DISCLAIMER: If you've been in an ongoing battle with weight gain, involving many failed attempts at diets, exercise routines, or even medical consult-we have the utmost respect for your journey-but this article really isn't for you. If you're younger, have never "watched what you ate" and have just started to naturally gain weight - this article is exactly for your lifestyle.
Most of us grow up without much care for dietary or exercise regiments. Sure, Mom made you eat your vegetables, and gym class was fun - buy the average American adolescent didn't have to think especially hard about how to stay fit. As your body ages, your metabolism naturally slows down. As a result, most young adults who don't respect a regular diet and exercise routine tend to gain anywhere from 10 - 25 Lbs. in their early to mid 20s; even if they aren't increasing their food intake, or decreasing their physical activity. Yikes! The good news is you don't have to be a health "guru" or participate in some "extreme health fad" to make simple changes that will reign in the weight gain caused by your slowing metabolism. If you aren't already following these simple steps, you might find yourself dropping 5 - 10 Lbs. pretty darn quickly (probably within about two to three weeks!)
Step 1: Portion Control
Without even delving into the food pyramid or talking about what you eat - you'll benefit tremendously from understanding what real portion control really is. While every human body is different, and needs vary - for the "Average" adult, you can determine how big your 3 daily meals should be based on the following simple rule:
Take both of your hands and make them into tight fists. Place your closed fists next to each other, and mentally disappear one half of one of your fists. This 1.5 fist estimate is how much food you should eat in one meal. So again, while you can probably make some common sense decisions on what healthy food is vs. junk food - this is how much food you should be eating in a day - particularly if you're not running marathons. It's a lot less than you thought, huh? Well, you'll find that after two or three days, you're not missing the larger portions that much - and you'll even have more energy. It's amazing how much less food we need in our system to fuel us daily. Take this basic portion control step, and you'll notice your stomach slimming down in a matter of days.
Step 2: Meal Timing
Your metabolism isn't a constant - it directly related to the amount of activity your body is experiencing during the day. So, even if you eliminate exercise from the equation altogether, you can guarantee to burn the least calories at night while you sleep. Being that it takes several hours to digest food, even while awake-the worst time to eat food is late at night, directly before you go to bed. This will guarantee that the absolute maximum amount of the calories in the food is absorbed and stored, without being burned off as it should be. Rule of thumb: eat your final meal of the day at least 2 hours before going to sleep! We all know it's nice to snack on some pizza and pass out - but that's the opposite of what will make you lost weight.
As a secondary note to meal timing, if you do find yourself breaking your portion control rules, breakfast is the absolute best time to do this. You have the most time throughout the day to burn off calories, and whatever you ate that you shouldn't have has the best chance of getting consumed normally without causing weight gain.
Step 3: Exercise
Okay folks - this is the dreaded category you don't want to think about. You're probably envisioning hours of mind numbing steps on a treadmill, or seemingly endless miles on a stationary bike. However, the truth is - if you implement the previous two steps, you don't have to exercise that much to lose weight! You do have to move though. "Move" you say - "I'm not a statue, I move all the time!" The fact is, most professionals live what doctors call a "sedentary lifestyle". Ask yourself, how many steps do you even take in a day? Bed to Kitchen, to car, to desk, to bathroom, to car, to bed - that barely counts as movement (as far as biology is concerned.) Major medical experts advise 30 minutes of exercise per day to maintain normal health. This is consistent rigorous movement. FYI folks, this doesn't even have to be P90x or some other extreme workout, simple jogging or even waking will do (FYI, you burn the same amount of calories walking a mile as running it.) In all reality, you can even get away with exercising only three to four days per week, and you will see results. Print a calendar if necessary to help you track your exercise days.
Step 4: Miscellaneous Health Impact
Aside from diet and exercise, there are a few other main factors that will help you lost weight. When you can augment these on a daily basis, they are kind of the "icing on the cake" to improving your body:
- Sleep: again, doctors recommend 8 hours. Few Americans get that many hours of sleep, but ask yourself - are you even bagging 6 per night? Start sleeping enough and your body will thank you in ways you can't imagine.
- Water: 8 glasses per day is the recommendation, and you probably don't really realize how many you're having or not. You may think "but I don't feel thirsty?" Well, juice and vitamin drinks don't count - and you can forget about soda and energy drinks. A great tactic is keeping a water bottle at your desk. Constant sipping keeps your subconscious busy while you work, and getting up to pee is an excuse to stretch your legs. Staying hydrated always helps trim pounds.
- Stress: taming stress is like catching lightning in a bottle-but if you can identify stress sources in your life, and try to reduce them - it's been proven to help lose weight. Your body just prefers not to be stressed!
That's it folks - it's not Atkins, or vitamins, or workout fads - it's just common sense: tweak the defining factors in your body's metabolism, and most of us can lose 5 - 10 Lbs. in a matter of weeks!