Summer is here and most people have some sort of sun-filled vacation planned in the coming months. It's also the time of year when we wear much less clothing than usual, which can leave many of us feeling a bit anxious about our figure.
Body positivity has become more popular than ever, and while there is certainly some merit to the original body positive philosophy—not all bodies are a supermodel-type size 0—the movement has taken on a different shape entirely. Women have been discouraged from dieting and pursuing weight loss. In fact, when Adele lost an immense amount of weight, she was criticized and lambasted by the body positive activists for abandoning them, as if you can't be body positive unless you are overweight and unhealthy.
I've been critical of what body positivity has become for a long time, both as a woman who used to struggle with her weight and as a health coach who has helped hundreds of women lose excess weight and reclaim their health. It breaks my heart to see obese women like Tess Holliday explicitly say that there's never any reason to lose weight—that you're perfect just the way you are. Nobody is perfect just the way they are, regardless of their size. And when you consider the fact that nearly half of Americans are obese and obesity is the number one contributor to the leading causes of death in this country (heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes), it's extremely irresponsible and perhaps even deadly to tell people that there's never any reason to lose weight.
If you're struggling with your weight and health, it's perfectly okay to want to shed a few pounds. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look better. And even if you're not overweight, there's nothing wrong with wanting to improve your physique, shed some fat, and even drop a dress size—as long as it's done in a healthy way. My passion is helping women reclaim their health, and as a health coach who has been in the fitness industry for a decade, I've found that there are several surefire ways to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way. The good news, it's really not as hard as you think! It's all about consistency at the end of the day.
1. Aim for 10,000 Steps a Day
The vast majority of us live a sedentary lifestyle, meaning we spend most of our day sitting down, whether it's a desk, commuting, or just lounging around the house. A sedentary lifestyle can exacerbate many health issues and chronic diseases, and it usually results in a calorie surplus, which means you're burning fewer calories than you're consuming. This very quickly leads to excess weight gain.
A sedentary lifestyle can exacerbate many health issues and chronic diseases.
When you keep track of your steps throughout the day on a fitness tracker, it's easy to keep an eye on your daily movement. I tell all my clients to aim for 10,000 steps a day. Steps can be accumulated in many different ways. Of course, the most popular is to go for a walk (maybe it's one long walk or a couple short walks throughout the day), but you can also build up steps by doing housework, cooking, running errands, etc. The more you move, the more steps you'll see pop up on your tracker. The goal of 10,000 steps a day will encourage you to be more active, go outside more for walks, and prevent you from living a sedentary lifestyle. This will inherently result in you burning more calories throughout the day, which is great for weight loss!
2. Strength Train a Few Times a Week
Strength training is much more important than cardio when it comes to weight loss. That's because strength training develops more muscle in the body, and the more muscle you have, the more quickly your body burns fat and the more quickly your metabolism works. Before you ask, no, having more muscle doesn't make you "bulky." This is one of the biggest misconceptions of developing muscle in the body. The only way you will look "bulky" is if you're overeating while also strength training, or you're taking high amounts of supplements that make you larger than you naturally should be. If your diet is in check (which we'll talk about more below), strength training a few times a week isn't going to make you bigger. It will change your body composition (lean mass vs. fat mass) and make you look leaner and more cut.
If you're brand new to strength training, that's okay! You don't have to lift heavy weights. You don't have to learn how to use a barbell if you don't want to. Light resistance training 2-3 times a week is a wonderful place to start. When it comes to strength training, find something you enjoy, whether it's Barry's Bootcamp or classic dumbbell training or Pilates. Once you start strength training a couple times a week and feel comfortable with that cadence, you can decide whether you want to increase the number of your weekly sessions.
3. Eat a Clean, High-Protein Diet in a Calorie Deficit
There are tons of different diet fads out there—carnivore, paleo, vegan, keto. But there isn't a one-size-fits-all diet for weight loss. The one thing I always assign to my clients is pretty simple: eat in a calorie deficit (when you're burning more calories than you're consuming) and eat a clean, high-protein diet.
Protein is the most important thing to prioritize in your diet because it's the only thing you eat that builds muscle—and remember, muscle is the very thing your body needs to boost your metabolism and burn fat faster. Take your current bodyweight in pounds and multiply it by 0.8. That's the daily number of grams of protein you need to eat.
Protein is the only thing you eat that builds muscle, and muscle burns fat faster.
After that, I highly recommend eliminating processed and packaged foods. Eat out way, way less and cook nearly all of your own meals. The quality of your food matters just as much as eating in a calorie deficit. I also encourage my clients to steer clear of inflammatory ingredients like gluten and dairy. That doesn't mean you can't ever eat them, but it makes a big difference in gut health, overall energy, and clarity of mind to eat gluten and dairy just on occasion rather than regularly.
Diet is the most important component of weight loss, but it's actually much easier to tackle than you might think. You pretty much already know what you should and shouldn't be eating. The hard part, though, is just being consistent and remaining in a calorie deficit. And if you're unsure what it means for you to be in a calorie deficit, you can find any free macro calculator online to enter your information and figure out what your numbers are.
4. Reduce Stress
I can't say enough how crucial it is to manage stress if you're trying to lose weight and improve your health. Stress really is the silent killer. It can often cause or exacerbate chronic issues and negatively affect your hormones. Your body will hold onto excess fat and spike hunger hormones if you're chronically stressed out. If you have serious weight-loss goals in mind, you need to also introduce stress-reducing practices to your daily life. Meditate, do breath work (such as Wim Hof), take essential oil Epsom salt baths, use an infrared sauna, etc. The more you can reduce stress, the easier it will be to lose weight.
5. Get High-Quality Sleep Every Night
Sleep is another unsung hero of weight loss. When you don't get enough sleep, your prefrontal cortex, which is nicknamed the CEO part of your brain, doesn't work as well, while your amygdala, the deep emotional center of your brain, is firing on all cylinders. That means the most rational part of your brain is underperforming while your emotions are running wild. That's a recipe for emotional overeating. Additionally, a lack of sleep significantly increases the hunger hormone ghrelin, which makes it even easier to eat more than you need and make poor choices with your diet. Don't underestimate a good night of sleep. It has a tremendous impact on your hormones, your energy levels, and motivation to make healthy choices.
A lack of sleep significantly increases the hunger hormone ghrelin, which makes it even easier to eat more than you need.
6. Recruit an Accountability Partner
We're not meant to do challenging things alone, and losing weight is one of the most challenging things you will do in life, not because the actions that bring about weight loss are difficult, but because it requires a lot of consistency and dedication over a long period of time. Most people will throw in the towel before they reach their goal simply because they couldn't stay patient. That's why it's imperative to have an accountability partner, or even better, an accountability group. Surround yourselves with people who can encourage you, keep you on your toes, and demand excellence over a long period of time. It will make a world of difference.
Losing weight is both easy and difficult. The actions required are quite simple, but it requires much patience, dedication, and consistency. You're more than capable of doing it—just stick with it no matter what!
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