Weight Loss: Everything You Need to Know
The journey to effective weight loss is filled with misinformation and potential pitfalls. Luckily for you though, we’ve spoken to our pharmacy team to put together this ultimate guide to effective weight loss. Read it here.
Updated: Thursday 15 April 2021
Beginning a weight loss regimen can be daunting. The wealth of information, advice and diet plans available online and elsewhere can leave you with more questions than answers. What should your diet look like? What should you eat less of? What forms of exercise are most effective at burning calories? Most importantly, how do you stay motivated? These are all crucial questions when beginning a weight loss program - and it’s almost impossible to find all the right answers in one place.
Thankfully, we have gone to the trouble of publishing a full guide to losing weight in a safe and effective way. So, if you’re keen to know more - read on.
How do I lose weight fast?
It’s great that you’re enthusiastic and want to lose weight as quickly as possible, but we need to make clear right away that there is no silver bullet when it comes to weight loss. There are countless places online that promise instant results with specific diets, pills or exercises - but the reality is that weight loss is a long-term commitment.
That isn’t to say there aren’t products and treatments to help you on your journey to a healthier body. There are, but these are only as good as the effort put in by the person trying to lose weight. So if you’re looking for a magic pill to do all the work, we’re sorry - it simply doesn’t exist.
What’s the best diet plan for weight loss?
Now you’re asking the right questions. According to the NHS, a safe rate of weight loss is between 0.5kg and 1kg each week, and this can be achieved by sticking to a daily calorie limit. For women, this means eating below 1400 calories a day. Men, on the other hand, are advised to eat below 1900 calories a day in order to lose weight safely. It’s important to note that these are generalisations - if you want a calorie allowance specific to you, your BMI (body mass index) can be used to work it out. Use a weight loss calculator to get a tailored calorie allowance.
So you’ve got your calorie allowance - but what foods should you be eating? Well, for people looking to lose weight, foods with lots of fibre and protein are the ones to go for, they also have the added benefit of helping you feel fuller for longer. Getting more fibre into your diet is simple - substitute. Swapping white rice and pasta for wholemeal versions, for example, can double the amount of fibre in your diet. For protein-rich food, white and lean meats like turkey are good, but you can also use beans, peas and lentils for some added variety. These alternative protein sources are cheap and have the additional benefit of being hugely versatile - so you can get creative while cooking.
It’s important to remember that while altering what you eat is a great start, you can still put on weight if you’re eating too much. Since the 1950s, our food consumption habits have changed hugely. Our portions are bigger, many of us eat while doing other activities, and many more simply eat too quickly. Thankfully, there are some quick fixes. Using smaller plates, for example, can keep you mindful of the size of your portions. Turning off the TV to eat dinner can help you focus on and enjoy your food. And eating too quickly can be prevented by simply chewing more slowly.
I’ve heard that a ‘keto diet’ is especially effective for weight loss. Is that true?
The ketogenic diet - or ‘keto’ for short - is a diet plan promising rapid results and has gained popularity in recent years. A keto diet consists of high-fat, adequate-protein, and low-carbohydrate foods. The science behind keto is that by consuming far fewer carbs, the body enters into a state of ketosis, and is forced to burn fats instead.
While studies have shown keto to be very effective at losing weight quickly, it isn’t without problems. Ketosis is a survival adaptation in humans that helps them survive during famines. As such, the weight loss associated with ketosis is often unsustainable - people following the diet may regain the weight almost as quickly as it was lost when the diet is ended. In addition, ketosis can take up to 72 hours to kick in - making the diet extremely strict. It really is an all-or-nothing plan: any deviation from the regimen would prevent ketosis and force you to start again.
In addition to the difficulties sustaining a keto diet, it’s also important to consider adverse effects on the body. While keto can help you lose weight rapidly, it can also cause low blood pressure, kidney stones, constipation, nutrient deficiencies and an increased chance of heart disease.
What are the best weight loss pills?
Any weight loss regimen should begin by addressing diet and lifestyle factors. However, for those of us who need a helping hand, there are medications that can speed up weight loss quite significantly. The most popular prescribed weight loss medications contain the active ingredient orlistat, which works by reducing the amount of fat absorbed by the body from food. Orlistat attaches to the stomach enzyme lipase, which prevents the enzyme from digesting some fat molecules. Instead of being absorbed, these fat molecules pass through your system instead.
