Because self-improvement comes in many forms, and none of those include restricting yourself.
If you're starting the New Year on the hunt for weight loss tips, first things first, know this: you do not need to lose weight, especially if you're trying to do so as a result of societal pressure.
For the last twenty-something years - likely longer - women, in particular, have been relentlessly pressured to lose weight, "slim down", "lose belly fat" and "snap back", and cruelly judged if they don't adhere to the (often unattainable and unrealistic) standards.
The birthplace of fad diet after fad diet, many of my early memories of the noughties include ridiculously restrictive plans painted as hero "one-fix wonders". Do you remember the Special K diet, where you ate only cereal? Or the Atkins plan which, in a nutshell, advised you to eat literally zero carbs?
Luckily, attitudes are shifting, and in the right direction, too. Health now trumps a flat stomach, and moving to feel good is 2022's key fitness headline, as opposed to working out to stay slim. Strong is beautiful, and people are realising that health comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.
That being said, if you're feeling unhappy in yourself or your body and do want to adopt a more healthy routine this year, know there is a compassionate, educated, and informed way to do so that doesn't involve restriction and certainly doesn't rid you of anything of the foods you love.
Of course, biologically there are thousands of people globally who eat well, exercise regularly, and will still, for medical conditions, be classed as "overweight". This is where things get complicated, and this article isn't for you. Rather, it's for those who don't currently lead a healthy lifestyle, are keen to adopt a more active day-to-day, and hope to lose some weight along the way.
With that in mind, we spoke to one of London's best personal trainers, Luke Worthington, to pick his brains about what works - and what doesn't.
10 weight loss tips that don't include restriction
1. Be consistent
First and most importantly: all healthy habits come back to consistency. It makes sense, right? As with everything in life, you have to do it little and often to really see improvement.
"Remember, it's about building sustainable habits, not quick fixes," shares Worthington.
Try this: a great way to maintain consistency is to write down your motivations, explains the PT. "While a goal for 2022 may be to lose weight, get stronger, or run faster, the motivation is the emotional component, so ask yourself what about that is important to you, how life will be different, and why that matters," he recommends.
Whys can include:
- Reducing your risk of illness
- Reducing pain levels
- Building your confidence
- Raising your self-esteem
- Improving your mental health
- Changing how you look
- Changing how you feel
2. Get some help
Because you're only human and you can't do it all on your own. If you're really serious about adopting some new healthy habits, enlist a trainer or nutritionist to help hold you accountable. That way, you can't skip a workout or meal prep session as they'll be on hand to encourage you.
"The best time to engage a trainer is actually at the start of your fitness journey," Worthington shares. "They'll both help you build a balanced plan and ensure you're working out safely."
Don't worry if you don't have a base level of fitness already (and our guide to how long it takes to get fit may reassure you that you'll be in shape in no time). "Thinking you need to get fit before seeing a PT is a little like saying you need to get healthy before seeing a doctor," he explains. "Trainers are there to help. The best time to build good sustainable habits is at the start - if trainers say clients aren’t "fit enough", find a new trainer," he warns.
3. Set some specific goals
Look at it this way: losing weight is actually quite an ambiguous goal, and means it can be difficult to know when it's been achieved. "A goal should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART, for short). An example of a SMART goal might be to perform a full pull-up by the Easter break - if you work hard, you'll likely a. learn a new skill and b. see big changes in body composition from hitting it."
4. Do a weekly shop
Another simple yet effective trick that makes all the difference. "Doing a weekly supermarket shop gives you a good idea of what you are consuming," shares the PT. "You don't really need to start tracking calories or macros - if you're consistently buying the same or similar healthy items each week and seeing positive changes, you just need to keep doing what we’re doing."
Do try and prioritise protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, fruit and veg here.
Not seeing changes you're after? Make small changes until you do. "The key point here is small changes, and just one or two things each time," he stresses. "Small tweaks are easier for your body to adjust to, and attempting to entirely overhaul your eating habits in one go is daunting, not to mention makes your chances of sticking with it slim."
