You’ve heard it before – successful weight loss is not about dieting, it’s about making lifestyle changes. It’s easy to say, but where do you start? Here’s my list of ten steps to jump start your new fit lifestyle.
Step 1 – Calculate and record your starting points – BMI, daily caloric intake and measurements.
The first step to losing weight is to identify your starting point. It’s not enough to simply stand on a scale and record your starting weight – you should also calculate your BMI, daily caloric intake and record a couple of body measurements.
Calculate your BMI.
BMI (Body mass index) is a fairly hotly debated metric, but still commonly used to roughly determine how overweight a person is based on height and weight. BMI is not meant to be an accurate measurement of fat or muscle, but rather a calculation of a person’s overall body mass used for statistical comparison against a BMI chart based on World Health Organization data. Although BMI isn’t meant to be an accurate measurement, it’s still important to know, as it gives a rough indication of how overweight you are. While the math is fairly easy to calculate, there are calculators like the one hosted at American Cancer Society’s site that quickly calculate your BMI and list a legend for comparison. For example, here’s my BMI:
It bears repeating – calculating your BMI is simply a matter of comparing your statistics to those of millions of other people. Falling in the obese category does not necessarily mean you are obese, it simply means that comparing your height and weight to millions of other people who have been observed, you have a statistical probability of being obese. Before labelling yourself as obese and attempting aggressive weight loss methods, see a doctor – he or she can properly assess your body fat percentage and other factors to help determine your best weight loss strategy.
Calculate daily caloric intake.
Losing weight is all about the balance between calorie consumption and calorie expenditure. At the most basic level, weight loss is simply enforcing a daily calorie deficit – calculate how many calories per day your body needs to maintain its current weight, then shave off roughly 1000 through combined diet change and exercise. A 1000 calorie-per-day reduction should result in roughly 2lbs/week weight loss, which is what I’ve heard from doctors and nutritionists as a safe rate – any more can lead to health complications and putting your body in starvation mode. I’ve also heard less than 1400/day is flirting with unhealthiness. As always, seek advice from a medical professional for questions or concerns you may have, or complications you experience.
Luckily, calculating your daily caloric intake is also simple – the American Cancer Society also hosts a calorie calculator. For example, here’s my calculation, showing I should limit my caloric balance to roughly 1850/day:
Of course, how you choose to spend your calories is just as important as knowing your daily balance. We’ll talk about that later in the series.
- Record body measurements.
Maintaining a positive attitude is an important key aspect of successfully making lifestyle changes. For me, it was like a friend had died and I was in mourning – I no longer had food to turn to for consolation and emotional support. Watching the numbers roll down on the scale didn’t help maintain a positive attitude, so I turned elsewhere – my own body.
I kept track of my measurements in certain areas, like my waist, hips, elbows, upper arms and thighs. As my waist size changed, I rewarded myself with new clothes (although, as I talked about previously, I did so in a frugal manner) instead of rewarding myself with a food-related treat. Also, I took a picture at the beginning of your weight loss and store it away – I didn’t personally use my picture for motivation during weight-loss, but it serves as a powerful reminder for what happens if I slip back into old habits.
Some other measurements might prove motivational as well. For instance, one of the final reasons I got serious about weight loss was my cholesterol – it was high enough my doctor decided I needed to take medication. Tracking some medical data, like cholesterol and resting glucose levels, proved to be just as motivational and positively reinforcing as the weight-loss itself.
So we’ve got a good starting point – a beginning weight, starting BMI, some body measurements and perhaps some medical data. Next, we need to set some goals.