This is a really common question that I get asked as a PT. The answer?... we're simply talking about calorie deficits; burning more calories than you consume for a continual period of time, until we become a healthy weight. This should be done safely through a mixture of exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet, and whilst we all imagine a quick fix to be the best option, I can assure you that losing a steady amount of weight for a slightly longer period of time is better than shedding lots of weight really quickly!
Now, to be clear, I'm not suggesting that you stop eating completely, or spend several hours in the gym each day. It's not a healthy mindset to have, nor is it very realistic. Essentially, your body needs a set amount of calories (or energy from foods) each da in order to just function normally - keep the blood pumping, the brain working and the muscles moving. Therefore to do all of this, it is important to eat a minimum amount of calories per day. UK government guidelines suggest 2000 calories per day for women, and 2500 calories per day for men, on average. Remember that these are guidelines, so there may be a margin each side for alternative values. Government guidelines also suggest that everyone should complete 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week too (generally 30 minutes exercise, 5 times per week).
So, here comes the maths; many people can end up overweight because they are eating the calories that are suggested but lacking in the exercise department. Be honest with yourself; how many times do you get out of breath and perhaps slightly sweaty in a week for 30 minutes or more? If your answer is yes, but you're still eating the suggested calories (or more?!) each day, then it's unlikely that you're in a calorie deficit. Government guidelines then continue to look at those people that are looking to lose weight (safely and effectively I hasten to add); 1400 calories per day for women is suggested and 1900 calories for men. This can be met by exercising more regularly and more intensely, and by eating a healthier diet.
When it comes to tracking our food, apps such as "myFitnessPal" can be really useful (this isn't an ad, its just a really useful bit of kit!). It's been updated with hundreds of different types of foods, and knows all the details of nutrition for each of our foods, made even easier with the chance to scan a barcode on our packets so we don't even have to manually add them to our food diary! What most people forget to account for is the fact that we don't track calories in the sauces we have on the side of our plates (mayo, ketchup etc all contribute to calories), nor the dressings we have on our salads, or even the little nibbles of food that may arise during the day. So many clients say to me that when they're making food for their young children, it can be hard not to nibble on their leftovers!
I don't want to be a scrooge of a personal trainer when it comes to food... believe me I LOVE food, and anyone that knows me well, knows how much of a sweet tooth I can have at times! With this being said, I do stick to a very healthy diet for 90% of the time; 6-7 portions of fruit and veg per day, brown bread or pasta rather than the white alternatives where possible, a healthy helping of proteins throughout the week and an awareness of sugary/salty foods and drinks, or those that are high in fats - eating them very rarely. Technically however, you could be in a calorie deficit by eating 1400 calories in your day through a mix of fast food, chocolate bars, crisps etc - if it totals less than 1400 calories on a regular basis then sure you'll lose weight...technically. Personally, I wouldn't suggest that diet.
Have your days of treats - if you're celebrating a birthday, or round Christmas time, it's likely you will perhaps consume a few more than your daily calories, and that's ok! Just be mindful of what you're eating and how often (or little) you're exercising too. I would suggest that you make up your daily calories in as healthy a way as possible; lots of veggies, some fruits, some carbohydrates (pasta, potatoes, wholemeal bread, porridge oats etc) and of course some proteins (meats, fish or the vegetarian/vegan alternatives).It's important to get moving as regularly as possible too. Walk rather than drive if it's viable, take time to workout for a little while longer, or challenge yourself within your workouts to lift a little heavier and run a little further.
This isn't a one size fits all plan unfortunately... but the formula is there, and it's up to you to work out the best way you can achieve your weight loss goal. PT's can help along the way - we'll keep the momentum on your training, and push a little harder when you know you can be challenged. We'll also help to suggest foods to eat that may be better for you than your usual options. What we can't do however is create motivation; that has to come from within you, willing to make a change.Don't get disheartened if you don't drop X amount of weight in your first week, or even in your first four weeks- it takes consistency! Similarly, don't get disheartened if your scale weight doesn't change as much as you had hoped it would - when exercising and building muscle, the fat may lessen as the muscle builds, but since muscle weighs more than fat the scales might not change but how you feel in your own skin will!
It won't be easy to begin with, but it will be so damn worth it in the long run. Be patient. Be kind to yourself. Lastly, find a way that works for you to stick to a healthy, balanced and sustainable way of life.
If you have any further questions please get in touch via the contact page on my website, or via Instagram @ajrpersonaltrainer .