Try this: An example could be committing to having a portion of protein with your breakfast each day or changing to a sugar-free soft drink or cordial.
5. Increase your non-exercise activity
Fun fact: Purposeful exercise makes up only around 10% of your total daily energy expenditure, and being more active when you aren’t exercising is actually one of the most effective weight loss tips, advises Worthington.
"Rather than trying to find the perfect workout or exercise for weight loss, think more about small but sustainable changes to lifestyle habits," he shares.
Try this: get off the bus or the train one stop early, commit to taking the stairs instead of the escalator, or even as simple as walking around the supermarket rather than ordering online. "These small, habitual changes all add up and over time produce big changes that last." Our guide to the best UK hikes will come in handy.
6. Educate, educate, educate
The more you learn, the more you know, and the more you can make an educated decision about your health, fitness, and general wellbeing. For example - did you know? There are five measurable pillars of health and wellbeing, according to the trainer: body composition, muscular strength, aerobic fitness, mobility, and emotional wellbeing.
"Your health and fitness regime should address all five of these, but not at the expense of any others," he stresses. So, if your weight needs to be addressed because it is posing a risk to overall health, then you should look to work on this. "This doesn’t always mean losing weight - it can mean putting on weight too," he shares.
7. Make sure you're tuned in to your emotional wellbeing
Following on from the above, emotional wellbeing is key when it comes to your wellbeing. "It's often closely linked to your weight or how you feel about your body, and if emotional wellbeing is suffering as a result of attempting to change your body, it's an indicator that something's not working" shares Worthington.
In other words, if you're being overly restrictive or pushing yourself too hard to lose weight, it will negatively impact your mental health. If you adopt a sustainable and balanced weight loss plan, it shouldn't.
8. Make sure you're following an expert-approved plan
Don't just follow Sally from Instagram's weight loss tips because you like her content - make sure you're listening to advice from qualified personal trainers and nutritionists who have spent years in training.
"For example, a well-designed health and fitness regime can take someone motivated by an aesthetic goal, and have them work on improving every other aspect of their health, too," shares Worthington.
9. Know that every body is different
Again, this one's key - you won't lose weight or improve your health at the same rate as anyone else, as you are unique. Similarly, your body will never look the same as another person's. You are you, and there is a unique beauty in that - so embrace it, rather than fighting it.
"The fitness industry can be very dogmatic with weight loss tips and just keep regurgitating the statement that its calories in versus calories out," shares the trainer. While the science of this is absolutely true, the application isn’t always that simple, he goes on.
Try this: While trying to lose weight, make sure you understand your drivers for the weight gain in the first place. "Sometimes this is lack of information, sometimes its lack of time or availability, sometimes it's down to sociological or economical factors, and other times, there are some deeper and more complex emotional things to address," shares the PT.
"Sure, it's correct to say losing weight is technically simple (energy balance in vs out), but it's absolutely incorrect to say that it's easy," he continues. "Look at it this way: if you have complex emotional drivers, then you may also need complex and emotionally driven solutions."
10. Avoid any fads or quick fixes
News flash: anything that's a quick fix isn’t actually one of the weight loss tips you want to be trying, warns Worthington.
"Sustainability and consistency are the number one factors for success in a health and fitness regime: much the same as short intense boot camp style transformation programs don’t give long term results, the same is true for short term diets," he explains.
Sure, there are 1000's of programs, diets, and boot camps that show dramatic changes between week one and week 12 - "but what is important is what then happens in week 13, or week 24 or week 52," he shares. Why? "Because this is what will have the greatest impact on health, resilience to disease, and longevity."
Look at it this way - Worthington is often asked what someone can do over the Christmas holidays to maintain or improve their health and fitness. "The real answer is that what you eat over Christmas doesn't have much of an impact, but what you do consistently between 5th January and 20th December does."
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.
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