When it comes to weight loss, the biggest mistake many people make (in my opinion) is to set ambitious goals (such as losing 3lbs per week). Such goals are difficult to achieve at the best of times, and once you have a single off-day or discover that you’re not quite on target, the inevitable chipping away of your drive and enthusiasm begins, which typically leads to failure.
On the other hand, if you set a very modest target (such as any ongoing weight loss – even if it’s only 0.5lbs per week on average), you’ll find success far easier to come by. Furthermore, you may find yourself surprised as to how far such “modest” goals can take you – after all, half a pound a week is equal to a whopping 26lbs per year.
If you allow yourself to consider the prospect of losing weight slowly but steadily (which makes it far more likely that you’ll keep that weight off, incidentally), it opens up some pretty exciting opportunities. In other words, you may discover that losing weight doesn’t actually have to be that hard, and doesn’t necessarily require a great deal of sacrifice.
Let’s break down some simple numbers to make my point. I don’t claim that the following numbers are precise – because they aren’t – but they work well enough as approximations.
A pound of fat is often said to be equivalent to 3,500 calories, which means that if you consume 3,500 calories less than your body needs over any period of time, you’ll lose a pound of fat. The simple weight loss equation, therefore, is to achieve a calorific deficit that is equal to the amount of fat you wish to lose.
The rules of the game are made simple if you set a modest goal. If you shoot for say an average loss of just 0.5lbs per week on average, your deficit needs to be 1,750 calories per week – or 250 calories per day. That kind of deficit can be achieved with relative ease. By making just a handful of small, barely noticeable tweaks to your eating and exercising habits, you can make that weight loss happen (and stick).
For example, here are a few potentially easily executable strategies you could use to achieve such a calorific deficit:
- Start keeping a food diary.
- Find exercise you enjoy.
- Use my ‘sensory overload’ strategy to overcome hunger pangs.
- Try intermittent fasting.
- Take your time when you’re eating and stop when you’re full.
- Measure your carbs at mealtime.
- Eat fewer treats.
- Listen less to your inner glutton.
- Be more mindful of your eating.
The key is to find the strategies that you can implement with little effort or willpower required. Different strategies will work for different people. The point is that you won’t have to do much, because you’ve not set a huge weight loss goal. Start tracking your weight loss trend, and as long as that trend points downwards, you’re doing all you need to do in the long-term.
I believe that throwing ambitious targets out of the window and focusing instead on steady, gradual progress is the single most impactful step you can make to long-term sustainable weight loss. The process is simple: set the lowest possible goal (i.e. any ongoing weight loss), then do the bare minimum to achieve that goal (by cherry picking simple strategies that work for you). You’ll experience no feelings of hunger, deprivation, or frustration – just results. That’s the kind of balance that will eventually get you to where you want to be, and keep you there.