This is the first week of our Biggest Loser Competition at work. Everyone that’s signed up is super excited to do what they need to do to lose weight and ultimately win the prize money. Sometimes the folks that are totally motivated and drop the most weight in the first two or three weeks lose their momentum somewhere around week four and can’t get going again. By week twelve they are no longer coming to the weigh-ins.
There’s no doubt a variety of reasons for this. Mostly it’s because once the start gun goes off and the over achievers are out of the starting gate, they begin a diet too low in calories and double up on their workouts. By week three they feel like it might not be worth it. By week four they’re starving and exhausted.
How Does The Turtle Win The Race?
The people that started out slowly, making small, yet effective changes that don’t totally turn their entire life upside-down end up getting to the goal. Forgive me for citing an old cliché: “Sometimes the turtle wins the race.” Here’s why.
Weight Loss 101
One pound is equal to 3,500 calories so to lose a pound a week you have to reduce your caloric intake by 3,500, increase your physical activity to burn that much more, or do a combination of the two. You may not be trying to win a Biggest Loser Competition, but if you want to be successful at losing that ever elusive pound a week, and get it done without upsetting your life and the lives of everyone in your path, you need to know what you’re up against.
To get started, take a step back and look at how you can 1.) Eliminate 500 calories a day from your diet, or 2.) Exercise away 500 calories a day or 3.) Reduce your calories by 250 and increase your physical activity so you burn 250 more each day.
#1 – Reduce Calories by 500 A Day
Let’s start with the first one. What are some of the foods that you eat everyday that you can live without? These may not be the big diet sabatogers like ice cream and pop that we always think of giving up first – although those should go too – but some of the foods that are labeled ‘healthy’ can be just as much of a problem because we don’t bother counting them most of the time.
Here’s a list of foods that seem innocent enough. They certainly sound healthy, but have too many calories for their nutritional value. Plus most of them are high on the Glycemic Index which means you’ll get a sugar rush followed by the inevitable fall, and wind up hungry again in an hour.
- Orange juice – 12 oz bottle – 167 calories
- Yogurt – Greek with strawberries – 140 calories
- Whole grain bagel – 340 calories
- Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars – 180 calories
- Ritz Whole Wheat Crackers (5) -70 calories
- Kashi 7 Grain Frozen Waffles – 170 calories
- Luna’s Sports Bars – Chocolate Peanut Butter (1 bar) – 190 calories
- Dried Fruit – Banana Chips – 1.5 oz = 218 calories
- Terra Chips – 1 ounce – 140 calories
- Trail Mix – 3 tbls. = 137 calories
- Sun Chips – 16 chips – 140 calories
There are plenty more. These are the foods that we really need to look at when we decide we want to lose a few pounds. We think they are lightweight and good for us, but they add up quickly throughout the day.
Last week I hit up the vending machine and ended up with a Special K Chocolate Pretzel bar which had 130 calories and not much of anything else. As soon as I ate it I realized my mistake. I was in the hole 90 cents, had consumed 130 calories and the pretzel bar hadn’t made a dent in my hunger. Thankfully I was out of change or I might have purchased something else.
#2 – Burn Off 500 Extra Calories A Day
This will require spending 45 minutes to an hour each day speed walking, jogging, biking or participating in a fitness class. Determining exactly how many calories you’re burning during exercise is tricky. The best way is to wear a heart rate monitor, but if you’re okay with an estimate, you can get a reasonable calculation at Calorie Count. Nutri Strategy has a list of activities and with estimated calorie expenditure that you can use. Keep in mind, these are not entirely accurate so just use them as a guide and, to be on the safe side, underestimate.
#3 – Combination of #1 and #2
Move more and eat less. This strategy does not entail a crash diet, require a gym membership, and will allow you to live a normal life for the most part. You can purchase an inexpensive pedometer and once you find out how many steps you take each day, set a goal to increase your steps by 3,000 daily. This should help you get to the increased calorie burn of 250.
Download a good calorie tracker and get serious about reducing your intake by 250 cals a day. My Net Diary and My Fitness Pal are two that are highly recommended. Tracking calories will encourage you to make better food choices. You’ll end up swapping the whole grain waffles and orange juice (total calories – 337) for a boiled egg, slice of whole wheat toast, and an orange (total calories – 232). Calories savie – 105! See how easy this is going to be?
After a couple of week you’ll get food smart, be in the habit of selecting more nutritional foods, and learn how some basic swaps can make a huge difference in your progress.
The ultimate goal when we set out to lose weight is to keep it off. Gaining knowledge about the calories in food, how much we burn when we walk or workout, and discovering how to balance the two in a way that we can live with, not just this week or until the competition is over, but forever is the key. There’s no need to rush the process. Take your time. Adapt the role of the turtle and win the race!