How to lose weight and not gain it back

Dropping five kilos with a crash diet for your upcoming date sounds like a good idea – but it’s not! Everyone loves a quick fix (particularly when it comes to shedding weight). But, quick weight loss is bad for your health and it’s also unsustainable.

Slow and steady wins the race

Implementing drastic changes makes you feel good because it gives you hope and a sense of achievement. In the long run though, if your goals are too radical, you won’t be able to keep up. You might get to a point where you revert to bad habits.

For example, if you cut out all the junk food you love in one go, you’re bound to binge eventually. This is called “counter-regulatory eating” which happens if you severely restrict yourself. It creates an all-or-nothing mindset where all is well only if you’re following the rules.

And if you break one rule, you adopt a “What the heck!?” attitude and break them all. This takes you right back to where you started.

Why crash diets fail you

Losing weight rapidly comes with various health risks including nausea, fatigue and an upset stomach. It also increases your risk of rebound weight gain. Here are some of the main factors to consider, before you sign-up for the next ‘6 weeks to slim’ diet:

1. You’re probably not just losing fat

A healthy rate of weight loss means dropping between a half to one kilo per week. If you lose more, you might burn water or muscle because your body finds it difficult to burn large numbers of fat calories in a short amount of time.

2. Your fluids become unbalanced

Electrolytes are chemicals that help your muscles contract and helps your heart beat properly. When you lose weight too fast, most of it is water. Losing too much water weight disrupts the balance of electrolytes, like minerals. This wreaks havoc on your body because it won’t have the electrolytes needed to function properly.

3. There are side-effects

In some cases, losing weight too quickly causes dehydration, gallstones, malnutrition and an imbalance of electrolytes. Headaches, constipation, dizziness, irregular periods, muscle and hair loss and fatigue are other possible consequences.

4. Your metabolism dips

Rapid weight loss kicks your body kick into survival mode. This also means some of your body’s systems, including your metabolism slow down to use less energy. A slow metabolism burns fewer calories a day and makes it easier for you to gain weight while eating less food.

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How to lose weight steadily and healthily

Research by Drexel University found that people whose weight fluctuated in the first few months of trying to lose weight, lost less weight in the long run, compared to those with consistent week-by-week progress. Here’s how to lose weight and keep it off.

1. Set a realistic goal

Don’t pressure yourself to lose 20 kilos a month. A good rule of thumb is to try and lose five to 10% of your body weight over six months and between half a kilo and one kilo a week. Aim for steady weight loss.

2. Get real

Stop aiming for perfection and go for sustainable and manageable instead. The 80/20 rule is a good place to start. About 80% of the food in your diet comes from whole foods and the leftover 20% can be treats. This works well because you aren’t depriving yourself of any food, so it’s easy to maintain. You can eat your fruits and veggies and have a small slice of cake too. Try the 90/10 rule once you’re comfortable.

3. Keep it simple

From Banting to intermittent fasting, search “weight loss plans” on the Internet and you’ll be overwhelmed with options. And when you’re overwhelmed, you’re likely to throw in the towel. Don’t overthink your weight loss journey. Research, pick a plan and try to stick with it. If you aren’t happy, change it. Ask a dietician, doctor or a personal trainer for help when you’re starting.

4. Write it down

When you commit something to paper, you’re holding yourself accountable. Every day, write down whatever you’ve eaten, including snacks and drinks. Also include the amount and kind of exercises you’ve done for the day. You’ll be surprised to find how unplanned treats or sugary drinks have crept their way into your diet. This also helps you to find and eliminate those habits that could be holding you back. You don’t have to do this forever. Doing it at when you start out will help you identify your weight loss wreckers.

5. Get moving

Your diet alone won’t help you lose weight. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. For example, brisk walking. When you’re starting out, don’t push yourself to do it all in one go. Start with three sets of 10-minute workouts each day.

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