You can lose weight and keep it off for good! Sports dietitian and fitness expert Marie Spano has some tips on how you can do just that.
Every single diet is based on the same principle - they help you cut calories so you lose weight. And when you lose weight you'll lose both fat and muscle. However, when you go on a juice fast or low calorie diet that doesn't contain enough protein, you will lose a considerable amount of muscle tissue, muscle burns more calories at rest than fat so when you lose it you'll need fewer calories each day just to maintain your weight. Over time, repeated bouts of protein poor diets will decrease your calorie needs even further, making it increasingly difficult to keep the weight off without dieting. And therefore, if you want to go on a diet there are two things you need to do:
1) Feed the Muscle to Keep the Muscle. You need even more protein when you cut your calories to help ensure you are losing fat, not muscle. A good rule of thumb, start by consuming at least 30 grams of protein per meal. Breakfast is the toughest meal for people so here are a few options:
- 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt with 2 Tbsp. of peanut butter mixed in
- Approximately 5 egg whites or you can mix and match whole eggs and whites
- Protein powder mixed in milk or a higher protein soy beverage
At lunch and dinner, consume about the serving size of your palm worth of fish, chicken, turkey, lean red meat. Or opt for very high protein vegetarian options – tofu, tempeh, high protein bean pastas.
2) Have an exit strategy – a plan for transitioning off your diet. Don't stay on a very low calorie diet for an extended period of time. You will decrease your metabolism – the amount of calories you need each day. At the very least – take a day or two each week and don't drop your calories – eat what you need to if you wanted to maintain your weight.
Now let's focus on fitness.
1) If you are spending hours on cardio machines every week, its time to trade in some of your aerobic sessions for resistance training – lifting weights, power yoga, or anything that requires you to exercise a muscle or muscle group against external resistance. As we age we lose muscle. Losing muscle means your body will require fewer calories each day (so you need to eat less over time just to stay at the same body weight). Maintaining muscle will be easier to maintain your weight. If you are just starting out, focus on your large muscle groups to get the most out of your workouts.
If you already lift weights, change your routine to continue to make gains. Incorporate different exercises, lift until failure – until you can't squeeze out any more reps – you do not necessarily have to use a heavy weight but instead can lift lighter weights using more reps till failure.
2) Make Daily Activity a Lifestyle
Simply going to the gym isn't enough to counteract the health hazards of sitting most of the day or burn calories. In fact, the average female on an elliptical machine or bike may burn 200 or 300 calories in a 40-minute session. So get moving and stay moving all day long. Ignore modern conveniences including escalators, elevators, the drive-through, pay at the gas pump. All of these rob you of the chance to move your body, burn calories and improve your health.
Fitness trackers can motivate you to move more. I prefer ones that tell you how many steps you've walked when you look at them versus those that require you to log onto their site on your computer or smart phone. If I have this on my wrist, it is a visual reminder throughout the day that I need to get more activity.