Weight loss is a touchy subject for most people. Speaking as a person who’s had to deal with weight issues, I can tell you right now that it’s both a fairly straightforward affair and incredibly difficult to pull off, let alone pull off in a healthy and efficient manner. I’ve gone from being a skinny teen – going from 130 pounds on my first day at high school to 140 pounds by the end of it – to shooting all the way up to 205 pounds in my third year of college, after I’ve quit smoking and started spending more time at homes with books, all the way back down to a relatively lean 165 pounds, packing on a bit more muscle.
It’s been one hell of a journey, and I still need a lot more work to reach my initial goal of settling at a lean and muscular 170. I’m telling you all this because I want you to know that I understand just how different weight loss goals can be for people, and that some require drastic measures to achieve. Right now I’m all about taking things slowly, but back when I shot past 200 pounds, I knew I needed to jump start the whole process and get some serious results within 3-4 months.
With a lot of sacrifices and a strict regime I managed to lose 13 pounds in little over a month (some of it being water weight), and then I slowed things down a bit and shed the other 22 pounds of extra flab (and a bit of muscle I must admit) in about 6 months. Those fast results at the beginning really help keep you motivated, but there are a lot of things to consider if you want to pull it of effectively.
1. Forget about rewards and cheating, your reward is getting fit
If you are going to take the plunge and start a training regime that allows you to lose weight fast, you are going to need to develop the right mindset. Losing a solid 10-15 pounds of fat over the course of 4-6 months can be done at a slow and steady pace, with enough wiggle room to make you feel comfortable. However, if you want to get the same results in 6 weeks, you need to be prepared to make huge sacrifices and be fairly uncomfortable for a while.
You mustn’t reward yourself with a big bowl of ice cream after a week of successful dieting, or make Sundays your fast food days because eat will slow down your progress. Think about what you will achieve if you stick to the program rigorously, and let that sexy reflection in the mirror be your reward and motivation.
2. Don’t set arbitrary limitations, just count your calories and protein intake
While simple little lifestyle changes can be enough to put you in a 300-400 calorie deficit every day, it will take forever to lose a significant amount of weight this way. Switching to diet soda, replacing one daily junk food meal with a big salad, not eating past 7pm, walking an hour a day and doing 10 minutes of jumping jacks in the morning are all great strategies for someone who has trouble with those stubborn last 10 pounds of fat, but for fast results you need a huge deficit.
You’ll need a deficit of over 25% of your total maintenance level calories for rapid results, and this means being careful about counting everything. By simply using smaller plates and cutting your serving size by about a third, you can guesstimate, but it’s best to tack calories a bit more precisely. You want to make sure that a large portion of these calories come in the form of protein, in order to avoid losing large amounts of muscle mass along with the fat. You need at least 1.6g of protein per kg of body weight, but preferably closer to 2g per kg, or around 1g per pound, when on a severely restrictive diet.
3. Take care of your gut
Our gut flora features a huge number of bacteria, and most of them are actually useful. They help us digest food and keep our stomachs healthy, but there are also other types of bacteria that can have a negative effect on our health. The balance of these bacteria can also determine whether we have a hard time losing weight or not. It is important to make sure that your diet not only consists of nutritious food, but that you are also taking in a good amount of healthy probiotics with your meals. With your gut working like a well-oiled machine you will be able to lose weight a bit more quickly – you won’t burn twice as many calories, but you will definitely notice an improvement over the course of several weeks.
4. Train for maximal strength, but don’t overdo it
You absolutely have to do strength training, preferably using heavy barbell and dumbbell exercises. If your don’t have access to a gym, do bodyweight exercises and slap on a heavy backpack to add resistance or do more challenging variations as you get stronger. The goal is to tell your body, in no uncertain terms, that you need all those muscles on a regular basis, so that it burns mostly fat. The idea of doing high reps to “get cut” or “tone” the muscles, e.g. 15-25 repetitions per set, is a huge fallacy – the muscles can either grow or get smaller, and the amount of fat they are buried under determines how well you can actually see the muscles.
However, you should only do enough work to stimulate the muscles and then leave, as you simply won’t have enough energy to recover properly from a hard workout, nor the calories to actually grow the muscles further. The goal is to preserve muscle mass and pump up your metabolism, so two full-body training sessions a week, or doing fewer overall sets are the preferred strategy here.
5. Keep moving, jumping and running
It is possible to maintain a big calorie deficit purely through diet, but it is much easier and healthier to burn as much as you can through cardio training. If you need to cut 1000 calories, it’s best to ensure that you burn through about 300-400 with training, so that you’ll only need to cut another 600-700 calories from your diet.
Daily walks, taking the stairs and cleaning the house are great low intensity activities, while jumping rope, running, aerobics and martial arts type training are good moderate intensity activities. You can find something fun that challenges you and allows you to gauge your progress more clearly, but just keep moving your body.
6. Drink plenty of water before meals, and snack on fruit and vegetables
A nice little dirty tip is to drink a couple of glasses of water some 20-30 minutes before each meal, so that your stomach fills up and you can’t eat as much. A glass of water is also a great way to suppress feelings of hunger, but if you really feel like devouring an entire pizza, then eat a couple of apples, a few carrots or a simple salad. The dietary fibre will help keep the hunger away, and these “snacks” won’t have many calories.
7. Throw out all tempting junk food out of the house
This is an incredibly important piece of wisdom that you need to start utilizing right now – you can’t be tempted to reach for a soda bottle from the fridge, if the only thing you have in the fridge are veggies, lean meat and other low-calorie healthy foods. You’ll need to purge your house of all snacks, sodas and junk food from day one, and fill the fridge and cupboards up with healthy diet-friendly options.
8. Always have quick and simple food options readily available
Recommending that you always have enough ingredients to prepare a meal in about 2 minutes may seem counter-intuitive when it comes to weight loss, but there’s a method to the madness. You see, the main problem with healthy food is that you need to prepare it yourself, which takes time. Sure, you can prepare it in advance and keep it in a plastic container, but sooner or later you will be tempted to just make a sandwich or order takeout.
If you have some pre-cooked chicken breast, oatmeal and frozen fruit, a potato you can bake in the microwave or pre-cut veggies mixed in a bowl, then you can prepare a snack in a couple of minutes and quench that hunger before it gets out of control. Even a few bites can be enough to calm you down and help you fight the urge to raid a fast food joint.
9. Remember to stabilize at a sustainable maintenance diet
These are all very important tips for cutting lots of fat quickly, but you have to remember that such extreme diets aren’t sustainable in the long run, and that you can’t simply go back to your old eating habits after those initial 2-3 months of rapid weight loss. Once you’ve reached the initial goal, it’s time to buckle down, calculate maintenance calories, find a balance between healthy eating and junk meals – 80-90% healthy and 10-20% junk food is the best solution – and reinforce your new habits.
If you want to lose weight fast, these tips will help get you to your goal with the least amount of hassle, but understand that you can’t just get the body you’ve wanted and then kick back and relax. Long term fitness is about putting in the work every week and pacing yourself, and this requires lots of little lifestyle changes, but jump starting your weight loss with something a bit more extreme can be both healthy and motivating if done correctly.