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Dana submitted:  Height: 5’4” Starting weight: 157 lbs Ending…

Dana submitted: 

 Height: 5’4”

Starting weight: 157 lbs

Ending weight: 134.2 lbs

Weight lost: 22.8 lbs

Total time: 366 days (June 22nd 2016 to June 20th 2017)

Strategy: To start, I’m a realist. I’ve tried a lot of gimmicky diets in the past, but it took swallowing some hard truths before I eventually learned that nothing in life is really magic. If it seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t. That is especially true in the world of fat loss. The truth is, it’s really not as complicated as people’s struggles with it and 1000+ ways of going about it would have you believe. What it comes down to is: 1) maintain a large enough caloric deficit for enough time for your body to burn the fat you want it to burn. 2) Do step 1 in a way that is sustainable for you, and wherever possible, don’t do things you hate. The good news, is that everyone (yes, everyone) can do it. All it takes is setting a realistic goal, taking it one day at a time, and being real with yourself, adjusting your behavior as needed. The bad news is that it’s really hard, because your body hates losing fat every bit as much as you want to be less fat. That means you are often, essentially fighting yourself. However, as someone who has never successfully lost and kept off fat before this year, and who never really believed long term fat loss was going to happen, I am here to promise you, you can do it. However, I also promise you that it won’t happen by magic.

Specifics: I used the Lose it! app to track my calories and weight loss progress, although any weight loss app that allows you to track calories and weight will work. The graph below my pictures shows what my weight loss looked like in more detail. I started out eating a NET 1600 calories a day, about 500 calories below my maintenance level, and by the end was eating a net 1500 calories a day (since once you lose weight, your maintenance level changes as well). By “net” calories, I mean that if I worked out and burned 200 calories, my new limit for that day would be 1700 (1700-200 = 1500). Lose it! makes doing this easy, since it automatically subtracts any exercise calories you enter from your calories consumed.

Sustainable weight loss does not happen in a week, or two weeks, or six (unlike what many weight loss programs would have you believe). It takes months of starting once again every time you fail, taking two steps forward and one step back. However, successfully losing weight requires having a plan that is sustainable over indefinite periods of time. In other words, if you can’t see yourself doing whatever it is you are doing now for the forseeable future, then ask yourself: what happens when your program ends? What happens when you stop dieting?

My advice to those of you who want to lose weight: net calories (however many your body burns and however many you consume) is the only direct cause of fat loss. Other diets can be successful by indirectly leading to a caloric deficit, leading your body to burn fat (and some muscle) for fuel. However, the most direct path, caloric control, will always be the most powerful way for you to control your own progress.

Here are my tips:

1. Put yourself in charge of your caloric deficit. Think of it as a literal budget, where every calorie is a dollar and your weekly limit (daily limit x7) is your weekly spending budget. Act as if you don’t HAVE any other dollars to spend, so whatever you decide to eat must fit within that limit.

2. Remember: Maintaining a large enough caloric deficit over a large enough period of time is the ONLY direct way to lose fat. Every other weight loss strategy you see out there only succeeds by virtue of this fact – by virtue of indirectly causing a deficit to happen (e.g. by making you go to the gym more, having you eat more vegetables, which are low in calories, drinking more water, etc.) Therefore, I find that directly controlling calories in and calories out is the most powerful way of controlling your own fat loss progress. So: however else you go about your fat loss strategy, protect your deficit. If that deficit goes away, your hard-won progress will stop. And, if you get cocky and you go too far in the other direction, either accidentally or intentionally creating a caloric surplus, you’ll undo progress. It happened to me at least four or five times over the past year, where I accidentally was counting my exercise calories twice, or underestimating the amount of calories I was eating. If that happens to you, it’s okay. Just be honest with yourself. If you fall down, brush yourself off and get back up again.

3. Measure food by weight where possible (it is much more reliable than eyeballing with a measuring cup). Use apps like Lose it! which has nutrient / calorie information for hundreds of thousands of foods, and lets you scan barcodes with your phone directly. Make life easier on yourself wherever possible.

4. Weigh yourself consistently—hold yourself accountable to your average weekly weight, as evidence of whether or not your actions are working. If you aren’t happy with your weight loss progress after three weeks, one of three things is happening: you are eating more than you think you are. You are burning less than you think you are. Or your personal deficit (in – out) needs to be larger than you think it does, in order to get the rate of progress that you want.

5. Have reasonable expectations about your rate of weight loss. You will not burn 50 pounds of fat in two months. That is simply unsustainable. If you make your daily calorie deficit too ambitious, you’ll get hungry, your body and brain will trick you into thinking that you are starving (even though you likely aren’t, barring a food disorder), and you WILL sabotage yourself. Remember, your brain runs on food, too, so if you starve it, you will get stupid, and you need to stay smart to get lean. A 250-500 calorie deficit a day is what worked best for me, and is what I personally recommend for someone of my weight. However, exact caloric deficits should be based on percent body weight. I highly recommend the advice over at aweightlossroutine.

6. If you have a binge day, RECORD IT ANYWAY. Don’t let yourself think “Oh, well, it was a party/feast/holiday/binge day and I know I ate a ton, so tracking is just going to make me depressed. What will knowing how badly I went over my daily limit help me?” Actually, it will help you a lot, for at least two reasons. One, it will give you a ton of data about which foods tend to send you over while partying (perhaps alcohol? Cheesy dips?) so that next time you can limit those and only those foods which are most calorically dense (limit—don’t eliminate! Eating calorie dense foods strategically is one of the most important tools in my arsenal for making my own personal weight loss work). Two, tracking binge days will tell you exactly HOW many calories you’ve eliminated from your precious long-term caloric deficit, which you’ve been building over a period of weeks and months. Calculate how much less you’ll have to eat over the next week to get a sense of how that day impacted the rest of your progress (so if you ate over your limit by 400 calories, you’ll need to eat roughly 60 calories less a day for the next week to make up for it. Alternatively, you’ll need to eat 100 fewer calories a day for four out of the seven, etc. etc.)

See more Before and After weight loss pictures  or  SUBMIT yours.

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