I had a really neat interview with a Danish newspaper recently, which started with 4 real-life weight loss success stories:
1. Ulla has lost 10 lbs. She eats whatever she wants, but exercises at high intensity for an hour, 6 times per week. She eats chocolate every day, and calls herself an exercise addict.
2. Claus lost 25 lbs with help from a dietician. He eats more protein and vegetables than he used to. He takes his dog on a 30 minute leisurely walk every day.
3. Katrina lost 20 lbs by counting calories. She eats 1400 calories per day, and goes to the gym 3 times a week.
4. Jakob lost 33 pounds. He has been working with a dietician, and has also hired a personal trainer.
Answer: The principle behind any successful weight loss is Calories In <>
It is a great idea to get a dietician involved, if this is accessible to you – they can help you figure out a detailed weight loss diet plan and help you find the healthiest food choices with which to do so. The important point from the stories above is that there are a variety of approaches out there, and it is a matter of finding which one works for you!
I am a bit concerned about Ulla’s long term success, because she has not made any changes to her diet. If she develops an injury, or some other reason why she cannot exercise, she will probably start to put the pounds back on again. For a weight loss/maintenance program to be successful long term, the biggest focus should be on the dietary side of the equation (though I certainly do advocate for exercise!)
Question: Can you lose weight without exercising?
Answer: Yes! This bit of information is particularly important for people who are extremely overweight, or who have related problems such as osteoarthritis, which usually affects weight bearing joints. These issues can make it very difficult to exercise to much extent. A reasonable approach is to start just by decreasing food intake such that the pounds start to come off – with time and weight loss, people often find a weight lifted (literally!) off their shoulders, such that they have the energy and physical capacity to start exercising! From there, it is a positive reinforcement cycle of weight loss >> more energy >> more exercise >> more weight loss, etc.!
Alternatively, swimming is a great way to start exercising, as it does not cause pain or strain on weight bearing joints.
Question: Should exercise and diet be combined into one big plan?
Answer: Absolutely! The bigger the difference between Calories In and Calories Out, the better!
Remember to be alert to the increase in appetite that comes with working out. Also remember that exercise does not give you the carte blanche to eat your heart out, or drink your heart out for that matter – you can undo an hour long run in as long as it takes to down a venti Caramel Frappucino (R) from Starbucks (500 cal, in case you’re wondering).
Question: Are there any methods which you would not recommend to lose weight?
Answer: I would not recommend using herbal or alternative products to lose weight. It is often unknown what these products contain, and further to that, their content, quality, and safety are not strictly regulated like prescription medications are. If you feel that you are not having any success with any lifestyle/diet/exercise intervention, you should speak with your doctor about futher options.