In order to understand how to lose weight and keep it off, you need to understand how calories work and how to manipulate them in your diet in order to achieve your fat loss goal.
What Are Calories?
Calories are units of energy. Think of energy as something that cannot be destroyed nor created, so in that sense, calories can be manipulated easier once you understand that exercise and food intake is a form of energy manipulation. You just have to manipulate calories in order to lose weight. Fat loss requires understanding how calories work and committing to a plan that reduces your total amount of them.
How does knowledge of calories help me achieve my goals?
Simply put, if you are to eat too many calories and do too little exercise, the amount of energy that is going into your body is increasing so you will gain weight. In order to reverse this weight gain, you need to reduce the amount of energy going in. Energy going out is what is necessary for your body to lose fat, you can do this by increasing the amount of energy your body is using with exercise or by eating less which also reduces the amount of energy coming in to your body.
Emotional eating is a huge topic that is often ignored, understanding calories can help detract from the shame and guilt associated with food. Food is energy, and exercise is energy expenditure.
Now we have understood that less calories leads to fat loss, how can we create a calorie deficit?
The following ways are crucial for a calorie deficit to be created:
- Understand how many calories your body needs based on this calculator.
- Reduce your weekly calorie intake by 500/1000 calories.
- Increase your total body’s energy boosting mechanism (this is called your metabolism) by exercising.
- Metabolism-boosting exercises include strength training and cardiovascular activity but can also include stretching type exercises.
Can you give me advice on how to boost my metabolism without exercise? I do not have the time for it.
Let us analyse a different perspective: in this scenario, exercise is a habit and not a result.
- 10 minutes of exercise a day is all that it takes it to get fit. Compound those 10 minutes over a few years and you will see how this habit is enough to increase your energy expenditure and create a deficit. I suggest dedicating 10 minutes a day to doing bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, squats, abs and lunges, my beginner’s training guide is exactly the kind of training that you need to be doing to build a base for fitness.
- If you have an injury that prevents you from doing strength training, then I would engage in a pilates-type activity that includes stretching to building strength. Youtube is full of pilates/at-home workout videos. A walk outside also works or using the stairs instead of the elevator at your place of work/home. Anything to get your body in a state of motion can boost your metabolism.
- Another way of boosting your metabolism would be by creating a stimulus that results in fat loss. Eat 500+/1000+ less calories than your total calorie expenditure a week and you should start noticing your weight decreasing.
What kind of cardio can I do to accelerate fat loss?
Any type of cardiovascular activity can lead to it by reducing your total calorie expenditure. In terms of efficiency, long-state steady cardio and high intensity interval training can both help with fat loss. Add either 10 minutes of HIIT training (30 seconds at a fast speed and 1 minute at a slow speed for beginners), or 20-30 minutes of low intensity cardio on the treadmill to a strength training program and you will see results. I recommend 3 times a week of cardio with adherence to 3 strength training sessions in order to build muscle.
I want to wait until I lose fat to start strength training. Is that fine?
Of course it is fine, many people think that this is the smart thing to do. The reality is that this is probably because they are intimidated by going to the weights section of the gym because they are overweight. The truth is, nobody is going to care if you go in there overweight or skinny-fat, people are focussing on themselves.
Let us analyse this from a different perspective. is this strategy effective? No, it is actually prolonging building muscle until a superficial layer of fat is gone, you will be revealing nothing since you are planning of training in clothes anyway.
Two scenarios can happen, let us examine them both in order to help alleviate some uncertainty about strength training. You can either:
A) Commit to long stretches of cardio and a sound diet for a few months before going to the weights room. You will go from overweight to skinny-fat and then start building muscle because the underlying insecurity is that you are too overweight to be in the weights room, if we remove that fear, you can start to see how you are prolonging the difficult (and most rewarding, in my opinion) part of fitness which is getting stronger and bigger. So it’s just nonsensical in that sense.
I would instead,
B) Commit to myself regardless of my insecurities. I would acknowledge the fear of being judged and comfort myself to know that every advanced person at the gym was once a beginner.
In both scenarios, you are engaging in a life-long process of improving physical fitness.
Only one of the choices is based on fear. The other is based on engaging with a highly effective process of fat loss, confidence-gains and strength that is needed to achieve fat loss.
If you are a beginner, start by building muscle, clean your diet up and add cardio. Once you commit to this strategy, you will start to see how fitness is and will always be a process. It requires planning, execution and consistency. You can do it from being overweight and you can do it from being skinny. This is because consistency, a proper diet and accountability are still going to be processes regardless of how far off from your goal you are. This is why fitness can be thought of as a process that you learn to love in order to succeed.