There are a ton of articles written about weight-loss, you can get a variety of different opinions from medical professionals, to influencers to outright deniers. The fundamental problem is, most of them have never actually lost weight.
All the theory around weight-loss is excellent, but the reality of doing it is different. There is a vast difference between losing 20 pounds and losing 170 pounds. It is like comparing a 5-mile walk to a 100-mile ultramarathon. They might look the same out of context, but they are very different beasts.
1. Weight takes time to gain and lose.
One crucial realisation to start from is that it took a long time to get to 375 pounds. You can’t gain that much weight without a lot of time; your body can’t process that amount of food.
There is no quick fix to losing a lot of weight, and it is likely that anyone who promises it will be trying to take your money.
Losing a lot of weight is kind of like trying to climb Mount Everest, it looks like a massive mountain, but once you get started, it is about taking one step at a time.
2. Fad diets are not your friend.
To lose one pound, you need to create a calorie deficit of 3500 calories. There are many ways to do that, but fundamentally you have to eat less than your maintenance calories.
I have tried many different diets, including Atkins (or keto as it is now known), Slimming World, Low Calorie, High Fat, and many other variants. They all work, the problem is they are only useful for a limited period.
It is easy to become disillusioned with dieting and assume that the only option is to exercise like the world is ending. If you watch TV, then you will see many shows that only show overweight people working out.
They miss one vital fact: exercise alone will not lead to long-term weight-loss. It is all about what you eat; activity will accelerate weight-loss but cannot be the sole cause of it.
3. The real secret to losing a lot of weight is eating more
The real secret to losing a lot of weight is eating more. Yes, that is right; you need to eat more!
Now before you crack into another packet of chips or eat another bar of chocolate, there is, of course, a key detail you need to keep in mind.
You should eat more vegetables, sorry if you are from the US, pizza is not a vegetable. You should eat more lean protein, and you should keep a limit on starchy vegetables, bread and pasta.
The secret is to eat more food with a lower calorie density.
You can significantly reduce calories by cutting the amount of oil you use to cook, look at substitutes like Pam Spray or Frylight. Look at tweaking the balance in your recipes, sieved tomatoes (passata) has 92 calories per pound versus 15% minced beef which has 920.
Minced beef is an excellent example of an area you can tweak, 5% minced beef vs 15%, 545 calories per pound versus 920 calories per pound. So with a small switch, you can save an enormous amount of calories, get better quality meat and not impact the recipe significantly.
Fat indeed brings flavour to a recipe, but there are ways to substitute and still get to eat great tasting food. Use some seasoning, add a stock cube to the minced beef and add garlic/onions/mushrooms.
4. Plan and measure to start climbing your mountain
Make a plan, use it, measure it and improve it.
The first plan you make should be a meal plan, turn that into a shopping list and then only buy items on that list from the supermarket.
Then you should make sure you track what you are eating. Use an app like MyFitnessPal and measure everything for the first few weeks.
Don’t be afraid to weigh yourself every day, but if you do, then don’t get disheartened if the scale goes in the wrong direction. Look at the average over the week that will be a more realistic measurement than a single point in time. My weight varies 5 pounds within a couple of days.
Don’t be afraid to adapt and improve.
There will be times where you find your plan isn’t working as well as it did. Take the opportunity to adapt, and there are only a certain number of variables. Mainly calories in (what you eat) and calories out (exercise and day-to-day activity).
If you always feel hungry, then maybe eating more calories is the answer. If your weight-loss has plateaued, then perhaps reducing calories or increasing exercise is the answer.
Consistency is essential at the end of the day, so it is about small tweaks rather than wholesale changes.
Make sure to eat enough calories.
You can’t stick to a plan that allows less than 1000 calories, no one can.
Work out how many calories you need to maintain your weight and plan to lose 1–2 pounds per week. That typically means about 1500 calories for a Woman and 1800 calories for a Man.
Your weight-loss can be accelerated with exercise to lose more, but starting from the right number of calories will make it easier to continue with the plan.
5. What no one tells you about losing that much weight
There are some things that no one will tell you about losing a lot of weight, here’s a list in no particular order:
- It is expensive — You will spend a lot of money on clothes, food and exercising.
- It takes time and commitment — Every day is essential in your journey; in my case, it is almost two years since I started.
- There will be ups and downs — The downs can be pretty low, that is why it is essential to have a plan, during the downs, it will keep you focused.
- You will have weeks where you feel you haven’t lost weight — If you have stuck to your plan, and are being honest.
- You will replace your clothes, multiple times — I have had to replace all my clothes three times so far, I am now bordering on a medium/large and will likely have to replace them again soon.
- No one will notice until you’ve lost 30–40 pounds, then everyone will see.
- People will ask you stupid questions — I can see it in their eyes before they do it, they are desperate to ask a question. Generally, it ends up being “do you feel better for it”, but everyone seems to want to share their opinion.
- People will tell you that you’ve lost too much weight — Don’t listen to them, they may say that they mean well, but they don’t. Weight-loss is a very personal thing, and they do not have your best interests at heart, it is not about you, it is about them.
- You have to adapt your strategy during the journey — What worked, in the beginning, won’t remain sufficient for the entire journey. You will have to reduce calories, increase exercise, change exercise and adapt.
- Your motivation will change over your journey — What motivated you in the beginning probably won’t get you through to the end, look for new inspirations and small wins.
Most importantly, be honest with yourself. You will know if you have had a good or bad week, you will know if you’ve cheated a bit.
If you don’t understand why your plan isn’t working, then get strict again for a few weeks and measure everything. The answer will be in there.
Diet and exercise are the only way to lose weight sustainably.
When you have a lot of weight to lose, then you should look to increase your food quantity while reducing the number of calories by reducing the calorie density of your food. You can still eat decent sized portions without compromising the flavour of your food, look to add seasoning along with tweaking the recipes.
Most importantly, when embarking on a diet and exercise programme, you need to have the right motivation. Without that commitment to yourself, you won’t be successful.