Beginner's Guide to Fat loss
I can remember being on diets prior to being in middle school. The frustration of restricting foods has been my reality for my whole life. I felt like I was in a constant war with my body for years.
Diet after diet failed leaving me with a feeling of defeat and always leaving me wondering, why couldn’t I do it and what was wrong with me?
I followed many main stream diets, packaged food and supplement options, went to all women gyms geared for older women when I was in middle school. I ‘counted calories’ and spent hours in the gym to burn off my food.
I was in the line of “I did it all,” just like many of us can feel. I tried everything, and then it worked for a little bit and then it didn’t or never worked at all.
It wasn’t until I got a coach and some education behind the science of fat loss that I finally saw long term results. I had gone on a ten year journey, but once I got my coach who educated me and I got a plan that I could fit into my life, I was able to succeed and hit my goals in about 2.5 years.
Some might consider 2.5 years to be a long time, but trust me when I say it was worth every minute of it. Now I feel like I can maintain my results, I understand these results, and I can always adjust and achieve these results again if need be.
In this blog I wanted to give a foundational bit of knowledge and understanding of weight loss, specifically fat loss so someone else can improve on their journey. Maybe you don’t have to waste 10 years stumbling in the dark like I did.
***Calories and Why They Matter***
First let’s address the idea of a calorie. A lot of mainstream diets and programs don’t even specifically address calories and instead allot you points or label foods as good or bad. I think that really gives you a lack of understanding and education if you don’t understand calories, what they are and how they work.
A ‘calorie’ is a unit of measurement; a measurement of energy. In science, it’s actually called a ‘kilocalorie,’ but what we see on our food labels and what most public knows, it’s a ‘calorie’.
All food is comprised of calories, or in other words, all food has energy. As you may know from science class, “energy can not be created or destroyed.”
Our bodies are complex and amazing machines, and we might not be aware of it but it is processing hundreds and thousands of chemical reactions throughout the day. To survive, to move, to function, to think, to breathe, our bodies require energy.
When we eat our food, we extract energy from our food choices. If we take in too much energy, our bodies have this cool ability to save it in form of adipose tissue (fat cells), and essentially save that energy for later. We gain weight or gain fat mass.
In the times of cavemen days, this was an incredibly helpful when our ancestors didn’t know when their next meals would be. This feature isn’t especially helpful today when food is plentiful, fast food restaurants are lined up on our drives home and grocery stores are stocked at our convenience. Regardless, this plentiful amount of food has only been a reality for us recently in history and our genetics just haven’t caught up.
On the other hand, over time, when we eat less calories than we burn, our body is able to go into its reserves of energy, go into the fat stores, and use that energy for the functions it needs. Spiffy!
This is called a caloric deficit. It’s not magic. It’s science. It works.
I think a lot of people understand this at the basic level. It’s the bare minimum of what doctors tell us. It’s a simple idea, “Eat Less. Move more.”
While it’s simple, it’s not easy. There’s also more education that is required here that so many people miss out on.
WHAT ARE MACROS AND WHY THEY MATTER
While food has energy, not all food is created equal as far as what it’s made of.
Food is comprised of three main macronutrients, otherwise shortened as “MACROS”
These macronutrients include: Proteins, Carbs, and Fats.
Proteins have 4 calories / 1 gram
Carbs have 4 calories / 1 gram
Fats have 9 calories / 1 gram
Different composition of foods are going to digest differently, keep us full differently, fuel our workouts and life differently, and provide different energy levels.
Without a doubt, most people undereat protein. Protein, improves our satiety, promotes recovery and helps us MAINTAIN our lean body mass especially when we are trying to be a in calorie deficit.
THAT’S NICE WHAT DO I DO WITH IT?
I struggled the longest time whether that was just eating pre planned meals or diets with prepackaged foods or supplements because I didn’t know what my meals were made from macro nutrients wise. These large diet companies, make you rely on them, and don’t provide education and instead toss you packaged goods or allot points. When you stop using those products, you don’t have the education to see results and then go backwards.
