Updated: Feb 23, 2022
If you ask someone who's new to fitness/new to the gym - "what are you looking to achieve?" the answer will - I would guess 80% of the time - be the same; "Lose weight and tone up".
This is kind of good, kind of bad.
It's good because when you start exercising you really should know what you're trying achieve. It's bad because all-too-often, when people set out to lose weight they follow a path which, in the long-run might not work out too well.
This post isn't my take on how to lose weight. This is about why I feel it's more sensible, practical, enjoyable and, ultimately, more rewarding health-wise to make weight-loss a side show. This then suggests there should be a 'main event'. And that, my friend is.... creating an active lifestyle.
If you want to lose weight quickly you will almost certainly get the best success by eating a heavily calorie-restricted diet and exercising super-hard. This creates an obvious calorie deficit (more out than in) and you'll lose weight. Pretty simple.
BUT (and I do mean capital BUT) this is absolutely likely to backfire. The calories you'll consume won't give you enough energy to do properly valuable exercise. You'll be tired and irritable. You won't be able to concentrate and - rather obviously - you'll be hungry all the time. You will - I'll bet - ultimately fail because your diet/routine/whatever will be unsustainable. When you fail, not only will you pile weight back on but you'll be super un-motivated to ever have a go at exercising and being healthy again.
Also, let's suggest for a moment that the above scenario helped you lose weight (for a short time). Has the routine actually helped you achieve the many other obvious benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle? It probably hasn't made you stronger or more resistant to injury as you get older. It probably hasn't improved your aerobic fitness (think heart and lungs). Has it improved your mental health? Um.. no. So - really - most health professionals aren't up for recommending that approach.
What I'm in favour of is making small, changes to your lifestyle that makes it fun, enjoyable, healthy and, most importantly, sustainable. You need to create a life and a system that works for you. One which isn't difficult to keep going. One that involves eating well most of the time but allows for treats (I'm writing this on a Friday night with a (one) glass of red wine). One that includes those vital 150 minutes of exercise each week.
Now, if you are super-keen to lose some weight then I know it's tough adopting a regime when you know you can achieve that single goal quicker by other means (above). But I also believe that a truly 'healthy' lifestyle also requires discipline. You need to be a bit grown up and consider the consequences of that failed routine.
When you eat well (most of the time), cooking healthy meals (which doesn't need to be time-consuming, expensive or difficult by the way), when you get out and move for 30 mins, five days a week, when you start celebrating the small wins in your improved lifestyle, you will - I promise - see the benefits of playing the long game.
Coming back to weight loss, it's important to understand what we mean by the term. I've expanded on this in another post - basics of weight loss. "Weight loss" almost always means "fat loss". No one ever really wants to lose muscle, or water, or bone - the other things that make up most of our weight. People want to lose fat.
For the majority of people it is quite straight forward. When you eat rubbish food which is full of fat and sugar (among other horrible things), you are consuming way more calories (energy) than the body needs. So it stores it. As.. you guessed it... fat.
If you don't exercise then you're compounding the problem because exercise requires the body to use energy. And you're not doing it. Too many calories in, not enough calories out. Crude but basically correct.
Now come back to my 'create a healthy lifestyle' vibe. If you exercise regularly - and it doesn't need to be the horrible super-intense kind - then over the weeks, months and years you'll be churning through heaps of calories. Waaaay more than if you just went hard for a few weeks and gave up 'cos you hated it.
Also, you'll WANT to eat well - because you don't want your exercise to feel wasted. You'll have more energy from the better nutrition so you can go out regularly and move. You'll be better at work, better at home, more focused, more organised, more disciplined, more healthy, more confident, stronger, fitter and get ill less frequently.
And - guess what, you'll lose weight. Boom.
Have a go at creating a healthy lifestyle with small steps and changes that you can sustain. Make weight loss a side-show, play the long-game and it will happen.
A social fitness App start-up which motivates you to exercise more. Create teams with friends, family and workmates. Exercise where, when and how you like, log points and create your new, active lifestyle.