The reality of a fat loss journey is that it that at some point your progress will slow down or come to complete stop for some of you.
This is inevitable because when fat loss is the goal you’re playing a game of stimulus and adaptations, the stimulus is you eating fewer calories than your burning and the adaptation is for the body to use body fat as a source of fuel.
Generally when fat loss fully stalls out it means your body has adapted the current stimulus, but you see this is where most people go wrong and end up wrecking their progress.
Most people aren’t accurately measuring their progress which means even if they’re stepping on the scale at the exact same time of day each day of the week they’re likely not doing progress pictures and measurements with it.
Along with that I doubt many people take that information and plug it into a spreadsheet so they can see exactly what their body is doing week to week.
I know most people don’t do this because it’s what I do for all my clients and everyone in my challenges and it completely changes how they view fat loss progress, and stalls.
When someone experiences a true fat loss stall these are the exact steps I recommend pulled directly from the Live Leaner Longer Challenge 12 week workbook.
Step # 1: Make Sure Fat Loss Has Actually Stalled
Far too often people have a day or two where their scale has remained the same or even increased a little and their response is to slash calories aggressively, and start thinking about another gym session or extra cardio.
This is a knee jerk reaction that will hurt their long term results, and this is where having someone to objectively look over the data and tell them to chill a bit can be very helpful.
Take at least two weeks worth of measurements, scale weight and progress pictures at the exact same time of day after eating similar foods and look at the averages for two weeks.
If there is no progress in scale weight, measurements and clothes aren’t fitting any looser and your progress pics look the exact same you may actually be stalled out.
However if the scale isn’t moving but you’re measurements are going down and you’re looking leaner than carry on, you’re still making progress.
If things stayed stalled out on all three home fronts continue to step # 2.
Step # 2: Make Some Lower Calorie Swaps
By making some lower calorie swaps it doesn’t force you to necessarily change any big behavior changes, however saving a few hundred calories here and there with lower calorie swaps can add up significantly towards your fat loss goal.
In essence you can mindlessly reduce calories, and still enjoy many of your favorite foods but just eating a lower calorie version of them.
Some easy lower calorie swaps would be:
Pasta for spaghetti squash or miracle noodles
Pasta for zucchini or carrot noodles
Rice for cauliflower rice
Whole eggs with egg whites
Half your denser carbs and double the veggies
Use almond cashew milk/creamer instead of a heavier creamer
Replace caloric beverages with low or zero cal beverages like Zevia, Kombucha and flavored seltzer water.
Use half the oil and replace with calorie free spray
Exchange a bun and wrap a burger in lettuce
Exchange tortillas for a romaine lettuce as a “taco shell
Ditch soda for seltzer water, lime , mint and sliced cucumbers
Exchange hashbrowns for spaghetti squash cooked the same way
Exchange a hamburger bun for a roasted portabella mushroom bun
Now let’s assume you’ve made some of those lower calorie swaps, and they don’t seem to be adding up after two weeks.
Step # 3: Track Your Food Intake
If you’re someone who already tracks your calories and macros you can skip to step #4, but if you’re not in that camp this is where getting some objective data through 3-5 days of tracking can be very helpful to identify any specific dietary habits that are holding you back.
Many times people are just eating more than they think they are, and one of the biggest perpetrators are the sneaky snacks, bites and licks which all add up over the course of weeks and months.
Get the app myfitness pal app and track everything you eat for the next 3-5 days, I’ve yet to have a client who’s done this and hasn’t come back with a few “aha” moments.
Some common healthy foods that can still be dense in calories, and easy to overdo are:
Salad dressings (180-190 cals per 2 Tbsp)
Nuts (especially roasted and salted) (160 calories in ¼ C)
Nut butters (190 cals per 2 Tbsp)
Granola Bars (Vary depending on bar but 190 cals - 250 cals on average)
“Health” bars (vary greatly but many are 300+ calories per bar)
Oils (120-130 cals per Tbsp)
Granola (360 calories per 77g)
Butter (102 cals per Tbsp)
Step # 4: Reduce Your Calories by 5-8%
Situations like this are when tracking calories and macros can be useful as you can see exactly what your calorie intake looks like for a few days then go back to non calorie tracking if that’s your preferred method.
So from here when you have your calories you multiply them by either 0.05 or 0.08 depending on how quick and big a deficit someone wants to do.
