A few weeks ago, my closest and childhood friend, Julie reached out to me because she stepped on her bathroom scale and was shocked by what she saw.
Somehow, she had managed to add 20 lbs of pure fat to her originally slim frame. And when she looked herself in the mirror and the number on the scale, she saw an overweight self.
She didn't like it.
She knew she needed to make a change, fast.
She wanted to know if I knew or heard anything about the military diet since she'd tried other weight loss diets in the past and had no success.
This time, she wanted to be sure she can lose weight following the military diet plan.
Since time is scarce for Julie, working long hours as a registered nurse, she simply wanted a diet plan that's not too demanding or time-consuming.
This meant meal prepping and cooking needed to be very limited.
Julie heard about the 3 day military diet plan from a co-worker who recently lost close to 10 pounds within three days of following the meal plan, and Julie was intrigued by the quick weight loss results.
The 3 day military diet sounds very enticing especially for people like my friend Julie who's looking to lose weight quickly because the diet promises a 10 lbs or 4.5kg weight loss in just one week.
As for me, I've only heard rumors the 3 day diet is a "crash diet." In the dieting scene, it usually means it's a diet that offers a short-term fix rather than a sustainable, long-term fix.
For the military diet, it lacks important nutrients, and contain too few calories to be considered a healthy weight loss diet.
So instead, I advised my friend, Julie, to do the following if she really wants to lose the 20 pounds and keep it off permanently.
1. Set a Clear Goal to Lose Weight
Setting a goal to lose 20 pounds is great, but if you can't adjust your lifestyle to support your goal, you'll never reach the goal weight.
Doesn't matter how committed you are to this goal, if you don't set up an environment to support your journey, no willpower or motivation will get you there.
So I told my friend, Joe, he needs to change his environment going forward.
2. Get a Journal
Get a journal to write things down. This will come handy in keeping yourself accountable.
Many people underestimate how much food they eat throughout the day.
A food journal will hopefully help you remember and keep track of what you ate. It can also help you eat better by making you more cautious about what you are eating.
In fact, according to a study from Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research, those who keep a food diary double their weight loss.
3. Track Your Daily Calorie Intake
While calories don't tell you everything, you need a calorie deficit to lose weight.
That's a fact.
A calorie deficit means more energy leaving the body than entering it.
And one simple way to make sure of that is to budget your calories and track the intake.
For that, you can use a calorie app like MyfitnessPal or other apps that count and track calories.
Even people who eat healthily often eat too many calories and have a hard time losing weight.
An easy fix like using a calorie counting app can help you manage your intake.
4. Clean Your Fridge
You eating can be as clean as your food supply.
This is what I mean when I say calories don't tell you everything. Some foods are more nutritious than others even though they contain the same amount of calories.
One way to set yourself for success is to get rid of all the items in the fridge that don't support your new weight loss goal.
That includes soda, fruit juice, cookies and frozen pizza, and almost anything and everything that's processed.
Replace them with fresh fruits, Greek yogurt, hummus, veggies, and all of the other good stuff!
This will make it easier for you to eat foods that support your health goal.
5. Do Your Weekly Meal Planning
Meal plannings help with your daily cooking whether its breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
It is the plan you make before you go grocery shopping.
For example, if you're planning on making salmon and kale on Monday and quinoa broccoli and chicken for dinner for Tuesday, your grocery shopping will include those foods.
This is especially helpful in keeping track of your calorie intakes.
It will help you stay organized in your eating and only eat foods or meals that are in your plan.
That way, you can be sure you're not only eating fewer calories, but also nutritious foods that nourish your body and health.
If you plan your meals ahead of time, you can ensure that those weight loss friendly foods are always included in your plan.
Small decisions like eating a high-protein breakfast each day can result in big-time weight loss.
6. Drink A Lot of Water
Breaking your fast with water in the morning is a great way to kick-start the day.
That's because drinking water can enhance your weight loss in a few ways.
One, water increases your calorie burn after an hour of drinking.
In one study, an average of 30% increase in the metabolic rate was seen after drinking 500ml of water (5).
In another study, overweight women lost extra 4.4 pounds by upping their water intake to 1 litter a day (6).
What's interesting is that there were no other changes made in their diet or exercise regimen.
Water can also help with weight loss by reducing hunger.
In one study, drinking two glasses of water half an hour before meals reduced calorie intake by 75 to 90 calories (7).
In a longer 12-week study, drinking water before every meal led to weight loss of 5 extra pounds than those who didn't.
Make a habit of drinking water every morning and before all your meals.
And if you find plain water boring, try squeezing a slice of lemon into a glass of water.
7. Squeeze in Some Cardio
Whether you're trying to lose weight or not, cardio exercise is good for your health.
But if you are trying to lose weight, cardio is the most effective exercise to burn calories, which naturally leads to a more significant weight loss.
Cardio exercises are anything from jogging, running, walking, biking and to swimming.
Here is how effective cardio really is for weight loss.
One study split 141 obese individuals into 3 groups to see how effective cardio can be at burning calories (8).
Here's the breakdown:
- Group A: 5 days per week of burning 400 calories with cardio
- Group B: 5 days per week of burning 600 calories with cardio
- Group C: No cardio exercise
Participants in group A lost on average 4% of their body weight. Group B lost a little more at 5.7%. The last group, which didn't do any exercise, gained 5% weight. The study lasted 10 months.
For permanent, long-term weight loss, up your cardio.
Create a schedule for 30 minutes of extensive cardio 5 times a week or 150 minutes of cardio per week for a more significant weight loss as recommended by The American College of Sports Medicine (9).
It also helps you maintain your weight after you reach your weight goal.
8. Add Resistance Training to Your Workout
Just because cardio is the optimum form of exercise for weight loss doesn't mean you don't need resistance training.
You need that too. In fact, you need both cardio and resistance training.
Here's the workout schedule I gave to my friend, and I recommend it to you too
- Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: 30-50 minutes of cardio
- Tuesday and Thursday: resistance training
While cardio helps you burn calories, resistance training will help you build strength.
It helps build metabolism-boosting muscles, which will help you burn calories around the clock. It simply revs up your metabolism.
Take Home Message
I know this approach to weight loss is not a quick fix as some of the popular crash diets promise, but it's sustainable and healthy.
The bottom line is that you need to fundamentally change your lifestyle to support your health goal if losing 20 pounds is a must for you.
That's it! Now go out and lose that 20 pounds for good.