There are three steps you should take to create a successful weight loss plan.
Step 1: Understand what it takes to lose weight.
Most people don’t have a good understanding of what it takes to lose weight.
They are so enamored by fad diets and marketing hype in the weight loss industry that they think (and hope) that there is a magic bullet waiting to be discovered. Then, “Six pack here I come!”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
In reality, weight loss comes down to energy balance.
If you create a calorie deficit over a long enough period of time, then you will lose weight.
The larger the calorie deficit, the more weight you will lose. One pound is 3,500 calories, so if you want to lose 10 pounds, then you must create a 35,000 calorie deficit. This simply can’t be done in a few days.
Significant weight loss will take considerable time. This likely means sticking to your plan for anywhere from several weeks to several months.
Your weight loss plan can include both diet and exercise, but you should focus most of your effort on diet.
Here’s another post I wrote on why this is the case.
Step 2: Consider your options and choose a plan that will work for your situation.
Now that you know what needs to be done, you should also understand that there are many ways to achieve a calorie deficit.
As I mentioned, it’s much easier to accomplish this through diet. You can use exercise to supplement your calorie deficit, but don’t rely on it as the primary driver.
Think about what kind of diet you can actually stick to long enough to see the weight loss results you want.
I don’t care how great you’ve heard low-carb is. If you love bread, rice, and pasta, it’s going to be really difficult for you to eat low-carb. Fortunately, you don’t have to eat low-carb in order to lose weight.
In order to lose a pound a week, you just need to remove 3,500 excess calories from your diet each week.
Now, your job is to figure out the most enjoyable way for you to accomplish this so that you’ll actually do it for more than one or two weeks.
You can do this by cutting out carbs or sugar or anything else for that matter. Or, you can do it without cutting out any food types at all and just managing your portion sizes.
Intermittent fasting is also a great option.
If you can eliminate one meal per day like breakfast or lunch, you can save a lot of calories. This may work very well for busy people who don’t have time during the day to worry about meal prep.
I skip breakfast and eat two meals a day: my first meal around noon and my second meal at dinner time. This meal schedule makes it easy to stay within my target calories.
As you can see, the possibilities are endless. But you need to find a plan that will work for YOU.
Step 3: Monitor your progress, make adjustments, and be patient.
Once you’re executing a plan that you are confident you can stick to, you’ve done the hard part.
After that, you just need to make sure your plan is actually working. It’s very possible that you misjudged some calories here or there and you’re not actually realizing the deficit you think you are.
If you’re sticking to your plan, but still not making any progress after a couple of weeks, then something is wrong and you’ll need to adjust your plan accordingly.
Finally, be patient.
As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” But if you have a good plan and stick with it, you will see results.
If you want an easy way to plan out your target calories on a calendar and make sure you are tracking towards your weight goal, I created a free spreadsheet you can use.
First published on Quora.