I know first hand how difficult it is to lose weight.
No matter how determined and willing you are to get the pounds off, it's hard.
To top it off, countless pieces of weight loss advice and myths floating around, it's almost impossible not to start off your weight loss journey feeling baffled.
- Am I overweight or am I obese?
- Which weight loss diet is good for me?
- What workouts are best for weight loss?
- Should I do cardio or weight training to lose weight?
Too many questions, not enough straight answers.
All you want is something that works and can actually fasten your weight loss without stepping into weight loss danger zones like a starvation diet and fad diet.
I get it.
I've been there myself.
I was never the skinny type (or ectomorph), but I also never felt too concerned of my weight growing up.
But that completely changed when I entered college.
My first year in college, I gained a lot of weight (probably somewhere between 15-20 pounds). (For those you don't know me in person, I'm 5'. For a smaller size gal, 15-pound weight gain can most certainly look like 30-40 lb weight gain for an average or taller size woman.)
For the first time, that thought Am I overweight? crept in.
Well, it was actually worse.
There was a definite certainly that I was overweight. Clothes no longer fit. My energy was low. And most importantly, I felt unhealthy.
I embarked on a weight loss journey with any diet info I could find.
And oh I tried so many diets and exercise programs.
Despite my efforts, nothing never really worked, and I almost gave up.
Thankfully I didn't, and I eventually did lose weight, all 20 pounds and more!
What's the secret to my 20 pounds weight loss?
I'd say, focusing all your efforts on what's proven, effective and safe.
But I know you need something more concrete than that.
So here it is.
Here are the 5 things I did that lead me to lose 20 pounds and keep it off (even after pregnancy 5 years ago).
With further adieu, here are my top 5 tips to lose 20 pounds.
1. Eat Healthy Foods
When it comes to losing weight, there is one rule that's absolute and non-negotiable.
You cannot outrun your bad diet.
It's very very hard to undo bad eating habits. Not to mention, it shows way too easily.
It shows in your waist, scale and just about everywhere you can see and feel.
For those who think an extra long cardio session can erase your bad diet, think again.
First, it's far easier to clean up your eating than squeezing one more gym day, when you are already dragging your feet to the gym twice a week.
Two, even if you successfully manage to add an extra workout a week, burning 500 calories extra still isn't going to cover all the unhealthy food choices you made all week.
1 McDonald burger can be anywhere from 530-750 calories and 1 oz bag of potato chips is 1,217 calories.
I don't know what your current eating habits are like, but if you consume these items even once a week, you can quickly see how those extra, unnecessary calories can creep in and stay without getting fully burned off.
I hope you can see my point here.
I cannot stress enough how healthy eating is important to weight loss.
It's the foundation of weight loss and optimum health.
In fact, if you get this right, you can actually ignore the rest of the things on this list and still lose weight.
That's how powerful and influential your eating is to your weight.
So when you eat, think about this.
Eat for the body you want.
So what's exactly healthy eating? and Is it necessary that you go on a diet?
Healthy eating is simply eating to nourish your body and satisfy its nutritional needs.
This means satisfying all three macronutrients (protein, carbs and fats) with wholesome foods that are highly nutritional.
For protein, salmon, tuna, snapper, chicken, turkey, beef and egg are all great sources of protein given that seafood is wild, not farmed and meats and poultry are organic, without hormones and other chemical injections.
Fats are the most confusing ones. And by many, they are perceived as troublesome.
But the truth is, not all fats are bad.
There are healthy fats (good fats) and unhealthy fats (bad fats).
Fish oils and omega 3 fatty acids are also super healthy and beneficial to your health.
In fact, omega 3 fatty acids are considered essential fats for your bodily functions and development. Some may even argue, insufficient dose of omega-3 fish oils are damaging to your body.
While bad fats including trans fats should be avoided, a fair amount of good fats is encouraged.
If you are not sure what's considered good fat and bad fat, grab a list of "healthy fats and unhealthy fats" for your reference.
Back to your healthy eating, compose your meals and snacks with these nutrient dense foods.
They not only help keep you satisfied for longer but also balance your blood sugar and suppress hunger, causing you to eat less.
If I believe in any diet, then eating wholesome, nutritious foods is it.
To be more transparent, my definition of clean and healthy diet generously includes all food sources that satisfy all three macronutrients.
Which means, healthy grains like spelt, wild or black rice and legumes like lentils and beans are acceptable in the way I eat.
What's off limit is processed food.
This means I don't eat any TV dinners, most packaged snacks, frozen pizzas, pre-made pie sheets, pre-made meals at a grocery store whether they are frozen or made at the store, and most pastries and bread.
They often contain low-quality ingredients with very little or no nutritional value, are loaded with sugar and bad, unhealthy fats that raise your cholesterol and blood pressure. They tend to be also high in calories.
With that being said, there are other variations of clean diets, and I encourage you to look into those as well to make the most informed decision you can make.
Diets like Paleo and Whole 30 are two well-known that focus on the cleanliness of your food choices rather than other metrics.
Each dietary discipline comes its set of allowed and not-allowed foods and other rules to follow.
If you are not sure, consult with your physician, dietitian and/or nutritionist to find what's best for your body, health and weight loss goal.
