If you’re struggling to lose weight, you know how hard it can be to eat right and exercise and how complicated the rules of dieting can seem. It seems like everyone has advice: your sister-in-law swears that diet sodas are just as bad for you as regular ones, your co-worker says that you should only eat what cavemen ate, and your neighbor keeps mentioning that running is a high-impact exercise and is bad for your knees. When you go to the health section of your bookstore or library, you find countless conflicting opinions on diet and exercise plans: eat more protein and fewer carbohydrates, or eat only vegetables and cut back on protein; exercise a little harder every day of the week, or keep the same routine day after day. What a mess!
Losing weight was never easy, because it requires exercising hard, eating less of less appetizing foods, and committing to long-term change. But was it always this complicated? If you commit to making a change, you’ll likely find the strength to do it. But if you’re going to focus on a diet and exercise plan, you need to know what that plan is!
We can’t make losing weight easy. But let’s at least make it simple.
In fact, let’s make it so simple that our list is just two rules long.
Eat better food, and less of it
Paleo diets. Low-carb diets. Juicing. They’re all diet fads. Some of them kind of work, and others do not. Some of them have some basis in science, and others do not. Some of them outlines a way that you can keep eating for the rest of your life, helping you keep the weight off, but (and this is the main problem with fad diets), the vast majority of them do not.
The reason some of them can work is that they fulfill the single most important rule of dieting: they make you consume fewer calories. They fill you up with ancient grains or high-protein foods or juice, and they cut out high-calorie junk. That’s why they work – that’s the only reason.
So ditch the gimmicks and keep the core rule: eat less. No single thing is more important to weight loss. Researchers have proven that people can lose weight even on unhealthy diets, as long as they don’t eat very much of those unhealthy things. In weight loss, calories are king.
Eat less: that’s the rule. But why eat better food, then?
Well, because it’s healthy, of course – your body fat percentage isn’t the only thing that matters to your body’s health. But eating well also makes it easier to eat less! Your stomach only has room for so much stuff before you get full, so eating a salad (easy on the dressing) before dinner may mean you get full before you finish your steak. Great! Stop eating! You’ve had just as much food, but by filling up on salad, you’ve reduced the number of calories in your meal (and added some nice vitamins and nutrients, too).
Becoming more aware of macro-nutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) helps, too. You don’t have to count them (remember, this plan is simple)! Just be aware of them, and start checking food labels. Are you eating a ton of carbs and fats? You might be. Are there way more carbs and fats in processed foods than in vegetables? You bet. Now you know.
Remember, keep it simple. Don’t create impossible diet rules – you’ll fail, and you’ll use your failure as an excuse to give up. Just eat more vegetables – no, not X number of them, just more. Eat less junk food. Fill up on salad.
Yes, this is the entire second rule. Just exercise.
How should you exercise? Any way you want to. Choose a sport you used to love, and get back into it. Go walking. Go running. Yes, some exercises are more “high impact” than others, but unless you’re hurting yourself, don’t worry about that. Exercise does more good than harm, and people who dream up fears and rules for working out are doing a disservice to you and others who want to change their lives. A little bit of “high impact” exercise won’t hurt you nearly as much as a heart attack at forty!
Here’s another vital tip: your body doesn’t care if you’re “exercising.” It cares that you’re moving. Have you noticed that people in cities tend to be thing? It’s not because they’re kale-munching elitists (or, at least, that’s not the only reason) – it’s because they walk everywhere.
You can walk, too, even if you’re in a car-loving suburb. Park further from the store entrance. Walk to anything within a mile or two of you, or even further. Just save a taxi or car service phone number in your phone, and you’ll never have to worry about being stranded. You can gear up in spandex and walk two miles in circles around your neighborhood, or you can accumulate that same distance walking in street clothes while window shopping. It’s all the same to your body!
Two simple rules
That’s it. Two rules. Improve and limit your food intake, and exercise.
Following the two simple rules isn’t easy, but it is simple. It lets you focus on your goals and your commitment. Tune out the noise, focus on the big picture, and live by the two rules. If you do, you will see results.