These days, information on just about any topic you can dream of is available in almost infinite abundance. If you like reading, you’ve got eBooks, online magazines and blog posts. If you like social media, you’ve got Snapchat stories, Instagram photos and Facebook status updates. If you like watching or listening, you’ve got streaming television and movies, YouTube videos and podcasts. And those are just some of the ways that we consume information.
Health and fitness information is no exception. Presently, we’re able to access and communicate about larger volumes of fitness material than ever before. And while this has been a wonderful thing in many respects, it can also lead to information overload. For example, there’s so much advice out there on diet and exercise, much of it conflicting, that it can be overwhelming to try to figure out how to lose weight. Have you ever felt paralyzed by all the tips and suggestions that get thrown at us? I know I have.
The good news is that fat loss doesn’t need to be as complicated as it may seem. In fact, for most of us, consistently adhering to a few important principles will take us all the way to the finish line in terms of the results that we’re after. Now, that’s not to say that details are entirely unimportant all the time, as there’s a time and a place for them. But for where most of us want to get to, focusing on the minutiae often results in a lot of stress without any noticeable benefit.
So if you find yourself majoring in the minors, or feeling completely lost in a sea of weight loss sound bytes, it might be a good time to check in with yourself about whether you’ve got the basics covered. I’ll list what I consider to be the most important of the basic principles below. If you can consistently adhere to these, I think you’ll be very happy with your results. As for the rest of it? We can leave most of that stuff up to personal preference.
Are you eating the right number of calories?
You’ll need to be in a deficit to lose weight, or a surplus to gain weight. If you don’t know how many calories you’re consuming, this may be a good place to start. While not everyone needs to count calories long-term, tracking your food intake for at least couple of weeks to get better idea of how many calories you’re eating can be really helpful.
You don’t have to change what you’re eating. Just observe it, along with your body weight. If your goal is to lose weight, but you’re gaining or maintaining on what you’re currently eating, you’ll know that you need to reduce your calories a little bit. After having tracked for a while, you’ll have a much better idea of where your calories are coming from, and where you could afford to take a few away.
Are you eating enough protein?
Protein helps build muscle mass, and also helps minimize muscle loss when we’re in a calorie deficit. That’s important because most of us aren’t just looking for indiscriminate weight loss. Rather, we want to look leaner and tighter, not just lighter. In that regard, protein is our best friend.
Protein also helps keep us fuller longer, and it takes slightly more energy to digest than carbohydrates or fats. So how much do we need? While it doesn’t take a ton of protein to be healthy, getting enough is important for body composition goals. For most people, around 0.8 to 1.0 grams per pound of body weight is probably a decent place to start.
Are you eating mostly nutritious foods?
These are whole or minimally processed foods you enjoy eating. Ideally, these would make up at least 80% of your daily or weekly calories, leaving the remaining 10% to 20% for more indulgent choices, if that’s something you’d like to do.
I’d like to emphasize that the “enjoy eating” part is important. Just because kale is nutritious doesn’t mean that you have to force feed yourself kale if you don’t like it. Focus on what you like instead, and what you can see yourself eating for a long time. It’s a good idea to include lots of fruits and vegetables, too.
Are you doing strength training?
Strength training does awesome things for people. Without it, you’ll just end up looking like a smaller version of your current self after you lose weight. With it, you’ll build shape and look fit. Not to mention that you’ll get stronger, feel more confident, have more energy, build stronger bones, and will be able to crush performance goals.
In conclusion, there’s a lot of stuff out there on diet and weight loss, and much of it sounds compelling. But before you dive into any of that, maybe check in with yourself on the basics first. Can you honestly say that you’ve got the four principles above nailed down, and that you’re doing them consistently? If not, start there. This is the stuff that will get you to where you want to be.