With all the diet advice out there, it's extremely overwhelming to determine what path is guaranteed to work for you. Even here at Healthy Brown Girl where we recommend intermittent fasting to help you reach your weight loss goals, that path is still not for everyone. Finding the right option for you should not be an overnight decision and should always include your primary care physician, especially if you have a medical condition. Despite all the things you should consider when deciding on a weight loss plan, there are some evidence based things you can start today to kick start you weight loss journey.
Reduce Your Sugar Intake
This is goes beyond the average "no more cookies and cake" promise that you tell yourself when your favorite pair of jeans don't button anymore. Even when we call ourselves cutting the sugar, we are not aware of all the hidden sugars there are in so many of the foods we eat. Being aware of the amount of sugar you are eating daily will help you to better manage your caloric intake. It's important to read the food labels in order to make informed decisions when it comes to how much sugar you choose to eat. A doughnut paired with your favorite large gourmet coffee in the morning can easily add 1000+ calories to your daily intake before lunch. All those additional calories each day is the easiest way to pack on the lbs without realizing what you've done. You don't need to go sugar free for life, just read the labels and opt for choices that contain less processed sugar. These changes can be small. Instead of soda at every meal, drink water, have fruit for desert instead of cake, or sweeten your coffee with natural sweeteners such as agave or stevia instead of sugar. Being aware and making the little changes in this area go a long way.
Drink More Water
If you're like me, this one is much harder than it sounds. Water is boring, tasteless, and unfortunately vital to our survival as humans. Not to mention, this tip is probably one of the most effective things you can do to manage your weight because it helps in so many areas. Drinking water over sugary drinks not only helps reduce your caloric intake but its also been shown to boost metabolism. According to a study conducted at Humboldt-University, drinking only 500 ml of water was shown to increase the subjects metabolism by 30%. Drinking water before meals can also help with portion control. There are some things you can do to make water more enjoyable, like add fruit, lemon, or cucumber. You can increase your water intake would be to increase your fruit and veggie intake. So trade that glass of tea for a glass of water if you want to drop a few pounds.
If you haven't read my blog where I share tips on How to Stay Consistent With Exercising, make sure you check it out. Exercise is an important part of staying healthy, and while it will not melt the lbs away on it's own, it will definitely help when paired with a balanced diet. If losing inches in your waistline is important to you, cardio exercise is best for reducing belly fat. Simple exercises like walking or jogging are great options as long as they are done consistently and in conjunction with a balanced diet.
There are a host of other things you can do to jump start your weight loss journey. With whatever you choose, it's important to understand that consistency is key to seeing the results you desire.
We've all made the new years resolution to lose weight and get fit. We usually show our commitment by ridding our refrigerator and pantry of all the things our taste buds love and replace them with anything green, low fat, and tasteless. Then we run to the nearest gym to sign up for a gym membership because we've convinced ourselves that this new monthly bill will drag our butt's to the gym no matter how unmotivated we are. After that we set our workout schedule and we are pumped, but by the end of January, all that motivation is gone. Sticking to the schedule and making it to the gym feels like torture. By the end of March, we talk ourselves into believing that life is really busy and that even though we are stuck paying for a membership, there are much more pressing things to attend to...like...kids...work...binge watching Insecure.
One of the biggest struggles with losing weight is staying consistent with exercise. Most of us do not enjoy voluntarily doing something things that cause pain, makes us tired, and makes us sweat. Exercise does all of those and doesn't offer immediate results to reward us for all the hard work. Now before I get into my tips for overcoming this frustrating cycle. You may even hate exercise so much, that you try to lose weight without it. I won't lie, it is possible, but you will likely need to be on a drastic diet that will not be sustainable in the long run. Not only that, but you will be depriving your body of all the benefits that exercise has to offer, such as reduced risk of breast cancer, regulation of blood sugar levels, and stress and anxiety relief just to name a few. Ill just say, losing weight without exercise is like buying a mansion, but only living out of 1 room. You are limiting your body's full potential.
But unlocking this potential doesn't have to be difficult...and here's how:
SET REALISTIC GOALS:
Your goal may be to look like Taneya Taylor, and sis, I get it because mama is fine, but I can guarantee it will take some serious hard work and dedication to even begin to see those results. While its okay to aspire to be like her, you have to know that those results will not happen overnight. A more realistic goal would be something that is more personal to you. Maybe the goal is to just be consistent for 30 days, or to lose 5lbs. Whatever the goal, make it realistic and attainable. The small wins will motivate you to keep going.
KEEP IT SIMPLE:
It's easy to feel like you gotta go hard when you go in the gym and see a room full of gym rats who workout like they actually enjoy it. Maybe your favorite fitness guru on Youtube says you should strive to workout 4 times a week and rotate between weights and cardio days where you run at least 1 mile. It sounds good, but when you actually try to put that routine in motion, it way to hard and you end up getting frustrated giving up pretty quickly. Your workout routine should be challenging, but something you enjoy. For me that is running, for you that may be walking, or swimming, or dancing. You don't have do spend hours at a gym to see results. Your workout can be as simple as a 30 minute walk 3 times a week. Once you are consistent with that, you can gradually incorporate other things, but even on the days where you are less motivated, you know you can at least walk. Learning how to exercise is a gradual process. Start simple and add on as you go.
