DE-COMPLICATING WEIGHT LOSS, FOREVER
Man the myths and mysteries behind achieving weight loss are complicated!
Don’t eat carbs
No! Eat carbs, but don’t eat fat
Drink this skinny tea
Eat protein, but only from white coloured meat
Don’t eat insert just about anything here because it’s ‘fattening’
Have this shake and this shake only, every meal, every day
You can only eat 1000 calories a day
You must intermittently fast
You must train fasted too
You must eat within a 30 minute window after training
No carbs after 5pm
Train every day as hard as possible at the gym, don’t you dare miss a sesh or your week is wasted
Walking burns more fat
Cardio burns more fat than weightlifting
Actually, lifting weights now burns more fat
Oops! Scrap that… back to cardio, but mainly running
How fucking exhausting! I reckon I burned more fat than the lot of you by just typing up all of that dribble.
Truth is… every single one of those statements above are completely and factually wrong. Oh except for the resistance training burns more fat than cardio. This is true, BUT, this is also a completely irrelevant fact when it comes to its impact on weight loss, I will explain why.
Firstly, let’s call it fat loss. Your ‘weight’ is purely your body’s relationship with the ground, that’s it. You weight can differ throughout the day, week and month due to factors including water retention and/or bloating, recently eating or drinking, having or having not yet pissed or pooped and menstrual cycle timing. ‘Weighing’ yourself is a rough guide, not the bible. So if this is STILL your primary method for tracking fat loss progress, fuck them off into the bin. Now. Take a photo instead.
The only method for decreasing body fat is to move more and eat less at safe and sustainable levels relative to you and your goals.
‘Sustainable’ is a key word we must give all of our attention to right now before we do anything else. If you blast your arse at the gym, HIIT’ing the shit out of the gym floor 5-10 times a week (yeah, I’ve heard of people doing up to 10 HIIT style sessions a week… aaannd eventually dropping back, to 0, because they’re broken and burnt out) and you live off poverty calories, primarily lettuce and dust, you are simply NEVER going to sustain your plan. You will give in, you will get hurt, you will emotionally eat, and you will pump the fat back on like never before and have an even worse relationship than diet and exercise than before you started.
We need to eat less but enough to function properly. Daily foggy brain, ‘hangryness’, stress, inability to recover and inability to reproduce is not a normal and not an acceptable trait of dieting. So no, limiting intake to extreme lows (as many “gyms” and diet companies prescribe) is not a smart way to go. “Gym’s” (yes I’m doing Dr. Evil quotations intentionally) and diet companies prescribe extremely low calories to ensure they get you losing weight. They don’t know your activity level, age or anything. So a cookie cutter plan it is, to help make them look like heroes and you filling their bank accounts.
We need to move more but not so much that we get injured or burnt out and end up hating our chosen fitness program.
Understand this right now. This cannot be achieved off a one-size-fits-all weight loss program. This cannot be achieved quickly. So get the ‘quick fix’ mentality out of your head immediately. You got yourself into this trouble slowly, so you gotta get yourself out slowly too.
This can only be achieved slowly because everyone is different, different size, different sex, different age, different lifestyle, different access to exercise, different access to time.
It takes trial and error. But I have a method that will make your trial and error process much, much simpler.
So here’s what we do…
There are 3 and only 3 variables we need to create a calorie deficit (eat less, move more to achieve fat loss), calorie maintenance (eat and move to achieve no change in body composition) or calorie surplus (eat more, move more to achieve mass gain). They are:
Exercise/Sport/Gym (EAT) ← → Daily Activity (NEAT) ← → Daily Food Intake
Our exercise (EAT) is the energy we expend during intentional exercise. The activity we do to intentionally get fitter, burn fat, etc etc. This contributes to only 5-10% of our total daily energy expenditure. That’s all. The only chance we have of increasing that above 10% is by going harder, for longer. But without adhering to an elite athletes regime of diet and rest, you;ve got absolutely zero hope of sustaining it. Due to the high stress and high impact on the body and being an everyday person with a job and all of that, trying to force more EAT leads to what I discussed earlier… injury, extreme soreness, burn out and hatred towards your activity. So 5-10% is what you get.
