If you’ve ever tried losing weight before, whether it was trimming down a couple pounds to fit into a dress a little better, or dropping some drastic numbers on the scale, you can probably say one thing about the process: it wasn’t easy.

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 10.04.15 PMTrue. One thing people must understand about weight loss is that it is hard. It’s hard work both physically and mentally and the more you want to lose, the longer you have to keep at it. But I find that a lot of people hate losing weight because they don’t know how to properly lose weight and get frustrated or results that don’t last. A lot of people think the only way to lose weight is through drastic and miserable measures, when in reality losing weight is actually quite scientific and fairly straight-forward.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but so many American industries have made their profit off marketing the best and new diets, workouts, and weight-loss regimes that promise amazing results and will leave you looking indefinitely like the fitness model on wearing those new running shorts you just bought – as if buying those shorts will get us those legs. So if you’re needing or wanting to lose weight, then here’s what you should be doing when it comes to the slim-down process.

First of all, what you eat is 80% of the battle. But rather than think about what you need to cut out, think about in terms about what you need to be eating to meet your goals. First of all, eat a little less than you usually do. There are 3,500 calories in one pound of fat. If you want to lose a pound a week, that means you need to be taking in 500 calories less a day than usual. However this goal should be met through what you eat and how you move. Reach the -500 calorie/day goal by cutting out 250 calories worth of food, and burning 250 calories through exercise.  To get more information on how you to eat through this process, read my previously posted article on proper nutrition.

Secondly, exercise effectively. A lot of people think that spending enormous amounts of time doing cardio at a steady pace is the most effective way to workout to lose weight. Before you start steeling your mind for an hour-long date with an elliptical, let me tell you – this is not true.  While I’m not saying that there are no benefits to steady state cardio, I’m all about efficiency. And if you’re looking to lose weight, you’re probably also looking to develop some nice muscle tone along the way. So if you want a workout that doesn’t take long, sheds fat and incorporates strength training through explosive movement, then HIIT is your answer. HIIT stands for “high-intensity interval training,” which means your workout will consist of short bursts of high exertion (i.e., sprinting), broken up by intervals of rest. HIIT workouts only take about 20 minutes and are extremely effective as they get you sweating, your muscles burning, and your heart rate up in no time. Try this split for a HIIT workout: 5 minute warmup, followed by five 30 seconds bursts of high-intensity with a minute of rest in between each burst, finishing with a 5 minute cool-down. HIIT workouts can be performed running, biking, swimming, or by using bodyweight movements like burpees or jump-squats – just get creative! Find out what you can exert yourself best at.

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 10.05.34 PMTo challenge yourself further, try lengthening or adding to your high-intensity intervals, shortening rest, or doing a different exercise at each interval. HIIT workouts are meant to effectively utilize your time, so really give these workouts your all and you will be shedding pounds in no time. The HIIT style of workout is used in CrossFit, featured in the Insanity videos, used by my favorite TV trainer Jillian Michaels, and utilized in training most athletes. Basically, HIIT is not a joke and will get you where you want to be much more quickly than say, grinding away steadily on a stationary bike.

Thirdly, be aware of outside factors, namely sleep and water consumption. While it may seem like sleep is the easiest place to “cheat” in your weight-loss goals, it should actually be a high priority. You should be getting between 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Sleep is when your body has time to repair itself from all the working out you’ve been doing. It is also the time when your body isn’t eating for an extended period, so it has time to tap into your fat stores and use them for fuel. Sleep also helps to stabilize and reduce cortisol levels – a stress-induced hormone that causes your body to retain its fat stores. The less sleep you get, the more cortisol you keep running through your veins as your body tries to overcompensate for its lack of rest.

In addition to plenty of sleep, you need to be drinking P-L-E-N-T-Y of water. Water will keep you from bloating and holding extra water weight – things that may make you believe you aren’t losing weight in the form of fat even if you are. Your body also needs a constant source of water to help in the processes of fat-burning and muscle building/repair. Try to drink at least 64 oz. (eight 8oz. glasses) of water a day, more if you’re feeling especially sore or training.

While this isn’t a comprehensive or perfect guide of how to lose weight – there is an endless stream of opinions and methods of what is “best” – it is without a doubt a great place to start. I’ve implemented these methods with myself and others many times before with great results!