Losing weight is a fairly simple process. Though there are limitless choices you can make concerning your food intake, exercise routine and supplement regimen, there is only one rule you need to follow to lose weight: eat less, move more. When you eat less and move more, you force your body to expend more energy while eating less calories resulting in weight loss. Here are five specifics you should watch out for.

1. Too Many Calories. The most common reason for not losing weight is taking in too many calories. The basic rule for losing weight is burning more calories than you eat which can be achieved by a combination of exercising more and eating less. Only after you create this calorie deficit will your body begin to use fat stores for energy which will cause weight loss. Most of the time, people don’t know how much they’re actually eating. They look at the nutrition label, see 200 calories per serving and assume they’re eating that much. In reality, they’re probably eating 2-3 servings. Most people underestimate the amount of calories they take in. To figure out how many calories you’re eating everyday, count them. Use measuring cups, spoons and food scales to accurately measure amounts. To figure out how many calories you should be eating each day, use the calorie calculator. Tools such as MyFitnessPal make counting calories extremely easy.

2. Eating Too Little. Eating too little can cause a slowdown or even complete halt to weight loss. Back when we were hunters and gatherers, our food supply wasn’t as steady as it is today. The body adapted to this and learned that when we started to eat less, the supply was running low. When this happened, the body’s metabolism would start to slow down in order to preserve energy and calories (known as starvation mode). This adaptation lives on today and whenever we cut our calories too much, our metabolism will slow down which will have an adverse effect on weight loss. To avoid this, you should never consume under 1,200 calories per day. Doing so is extremely unhealthy and will keep you from losing weight. Exercising more is a much better strategy to lose weight than cutting too many calories out of your diet.

3. Not Enough Exercise. Another big reason that people have a hard time losing weight is because they exercise too little. Exercising will help you lose weight by making your calorie deficit bigger. If you aren’t exercising and expect to lose weight, you’ll have to work twice as hard with your diet to make up for the calories you aren’t burning while working out. To lose weight, you should be exercising most days of the week for 45-60 minutes per session. Combine elements of both cardiovascular and strength training for the best results (don’t forget about flexibility which will increase your performance but won’t directly cause weight loss). Can I lose weight without exercise, through diet alone? Remember that excessive dieting can result in a metabolic slowdown while more exercise generally only speeds up the metabolic process.

4. Eating Bad Foods. If you’re not losing weight, you might be eating the wrong foods. Those high in sugar or white (refined) flour (white rice, doughnuts, muffins, potato chips, junk food, fast food, soda, fruit juices) are digested very quickly, leaving you hungry soon after eating. This causes you to eat sooner than you should which increases your daily calorie intake and shrinks your calorie deficit. Foods that are high in fiber and 100% whole wheat flour (brown rice, beans, vegetables, 100% whole wheat bread/pasta) are digested slower which will leave you full for longer. This will keep you eating less throughout the day. The glycemic index will help you choose more diet friendly foods.

5. Bad Meal Timing. Eating infrequently can also cause diets to stop working. When you eat the traditional three large meals per day, you’re leaving a lot of room for cravings. Cravings are rarely for healthy, diet friendly foods. Cravings are usually for unhealthy foods such as pizza, hamburgers, doughnuts and ice cream. If you eat smaller meals and add snacks into your day, you’re much less likely to get cravings and more likely to stick to your diet plan.

The Bottom Line

Weight loss is accomplished by eating less and moving more. Creating a calorie deficit (less eating, more moving) will force your body to draw upon fat stores which causes weight loss. Any diet, book or exercise routine that promises results without significant lifestyle changes will not work. Stick to the basics and you will lose weight.

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