I didn’t realize the benefits of protein and that it was important to prioritize it. I didn’t understand that carbohydrates weren’t evil and instead fuel our activity and our brain. I also didn’t understand that fats are essential to the human body for hormone health and metabolic processes. This education has moved me forward in understanding why quality food is important.
I jumped on the bandwagon at times of “healthy foods,” such as the hummus, the granola, the packaged protein bars. And while these items are not “bad” (no food is bad) I didn’t look at overall calories. Some foods, like packaged goods, don’t have a lot of fiber or nutrient value and so we can take in a lot of calories and not feel full after. Just because something is CALORICALLY DENSE doesn’t mean that we will feel full from it. So while a bag of granola might not only be labeled as “healthy” or “high protein,” I’m sure in some cases, if we don’t measure it it could be 100s of calories in. That’s a similar story to chips, crackers, cookies, etc. A lot of these items instead are a combination of fat and carbs which our brain goes crazy for, leaving us constantly wanting more and our stomach never getting a satiated signal until we eat bags full.
In order for fat loss to happen we need to be in a caloric deficit. I’m a big believer in having flexibility with your diet and incorporating your favorite foods. However, I also believe that most of your foods should be nutritious and high quality food choices, about 80%. Then the other 20% can be the fun foods that you enjoy and want to keep in your diet.
The first step is to track everything you eat, yes everything, calories can add up quickly when drinking packaged drinks or just taking small bites and snacks throughout the day you might not even be aware you’re taking in.
There are numerous calorie trackers you can use for free, my favorite to use is My Fitness Pal.
To be the most accurate, you can get a food scale on amazon. It’s so important to weigh your food so you have a better awareness and accuracy in your intake. Sometimes we can put a tablespoon of peanut butter and when we weigh it we realize that we had been thinking one serving was actually 7!
Once you track everything you eat consistently, you can find your baseline or maintenance calories as you also track your body weight. If you eat a consistent amount of calories and your body weight stays relatively steady you have found your maintenance calories. Weight fluctuations are normal, so if your weekly averages stay between a few pounds, it’s safe to say you’ve found a good maintenance. Our bodies maintenance calories are typically more of a range. We do not burn the same amount of calories each day, based not only on our movement but what foods we eat, and endless various factors. Weekly trends are most important rather than day to day fluctuations.
From there you can slowly adjust to a lower caloric intake. You want to keep calories as high as you can for as long as you can.
This is where I made previous mistakes. I dropped calories severely low and then when I hit a plateau I had no more adjustment room. I couldn’t drop my calories even lower because I was so hungry and lacked energy. I tried to then up my activity but that only worked to an extent before my body rebelled against me. So, when you find those maintenance calories, you don’t need to go crazy to create a huge deficit in the beginning. This can change from person to person depending on the weight loss goal and how much weight you have to lose.
You can stay in a consistent fat loss phase for 8-24 weeks. This CAN be extended with diet breaks along the way where we up calories for a bit of time for a psychological and physiological benefit. But you aren’t meant to FOREVER to in a fat loss phase. This was super eye opening for me as my whole life I felt like I was in a diet and trying to lose weight. Before working with a coach I had never intentionally ate a level of food with an intent to stay at my current weight. A maintenance phase is super important in a weight loss cycle, as IS potentially a bulk where we are intentionally eating more than maintenance to gain muscle mass. These are all phases we can be in for health and longevity!
When the goal is fat loss and you do decide on a caloric deficit number the two key elements are protein and calories to monitor as a beginner. Ideally you want to hit 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. This can of course vary from person to person based on their current weight and goal weight. So, if someone weighed 150lbs, a good goal for protein would be 150 grams of protein. However if someone weighed 250lbs, getting 250 grams of protein, although possible, might be difficult for digestion so a lower protein number could be a better option.
