Do you want to lose weight, build muscle, or feel more fit?
Trying to lose 50 pounds isn’t the same as trying to lose five — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
After all, immediate results tend to be a lot more dramatic in people who have more pounds to lose compared with those who are trying to trim a few.
That’s because the closer your body is to its “ideal weight,” the less apt it is to change. The further you are from that target, though, the more adaptable the body tends to be.
And, according to 2016 research published in Cell Metabolism, the first five percent of weight lost offers the greatest health benefit in people with obesity. Score!
Unfortunately, for many weight-loss warriors (show of hands?) those results quickly plateau. And it’s not for lack of motivation or dedication. It’s pure biology.
However, experts have found that, when people lose large amounts of weight — going, for instance, from 250 to 150 pounds, their metabolic rates don’t decrease to match up with those of other 150-pounders.
They actually decrease much further, working in direct opposition to continued weight-loss goals.
“When a person loses weight, the body senses the new weight as abnormally low or weight-reduced. The body will activate survival mechanisms to restore the lost weight by dropping metabolism,” says Ethan Lazarus, M.D., a board member of the Obesity Medicine Association.
“Several studies, including the recent study on ‘Biggest Loser’ participants, demonstrate a significant drop in metabolism and an increase in hunger persisting 6 years after the weight loss,” he adds.
Researchers with the National Institutes of Health found that, when looking at 14 people who had lost significant amounts of weight on the show, their resting metabolic rates (the number of calories they burn just chilling out) were about 500 calories lower than they should have been based on their weight, body composition, age, and gender. That is why, of those 14 people, 13 regained everything.
So, if you have a lot of weight to lose, how can you make sure that month by month, your weight loss gets easier, not harder? Follow these best weight-loss tips, straight from scientific journals and top obesity medicine specialists.
1. Build confidence with “low-hanging fruit”
When it comes to weight loss, the first step tends to be the hardest one. Make it easier by starting with “low-hanging fruit,” habits that are easily modifiable but can make a big difference in your weight.
These habits can include:
Starting with these simple switches will do more than get you started; they will help keep you going. Once you start losing weight, you'll feel more motivated and fired up for continued results.
2. Work out where you feel comfortable
A lot of people, regardless of size, feel that they have to get “fit” before they can enter a gym.
While that’s definitely not true, we understand how intimidating the gym can be.
That’s why working with a trainer or streaming Group Fitness Live On Demand or joining a LIVE workout from home comes in handy.
Building skills, such as coordination, agility, and flexibility, as well as confidence while you’re burning fat and building muscle can propel you to stick with exercise over the long term.
3. Build muscle
Your greatest ally in your fight against metabolic penalty is muscle. That’s because muscle is a major determinate, and the largest single modifiable factor, in setting your metabolic rate.
However, when people lose weight, especially large amounts of weight, it’s natural to lose some weight from muscle. Luckily, it is possible to avoid these losses, and actually build muscle while losing fat.
The key is performing regular resistance training and consuming adequate protein.
Consuming about .5 to .9 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day is recommended in order to lose weight while still building metabolically active muscle.
If your body-fat percentage actually creeps up as you lose weight, it’s a sign that you need to up your muscle-building efforts.
4. Stay accountable
More accountability means more weight lost — and kept off, says Debra Nessel, R.D., C.D.E., with Torrance Memorial Medical Center in California. Luckily, there are plenty of research-backed ways to boost accountability and results.
Similarly, keeping a food and workout diary can increase your accountability to yourself and your goals, she says. You can also try reaching out to others, either in person or online, who are in similar places on their weight-loss journeys.
5. Switch up your workouts regularly
The body is excellent at adapting to handle your workouts. Over time, you’ll perform the same exercises more efficiently, meaning that, during week 10 of your workout program, you will burn fewer calories walking a mile than you did during week 1, regardless of your weight.
If you get to a point in your exercise plan where your body isn’t changing, that means your body has adapted to the exercise stress that you are putting on it. You need to introduce a new stress to elicit further adaptations, aka results.
To beat your body to the punch, it's recommended to change key variables in your workouts — such as rest periods, load (i.e., the amount of weight you’re lifting), lifting pace, stance, or grip — or even rotating in new exercises when you notice your results start to wane.
The goal is to challenge your body consistently.