“Fat loss can’t be this difficult, I’m doing everything right”
Does this sound familiar, or maybe this thought has bounced around in your head more than a few times when your fat loss has stalled ?
These were the exact words from a potential client from three weeks ago.
According to her, and what she read on the internet she was doing “everything right” to lose body fat, but it wasn’t working.
What became apparent after a few minutes of listening to her describe her current attempts at fat loss was one thing…Things were way too complicated.
She felt defeated and frustrated because she felt like she was putting in a herculean effort (which she was!) but not seeing results.
The reason she was working so hard and not seeing any results was she focused her energy and efforts on all the wrong things.
For starters her diet was overly restrictive trying to completely avoid all carbs and any “unclean foods” which lead to overeating later in the week.
According to a guru she followed any food that was “clean” could be eaten freely without any limits.
On the exercise side of things she assumed more was always better, and would hit the gym 5-6 times per week to burn more calories.
She would sacrifice sleep to hit the gym, and as a result her appetite would go through the roof.
Because she didn’t have a plan to follow she regularly made knee jerk reactions based on her emotions and what the scale read.
That meant she would eat barely anything if the scale was up, which only set her up to gorge later on when her appetite revved up.
When we started working together the first order of operations was to make things way more simple.
I asked her to track her food intake and hit a calorie and protein range, and beyond that if she wanted carbs or a little chocolate it was fine because her calories were in check.
She looked at me wide eyed when I told her “Yes you can have some chocolate or carbs and still lose body fat, because you’ll be in a calorie deficit”
Next I had her reduce her trips to the gym, and start going for some nice long walks as she worked a sedentary job and could use a little extra activity without losing sleep over it.
We tracked her progress, and spoke regularly about any changes we made to plan and why we were making that change based on her numbers and hunger, cravings and overall fatigue.
8 weeks into the process of working together she was three pounds away from her goal weight and said “It doesn’t feel like I’m dieting yet”
Bingo! We were nailing the basics and getting her results by focusing on the right things, those right things are the same ones I’m sharing with you today.
1.) Walk 10,000 Steps Per Day:
I get it, walking isn’t sexy and it doesn’t leave you breathless in a pile sweat laying on the ground like other forms of high intensity exercise.
This doesn’t mean it’s not an effective fat loss tool though, your daily non gym activity burns way more calories than you ever will in the gym.
Believe it or not your daily activity (which includes walking) burns more calories than any other part of your metabolism, with one exception.
The other benefit of increasing your walking compared to other forms of cardio is it doesn’t require any recovery, and can be done everyday.
Walking also serves as a form of active recovery and stress reduction as well.
The gold standard is 10,000 steps per day, but in reality just do as much as you can and don’t stress over it or you’re missing the point.
2.) Create A Calorie Deficit (BW x 9-12):
Any diet that helps you to lose body fat creates a calorie deficit, which means that you’re burning more calories than you’re eating or drinking.
ANY diet can help you to create a calorie deficit, but there may be certain diets that work better for you because you enjoy the foods and find them easier to follow.
Many people enjoy the lack of restriction with flexible dieting because it allows them to have foods they really like in reasonable portions while still creating a calorie deficit and losing body fat.
Flexible dieting helps to remove the mental feeling of being deprived, and can make it easier to stick to the plan for longer.
No matter what diet you choose whether its vegan, paleo, keto or flexible dieting you need to be in a calorie deficit to lose body fat.
If you want to avoid counting calories and just focus on eating whole foods, be mindful of easy to overeat foods like nuts, nut butters, dried fruit, granola and granola bars, oils and calorie dense salad dressings.
If you want to use a calorie counting approach multiply your bodyweight in pounds by 9-12 (based on your activity level throughout the day) and eat that many calories on a daily basis as a general starting point.
If you find that after two-three weeks there’s no progress in terms of measurements, progress pictures or scale weight try reducing those calories by 5-8% to get fat loss moving in the right direction.
3.) Exercise 3-4 Times Per Week At Moderate To High Intensity:
Exercise does burn some calories, but unfortunately it’s far less than you think which makes it highly ineffective for fat loss all on it’s own.
A lot of people will notice when they significantly increase their exercise their appetite will increase as well which can lead to overeating to compensate.
While exercise is ineffective at creating a calorie deficit It does serve as a great way to reduce stress, improve sleep and can even cause you to make better nutrition choices.
All of which can absolutely help with fat loss.
Strength training helps to build muscle mass, and can improve your mood, increase your energy and also reduce your chances of disease.
One thing that I think exercise provides a lot of people is a sense of community.If you exercise in a group setting or even have a group of people you know at a gym it fosters a sense of community which we all naturally crave as humans.
4.) Eat Vegetables Or Fruit With Each Meal:
When it comes to foods that fill you up, and keep you fuller for longer while being relatively low in calories vegetables and fruit are right towards the top of the list.
Fruits and vegetables also contain a good amount of water, and can help to keep you better hydrated on top of managing appetite and being low in calories.
Fruit is a great way to manage a sweet tooth in a healthy manner, and by removing easy to overeat snack foods from the countertop and replacing them with a fruit bowl you can put a healthy habit on autopilot.
This way you’re engineering your environment to promote eating more fruits, and naturally reduce your calorie intake.
5.) Eat 1-2 Servings Of Protein At Each Meal (0.7-1 gram/lb):
I understand you’re likely tired of hearing people in the fitness industry talk about protein, but the reality is those who are eating enough already know how beneficial it actually is for hunger and appetite.
