3 Very Different Weight Loss Journeys

Losing weight can seem like a complicated process, but basically it comes down to creating an energy deficit — that is, expending more calories than you consume. With one in three Australian adults overweight or obese its obviously not as easy as it sounds to maintain a healthy weight, the big question is why? The easy answer is that we live in a society that promotes a sedentary lifestyle and has endlessly available energy dense foods. Most of us know that eating a little less, and exercising a little more does the trick, but in an industry crowded with mixed messages on tips to lose weight, it can get confusing. Should you eat Paleo? Go Vegan? Try Intermittent fasting or whole food cleanses? There’s certainly no shortage of solutions to the obesity problem, with all of them claiming to be ‘the key’ but which one is right and what does this say about healthy eating in Australia.

At balance2life, we live by a strict philosophy when it comes to weight loss and nutrition: the best diet is the one that works for you. Every popular diet comes with personal stories of peoples weight loss journeys and they all manage to get to the same end goal in very different ways. Here are some completely contrasting weight loss accounts from some of the B2L team members.

B2L’s Jody

A couple of years and about 15kgs ago I asked myself this question “Why when I eat so healthy am I overweight?” I didn't over eat and I love healthy foods. I put it down to simply not having the time to exercise. Contrary to my belief I was actually eating way too much, making the wrong food choices, indulging in treats far more than I realised and hardly moving at all. Exercise was non-existent. I had a stressful job, worked long hours and was a mum to a 2 year old.  Funnily enough these things are all still factors in my life and I did shed the weight and after several years have kept it off. So the million-dollar question is - how did I do this?

My journey started with the well known 5:2 diet. I had watched people loose weight on this diet and felt it would suit me. 2 days I thought, how hard can it be? I didn't start with a target, didn't weigh myself each week, all I did was stick to 2 days of fasting (consuming no more than 500 calories) each week, with the other days eating whatever I liked in moderation. I certainly didn't have the energy or even the desire at that point to do more than this. I found the 2 fasting days challenging at times but for the most part not too bad. I'm not out to sell the 5:2 diet, nor any particular diet for that matter. Whist this diet worked for me I know others who have tried it with no success.

The major problem with diets is that they can make you feel deprived, and that’s why people find it difficult to stick to them. The idea of a diet is often feeling the need to cut out everything you enjoy. Some people spend their days nibbling on slivers of poached chicken and blanched vegetables. For me, this approach is all wrong. Instead of depriving myself, I changed my mindset and started eating differently.

I didn't shed all of my weight on the 5:2, this really just got me started. It taught me how to eat less and led to a better understanding of how many calories are in certain foods. I inevitably reached a point where my BMR caught up with my weekly calorie intake, consequently the weight loss stopped. This is where people often lose motivation. Luckily for me I had started changing my mindset and realised that actually I did eat too much. Most nights I’d go back for seconds, I always had desert and a glass of wine was mandatory.

I would often eat things like Spaghetti Bolognaise and think this was a healthy meal, I was putting some vegetables in it to be fair! When I started to make more mindful choices, pay attention to my portions, stop the excessive snacking between meals the weight continued to come off. I now wonder how I ever thought I ate a healthy diet. I really do love healthy foods and now I make these choices more often. I still love fish and chips and find it hard to resist a good cake but I eat these foods only occasionally.

If I were to pass on my top three tips they would be

  1. Learn how to eat less (keeping busy, glasses of water, veggie sticks and hummus and cups of herbal tea help keep my hunger at bay between meals)
  2. Make healthy choices (swapping a burger for sushi, a soft drink for water, an ice cream for fresh fruit is easy to do)
  3. Enjoy treats in moderation, its all about Balance…(a treat is not really a treat if you eat it all the time)

B2L’s Kim

I was a sucker for a fad diet. This was my pattern:

Find some (often completely obscure) diet in a blog or magazine.

Make drastic changes to my diet

Perform the diet for 2 weeks

Fail miserably

Relapse into a hefty binge period.

Repeat the cycle as soon as new obscure diet took my fancy.

To anyone working Monday to Friday in an office, and consequently living a sedentary lifestyle, this pattern might be all too familiar. It can be tempting to look for quick fixes in getting healthier when your life is hectic. It wasn’t ‘til I realised an unbelievably simple fact that my relationship with food completely changed, and I lost a significant amount of weight.

The point I was missing this whole time was that losing weight is just a beautiful, simple, irrefutable mathematical equation:

energy in < energy out.