After you decide on a protein goal you can then play around where you want your carbohydrate and fat numbers to be. If your goal for example is 1,700 calories for a deficit, and your protein goal is 150 grams, you first have to find out how many calories that takes up. Protein is 4 calories per gram, so 150 grams of protein is 600 calories (150*4). So, 1,700-600 is 1,100 calories remaining for fats and carbs. You can play around with this to see how you feel of how you want to allot those calories but it’s all done with a bit of math. Fats are 9 calories per gram and carbs are 4 calories per gram.
When tracking in the beginning, it’s much easier to eat meals that are simple and minimal in ingredients. If you are making a complicated recipe it might be frustrating and unrealistic to track 20-30 ingredients accurately. So picking simple whole food choices will be your best bet.
Here’s a simple chart for whole foods that can be a great place to start incorporating into your diet.
Making meals doesn’t have to be complicated. When beginning you can pick a protein, fat and carb choice and be set. If you eat 5 times a day, divide your protein and calorie goal by 5 and that can give you a guideline of what to shoot for; same tactic if you want to eat more or less during the day.
For example if your protein goal is 150 grams of protein and you want to eat 5 small meals a day you can aim to hit 30 grams of protein with each meal.
I have worked with quite a few clients already, that just by becoming more aware with what they are eating have made amazing progress in feeling better and moving in the direction of their goals. Just by tracking their intake, they have made better choices. You can too!
By focusing on eating foods that aren’t packaged and instead are whole foods, we tend to have more energy, feel more satiated and overall just FEEL better. There comes a time too when you want to eat this way because you can tell the difference. I recently had a small vacation for my birthday and throughout the week ate things I wouldn’t normally. I felt sluggish, lacked energy, and wasn’t my best self. I looked forward to eating better and getting back into my routine. That is what this is all about, being your best self.
Your changes that you are making don’t have to be drastic, small habits and decisions add up to get us where we want. It just begins with education and awareness.
All of this can be confusing and seem complex but at the end of the day, a calorie deficit is the key to fat loss.
I want to press also that I am not a doctor and there are of course situations and individual that might have hormone dysregulations include thyroid hormone that make weight loss much more difficult. I highly press that everyone speak to their doctors if you feel there is a health issue there.
However, I feel most people can benefit from working with a coach or working on this themselves through education, trial and error. The little nuances of how to make that fit into your life long term, being held accountable, and troubleshooting along the way is where a coach comes in!
I’d love to hear from you any way I can in how to help you on your journey!
Please email me: email@example.com or leave a comment on this blog!
It’s Monday and once again you’re regretting the choices you made on the weekend. You went “off the rails,” with your diet. Maybe you went out with friends, went to an outdoor BBQ, were celebrating a birthday (how is it always someone’s birthday), or maybe your whole week was so stressful so you decided to let loose with a few cheat days.
The weekend often gets the better of us, and through many years I found myself falling into a similar routine of falling victim of being a ‘weekend warrior.’ Trust me you’re not alone if you struggle!
Thankfully, I’ve figured out a few ways to help you on your journey if you’re having trouble. Truthfully, nothing felt worse than to feel like I had to start over again every Monday, or that I had to “work harder,” the following week, or that I had to spend extra hours sweating doing cardio and burning calories. All of that is avoidable and you’ll feel so much better about yourself after the fact on that Monday morning when you show up for yourself and stay committed to those goals.
If you find yourself routinely struggling for consistency on the weekends, take a look at your weekly routine that you follow on a normal basis. Analyze it in the perspective of: if it’s truly maintainable for the long term. A good nutrition and fitness program is something that is sustainable so you can not only achieve long term results but also maintain these results. Ask yourself, “Is this something I can see myself doing a year from now?”
How many times have we done diets that were extremely restrictive with minimal calorie intake?
