Where to start with fat loss?
“All diets follow the same principle. Whether you lose or gain weight is determined by the energy balance which simply means calories eaten minus calories burned.”
Fat loss - it’s a confusing topic. Foods and nutrients go through phases of being demonised and then celebrated for fat loss. “New” diets promise quick results, and an assured method of how to lose body fat and gain muscle all at the same time, with minimal effort. With every instagram model and diet guru providing different advice, it can seem like these people know something you don’t.
The truth is, all diets follow the same principle, the only difference is the method used. The trick is not to overcomplicate things and find the method that works best for you.
In order to do that I’ve provided you with a simple recap on what is required to lose body fat, followed by 8 steps to create your perfect diet.
How to lose body fat?
We eat food because our bodies need energy to survive and stay healthy. The energy value of food is measured in calories.This is a measure of energy just like a meter is a measure of distance. Whether you lose or gain weight is determined by the energy balance which simply means calories eaten minus calories burned.
Energy balance = calories eaten - calories burned
If you don’t lose or gain weight the energy balance is neutral, or 0. If this number is positive, you’re in a calorie surplus and you will gain weight. If the balance is negative you’re in a calorie deficit and you will lose weight. How you are creating that energy deficit is entirely up to you.
“Losing weight is a gradual process achieved by consistently making the right choices.”
I’ve provided my 8 steps below to help you find a sustainable way to do so.
1. Make an estimation of your calorie needs. How many calories you need depends on your body size, body composition and how active you are. Calorie requirements can vary a lot from person to person, and one of the mistakes people make is underestimating how much they eat and overestimating the amount of calories they burn with exercise.
“How many calories you need depends on your body size, body composition and how active you are.”
If you spend most of your time sitting, like many of us working an office job do, you’ll need to be conservative with your estimation. There are many websites that can calculate your calorie needs for you. Simply ask Google or the FFF team.
2. Apply a calorie deficit large enough to make a difference but small enough to be sustainable. Once you have made an estimation of your daily calorie requirements, you need to eat less than that to lose weight, ie. put yourself in a calorie deficit. As a rough guide, a deficit of 20% is sustainable for most. This means that if you burn 2000 kcal on any given day, your calorie budget with a 20% deficit would be 1600. The more overweight you are, the larger your deficit can be.
3. Make a plan that works with your lifestyle and preferences. Whether you create your calorie deficit by going vegan, intermittent fasting or eating like a caveman.. that is entirely up to you as long as you adhere to the one rule of eating less than you burn. So, find a plan which suits your lifestyle and your preferences. This will be much more sustainable in the long run.
A common misconception is that some nutrients or foods, such as grains and carbohydrates make you put on weight more than others. Cutting out grains or all carbohydrates can be an easy way to create a calorie deficit as we tend to eat a lot of them and they’re easy to overeat. It is our eating behaviour which is causing the change in weight.
4. Exercise can help to create a calorie deficit but is more important to maintain health.
“People tend to overestimate how many calories are burned during exercise.”
You can increase your calorie budget by exercising. However, people tend to overestimate how many calories are burned during exercise so my advice would be - don’t see it as a reason to double your food intake.
That’s not to say exercise isn’t important. Exercise is important to stay healthy, it helps to build muscle, as well as reducing the risk of cardiovascular and bone disease. Don’t panic if the gym is not your thing. Your body does not differentiate between exercising in a gym or anywhere else. Find an activity that you enjoy and that can be anything, running, walking or playing tennis. You’re more likely to sustain the activity if you enjoy doing it and consistency, more so than the type of exercise, is key.
5. Focus on eating whole foods. Eating a diet based on whole foods resolves a lot of issues as to why people gain weight in the first place. It is more difficult to overeat on wholefoods (nobody overeats broccoli, but it’s very easy to eat a day’s calorie budget with chocolate). Wholefoods satiate better than processed foods and they provide vitamins, minerals and fibre to support your overall health too.
6. Incorporate foods you love, occasionally. Everyone fancies something delicious every once in a while and trying to make these foods forbidden fruits for the rest of your life is not realistic. It’s also unnecessary. As long as you keep your portions in check, it is possible to enjoy treats on a fat loss diet. Rather than buying a whole cake, go to your favourite coffee shop, order one slice and enjoy it. Successful weight loss involves also controlling your environment, because motivation can only take you so far.
7. Measure, because you’re not as skilled at counting calories as you think. We tend to underestimate how much we eat but we’re also not very good at estimating the calories in food. So when you first begin dieting, it is really useful to start keeping track of what you eat. There are many handy apps available such as My Fitness Pal to help you do just that. Try this for a week religiously and once you have a better understanding of calories in food you’ll be able to make better choices without having to track everything all the time.
8. Stick to your plan, monitor progress and adjust accordingly. So once you have created your nutrition and training plan, tailored it to your lifestyle and tastes, tracked your meals for a while so you know what you’re doing, here’s the magic tip: stick to it.
Understand that it takes time to shift weight and build habits that last. Nobody ever gained weight from overeating for one day and similarly you will not lose weight overnight, from eating one healthy meal. Losing weight is a gradual process achieved by consistently making the right choices. As long as you are moving in the right direction you are doing well.