Protein will help you to better manage your appetite, and allow you to feel fuller for longer while curbing cravings.
All my female clients who I get to eat enough protein never look back.
I’ve had more than a few clients who stopped snacking once they ate enough protein because they felt so satiated, and their cravings hugely reduced.
While in a calorie deficit you’re at a greater risk of muscle loss. That muscle loss can be largely avoided by strength training and eating a sufficient amount of protein.
If you’re someone who’s tracking calories and macros aim for 0.7-1 gram per pound of bodyweight, and for non trackers 1-2 palms worth of protein at each meal.
6.) Sleep 7-9 Hours Per Night:
Sleep is easily one of the most undervalued aspects of health when you look into the benefits it has from head to toe, you’d think you found the fountain of youth!
Everything from your hormones to cognitive function are all improved when you get adequate sleep, but there’s also some fat loss benefits as well.
When you don’t get enough sleep it’s actually a form of stress, and stress dysregulates your hunger hormones leaving you feeling less full and hungrier more frequently.
When someone is sleep deprived they will also make more impulsive decisions, and this especially applies to food as you’ll have increased cravings for more calorie dense easy to overeat food.
When someone is chronically sleep deprived they will have harder time regulating blood sugar and can lead to cravings and energy crashes.
With diminished sleep quality you’re also far more fatigued and performance in the gym and day to day activity levels will decrease.
7.) Eat Mainly Unprocessed Foods:
To lose body fat creating a calorie deficit is the principle you have to follow, but there’s a ton of different ways to change your food to make a calorie deficit possible.
One of the easiest ways to naturally create a calorie deficit and manage your hunger/appetite is to eat mostly whole unprocessed foods.
By eating mostly unprocessed foods you’re more likely to increase your protein and intake of fruits and vegetables which are high fiber and satiety while also being lower in calories.
Along with the fruits and vegetables you’re getting a stellar source of vitamins and minerals that are important from a health perspective.
Whole foods are also going to tend to be higher in volume which means they’ll take up more room in your stomach and trigger greater feelings of fullness in the brain.
This isn’t to say you have to go full “clean eater” for the rest of your life but making sure that the majority of your foods come from lean protein, fruits and vegetables, quality fats and less refined carbs is a great step in the right direction.
8.) Don’t Be Overly Restrictive:
There’s a time to tighten things up and avoid certain high calorie foods that are easy to overeat but for the most part we all know that being overly restrictive when dieting is a poor long term strategy.
When you’re overly restrictive with your diet because you’re overzealous to lose body fat you can see some quick results, but we both know eventually the wheels are going to fall off the wagon.
When the hunger, fatigue and stress of being very restrictive and trying to diet on very low calories catches up, you’ll go off the diet and engage in binge like behavior.
But this doesn’t have to be the case if you give yourself enough time and use a more flexible approach.
It’s a freeing to know that you don’t need to be perfect, and that you can enjoy some indulgences when you account for them in reasonable portions.
This is the best long term strategy because it allows people to live their everyday lives and not always be worried about food and nutrition.
The goal should be to maintain the results you’ve attained and have it feel like a lifestyle, not a constant white knuckling mental battle when you’re around foods you enjoy, but deny yourself.
9.) Remove Trigger Foods From The House:
For a lot of people there’s specific foods they have a hard time controlling how much they eat, and before they know it a whole bag of chips or sleeve of cookies is empty.
It could also be a food that someone associates with comfort and finds themselves turning to after a long day when they’re overly stressed and looking for temporary relief.
From what we know about stress eating and your food environment, you’ll eat what you have the easiest access to.
Honestly I would love to see people be able to reduce their trigger foods, but in some cases the best idea is to remove the option and not break the seal to begin with.
This doesn’t mean you’ll never have this food in the house or anything, but in the beginning when motivation is high it’s important to gain momentum and remove any potential barriers to your success.
If you find yourself continually overeating one food in particular and find it very difficult to control your intake of it, removing from the house for a period of time until you’re in a good routine is something that can help.
Again my first thought is to always try to reduce the food, maybe buying smaller packages or lower calories versions, but if this doesn’t work then it’s to remove the food for a bit while you work to gain a better relationship with food and get some wins under your belt.
10.) Make A Plan For Yourself
One of the best parts about having a plan is it takes the guesswork out of what you need to do to start or keep losing body fat using sustainable habits, not short terms fads that cause weight regain.
You’ll know what you’re eating, and how much of it you should eating, what kind of exercise and activity to be doing and other lifestyle factors that will impact your fat loss.
When you stop losing body fat you or your nutrition coach will have a plan to help you make tweaks to your plan to keep progress coming along at a steady rate.
When you’re trying to lose body fat there are going to be some times where it doesn’t feel like progress is being made, and you’ll have a tendency in these moments to overthink things, and want to return to your old habits.
Understand though that fat loss isn’t linear, and ups and downs with measurements and scale weight are a normal part of the process for everyone.
If you know these are normal ahead of time and you have planned for these stalls and fluctuations it will make it easier for you to stick to your plan without feeling discouraged by the process.
Whether you make a fat loss plan yourself or decide to get a nutrition coach to make one for you, just ensure that your plan takes into account the 9 points listed above.
Click HERE to apply for nutrition coaching with me, once you fill out the form we'll decide together if it's a good fit.