Our NEAT is what we expend outside our intended activity. Taking the stairs, walking further/more often, fidgeting. Our NEAT contributes to 10-20% of our daily energy expenditure. As our world has become easier than ever to be more sedentary, more efficient technology and machinery has slowly taken away our need to move. Machines do the majority of labor intensive work for us, whether it is farming, building, or even changing the tv channel (remember when you had to get up to change the channel?), bit by bit we are moving less day to day, and we don’t even realise it. The benefit to NEAT is, unlike our EAT, NEAT is very easy to increase. NEAT is low impact, meaning we won’t ever pull up sore, get injured or burn out. We can also accumulate our total NEAT throughout the day. It is more sustainable than attempting to cram in more gym sessions and more effective in increasing your daily expenditure.
The remainder of our daily energy is expended via digesting food (TEF – Thermic Effect of Food) and just existing (BMR – Basal Metabolic Rate). We cannot make much significant change here. Although consuming fibrous food low in GI and protein will require greater energy to digest, which can increase your TEF.
Our Daily Food Intake is the food we eat day to day. It is the more challenging variable, which is why so many of us avoid it or go for the most well marketed gimmick in hope we can just wing it. Well… we can’t. Whether we decide to track our food yet or not is okay. What we should start off with doing is maintaining a relatively consistent diet so we can collect some useful data. If your diet is a mix mash of unknown eating, how will you know if you’re on the right track or not?
*Note – Look, we can leap ahead and get some helpful estimates of how much we should be eating. We can use calorie calculators (www.tdeecalculator.net or www.jamessmithacademy.com/
We now have and understand our 3 variables. In order to cause a change to our body composition (let’s just stick with the lose fat scenario), all we need to do is make small changes to these variables one bit at a time.
LEt’s say we are currently fairly sedentary, don’t go to the gym and don’t eat well. We’re starting from scratch. In order to burn fat we need to increase activity and decrease food intake, this is what we can change:
EAT – increase
NEAT – increase
FOOD – decrease
If we want change, we can change all three at once, and probably all need to. But we don’t have to immediately. We can do it bit by bit.
For EAT and NEAT, a good suggestion for most people would be to begin with 3 gym/exercise sessions a week and a target of 10,000 steps a day (track steps with an iPhone, Android, Garmin, Fitbit). If let’s say this person currently already does 3 gym sessions, though only does an average of 5000 steps a day, it would make sense to increase our NEAT, before we bother increasing gym.
*Side note before we carry on – The gym/our sport/exercise should be seen as a means to improve our fitness, increase our muscle mass, be an enjoyable hobby and be a ‘booster’ to our fat loss goal. The fat loss occurring by gym should be seen as a by-product. It should NEVER be seen as the answer to our fat loss goal.
So we currently have:
EAT – 3 x a week
NEAT 10k steps a day
As for food intake, if you are not yet ready for tracking, let’s just start with this:
Starting making some better choices
Decrease heavy processed food
Slightly decrease portion sizes
Cut back on alcohol and sweets
All in all, just be a bit more mindful of what you are doing.
Stick to this for 2-4 weeks. Track progress via a couple of photos in your favourite undies.
If change is happening, awesome! Keep it up. If you don’t see change, get an honest friend or loved one to look at the photo too and ask them to be honest. Because we all know how critical we can be of ourselves, getting a mate involved to give you the reality of your successful progress is vital.
Now don’t get ahead of yourself and start making rapid changes because you think you’ve cracked the code and can be rid of the rest in a few more weeks. Don’t forget to think sustainably.
If change is not happening, look at your three variables again. Going of this starter template example, FOOD is most likely the thing to work on. Start making a few more changes and sacrifices: Reduce the alcohol further, reduce overly fatty foods, reduce mindless snacking, cut back on weekly binging, start a food diary to keep a more accurate track of what is going in. Or, consider tracking on My Fitness Pal.
Other options to create some greater change at this stage:
We could increase our NEAT by 3-5000 steps on the non-gym days and/or decrease our food intake on non-gym days.
I would not recommend increasing the gym just yet. It is early days and don’t forget, 5-10% EAT as compared to 10-20% NEAT.
Continue to make small changes every few weeks. Keep behaviours as consistent as possible. The greater the consistency, the greater quality the data. The easier it is for you to make adjustments. Don’t make too many changes at once, or else you will find it difficult to know what caused the change!
That is fat loss. Follow this and you win.