I know you’re busy. You’ve heard of a million diets and have no idea where to even start, and simply don’t have time to research. High carb, low carb, ketogenic, blah, blah, blah. It’s easy to feel swamped and just give up in confusion. No need for that, though—here’s 3 simple steps to fat loss. Follow this and you will lose weight.
Fatness is simply the effect of excess energy being available to the body over time. The solution is to reverse this situation, and the best way to do that is to decrease how much you eat. You could do it with more exercise, but it takes a lot of extra activity to make any difference to body fat. Diet should do the lion’s share of the work.
Step 1 – Measure
Blindly aiming to “eat less” isn’t the way to go. It might mean you end up with an inadequate energy deficit and make no progress, or you could overdo it which will provoke a strong defensive response from your body that will likely lead to a rebound. Some way to measure and regulate food intake is critical. You can’t control what you don’t measure.
I recommend using a smartphone diet journal app (I use Myfitnesspal) because out of all the ways to regulate diet, it enables greatest control (I cover pros and cons of measurement here).
Note: I don’t recommend using Myfitnesspal’s suggestions for caloric intake.
Weigh yourself first thing in the morning every day and record the measurements. The daily numbers should be ignored because they will fluctuate—your 7-day average weight is what will guide the diet.
Take tape measurements around your hips and waist every month.
Take photos of yourself in your underwear every month. This feels horrible at the start of a diet, but trust me, when you’ve made progress these photos will be gold when you compare them to how good you look now.
Step 2 – Calorie Target
With a system of measurement in place, the next thing is a daily caloric goal that will start the fat loss process.
Credit to Lyle McDonald for these numbers.
Take your body weight in pounds and multiply it by 11-13. (For kg, multiply your body weight by 24.3-28.7, for stones 154-182.)
If you’re particularly active and/or have a fast metabolism, use 13. If you’re an office worker and/or have a slow metabolism, use 11 (and of course use 12 if you fall somewhere in between).
The resulting number is your daily calorie target.
- 150 lb construction worker with a fast metabolism. This person would use the higher multiplication factor:
150 lb x 13 = 1950 Calories/day.
- 150 lb office worker with slow metabolism: this person would use the lowest multiplication factor:
150 lb x 11 = 1650 Calories/day.
The above numbers are just a place to start. Aim for 1-2 lb fat loss (roughly 0.5-1 kg) per week. If you have a lot of fat to lose, a faster rate is fine. On the other hand if you’re quite lean and putting the final touches on a 6-pack, a slower rate is better.
The rate you choose to lose fat also just depends on your preference. But it’s important to know that a faster rate risks more kick-back from your body. This can lead to plateaus, make long term maintenance of your results more difficult, or in the worst case lead to a complete rebound.
Step 3 – Monitor and Adjust
Keep an eye on your weekly average body weight. If you’re losing weight at your expected/desired rate, excellent.
Not losing fast enough? Subtract a further 10% from your daily calories.
Losing too fast? Add 10% to your daily calories.
Other Things to Consider
Carbs, Fat, and Protein
To minimize the chances of losing muscle mass during a diet, aim to eat 0.8 g per pound of body weight (1.8 g/kg) of protein. More is fine, but unnecessary. Protein has another advantage for dieting in that it’s filling, which helps fight hunger. (Here’s a great discussion about protein intake on a diet if you’re interested in reading further.)
With protein in place, fill in the rest of your diet with fat and carbs as you please. The differences in the effects of carbohydrate and fat on the body with respect to fat loss are minor, and by far the most powerful factor for weight loss is overall energy balance.
The flexibility of being able to eat whatever you like massively outweigh any slight benefit you might get from trying to optimize macronutrients for your body. The reason is that it maximizes enjoyment of the process, which in turn makes actually adhering to the diet more likely. And a diet you enjoy and stick to is far superior to a perfect one you give up on. More on that here.
Tailor your eating frequency to your tastes and preferences. 1 Meal, 20 meals, breakfast, no breakfast, it doesn’t matter much. Again, for fat loss overall energy intake is king. No need to sweat the details.
I cover this topic in more detail here.
Stress and Sleep
Minimizing stress and getting adequate sleep are very important for fat loss. Easier said than done in our busy lives, but still imperative. Pay attention to these things, or you’ll have a very tough time.
If you merely want to lose weight, diet alone will do it. If you want to optimize your health and appearance, you must exercise. The form that will give the most bang for the buck is resistance exercise, ie, weight training.
- It builds muscle, and muscle helps burn extra calories even when you’re inactive.
- Weight training itself burns energy.
- Hard weight training results in more calories being burned even after your workout.
It doesn’t need to be complicated or very time-consuming. There are a few fundamentals to have in place, and everything else can be customized to your preferences (I literally work out for 20 minutes at a time at most these days).
Weight Training Fundamentals
- Include movements like barbell squats, barbell deadlifts, chin-ups, bench presses, and parallel bar dips.
- Try to get stronger in these exercises over time (or for when you’re dieting, try to maintain strength).
- Learn how to do the movements correctly. This is extremely important, both to avoid injury and to work the correct muscles.
- Pay attention to recovery. Again, imperative. During a diet, it’s a good idea to work out no more than three times per week. This is because exercise is a stressor, and so is dieting. Stressing your system too much will make fat loss very difficult, and make maintenance of results long term much less likely, not to mention the increased likelihood of sickness.
What, No Cardio?
If you like cardiovascular exercise and have the time and energy to do it without affecting your overall recovery too much, go ahead. I never do it because I don’t like it, and it’s not necessary. But there are no hard and fast rules. It is a way to burn a bit of extra energy, plus has its own health benefits.
3 Simple Steps to Fat Loss
That’s it. No tricks, no fake secrets, no magic foods, just the stuff that works. Follow these simple steps to fat loss, and you’ll accomplish your goals.
Questions, comments, suggestions, or fat loss experiences you’d like to share? Please comment below. And there’s more on fat loss here.
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