, fuels your motivation. When you achieve something you worked hard for, your brain releases these hormones to make you happy.
But what if you still have a long way to go before reaching your goal weight? When you deprive yourself of dopamine, you become demotivated. When this happens, your goal may appear to be out of reach.
Setting smaller goals (and achieving them) keeps you happy, and when you're happy, everything else feels easier.
Assume you want to lose about 100 pounds for your wedding next year. That's a lot of weight to lose, and it'll take a long time to get there. Instead, aim to lose 8-10 pounds per month. This way, you'll feel rewarded every month, which will hopefully reset your motivation to higher levels.
4. Take advantage of modern technology.
We've mentioned apps like Libra and Happy Scale that map out your weight loss curves, but they're just the tip of the iceberg.
MyFitnessPal, for example, keeps track of your calories and automatically sets a calorie limit based on how much weight you want to lose. It essentially combines a food diary and a calorie calculator into a single app.
Apps aren't the only thing affected. Gadgets can also do amazing things! According to research, activity trackers, such as those found in smartwatches, can help sedentary people walk an additional 2500 steps per day. That translates to more calories burned!
5. Work with smaller plates
My trainer gave me this piece of advice years ago. I was skeptical, so I never paid attention to it, but lo and behold, there is scientific truth to it.
According to research, smaller plates can make you feel more satiated with less food. This effect can be seen in both normal-weight and overweight people, despite the fact that the latter consumed more calories.
Nonetheless, I think it's a clever trick.
6. Before each meal, drink two glasses of water.
You feel hungry because your empty stomach sends signals to your brain informing it that your body requires food.
In that case, drinking water before meals helps to pre-fill your stomach and prevents it from sending hunger signals. As a result, you eat less food and thus consume fewer calories.
You may be wondering why there are two glasses.
That is because science says so. According to studies, drinking 500 mL of water (roughly 2 glasses) before your main meals will result in better weight loss due to the subsequent reduction in calories consumed.
7. Get 7-8 hours of sleep.
That's correct. Neither less nor more.
According to research, people who slept more or less than 7-8 hours per night were more likely to gain weight in the form of fat.
Another study explains why this occurs, but in short, the amount of sleep you get influences the hormones leptin (the “satiety hormone”) and ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”). A lack of sleep, in particular, causes a decrease in leptin and an increase in ghrelin, which increases your appetite.
8. Lose weight while staying within your budget.
I previously mentioned how it is possible to lose weight without spending more money, using tougher cuts of meat as an example. Here are a few more ways to lose weight on a budget:
Buy “regular” meats and produce Organic, free-range, grass-fed… they're all great. However, they are significantly more expensive.
So, if you're short on cash right now, don't feel obligated to purchase these special meats and produce. Regular ones may not be as healthy, but they are still preferable to junk food.
Online price comparison
From food to equipment to clothing, there will always be more options online than in your local store — and some of these options may even be cheaper.
Bulk purchasing and cooking can be extremely beneficial.
They are also inextricably linked. You can't cook if you don't have any ingredients, right?
Having said that, buying in bulk will help you save at least a few pennies every time you go shopping. Granted, it won't be much money, but if you save it regularly, it will add up quickly.
Cooking in batches, on the other hand, can help reduce the temptation to order takeout because you know you have food at home that is easily microwaved. This is not only cost-effective, but also nutritious.
What to Expect After Weight Loss
You'll have a better appearance.
It's vain, but let's be honest: most of us try to lose weight for cosmetic reasons. Even if there are potential health consequences, the truth is that we all want to look good.
And, if you're unhappy with your current appearance, losing weight may help you change it.
But don't get me wrong. I'm not saying slimmer people look better, but if that's your motivation for slimming down and you successfully lose the weight you want to lose, your perception of yourself may improve as well.
You will develop a greater appreciation for food.
For example, numerous studies have linked obesity to decreased taste sensitivity. This is one of the reasons why people who are overweight tend to prefer foods with stronger flavors, which, more often than not, also pack on more calories.
According to one study, this could be because the chronic inflammation associated with obesity reduces the number of taste buds.
Fortunately, regaining your normal weight resets your sense of taste, giving you a greater appreciation for food.
Sex is going to improve.
Obese men and women are less satisfied with their sex lives than their slimmer counterparts, according to research on their sex lives.
Furthermore, another study found that obesity is associated with lower testosterone levels. This can result in decreased libido and even erectile dysfunction (yikes!).
Fortunately, both of these studies conclude that the negative effects of obesity on sexual quality are reversible once the excess weight is lost.
Without exercise, your day may feel incomplete.
I can tell you from personal experience that this is true and probably more common than people realize.
As long as it isn't a full-fledged addiction, I think this is a good thing. After all, it aids in maintaining an active lifestyle.
According to what I've observed, a desire for physical activity isn't always motivated by a desire for advancement. Rather, it is because exercise makes you feel better.
According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise causes the release of endorphins, which are our bodies' feel-good hormones. It also improves mood and stress levels.
You will live a healthier life.
Obesity is undoubtedly linked to a variety of diseases, but many of these illnesses can be reversed with weight loss.
According to an NIH report, the health benefits of losing weight include:
- Lower your blood pressure.
- improved lipid/plasma levels (i.e. cholesterol, triglycerides)
- Increase your glucose and insulin levels.
Losing weight will also help you sleep better and improve your mood.
How to Regain Weight After Loss
To be honest, this stage can be more difficult than weight loss itself. According to research, most people regain more than half of their weight in two years. Over the course of five years, most dieters will have regained 80 percent of their original weight.
But, once again, it's not impossible; I'm sure you know people who have maintained their slimmer figures.
All of this comes back to energy balance. However, instead of being in a state of imbalance in which the calories you consume are less than the calories you burn, you will now want to have both in balance.
But it's not just about the calories. You'll want to stick to your new healthy habits as well. This includes being more conscious of what you eat and exercising on a regular basis.
Better yet, rather than continuing as you are, perhaps it is better to set newer goals, such as building more muscle. You could also share your expertise and assist someone else on their weight-loss journey. Both of these, in my opinion, should help keep you on your toes and keep you from becoming too comfortable.
While the principles of losing weight are straightforward, the process itself can be difficult. However, with the right information, you should be able to avoid common pitfalls such as spot reductions, confusing water weight loss with actual weight loss, and waning motivation.
I sincerely hope you were able to find answers to your weight loss questions here. If I've given you something to think about, please do me a favor and tell your friends about us, okay?