Vail Daily column: Guidelines for losing weight |

Vail Daily column: Guidelines for losing weight

Ryan W. Richards
Make It Count

I’ve dedicated the last month to sharing various thoughts on diet. To summarize concisely: We eat too much, we move too little, we blame specific foods and the corresponding physical responses from eating those foods, and we are still fat and dying of obesity each year. It’s really quite simple. Its simplicity doesn’t make it easy, though. Winning the battle of the bulge is tough. It takes serious commitment. Here is cheat sheet that can simplify your life as you attempt weight loss in preparation of beach season.

I will summarize five areas that need your attention as you consider your skinny jeans. Sleep, hydration, caloric density, planning and exercise. As always, the points I’m making are based on my experience struggling with weight throughout my life and are supported by basic physiological principles. These following guidelines are a starting point and by no means are conclusive. Use what you can, disregard the rest. OK, here we go.


Sleep is an underestimated silent misfit that can cause problems with weight gain. We have known for years that sleep disturbances are linked to obesity.

For example, researchers from the German Universities Tubingen and Lubeck and Uppsala University in Sweden found that sleep deprivation is linked with feeling hungrier and having higher blood levels of ghrelin (also known as the hunger hormone).

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Other researchers have found that those who sleep less are more likely to consume an extra 300 calories per day. Further, I have found that sleep-deprived people are more likely to make poor food decisions presumably because they are less likely to be productive and cook healthy alternatives. When in doubt, focus on getting more rest.


Along with additional rest, it’s critical to stay hydrated. Dehydration can lead to a host of health problems, including weight gain. Researchers have found that an average person who increases water intake to 1.5 liters per day over the course of a year will burn 18,000 more calories, equating to a 5-pound weight loss.

A good rule of thumb is to consume half your body weight in ounces per day. A 200 pound male should aim for 100 ounces per day for example.


Possibly the most important factor in reducing belly fat is controlling total caloric intake. Regardless of where you stand with animal products, gluten, sugar or other foods that are apparently dangerous to your health and will cause involuntary combustion of your internal organs immediately upon consumption, you must eat less. Much less than you think.

Most women tend to do well around 1,200-1,500 calories per day; men seem to do well in the 1,400-1,900 range for weight loss. Say what you will, but most people don’t need much food. Sit behind a desk all day and wonder why you’re not losing weight eating only 1,800 calories per day? Enough said. Unless you’re extremely active, which is counterproductive for weight loss by the way ­— shoot for much less than you think. Given the caloric restrictions often required, try to avoid calorie-dense foods such as nut butters, cheese and avocados. Even though these foods are arguably good for your health, two tablespoons of peanut butter pack 190 calories of punch. As a snack on a 1,600 calorie diet, this will hit 12 percent of your daily intake. Not much return on your investment. Eating a large green salad with plenty of colorful vegetables and a tablespoon of oil will constitute the same caloric makeup but will provide you with more nutrients and a lot more sustenance to fill you up.

Eating less also requires attention to planning. Losing weight and cooking at home go hand in hand. It can be very difficult but not impossible to lose weight if you don’t reasonably know your way around a kitchen. Take a local cooking class, watch the Food Network or do some homework online. Learn to prepare salads, how to sear a piece of meat and how to cook tasty vegetables at bare minimum. As a bonus, it will save you money from buying packaged foods and from eating out.


Finally, exercise less. That’s right, spend less time trying to outwork your diet. There’s a time and place to train hard. But not during weight loss attempts. Unless you are a seasoned bodybuilder who knows how to lean out, exercise can often backfire at your weight loss attempts.

I have seen way too many eager weight loss champions end up consuming too many calories post workout throughout the day because they worked all too hard and their physiological state required the additional intake. While you might become fit, you won’t always lean out the way you intend. This is a big topic of contention, but I’m not the only one who has witnessed this phenomenon.

A general guideline is to strength train a few days per week using only a few major exercises with heavy weight and low repetitions. Try not to break any records, stay fresh and avoid the high heart rate zones.

There you go. Have a great week, folks!

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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