SET A RITUALISTIC SCHEDULE:
As busy as life is sometimes, we are still able to make time for the things that we enjoy. So anytime you make the excuse that you cant workout, just know, it's an excuse. You can avoid the excuse by planning ahead. Be specific, down to the time you will start, and the length of your workout. Schedule your workout around other responsibilities in your day to make it more ritualistic. For example, wake up, eat breakfast, workout, shower, then go to work. If you make it a ritual, it makes it easier to stay consistent. Once you have your ritual in mind, schedule it on you planner, set recurring reminder in your phone and block of the time so nothing else takes precedence.
DON'T WORKOUT TO LOSE WEIGHT:
While this one sounds a little counterproductive, trust me its not. While your goal is to lose weight, you have to know ahead of time that working out will not help you do this alone. There are several other factors that go into successfully losing weight. This is just a tool in your toolkit to help you be successful in losing and keeping the weight off. Exercise has so many other benefits that make it worth your time, losing weight is just an added positive side-effect. If you focus on your weight, and don't see the pounds coming off like you want, it's easy to ditch the exercise. But if you look at exercise as something you need do to help keep stress low, reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, or cancer, it becomes much more valuable.
For more information about the benefits of exercising, and how you can maximize your weight loss by incorporating intermittent fasting check out my blog on Exercise and Intermittent Fasting.
I frequently get questions about intermittent fasting on my Instagram page...which by the way, If you aren't following me there, do it NOW (@_healthybrowngirl), please and thanks! Of all the questions I get in my DM, some of the most common ones relate to working out while fasting. Questions like, "Do I have to workout to see results?", "Did you workout while fasting?", "OMG you worked out while fasting! Is that even safe?". So I decided to blog it out and give some insight on what I think about fasting and working out. But before I do that I must tell y'all, I am NOT a licensed health care provider. My views on this subject are just that, my point of view. Always discuss things regarding your health, eating habits, exercise habits, etc., with your doctor. OKAY, now back to my point of view. Is working out required in order to see results? Hold that thought while I insert my soap box here. When people ask me this question, I usually think to myself, "They are not ready to make real changes to their lifestyle". I mean honestly, are you asking in hopes that you can AVOID the recommended 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week? If that's the case, intermittent fasting may not be for you, let alone fasting while working out. While your goal may be to lose weight, you have to have the mindset that you are going to live a healthy lifestyle in order to make lasting changes to your body, otherwise losing the weight will be in vain. If you want to lose weight, you have to live a healthy lifestyle, and while that does not always include intermittent fasting, it should include exercise on some level. If you are physically able, you should be exercising at least 2 days per week because despite how we have become accustomed to living, our bodies are meant to move. That being said if you are trying to lose weight, you should definitely be working out as often as possible to improve and maintain muscle mass, and make it a little easier to manage your caloric intake. Ok....I'm off my soap box...for now , so YES...you can/will lose weight by fasting without exercise especially if you are conscious of what you are eating, however exercise will maximize those results and help you reach your goal quicker. Another question I get is if its safe to exercise while in your fasting window. This question is not really a yes or no answer because it depends on you. When I first started intermittent fasting I was not able to workout while fasting. I would get very dizzy if I attempted it, so I always had to wait until my eating window opened up so I could put something on my stomach first. As time went on, and my body became used to my fasting schedule, I was able to gradually work exercise in while in a fasted state. Today it does not bother me at all and I'm able to run a 5k or do a 30 minute HIIT workout with no problem. My answer to this question is always to listen to your body. Especially if you are new to fasting, I would take baby steps when it comes to doing exercise while fasted. And of course you want to make sure you are hydrated. You may be thinking that exercising on an empty stomach sounds dangerous, but it is actually pretty healthy for you. Intermittent fasting alone comes with so so many benefits outside of losing weight; and adding exercise maximizes benefits such as production of the human growth hormone (breaks down fat and helps tone muscles), boosting brain function, and improving body composition. The best workout to do during a fasted state would be HIIT (High-intensity) training because it increases growth hormone levels quicker than other forms of exercise. And if you haven't guessed it by now, increasing HGH levels is one of the fastest ways to lose body fat, which is why intermittent fasting works regardless of if you have worked out or not. So should you workout while fasted? That depends on you, but it should be a goal in my opinion if optimal results are what you're after. Have you tried intermittent fasting yet? If not, what are some of your burning questions about it?
