As the days are getting longer and warmer — which means pool parties, beach BBQs and Pride celebrations — we’re all thinking about shedding winter weight gain (along with our clothes). For many of us, our body mass index provides us with a sense of self-worth, and often, a sense of shame. One again, we have a divided self, with one part seeking pleasure and the other restraint.
But before you starve yourself, there’s a lot of bad and confusing advice out there about how to lose weight and keep it off, so here are five things the best science really has to say about what it takes to lose the spare tire and gain a bikini-ready beach bod.
1. Genetics and early environment play a big role.
Scientists are concluding that some people are genetically predisposed to lose or gain weight easier. You could have two people eat the same amount from birth — and one stays skinny and the other, well, not.
Research has also shown the number of fat cells you have is set in early childhood. That means the number of fat cells you have now is the same number you’ll have when you die, no matter how much you exercise or starve yourself. We’re still not sure why this is. Maybe it’s the amount of food your mom ate while pregnant or the amount you ate when you were a child — or just plain genetics. But no matter how much you exercise and stop eating, you won’t reduce the number of your fat cells.
Take away: Set realistic goals based on your specific body and don’t be too hard on yourself.
2. Calories in, calories out is what matters.
While there are numerous fad diets and supplement companies that claim to make weight loss easier, science shows the only thing that really matters is that you’re burning more calories than you ingest. You could eat nothing but twinkies for a month, and as long as you’re eating less calories than you use, you’ll lose weight.
Take away: Count the calories you consume and the calories you burn. The daily total will not lie. Get an estimate of how many calories you burn a day here.
3. Cutting down carbs helps your body and mind
Reducing carb intake not only makes it physically easier to lose body fat, but also mentally easier. There’s increasing evidence that a diet high in carbohydrates, especially sugar, change your biochemistry so that you burn fat more slowly and feel hungrier more quickly. However, carbs taste crazy amazing, so if you do consume them, make sure they’re in the form of a whole grains or fruits that are high in protein and/or fiber.
Take away: Stay away from sugar. But it’s hard to stay away from carbs, which provide a quick source of energy, so make sure you get them from whole grains and fruits.
4. Your body will fight weight loss. Keep a food and exercise diary.
The hardest part about weight loss isn’t losing the weight. It’s keeping the weight off once you’ve lost it. Your body will change chemistry to encourage weight gain — make you hungrier, slow metabolism — it’s designed to store energy.
In study after study, the best weight loss results came from manually recording the calories you consume and the calories you burn. It’s the only way to keep you honest — you’ll be surprised how quickly it all adds up (or doesn’t). It seems taking the extra time to pay attention to your calories helps you focus on healthier choices.
However, before you start your weight loss regimen, think hard about the reasons you want to lose weight. Whether you’re trying to be healthier, seeking validation, looking to get laid more often — whatever the reason — go for it.
Just understand the tradeoffs you’ll have to make to maintain weight loss. It’s a lifelong struggle that can drain you emotionally. Make sure your reasons are solid. Studies show weight loss doesn’t lead automatically to happiness. There are real mental health issues — depression, anxiety, psychosis — associated with the pursuit of the “perfect” body. If body image is a source of distress for you, please, see a professional.
Take away: Life is too short – and there are too many great meals – to suffer too much over the amount of fat on your body. Chubby guys are cute, after all!
5. The majority of your calories should come from plants.
Fruits, veggies and grains will keep you happy and healthy–and are likely to keep the pounds away at the same time.
Wanna learn more about weight loss? Click the video to see Alex and Xander clarify fat …