How to lose 5kg: Here’s how I did it in 6 weeks
As someone who’s been slim most of my life, I never thought I’d be writing about how to lose 5kg in six weeks. Last October, my identity as a skinny person was challenged.
I was trying on a cocktail dress that I planned to wear to my brother’s wedding.
Mum was attempting to zip it for me, as I pulled my tunny in and squeezed my shoulder blades together. It wasn’t happening.
“It must have shrunk at the dry cleaner,” mum said, giving up.
“I don’t think that’s a thing,” I said with the heavy sigh of someone who has outgrown a 12-month old dress.
The problem wasn’t with the dress, the problem was pasta, cheese and chocolate.
I wrote about my half-hearted attempt to lose weight last year here. Back then, I started exercising but did little to change my diet.
This time, I knew I needed to get serious. My life was in middle aged, overweight woman territory. I could accept this or do something about it.
Here’s what I did to lose 5kg.
1. I started slowly.
I’ve worked in health long enough to I know this: to lose weight and keep it off, I needed to create sustainable habits. That meant, for me, doing one thing at a time.
First, I gave up chocolate. That was hard, as I was in the habit of eating it most afternoons. Whittakers chocolate has been my love and my sustenance for some time.
I knew from my years working at Cancer Council, cold turkey is the most effective way to stop smoking. I decided to take this approach with my chocolate addiction, and kept it out of the house so I wasn’t tempted. I also asked my mum not to offer it to me when I went to her house.
2. I set a calorie intake goal.
Chocolate cessation became easier, but the scales weren’t shifting. At least they weren’t going up, I reasoned. But I wanted to know how to lose 5kg or more!
Then I had a health check. My doctor weighed me and measured my waist, and announced that I was officially outside the healthy weight range. Eek, things needed to amp up fast. She suggested I reduce meal sizes.
Thus began my 6-weeks of serious dieting.
I downloaded a diet diary app and set my daily goal to 1,300 calories. There wasn’t much science behind this target. The internet said I should have 1,600 calories per day, based on my height and weight and weight goal. But other credible websites talked about 1,200 calories for weight loss, and Dr Michael Mosley (my health communications hero) promotes an 800-calorie-a-day diet. So, it seemed doable and safe to aim for 1,300.
3. I tracked my calories across the day.
Tracking calories against foods was illuminating. I quickly saw the culprits in my diet, and started cutting down on them. Bread, pizza, pasta. I noted the foods that kept me full for longer. Oats, meat, eggs. I quickly realised vegetables were my friend, and I could eat a lot of them without exceeding my calorie goal.
I switched from flat whites to long blacks, and won back about 400 calories a day, equivalent of a decent, healthy meal.
4. I became OK with occasional hunger.
At first, I was always hungry.
I was reading a book to my 7-year-old around the same time that I embarked on this diet: How humans took over the world. (Recommend, by the way). The author talks about how humans used to hunt for food, whereas now we open the fridge and eat whatever we want, whenever we want.
This was an epiphany for me. We think we need to fill our bellies at the smallest hint of hunger, whereas our ancestors would have been hungry regularly. I decided to embrace feeling hungry sometimes.
And this has had a great side-effect: every time I eat a meal, following feeling hungry for an hour or so, the food tastes extra good. I would even say, I have become a mindful eater, enjoying every mouthful.
5. I did intermittent fasting
I read One Small Thing by Dr Michael Mosley, and he reminded me of the benefits of intermittent fasting. He also argued that you should have your coffee after your breakfast, so I decided to do this too.
I decided to try both, fasting overnight for 12 to 15 hours, aiming to eat dinner by 7pm and breakfast at 9am followed by a long black.
6. I planned meals and snacks.
Planning ahead meant I was less likely to reach for junk foods and slip into old habits. I browsed my recipe books, starting with the health-focused ones, and decided my weekly meals in advance. I also stocked up on Lapuzza soups as my fastfood equivalent, for those quick, last-minute meals. They’re low in calories and additives, and high in veges and proteins. (Although high in salt.)
I filled the fridge with exotic hommus and beetroot dips. I became one of those annoying people who snacks on raw vegetables with hommus. But I’ve come to love it: red capsicum, snap peas, beans, cucumber, carrot.
I also make protein balls for a sweet treat. They’re high in calories, but full of nutrients and take the edge off any chocolate cravings.
7. How to lose 5kg fast? I exercised too.
Don’t throw protein balls at me for saying this, but I enjoy exercise. I love getting my heart rate up and moving my body. Sometimes it’s hard to motivate myself, and it can be challenging to find time and space around work and family life.
But it’s good for me, mentally and physically, and I knew losing weight involves both diet and exercise. So I made a goal of going to the gym four times a week. Admittedly, it’s usually three or sometimes two.
But, it’s working. I feel fitter, stronger, and better mentally. And recently my friend asked me what was going on with my arms; why they seemed to have, what appeared in some lights, to be, if he wasn’t mistaken, muscle.
8. How to lose 5kg without losing your mind? I embraced imperfection.
Perfect is the enemy of good. I think I’ve read this about one million times in the past few years. I remind myself often, when I write, when I host a dinner party, when I parent. And now, when I diet.
I was careful not to go for ‘perfect’ with my eating, as I want to enjoy food and have treats occasionally. That’s why I didn’t eliminate sweets, carbs or alcohol entirely. Also, there are days when I exceed my calorie goal or slip into an old habit. Yesterday I had a pear danish for breakfast, and I chose not to feel guilty about it.
I don’t want the flaws in my eating or exercise to sabotage the long-term health goal. This means playing down poor eating or missed gym sessions, telling myself it’s OK, and not an excuse to give up.
Everyone is different, but I think the key message is: find out what works for you and make it happen, ensuring it suits your health and lifestyle. It’s worth seeing a GP and / or dietician for advice. This article can also help you get into exercise if it’s been a while since you were active,
The steps towards being a healthy weight are worth it. It feels good to be in control of my body.
Kate is a health writer and communications professional. She is the founder and editor of The Healthy Life. She lives in the Blue Mountains with her husband and two kids.