In July of 2017 I reached my highest weight of 215 lbs. I not only could see the extra lbs in my tight clothes but could feel its effects taking a toll on my body physically. I was always tired and unable to walk up a flight of stairs without knee pain or being out of breath. I knew I had to do something but didn’t want to do another crash diet that would leave me weak, hungry, and eventually gaining all my weight back again. I began doing research on lifestyle changes and came across intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is essentially an eating schedule where you don’t eat any calories for a minimum of 16 hours per day. The thing that attracted me to fasting in the beginning was that you don’t necessarily have to cut any of your favorite foods out of your diet. As someone who had little success maintaining a restricted diet in the past, I decided to give it a try. I started fasting 20 hours per day 5 days per week, usually only eating between 4 pm and 8 pm each day. Aside from weight loss, some of the benefits of fasting include lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. As a black woman with a family history of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, these benefits sounded consequential. It took me about 2 months to adjust to my new eating schedule and during that time I struggled with fatigue, dizzy spells, hunger pangs, and moodiness. It was definitely not an easy transition, and I would tell anyone thinking about fasting to start with a lower fasting window and then gradually increase your hours over time. With any lifestyle change, there is an adjustment period, and for someone used to eating or snacking ever 2-3 hours, my body struggled with the reduced food intake. Because I did want to better my overall health, in conjunction with fasting, I also reduced the amount of fried foods, processed foods and sugar I ate. I made things like cake and ice cream an occasional treat, stopped eating at fast food restaurants, and stopped buying as much canned and boxed foods at the grocery store. I also increased my exercise by running 2 miles 2-3 days per week and after 3 months I had lost about 20 lbs. Some other benefits I have experienced are better metabolism, increased energy, clearer skin, better focus, and reduced joint pain in my knee. My relationship with food had completely changed and my cravings for unhealthy foods had reduced significantly. It has been two years since I began fasting and I have lost 55 lbs which took me about 18 months in total to lose. I am not always consistent with exercise or always eating the right things but have still managed to maintain my weight at 155 lbs. for the past year by consistently fasting. I now only fast on average 16 hours per day, some days longer, some days shorter. I have learned what true hunger feels like, and I’m able to trust body to tell me when its time to eat. Fasting has given me that power back. I no longer need a snack to get me through till my next meal, nor do I have to sit by the clock counting the seconds till I can eat again. Intermittent fasting allowed me to reset my body, so it now knows when to send those hunger signals to my brain. If you are thinking about trying intermittent fasting, my recommendation would be to keep it simple. Begin with a reasonable fasting window somewhere between 12-14 hours and work your way up. Since you are fasting when you are sleeping, including that time in your fasting schedule helps because you are only fasting 6-8 hours while you are awake. I personally find it easier to fast at work because I am busy doing other things, so most of my fasting takes place during my workday. Staying hydrated, and drinking mineral water helps with hunger pangs. As a 36-year-old black woman who has struggled with my weight most of my adult life, I believe intermittent fasting is the best alternative to most diets out there. Not only does it help with weight loss, but it addresses many of the health issues we as black women are more susceptible to. Would you try intermittent fasting? Why or why not?
Ok ladies, we’ve all seen that photo of ourselves. You know, that one that completely horrifies you and makes you realize you’ve gained a few extra pounds seemingly overnight. Suddenly you’re on an unsustainable crash diet and exercising like a mad woman all to keep your calories at under a certain number. We’ve all heard it, “Calories in, calories out.” Simple enough; eat less, move more and the weight will melt off like butter in the sun. So why doesn’t that happen? Why do we find ourselves binging on empty carbs uncontrollably and eventually gaining whatever weight we managed to lose back and then some? Meanwhile, you see thin or muscular people seeming to eat like horses while still maintaining their physic. How the heck do they do it? There’s no real simple answer since various factors play a part in how the body burns fat. But the short-oversimplified answer would be food quality matters over caloric quantity. Now let me start by saying that I’m not 100% against the calories in vs out theory. Technically, the theory is true. Calories are the energy source that sustain us day and night.
Overeating, or consuming more calories that your body burns, results in increased fat storage or weight gain. But let’s look at this theory a little deeper. Let’s say a set of twins, same height and weight decide to cut the same number of calories putting them both at a 500-calorie deficit each day; but one eats mainly fried foods and sugars to meet their caloric requirement, while the other eats, whole grains, veggies, and lean proteins. Who would you expect would have lost the most over a month? “Calories in vs calories out” says they should both have lost the same amount. Is that logical? Absolutely not! Our bodies are much more complex than that. The quality of the food we eat matters so much more than the caloric value because our bodies metabolize different foods in different ways. For example, sugar and carbs trigger your blood sugar to rise quickly where fats or protein would trigger a more gradual increase. Constantly eating a diet full of carbs and sugar can lead to damaged hormones (Leptin and Insulin) which eventually can cause weight gain due to increased appetite and fat storage. This is a fact regardless of the number of calories you consume.
To sum it up, calories is only one part of the whole picture. Food quality is key variable that directly effects the way our body stores/burns fat. So, the next time you decide you need to lose weight, keep this in mind. Being overweight is a result of how specific nutrients from the foods you’re eating have affected your hormones over time and have caused your body to store fat instead of using it for energy. Stop counting calories and address the hormone issues by eating a balanced diet full of good quality foods so your body can naturally manage calories for you.