The reduced level of fat absorption orlistat causes is proven to assist with weight loss. Clinical studies have shown that orlistat, when used correctly, can help users lose 50% more weight than dieting alone. And the drug acts quickly, with studies showing an increase in fat leaving the body as early as 24 hours after taking it.
That said, we must make clear that orlistat is not a miracle drug. Orlistat reduces dietary fat absorption by 30%, which means that people who rely on orlistat to do all the work without making the crucial dietary and lifestyle changes will not find the drug as effective. Orlistat must be used in conjunction with a calorie-controlled, nutrient-rich diet plan and increasing exercise for it to be most useful. If you’re taking orlistat alongside lots of fruit and veg, and an equal distribution of protein, carbs and fat, you should enjoy the medication’s full benefit.
Is running or swimming better for weight loss?
The good news is that any significant increase in physical activity will help you lose weight. But why ask either-or? Taking up both running and swimming would not only help you lose weight and get fit - it would inject some variety into your exercise routine and allow you to work different muscle groups as well. Aerobic exercise is a fantastic way to shed calories, but strength training is hugely important for shaping and toning the muscles. With that in mind, we recommend a diverse exercise routine that incorporates cardio, strength training, and plenty of stretching at different points of the week. And don’t forget: you should be increasing the intensity of your exercise as you lose weight for the best results.
What’s the best exercise for getting rid of belly fat?
How to lose stomach fat is one of the most popular weight loss-related searches on the internet and for good reason, getting rid of stubborn belly fat is hard. So what’s the secret?
The good news is that all the things you need to reduce stomach fat are already included in any well-rounded weight loss program. A healthy, calorie-controlled diet; plenty of exercise; drinking lots of water - these are all crucial elements when trying to shed belly fat. If you’re looking to really put in the work, however, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a good choice. It’s a form of exercise that is extremely effective for strengthening and toning your core. HIIT involves doing short bursts of very intense exercise between low-intensity exercises and rests. HIIT forces you to put maximum effort into core-related exercises - making it great for getting rid of belly fat.
What is an effective weight loss motivation strategy?
Staying motivated is one of the most important parts of any weight loss strategy. Unfortunately, it can also be one of the most difficult. Whether it’s sticking to your calorie limit, or eating the right foods, or convincing yourself to get some exercise in, committing to losing weight isn’t always fun.
That said, by managing your expectations, setting clear goals and being proud of yourself can all help you stay motivated. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and losing weight won’t happen in a day either. There’s no one way to transform your body overnight, and any weight loss treatment that promises to do that is either false or dangerous. Human beings aren’t built to withstand rapid fluctuations in their weight, and an effective weight loss regimen must take that into account.
This is where managing your expectations comes in. In the beginning, you might have a mental image of what you want to look like at the end of your weight loss journey. There’s nothing wrong with this, but any long-term goal is made up of smaller milestones that you hit along the way. Focusing on these little milestones can not only keep your expectations in check, but also give you lots of successes to celebrate on your journey.
So if all you can think about right now is your final goal, pause for a second and take some time to break it up into smaller ones. And each time you reach one, celebrate!
Why am I not losing weight?
All the advice given above should help kickstart your journey to losing weight. But it can be disheartening if you fail to see results - it also risks ruining your motivation.
But don’t give up just yet. If you’re sticking to your calorie limit and exercise regimen, it could be that you’re starting to lose weight, but not noticing it yet. If you’re regularly weighing yourself and not seeing any reductions, however, there are a number of things that could be holding you back.
While sticking to a healthy diet is essential, it is still possible to binge on and overeat healthy foods. Remember, it isn’t just the content of your diet, but how many calories you’re consuming that you need to be mindful of. In addition, if you’re drinking alcohol while dieting it’s crucial to remember that beer, wine and sugary alcoholic drinks are all very high in calories. And while reducing alcohol consumption is important, it’s equally important to stay hydrated: studies have shown that drinking water can boost the number of calories you burn by 24-30% over a period of just 1.5 hours.
If, however, you’re struggling with your weight after making all the necessary changes to your lifestyle, there may be a medical condition stopping you losing weight. At this point, we’d recommend contacting your GP.
Authored by Harry Walker
Patient Care Specialist
After graduating with a degree in Journalism at City, University of London, Harry joined the Pharmica team as a Patient Care Specialist and content writer.
In addition to helping in the dispensary, Harry consults with our in-house pharmacists to produce engaging, informative and expert content for our patients.