Healthy Workplace Eating: Tips for Losing 10 lbs Safely and Sustainably
Reaching your weight loss goals can be challenging, no matter how much bodyweight you’re trying to lose. It can be a frustrating process, especially when you look in the mirror and feel as if you’ve made no progress at all. Weight loss takes patience and effort and should be approached in a sustainable way. This post dives into different approaches to losing weight, how to keep the weight off, and possible side effects, if you’re not careful. Let’s get into it…
How to lose 10 lbs?
To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. This can be accomplished by decreasing the calories you eat and drink or increasing your daily physical activity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, both a healthy diet and physical activity are important for weight loss. Keeping a food journal or logging your food intake in apps like MyFitnessPal or Cronometer is a good way to increase your awareness of your daily caloric intake and provide a starting point to work from. Studies have shown that counting calories had better weight loss results as opposed to those who didn’t. Although, I would only recommend counting your calories for a short period of time to gain a better general understanding of your food, as it is not sustainable and can be very restrictive.
We’ve all been subject to or at least are aware of the different types of “fad diets” out there. Promising followers a “quick fix” and “effortless weight loss,” it’s no wonder these diets are so trendy. However, instead of relying on fad diets to lose weight, individuals who lost weight and sustained it long-term made a permanent shift towards healthier eating habits. What I mean is that they focused on eating whole, nutrient-dense foods as a part of their lifestyle rather than a temporary fix. A nutrient-dense diet high in plant-based, less processed foods provides your body with all of the nutrients it needs to function and feel its best. Prioritize healthy fats, fiber, and lean sources of protein at every meal to keep you feeling full for longer with fewer calories. When you replace energy-dense foods (aka. high-calorie, low-nutrient-rich foods like soda) with nutrient-dense foods, you may naturally consume fewer calories. Not only does this approach keep you satiated throughout the day without the extreme hunger that commonly comes with dieting, but these foods provide many other health benefits such as lowering the risk of many chronic diseases.
Aerobic exercise, also referred to as cardio, is a type of physical activity that increases your heart rate and breathing and keeps your heart and lungs healthy. During this type of exercise, you are repeatedly moving large muscle groups and heavily relying on oxygen as your energy source. Cardio is one of the most effective ways to increase weight loss, not only because you’re burning calories, but if you find a form of cardio that you enjoy, it becomes a hobby for you rather than a chore. Some forms of cardio include walking, running, cycling, swimming, and dancing. The CDC states that the right amount of cardio for losing weight will vary from person to person. They advise that a weekly exercise routine consists of either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or an equivalent mixture of the two.
Resistance training, also known as weight training, is a type of physical activity that involves working against some type of force to build muscle and increase strength. Unlike cardio, resistance training is anaerobic, meaning you rely on glucose for energy rather than oxygen. Typically, these activities are short in length and high intensity (hello, HIIT). Resistance training not only burns a significant amount of calories during exercise but has also been shown to increase the number of calories you burn at rest. Weight training is effective at building muscle, and muscle burns more calories at rest. One study in 61 healthy adults revealed that 9 months of resistance training increased the daily number of calories burned at rest by ~5% on average. Another study measured resting metabolic rates in young and old men and women during a 24-week period of resistance training. With all the subjects pooled together, absolute RMR increased by 7%. Additionally, resistance training during weight loss helps ensure that the weight you lose is fat and not muscle mass.
Lastly, prioritizing sleep and setting a regular sleep schedule is an important, but often overlooked, factor in weight loss. Not getting enough sleep has been shown to decrease your levels of leptin and increase your levels of ghrelin. Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that play a major role in energy balance. Think of leptin as your satiation hormone, and ghrelin as your hunger hormone. As your levels of ghrelin increase due to sleep deprivation, your hunger and appetite will also. The CDC recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep each night to promote optimal health.
How quickly can you lose 10 lbs?
This is a tricky subject, as it’s possible to lose 10 pounds relatively quickly, but the caveat is, how safe and sustainable is it? Rapidly losing weight can result in a number of negative consequences and leave you at a higher risk of gaining back the weight you lost.
In 1958, a physician named Max Wishnofsky published a paper that determined the caloric equivalent of 1 pound is equal to 3,500 calories. This is what later created the 500-calorie-deficit hypothesis, suggesting that reducing your caloric intake by 500 calories a day would equal a weight loss of one pound per week.
For safe, realistic, and sustainable weight loss, the CDC recommends losing no more than 1-2 pounds per week. To lose 10 pounds, a safe time estimation would be 1 to 2 months.
However, research suggests that Wishnofsky’s 500-calorie-deficit rule overstates how much weight a person may actually lose and does not account for physiological adaptations. In the beginning, you may lose one pound per week. As your body composition and metabolism adapt to your new diet and exercise habits, the rate of weight loss may slow.
3 risks of losing weight too quickly:
Decreased Muscle Mass:
When you lose weight due to caloric restriction, not only will you lose fat mass, but you may lose muscle mass as well. At rest, muscle burns more energy than fat, hence, muscle loss ultimately can reduce your overall metabolism. This is just one reason why a fast-acting weight loss strategy is not sustainable.
Nutrient Deficiencies and Dehydration:
Rapid weight loss can also increase your risk of several nutrient deficiencies and dehydration. Typically, people trying to lose weight quickly skip meals or cut out entire food groups, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Likewise, rapid weight loss can result in significant fluid loss, resulting in dehydration. Dehydration and nutrient deficiencies can both cause symptoms like fatigue, headaches, discomfort, constipation, and reduced immune function.
Gaining Back More Weight than you Started With:
Up to 95% of people who lose weight on a fad diet gain back that weight or more. A rebound in weight following rapid weight loss can happen due to a couple of reasons. First, extreme caloric restriction can put your body into what’s called “starvation mode.” In starvation mode, your body’s metabolism slows to conserve and replenish fat stores. This commonly looks like experiencing extreme hunger, which is our body’s natural biological response to food restriction. Another reason why you may gain weight after following a rapid weight-loss diet is that you eventually revert back to your normal eating patterns. As soon as you quit an unsustainable diet, the weight follows.
How to combat weight loss risks:
1. Start small.
My first advice would be to start your weight loss journey with small changes. Implement smaller, more attainable changes and goals before placing challenging expectations on yourself. This might look like going to bed 1 hour earlier or adding a 1/2 cup of vegetables to every meal. Before diving into an entirely new diet plan, what small changes can you implement into your current routine? Achieving small goals boosts morale and will help you achieve your long-term weight loss goals more easily.
2. Maximize muscle retention.
Secondly, to minimize muscle loss, ensure you’re eating enough protein to help prevent your muscle from being used as energy. Also, try lifting weights. Not only will it help you stay in your deficit by burning extra calories, but strength training will help you build more, stronger muscle.
3. Enjoy the journey.
Lastly, the most important thing to remember is that your weight loss is a journey. Think of it as a marathon, not a race. True weight loss is all about making sustainable lifestyle modifications rather than quick, temporary fixes. Find what works for you. What may work for your best friend or family member may not work for you or your schedule. It’s easy to give up when you aren’t seeing dramatic changes within the first few months, but be patient. Another note is that what’s arguably more important than the number on the scale, is how you feel, how happy you are, and how your overall health has improved. It's normal to first notice that you look and feel healthier without noticing huge changes on the scale.
Take your weight loss journey one step at a time by making a few modifications to your diet and lifestyle to make the process more manageable and ultimately increase your overall health.