Usually i’ll drop my clients intake by 5% to begin with and if they tolerate that really well, and want speed things up a bit we’ll go into the 7-8% range instead.
You can make this reduction in calories from either carbs or fats, as they are less important when dieting for fat loss than protein.
The problem is you can only drop calories so far before you feel horrible, so another approach you can use it to move more, but not in the way you may be thinking.
At some point if calories start to get lower another alternative to dropping calories is going to be to increase daily activity levels.
Walking helps to increase your Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis also known as NEAT.
“Your first question is likely what is NEAT ?”
Step # 5 Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT):
NEAT Is the low grade activities that you do on a day to day basis such as walking, going from sitting to standing, fidgeting, getting ready for work or walking in the grocery store. This is the amount of calories you burn when you’re not trying to exercise or raise your heart rate, eating or sleeping.
Your next question is likely “why would I walk for fat loss ? Shouldn’t I be doing something more intense.”
Your day to day NEAT activities end up burning far more calories than you give it credit for. In large you don’t give too much conscious thought to your day to day activity, thus don’t consider the impacts it has on fat loss.
For this reason a lot of the calories that you burn from NEAT fly underneath the radar, partly because it doesn’t leave you drenched in sweat and out of breath.
Most people who are looking to lose body fat seem to think that spending an hour at the gym makes up for an otherwise sedentary life, but the amount of calories that are burned at the gym are low compared to the calories you expend through NEAT on a daily basis.
If you compare someone who works at a desk job to someone who is on their feet all day like a manual laborer or waitress the caloric burn from NEAT for a laborer or waiter can could be upwards of double the desk jockey.
Now I’m not saying that you need change your career to reach your fat loss goals, but getting out and walking more can help boost your fat loss without putting extra stress on the body.
Here are a few ways you can increase your daily NEAT activity:
1.) Walk More:
This is the easiest way for you to increase your NEAT levels, and can be the difference between making progress or just maintaining being frustrated with your lack of fat loss.
Because everyone is different our calorie burn will also differ greatly and most people will be able to to burn between 150-300 calories per 30-45 minutes of walking.
At the end of the day trying to calculate the amount of calories you’re burning from walking more doesn’t matter all that much - you just need to know to walk more, and have a goal to hit.
Hitting a specific goal is a great way to ensure you get enough walking per day. You can shoot for the standard 10,000 steps, distance or time walking as a way to help you increase your NEAT.
Here are some simple ways you can increase your walking throughout the day:
Go For A 30 Minute Morning Walk
Walk To Work
Walk At Lunch for 20 minutes
Walk On A Treadmill While Watching TV
Use A Treadmill Desk
Get A Dog/ Walk Your Dog
Instead of Email Walk To Tell Coworkers Messages @ Work
Take The Stairs
Park Further Away and Walk
Get Off The Bus/Subway A Few Stops Early and Walk
Batch All Your Calls Into One Time and Walk & Talk
2.) Get A Pedometer:
Now this seems to go hand in hand with the very first way to increase NEAT which is walking but getting a pedometer has shown to help people increase their daily step count by nearly 2,000 steps per day!
That means that by simply having a pedometer you’re more aware of how much you’ve been moving throughout the day and will be more likely to go for that extra walk to hit your daily step count.
3.) Mow The Lawn
4.) Clean The House More Frequently
5.) Use A standing Desk and Alternate Standing/Sitting Work
Using a standing desk is a convenient way to make sure you’re not sitting too much but pretty much anything you can do to ensure that you’re standing more is going to be a step in the right direction.
Part of the reason why standing is beneficial is because it helps to raise our heart rate and in turn causes us to burn more calories throughout the day.
While the amount of calories burned through extra standing on a day to day basis may be small, when you accrue those calories of the course of weeks and months it adds up significantly.
6.) Wash Your Car
7.) Don’t Crush Yourself AT The Gym Everyday :
This last point may seem counterintuitive since so many people think you need to be really sore or leave the gym drenched in sweat to have gotten a good workout.
If you’re too sore and beat up from a work out earlier in the week your willingness to want to get up and move around more throughout the day is going to be reduced because that movement is going to be painful.
These are just a few of the tools in the tool belt when it comes to recognizing a true fat loss plateau and breaking through it.
And if you have a fat loss goal, why would you want to go it alone and likely struggle and waste more of your time not reaching your goals ?
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