Practical Fat Loss Facts
I used to believe, like most people that I need to do more exercise to lose weight. The reality is, there are simple changes in your daily life that make a bigger impact.
This is why I have started speaking on this regularly with my members and followers.
Another reality is, that most of the people I work with don’t have loads of time to dedicate to doing the amount of exercise that would be required to do in losing weight via burning calories alone. Or at least not in the long term (before fatigue, overtraining, injury, or guilt kick in).
Don’t get me wrong. Movement should definitely be a regular fixture in your schedule. But you should do exercise for reasons other than for fat loss. I want you to get to a point where you do it because you enjoy it, not because you have to burn calories.
The fitness industry needs to accept responsibility for creating some stress and anxiety around the amount and frequency of exercise for fat loss, and the misinformation that has been pushed out into the public perception. This misinformation, in my opinion really prevents average working people from achieving health. This includes the information that is given to trainers as part of certifications in Australia, and this is why I chose to look elsewhere to become a nutritionist.
It didn’t take long for me working as a trainer to realise that exercise alone does not help busy people achieve their goals. Sadly, as a fitness trainer I was not qualified to give advice outside of the standard healthy food pyramid guidelines, which is really an oversimplification of good nutrition.
On the other end of the scale, nutrition information for fat loss can be a minefield.
Some terms that get thrown around and become a focus on some plans are:
Food quality (organic/clean), macros, CICO (calories in/calories out), meal timing, meal frequency (stoking your metabolism, anyone?).
So what really is most important and where should you start?
Some of the diets that people tell me they have tried in the past, and got results with, but they are not keen to do again are: keto, clean eating, 1200 calories, and meal replacement shakes to name a few.
Every single one of these examples restricts you in some way, and limits your food choices down to hopefully put you in a massive calorie deficit. So while you can stick with, you will see results – but is it sustainable is the biggest question.
Example: A 70kg woman with an office job and low levels of activities is probably needing a daily intake of around 1700-1800 calories to maintain her weight. Put her on a 1200 calorie diet for example, she ends up in a 600 calorie or more (if we assume a surplus before she decided to restrict) deficit per day which equates to weight loss. Of course, when motivation drops off and she returns to her normal habits, she regains weight and looks for the next diet.
Failing to stick to a particular way of eating creates negative self belief among many women who decide that fat loss or being a healthy weight is just not sustainable for them, or that they’re not committed enough or weak-willed.
The problem in a lot of cases is really not with the person, but trying to apply a one size fits all approach or arbitrary food rules to their life.
The order of importance that I place things for my fat loss clients so they can make their own choices about how to lose fat long term are as follows:
Energy balance – it literally doesn’t matter “what” you eat, if you eat it in a caloric deficit, you will lose fat. *caveat to that, eating for fat loss is not necessarily eating for health *sometimes*. My point being, stop getting caught up in the least important details, like, are bananas a good option? 🤦🏻♀️ Google: “The Twinkie Diet”
It takes 7,700 calories above what you need to create a kg of body fat. So our 70kg friend would need to have 9,400 calories in a day to gain a kg of fat overnight. But it doesn’t happen this way. It happens from being in a slight surplus over days, weeks, months etc. So if our friend is consistently having an additional 200 calories per day (hello 3pm biscuits) above what she needs, she’s gaining a kg of fat in 39 days.
Even if she rocks up to her HIIT class x 3 days a week before she goes and sits on her bum at work all day…… She then questions if she’s signed up for the “right” gym class, looks for a new one and repeat the process.
When your scales fluctuate on a day to day basis it’s not due to body fat, it’s more likely fluid shifts, gastric emptying and food bulk, depending on your recent food selection – but if we look at scales decreasing on average over a period of weeks and months, it’s indicative of fat loss. (Or gain in the reverse).
So how can we manage this?
I recommend my clients keep a food log and activity log (steps – the health app in your phone can help you estimate how much you move around) in the short term to identify opportunities for change of habits/reasons why they do particular habits that probably lead to a surplus. You’re the expert on yourself. Self awareness is the key to change.
After energy intake – Incidental movement will be the biggest area where you have a chance to increase your daily energy expenditure. Considering the time you spend in the gym, even if you’re going for a long session, will only contribute maximum 3-5% to your daily burn, yet non-exercise activity contributes 20% – find creative ways to move and walk around more, and sit on your bum less. Even good posture contributes to this, so when you do sit, sit up straight!
Yes, steps counters can give you an estimate, no, please don’t take it that you should power walk 20km per day to try and beat the system, not only does that come under “exercise energy expenditure”, but you’ll likely just want to eat more as a result.
Next, look at food selection, or “Macros”: Choosing a lean source of Protein at each main meal may support your appetite and dietary adherence (the single most important factor for long term success). Protein is an essential macronutrient that supports metabolic processes, including muscle growth and also supports immunity.
Dietary fats are also essential (try to limit trans fats and include mostly whole food sources), but contain more calories per gram than protein and carbohydrates, and are more readily stored as body fat when an energy surplus is present.
While carbohydrates are not an essential nutrient, including a variety of plant based and wholegrain sources will support nutrient intake, and they may support training performance and recovery.
Lastly: food quality, meal timing and frequency are not very important re: fat loss, and should be adjusted on an individual basis. This should be based on personal preferences and lifestyle.
Yes, calories count but you don’t have to count them. There are other strategies available (such as time restricted eating, food selection and portioning), but the facts are that whether we count them using a calorie counting app, or not, our calorie intake and expenditure do impact our ability to lose or gain weight. Refer to your food log and pay attention to your habits. What less nutritious food can you cut back, why do you eat them? Is it emotion or habit?
I recommend doing some short term calorie tracking of your regular meals and foods, for a couple of days to get a picture of your intake, and of what your portions are worth in calories (tip: enter the foods in grams into your calorie tracker for accuracy). Once you have this baseline data, you can choose where to reduce and cut back.
If eating out is a big part of your life, you don’t have to stop it all together, or even try to calorie track it, but my general advice is to apply some moderation, but be aware out that conservatively you probably need to allow around 800-1,000 calories for a meal out because as a general rule there are lots of dietary fats involved in the cooking process, sauces and dressings, and because of the portion sizes.
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve found this info helpful, please keep an eye out for more talks in future in person and online.
If you’re wanting to learn more about how you can optimise your own circumstances for fat loss, you can work with me 1:1 online and in person by contacting me on 0434 538 638 or at [email protected]