Whichever clean and healthy eating method you follow, the easiest way to change your eating is to change what's in your fridge.
In other words, it starts with your grocery shopping.
To simplify, we put together a healthy grocery list full of amazing and delicious foods to get started. Grab this list, and go grocery shopping and start eating for the body you want.
Clean up your eating.Throw away any junk food and avoid any processed food. Instead, get wholesome produce, invest in quality protein and eat healthy oils. And one last tip: cook meals at home.
According to John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Research, "people who frequently cook meals at home eat healthier and consume fewer calories than those who cook less, according to new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research."
How about calorie counting?
There is so much controversy regarding calorie counting, and both sides have good arguments.
In my opinion, calories still matter.
No matter how healthy your diet is, if you consume an excessive amount of calories without burning them off, you will gain weight.
With that being said, it's also true that the more unhealthy your eating is, more calorie counting matters.
The cleaner your eating gets, less need for calorie counting.
It's simply because unhealthy foods tend to contain more calories than wholesome foods.
To make sure you are off to the good start, I recommend counting calories to lose weight, at least in the beginning.
As for how many calories to eat in a day to lose 20 pounds, the right daily calorie intake depends on your height and the current weight.
Whatever your calorie requirement is, never consume less than 1,200 calories per day.
Doing so will put your body into starvation mode and will cause weight loss to stall.
The most popular line I hear from my readers about exercise is this "I don't have time to exercise."
You are most certainly right.
In fact, you will never find time to exercise.
You must make time to exercise, as in you must make time to pick up your child at school.
The best time to do this is within 20 to 30 minutes of you waking up.
If you have to, set your alarm to go off a little earlier than normal.
If you wait until the end of the day, you will be tired and more likely to skip a workout.
So make your first 20 minutes your workout time.
If you can, squeeze your sweat session in before breakfast and shower.
First, it gives you a reason to shower.
Two, it feels good to get it out the way before your day gets chaotic.
Three, there may be a slight advantage in working out in a fasted state. According to International Sports Sciences Association or ISSA, working out in a fasted state leads to a "greater fat loss" for individuals with sufficient fat to burn.
So now that you are ready to make the time to workout, what workouts should you do to lose over 20 pounds?
Should I do cardio or weight training?
The answer is both.
Cardio burns more calories when weight training tones you up and get you in shape by building lean muscle tone. More about cadio in the next section!
For weight training, according to Glenn Kent, Ph.D., for the best workout possible, train more than one body part at a time.
Hitting multiple, larger muscles at a time helps you burn more calories than smaller, isolated muscles.
To get you started, here are a few best full-body workouts perfectly suited for weight loss.
- Bodyweight workout for the complete beginner
- 7 Minute Workout Challenge
- 20 Minute full body dumbbell workout routine
You need to burn calories to lose weight, and exercise is the best form of calorie burner.
Now that we have weight training covered, let's move on to cardio.
3. Cardio (Aerobic)
Do your aerobic.
Yes, cardio is the most important form of exercise when it comes to losing weight.
According to a study done by Duke University, cardio exercise burns 67 percent more calories than weight training.
If you're trying to lose weight and slim down, try to aim 3 days of cardio sessions per week and 2 days of strength training workouts.
Just know that aside from burning excess calories, you'll also be increasing your heart strength and lungs by doing cardio.
An hour of jogging burns roughly 584 calories in a 160-lb. individual, while it burns around 728 calories per hour in a 200-lb. person, according to LiveStrong.com
Here are a few cardio workouts programs you can start for your weight loss:
- 20-Minute Treadmill Cardio Workout
- 30-Minute Treadmill Cardio Workout
- 24-Minute Treadmill Cardio Workout
4. Weight Loss Supplements
Michael B. Zemel, PhD, director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, states that vitamin D is one of the most useful supplements available when it comes to weight loss.
When vitamin D levels are low, it triggers the body to convert sugar into fat instead of burning it as fuel.
Keeping your levels of vitamin D at normal levels will prevent this and lead to easier weight loss.
Several other studies published in the International Journal of Obesity and the Journal of Nutrition show that conjugated Linoleic Acid acid (Linoleic Acid) supplements can help increase fat burn and build lean muscle.
Linoleic Acid (CLA) is a fatty acid that helps your body convert food into energy without it being stored as fat.
There are also other nutrient and vitamin supplements such as fish oil are said to aid fat burn and weight loss.
5. Reduce Stress
A recent article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association revealed that an excessive amount of stress not only triggers overeating, but also releases a hormone called cortisol that increases the amount of fat stored in the abdominal area.
Practicing stress reduction techniques such as meditation and yoga can lower your stress levels and make your weight loss endeavor easier.
Meditation can be as simple as sitting in a quiet place with your eyes closed. Breathe deeply and exhale slowly.
Do this for only 5 minutes per day, and you will begin to see a change in both your stress levels and your waistline.
One last thought on reducing stress.
Contrary to popular belief, all your stress reduction efforts don't have to come from the after-the-effect.
Starting your day right with a few minutes of Yoga in the morning and meditating on good, positive and powerful thoughts can help safeguard your energy for the rest of the day.
It is just as important to distress and to prevent overloading stress.
Sources: Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, International Journal of Obesity, Journal of Nutrition, Journal of the American Dietetic Association