How many times have we cut out entire food groups? I’ll be the first to tell you I cut out breads, sugars, fats, meats, and/or dairy multiple times for long stretches of time in my life, thinking that maybe these foods or food combinations were the reason why I couldn’t get the results I wanted.
Then on the weekend, or at that special celebration, I felt out of control when I finally gave myself the “permission” to eat the things that I had locked up or forbidden.
Our brains go into a frenzy and want to have it all once we release those strict and hard rules. From the perspective of the brain and your subconscious, “Who knows when we will get our favorite and tasty foods again?”
Your diet plan should include things you enjoy, but also things that sustain you to keep you thriving. Now, let me explain that just because I encourage you to eat things you love, I always want you thriving in the best way possible. That means giving your body QUALITY foods. Whole foods, foods that aren’t packaged up in a factory. Whole foods will keep us full and provide us nourishment. You and your body DESERVE the best. On top of that, when we are in a fat loss phase, whole foods are going to give us more energy and keep us full, making it easier to lose the fat that we want.
Living in the percentage of the 80/20 rule is a good way to balance the whole foods and the ‘fun foods’. 80% of foods in our diet comprise those whole food options; fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low fat dairy products will give you incredible bang for your buck. Then 20% of the time, enjoy those foods that might not have as much nutritional value. At the end of the day, the calories will make the difference in fat loss but our adherence to that calorie deficit will be better if our diet is comprised of those whole foods.
So with nutrition, evaluating how much you’re eating throughout the week is important. Are you tracking your intake? You might be eating too little throughout the week and then one the weekend go out of control because your body is asking for fuel! Awareness is super important here especially if you’re trying to hit a fat loss goal. I highly recommend using an app such as MyFitnessPal to track your food intake.
Food isn’t the only aspect of your normal weekly routine you need to take a look at. How is your workout or exercise routine? Are your workouts enhancing your life or are they taking away from it? Are you running yourself into the ground with excessive cardio or high intensity interval training? Are you working out nonstop every single day because you are worried you can’t make progress without it? Are you constantly sore or feel under recovered? Are you gaining strength and seeing body composition changes or remaining stagnant? Do you have a consistent, periodized plan at all or are you spinning your wheels and not making any progress?
So many people are burning the candle at both ends. They are killing themselves at the gym with workouts that are frying their central nervous systems they can’t recover from. (Think massive amounts of HIIT) or workouts that their bodies can easily adapt to so it’s hard to see change (hours of cardio on a machine) Then they aren’t taking the time to recover from their workouts by having nutrition that isn’t ideal. Add all of life stress of jobs, families, and responsibilities it’s no wonder by the weekend we just want to let it all go!
There are so many factors of a good program to follow. It might not be that you lose motivation or discipline on the weekend; maybe your plan doesn’t fit your life so that you can easily maintain it THROUGH the weekend. Maybe you don’t even have a plan at all and are just winging it? I highly recommend having a coach to help you prioritize not only a good nutrition plan but also an exercise plan that fits YOU!
Another way to look at this, is through the lens of how we perceive the weekend. Our thoughts and beliefs surrounding a subject is so extremely powerful. Do you see the weekend as a “free for all?” Does it have structure? What are things you associate the weekend with? Partying? Lazy days?
Understand, that I’m all about enjoying yourself, getting rest and recovery, and enjoying time with friends and family at parties and celebrations. However, I’m also a firm believer in showing up for yourself by improving everyday not just for your health but your long-term longevity. We are talking improving the quality of your life and getting the most out of it! There is a balance.
Improvement though, starts with your perception! By treating weekends as another day and opportunity to move toward your goals is a great start. If that means that recovery is built in on these days, that’s great. If it means that it also includes some flexibility in your diet, because of your appropriate planning, that’s great too! But your progress doesn’t have to come to a halt on a weekend.
Also ask yourself the question, do you BELIEVE that you can enjoy the party, celebration or weekend and still hit your goals? Do you feel like you NEED to have 17 drinks to have a good time? Or would it be possible to have 2 drinks and still enjoy the moments?