The first step in this equation was figuring out my BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate. Put simply, this is the amount for energy I require just to function through out the day. From here, I figured out my TDEE or Total Daily Energy Expenditure by adding any exercise I do during the day. Here’s a great calculator for both. Thus, I figured out exactly how many calories I should be getting from the food I’m eating to maintain the weight I’m currently at. I then cut this figure back by 25%, putting myself in a caloric deficit. 25% is considered a moderate caloric deficit and I have read that there are bigger benefits to taking a moderate approach: Take too big a percentage off and you’ll be eating too little food to function properly which is of course unsustainable. Take too small a percentage off and the time it takes to get you to your goal weight will be way too long which is again, unsustainable (I’m an impatient millennial after all).

From this simple equation, I worked out EXACTLY the amount of calories I should be eating each day to lose weight. If I stick to this number, there’s no way I will not lose weight. It’s science! I allowed myself a buffer (50 calories less or more per day) to keep the balance. This way of looking at my diet was completely new to me. I could ‘spend’ those calories however I wanted. I could eat 1300 calories worth of McNuggets if I wanted. However I quickly learned to become frugal with my daily calorie allowance. I figured out that by eating calorie dense foods, I was selling myself short of not only the joy of eating a satisfying amount of food (1300 calories is not many McNuggets) but also, all the nutrients I needed to sustain me and keep my body functioning at its peak. So, I began planning meals to hit my daily needs of protein, carbs, fats and firbre, as well as micronutrients. This automatically steered me towards healthy, whole foods. With the added flexibility of being able to enjoy a 6 pack with sweet and sour every now and then too. This type of diet, I’ve recently discovered, is called Flexible Dieting and it’s popular in the world of bodybuilding for the simple fact that it’s indisputable. There’s no grey area, and it’s a sure thing that you’ll lose weight if you stick to it.

Before long, the weight started falling off, I rarely felt deprived and I began to enjoy food more. I’ll admit, it was tough and I felt a bit silly weighing and measuring everything initially but you get used to this and you begin to recognise what certain volumes of food look like (100g chicken breast is a lot less than you think it is). There are also plenty apps to help you on your journey. I used an app called My Fitness Pal, which allows you to track your calories, nutrients and exercise all in the one place.

If I were to pass on my top three tips they would be

  1. Figure out your BMR and exactly how many calories you should be eating each day and stick to it.
  2. Work in an untracked cheat meal once a week to keep you on your journey.
  3. Weigh your food to get a handle on portions and weigh yourself to track your progress because nothing is more motivating than seeing the kilos fall off!

B2L's Ben

When I started my weight loss journey it really was more out of curiosity than anything. Can I loose a few kilos just by making this one change? Now after many small changes over a long period of time I am a healthy weight and feel so much better for it.

I put my weight gain down to one reason – lack of time. Many people can take the time to plan and prep their meals for the week. Not me. Every meal I eat has been made by someone else. I have no idea how to cook and I have absolutely no desire to learn. Abundant takeaway places where I lived provided the perfect scenario for me to order take out every night, with some left over for lunch the next day.

If I ordered a Thai stir-fry, I thought I was being healthy. Every week I would order a pizza and the emergence of takeaway delivery services like Uber Eats and Menulog meant that literally any cuisine was available to me instantly. What a time to be alive! Or so I thought. It wasn’t until I found out that the average Thai stir-fry contains over 500 calories and almost 20g fat that I realised there was a problem. Faced with the prospect of gaining weight rapidly or learning to cook for myself I stumbled upon a healthy meal service provider. This particular provider was able to prep my breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the entire working week. I let myself off the hook on weekends. Instead of eating pizza, burgers, Chinese and sushi, I was having lean protein, vegetables and whole grains. And all the thinking was done for me. Not only have I dropped weight but I feel so much more energised that I’ve been really active to burn it all off! I now exercise every day - no matter what. It all boils down to priorities in the end and if you can't put your health and wellbeing at number one there is something wrong. This type of solution isn’t for everyone – it isn’t cheap. But for me the benefits far outweighed the cost.

If I were to pass on my top three tips they would be

  1. If you can’t do it yourself – get someone to do it for you! There are so many healthy delivery services out there that make life easier
  2. Limit take away to 2 nights a week
  3. Keep up the physical activity – I’m very active and I’m sure this played a part in my success with these services.

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