17 weeks of 2023 have already passed never to be repeated. That means there’s just 35 weeks left this year.
With winter behind us, I’m sure most of you will be looking forward to your summer holidays. I am!
And that means it’s probably also the time you start to think about those few extra pounds you’ve been meaning to shift.
The two most popular times for people to think about losing weight are at January and leading up to a holiday.
But far too many people leave it too late and have no plan.
So this week I thought I’d provide a simple guide to help you shed the pounds once and for all.
How Fat Loss Works
Put simply, when we consume fewer calories than we burn, we lose weight, as fat is burned as fuel. This is called a calorie deficit.
There are four ways your body burns calories.
- Resting Metabolic Rate: This is the energy required just to stay alive. It is usually around 70% of total amount of energy your body uses each day.
- Exercise Activity Thermogenesis: As the name suggests, this is the energy used during structed exercise like going to the gym, playing a sport or dancing etc.
- Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): Is the energy used for general daily activity.
- Thermic Affect of Food: This is the small amount of energy your body uses to digest the food you eat which is usually around 10% of total calories burned each day. Protein has a much greater thermic effect than carbs or fat. Another reason to ensure you’re prioritising protein when trying to lose weight.
Here’s how it works in practice.
If you eat 2000 calories in a day but burn 2500, you will lose around one pound per week. But if you eat 3000 calories and burn 2500, you will gain around one pound per week.
Energy cannot be created or destroyed.
What goes in must either be used or stored until it is needed.
As you lose weight, you become smaller and the amount of calories you need to stay alive and move around decreases.
So to overcome this, you need to continue to recalculate and reduce the number of calories you consume each day every few weeks. Otherwise you will eventually stop losing weight.
Requirements For An Effective Fat Loss Diet to Work
- Calorie deficit: As mentioned above, the only way to lose weight is by burning the stored energy that is in your body fat. And the only way to do that is by consuming fewer calories than you burn. No calorie deficit = no weight loss. It’s that simple.
- Strength training: Your body wants to conserve as much energy as possible. It has no way of knowing when the next meal is coming. So when calories are reduced, it looks for ways to achieve this goal. One of which is to start breaking down muscle because muscles burn energy, and if they’re not being used, the body sees them as unnecessary. To avoid this from happening we have to give it a reason to hold on to its muscle. Strength training, whether using weights or bodyweight, tells the body that we need that muscle. Dieting without strength training and sufficient protein (see point 3) can result in up to 40% of weight loss being muscle loss. That is bad news as you will know if you read the newsletter from a few weeks ago.
- Get enough protein: Two weeks ago I wrote about the role of protein in the body and the importance of getting enough. Many people eat far too little protein, especially in later life. If you’re planning on losing weight, you’d better prioritise protein in your diet.
Avoid Short-Term Fixes & Fads
Any approach that results in a calorie deficit will work for a time. But many of the fad diets that get a lot of coverage just aren’t sustainable.
They often require the exclusion of entire food groups which can lead to nutrition deficiencies that could have some serious health implications.
They are also highly likely to result in cravings for the things you’re not allowed to eat. Eventually, even the strongest willed person will crack which can lead to the wheels really coming off the diet waggon.
Long-Term Strategies for Success
- Diet slowly: Aim to lose 0.5-1% of your bodyweight each week. The slower you lose weight, the smaller the calorie deficit needs to be which can make the whole process much easier to manage. It’s very difficult to go out an enjoy yourself if you’re trying to maintain a 1000 calorie deficit. 300-500 is far more manageable.
- Calculate you daily calorie needs and subtract 15-20%: This will give you a sustainable target. There are multiple ways of calculating calories needs such as this tool. Soon I will be launching an app that will do it all for you. Think of it as your personal trainer and nutrition coach in your pocket.
- Set a realistic end target: To begin a journey you must know the destination. But that destination must also be realistic. Healthy bodyfat percentages for men and between 10-20%. For women it’s between 18-28%. Everyone is different. Some people can easily stay at the lower end of the range, while others may be a little higher. Don’t confuse eating too much with being someone who naturally sits at the upper end though!
- Leverage habits: I’ve written about this before. Habit stacking is one of the most powerful tools you can implement. Walk whilst listening to your favourite podcast, audiobook or TV show. Take the stairs instead of the lift (elevator for all the Americans out there). Find ways to make movement part of your day. Being more active burns more calories without adding extra gym time to your schedule.
- Align your environment to your goals: If you’re trying to lose weight, the best thing you can do is remove temptation from your home or place of work. Don’t buy the unhealthy snacks in first place so they can’t sit in the cupboard calling out to you. Plan you weekly meals in advance. One of the biggest causes of weight loss failure that I see is when people fail to plan their meals. Plan breakfast, lunch and dinner for each day and shop online for groceries if you’re serious about succeeding.
So you’ve stuck to your diet and achieved your goal. Now what?
Don’t do what most people do: go right back to how they were living. If you want to keep the weight off and reap the benefits for the longer-term, you’re going to have to accept that you can’t go back to your old ways. If you repeat the same actions you will get the same results.
Once you hit your goal it’s time to recalculate the number of calories you need to maintain that weight and increase how much you’re eating to that amount immediately.
I recommend you stick at that amount for 2-3 months while continuing to monitor your weight. If you continue losing weight, add 100 calories and monitor. If you begin to gain weight, reduce by 100 calories and monitor. Track trends over weeks, not days. It’s possible for the scales to fluctuate by a couple of pounds day-to-day.
Once your weight is stable you have a couple of choices.
Either continue as you are. Or, if you want to improve performance or build muscle, start to increase calories in line with the increase in training. Accept that you may gain a little fat along the way. Set a limit, and once you reach it, go back to a short-term diet.
Repeat this process forever.
I’m sorry there’s no special secret people have been hiding from you. But follow this process and I promise you will lose weight and keep it off forever.