The power and belief is yours to have.
The point is, it is possible to have and do it all. You can enjoy your weekend but also have structure enough to keep on the track to getting what you truly want: be more confident, lose weight, gain muscle and feel better in your skin.
The thought process is simple, absolutely. Easy? Absolutely not because hitting your goals and being who you’ve always dreamt of being isn’t easy and comes with sacrifice.
I know we all love to sleep in when we don’t have morning responsibilities, I am one of them! But making an effort to get up the same time each day and going to bed reasonably in the same ballpark as you normally do is extremely beneficial.
This promotes a proper circadian rhythm which firstly helps with our sleep cycle. Our quality of sleep effects every single process in the body; it allows us to recover from workouts (and let’s face it, LIFE), and directly effects our ability to develop immunity (HELLO covid 19) but also coincidentally directly influences our metabolism (or how many calories we burn)
If we throw off our normal sleep pattern too much, the rest of our body’s functions are going to be a bit off. The circadian rhythm also tends to influence and throw off our hunger cues. In a combination with activities and events that might be out of your norm, it’s easy to deter from beneficial eating habits if your hunger cues are all over the place.
Also, aim to have similar meals or structure of your meals. If you have a few options for breakfast that you like, keep to it, to start the day with consistency and a win. The less variability the better in a fat loss phase especially. Not only does it make it easier to track, but there’s more control and understanding of what we are taking in.
Tracking is so hugely important, and I feel so strongly about that. Another blog and more content on that to come. I truly feel to get progress the more data and information we have the better. Using an app such as MyFitnessPal is easy and convenient. I’m always here if you have any questions on tracking, how to track, what to track, when to track, or anything else you can think up at firstname.lastname@example.org or at this link.
Life is meant to be lived and I’m a big believer in enjoying food and the life experiences associated with them. When I was going through very restrictive points in my diet past I wouldn’t want to go out with friends or family to dinners or avoid parties because I didn’t want to go off my plan in fear of gaining weight.
Now, I’m thankful enough to be able to go out to dinner with my boyfriend and still make progress and feel good about my choices after. I’m able to go out to breakfast with my family and not be shameful if I eat biscuits or toast. If I want some of the appetizer or dinner bread when I go out to dinner, I PARTAKE.
But how is that possible? There are a few strategies you can use to work in events, or special dinners!
If you’re going out to eat at a restaurant, take a look at the menu ahead of time. If you’re able to get the nutrition facts specifically for an item that you’re interested in that’s ideal. Then you can take those numbers and account for them earlier in the day. That way, you in a way, “save” or account for these numbers early. Then, you can base the rest of the day around that meal.
If that restaurant doesn’t have exact nutrition information; once you get enough experience with tracking macros you can always estimate nutrition content and calories. If you’re new to macro counting you can always find a similar option in the My Fitness Pal database from another restaurant!
Say you’re going to a party and you have zero idea what will be available? I’d recommend up until that party getting in plenty of protein and hydration. Different situations and points in a fat loss phase require different preparations. Maybe you’re close to your goal so you want to be a bit more strict? Maybe you’re in a a diet break and allowing yourself a free meal? Having a coach is super beneficial to help you plan ahead for special life events like this one.
Generally, us humans tend to overeat when there are more options available. So if you are going to a buffet style get together, stick to minimal variability in your choices with emphasis on and proteins to keep you full. Then, if you feel like you want or have made the preparations, account for a desserts or side plates that you’d like to partake in. Remember, SOME tracking is better than NO tracking even if you’re not 100 % accurate.
In then end, it’s all about planning and making that plan work for you, not the other way around. Your progress doesn’t have to come to a halt on the weekends and instead can be further opportunities to succeed in your goals!
I hope this article helped you!
Please leave a comment if it resonated with you in any way!