The Not-So Secret Art of Fat LossJan 08, 2021
"I can't shift this stubborn body fat!"
This is probably the most common thing I hear in the world of nutrition. This is closely followed by the intention to follow one of many fads, anecdotes, bro-science ‘facts’, stories from magazines or social media ‘professionals’ that do more to confuse people than help them.
Now we have entered a new year, the thought process is likely to begin again.
What is Health?
When people come to me with a goal in nutrition, be it to lose fat, to gain lean muscle mass, or to just live a little healthier, the first and most important thing to do is to ascertain what level of health the person is at NOW.
In terms of health, the first lesson to understand is that health is not just solely defined ass food and movement. Health is formed of multiple facets, your psychological health impacts what you decide to eat and your exercise plans. Exercising impacts your requirement for food, stress is also one of the biggest negative factors on wellbeing and thus influences fat loss. The multiple facets of health are not within the scope of this article and require their own piece, which will follow.
My perspective is that health is formed of three pillars. Firstly you have the internal health, consisting of everything that influences your psychological health. Next is external health, incorporating everything within your surrounding environment and its influence on you. Your nutrition and exercise is the third pillar, making up the conscious action of what you eat and how you move. All three pillars are independent while also intricately interwoven.
When it comes to fat loss, after addressing the complete picture of health, we need to look at the evidence based principles that must be abided by to ensure success. fad diets, quick fixes and crash courses have no place here, a sound education of the basics is your sharpest sword to cut through the jungle of marketing.
Fat loss boils down to one main principle in exercise and nutrition, this is ‘Calories In vs Calories Out’. Despite how overly simplistic this sounds, it’s not entirely that simple.
Firstly, when people record their calories in a food diary (no this is not for everyone) they are usually lying or unaware of their inaccuracies, things are missed, portions are guessed, tracking apps are inaccurate, people end up moving less, the list goes on. Ultimately, the beginning of fat loss is to eat less.
While eating less, if you move more then you will end up making this process a lot easier. If you are largely sedentary in your work, move more in any and every way. Make it social, invite your friends (spread a healthy mindset), get to the gym (a good gym is NOT a scary place to be) or even better, aim or something, make it personal, make it challenging, and tell your friends about it, this gives direction and accountability.
Secondly, if your aim is to lose fat, then instead of heading to google, write down everything you eat for a whole week. Be specific, be detailed, and most of all, be honest. Fat loss is not something you can ‘half do’ and get through easily, it requires work and concentration.
As a task you can take away from this, for the next 7 days, write down everything you eat. By that I mean EVERYTHING…. We all know what you do with that knife or spoon after you have spread that peanut butter, don’t lie! Just write it down, it’s okay!
After this week, look at what you are eating, are you snacking three or four times a day? Are you eating sporadically? Are you rushed off your feet and missing meals only to hit the vending machine? What are your choices and decisions, can they be replaced, avoided or changed?
These are lifestyle factors as well as diet factors and play the main part in making you feel better, achieve your goals and bring back that confidence that might have left with the weight gain.
What can you do after you have addressed the eating habits?
Work out exactly what your body needs, this can be dine through one of two ways. We can look to understand calories, for this we need to understand your Total daily energy Expenditure, how many calories you burn in a day doing what you do. This is an estimate and never an exact science.
A calorie is an internationally recognised UNIT OF MEASUREMENT that can help us put a numerical figure to what we eat. We don’t eat calories, we eat food, but understanding what makes up that food will help us achieve our weight loss goals.
The second method is to look to more intuitive eating practices. From my experience with clients, this has to take the form of conscious decision. terms such as clean eating and intuitive eating can become overly complicated in the social media realm as the secret to eating. It’s not. As with calories and a tracking based approach, it’s a tool to be used in certain circumstances based on your preference.
Conscious decision is exactly that, the decision to eat more healthily, you are actively making a decision with everything you eat and thereby holding yourself accountable. I find that this method works best in the initial period when supported by the help of a professional, an evidence based nutritionist. Someone who can help you make the right decisions and leave you empowered to go about it yourself after a period of time.
Find a goal. Why do you want/need to lose fat? What is your current situation preventing you from achieving? Once you align your fat loss need with a tangible goal that is close to you, you are MUCH MORE LIKELY TO ACHIEVE. Human beings are goal orientated, we see a goal and align ourselves to it, we find the system, make the financial commitment and the accountability, then through progressive steps, we achieve. ‘I want to lose fat is too broad and not a tangible goal’. ‘I MUST lose fat to fit into the wedding dress’ is a tangible goals, its emotive and deeply meaning to the individual.
Get yourself into a calorie deficit without sacrificing your preferences, if you then move more as well, you will make the process easier and more enjoyable and you will learn how to maintain it. This is the not-so secret art of fat loss.
If you need help, then seek the advice of a nutritionist, have an honest conversation with someone who can help you. This will make your journey specific to you, evidence denotes the principles while experience denotes the methods.
Cookie cutter approaches do not work.