10 Things To Know When You Have 40+ Pounds to Lose
"Extraordinary results don't require extraordinary actions—they require ordinary actions done daily." That's the motto Lee Jordan, American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer and health coach who specializes in helping people with considerable extra weight, shares will all of this clients. "The first mistake people make when they start trying to lose a lot of weight is thinking, 'I have this huge amount of weight to lose, so I have to push myself to the limits to do it,'" he says.
2. Order the Brussels Sprouts Sautéed in Butter
Yes, restaurants meals are often sky-high in calories, but dining out is also an opportunity to try foods you think you don't like (hi there, beets) in a new way, says Tamara Melton, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, who routinely works with clients with big weight loss goals. "It may not be the healthiest version of that food but you might find that you like the preparation method, and it can give you some inspiration to try a better-for-you version at home."
3. Look for a Trainer* Who Can Meet You Where You’re At
If you're interested in hiring a personal trainer, you need someone with experience working with people at your fitness level. "Otherwise they might think they’re modifying movements down to where you can do it but they may still be setting the bar too high," says Jordan. Ask the manager at your gym if they can recommend someone who'd be a good fit.
*It goes without saying that you should talk to your doctor before you start a new fitness regimen (but we'’re saying it anyway).
4. Find the Magic Number of Calories to Cut
This is a littler trickier for people looking to lose 40+ pounds than for someone trying to drop 5 or 10 pounds, says Melton. "Often times they've done some damage to their metabolism with past ups and downs in their weight," she says, "so it's a trial and error period in the beginning to figure out how low we can go without slowing down weight loss or going too hungry." Her rule of thumb is to cut between 500 and 1000 calories per day from what you're currently eating. Tally up your calories from an average weekday and a weekend day—because we all know they're different—including everything you eat and drink, and subtract from the average of those two numbers.
5. If 30 Minutes of Exercise is Too Much, Do 20, or Even 10
"There's no amount that’s too little to start with," says Jordan. Wherever you start, add 30 seconds to that number with each workout. The best exercise is the one you enjoy doing, and Jordan notes that most people in this weight range find that walking is a good fit. It’s low impact, which is good for your joints when you’re carrying extra weight (the force on your knees is roughly 1½ times your body weight when you walk on level ground) and you can easily ramp up the intensity as your fitness level improves.
Try one of these three 30-minute walking workouts created by Jordan and build up to three 20 to 40 minute walks per week. You want to focus on frequency, manageability, and consistency over intensity at first. You can work your way up to those HIIT workouts you’ve heard so much about, but for now, set a more realistic goal.
6. Pace Your Weight Loss to Avoid Issues like Loose Skin
Healthy weight loss is between ½ pound and 2 pounds per week. (Only weigh yourself once a week, says Melton, and make sure you’re doing it at the same time each week, like Monday morning when you get out of the shower.) When you've got a lot of weight to lose, it's normal drop a bit more than that in the first month to six weeks. If you’re still losing 2+ pounds per week beyond that point though, "I'd increase the number of calories you’re eating," says Melton. "My clients always fight me when I say that, but rapid weight loss means you're probably losing lean tissue in addition to fat, and you're more likely to have loose skin afterwards." If your dropping less than ½ pound per week, scrutinize your diet to make sure you’re not forgetting to account for that afternoon pit stop at the office candy jar.
7. Have a Bedtime Snack
Melton tells her clients to eat every three to four hours. So if you had dinner at 6 pm and it’s now 10 o'clock, by all means, grab a yogurt before you tuck in for the night. It'll tide you over until morning, so you don’t wake up ravenous and primed to make a bad breakfast choice.
8. Crowd-Out Instead of Cutting Out
Rather than telling yourself that dessert is off-limits, focus on eating more vegetables at dinner so that when your normal desert time comes around, you're not as hungry. Or if you’re a habitual soda or juice drinker, think about drinking more water instead of cutting back on those sugary beverages.
9. You Can Definitely Do This Absolute Beginner Resistance Workout
This 15-minute routine, created by Jordan, targets your biggest muscle groups using very basic movements. Your goal: do this workout three times per week (alternating walking and weight days). As you get stronger, you can focus on taking fewer rests, getting lower into your squats and lunges, and increasing your dumbbell weight.
10. Start with the Easiest Changes, Not The Hardest Ones
"Take the least painful things out of your diet first, like the soda you have at lunch time out of habit, not because you love your lunchtime soda," says Melton. "You'll see the success that comes from those small tweaks and that'll motivate you to tackle the bigger things later on."