These are the key parts for healthy fat loss. There are a few simple things you can do in each area to get great fat loss results.
• Diet – meaning the totality of what you eat, not “a diet”
• Life Movement – everyday activity, or NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis)
• Exercise – play, movement and fitness activities that increase fitness, strength, endurance and resilience
• Rest & Recovery – the lost art of allowing your body to restore and repair
Losing fat too fast is really popular, but not healthy. A safe, average range can be 0.5% body fat or about 1-2 lbs of body weight per week. Of course, there is some variation, you may get a little more or less, and sometimes fluctuations will happen from changes in water weight. It’s important to look at averages over time, not get caught up with the normal daily fluctuations. A general downward trend is what you’re after, it’s not likely to be a straight line.
1) Coffee – Love coffee and want to lose fat? One shot of espresso (1 oz) is about 3 calories.
I wanted to compare popular Starbucks drinks to a simple shot of espresso, but in the time spent searching Starbucks websites reading the pretentious names of their drinks, I lost interest right away. Basically you’re looking at anywhere from 200 – 500 calories for a popular coffee drink. Some drinks are ridiculous, like Dunkin’ Donuts Frozen Mocha Coffee Coolatta with Cream which is 1,050 calories.
Caffeine may help with weight loss, for some people, sometimes.
For more information, read this: http://examine.com/supplements/Caffeine/
2) Protein rules!
Eating adequate protein makes a difference. Protein results in more satiety (satisfaction, feeling full longer) and helps maintain muscle mass during fat loss.
3) Cycling Carbs or Calories – This technique can be a reasonable way to reduce calories for some people.
Carb or calorie cycling is when you create an overall deficit by having days when you eat your usual amount, and then days when you reduce that. It’s the total calories at the end of the week that matter most. Take your daily calorie average, create 3 or 4 days at a deficit, and the rest of the week eat at maintenance. See how it goes, tweak if necessary by changing the days or deficit size.
This is reasonable as long as it feels sustainable to you, and you don’t see reductions in energy, performance or sleep. It may take a little experimentation to find what works for you.
See what you do on average this week (how many carbs you eat per day), then next week, plan days you can reduce (modest deficit of 250-500 calories), so that at the end of the week you end up with a caloric deficit and lose some fat.
Because dieting (eating at a deficit) can be difficult, it’s important to find tools that make it feel easier to stick with for you personally. This kind of carb or calorie cycling can work well for some people. Throughout the week on average, you’ll be in a deficit, but on “normal” carb or calorie days, you won’t be. Some find that easier to sustain than a constant deficit.
Whether you’re eating at a daily deficit, or carb/calorie cycling, I suggest you take scheduled breaks every so often. Remember that prolonged calorie or carb deficits will squash your metabolism, sex drive, and energy (including energy during workouts).
4) Don’t Supersize – Visual cues impact how much we eat. Bigger bowls and plates means more food. Try using smaller dishes and smaller utensils for some of your home meals.
Do you like cereal? I don’t mean ‘cauliflower corn flakes’ that some Paleo asshole is probably making in their kitchen; I mean actual cereal, the kind my skinny friends and I ate like every single day when growing up. Do you love to eat a big bowl with a big spoon? I love to eat cereal that way, or at least I did most of my life. I can’t do that anymore. So I use smaller bowls and silverware. Yes, you can now spend $100 for a fork that will light up and mildly shock you to remind you to slow down, you can even get a painful patch sewn onto your tongue to eat less, or really you can just CTFO and be mindful.
5) Mindfulness – Slow down and pay attention when eating.
I recently visited a friend and her family for a celebration dinner. Everyone was eating chips and dip for about an hour before dinner was served. Yes, they were having fun. No, it’s not a good idea if your goal is weight loss. What is most important here is how no one paid attention to what they were doing. If you want to lose weight, don’t eat mindlessly for an hour before dinner then stuff your face mindlessly with oversized portions while talking to a bunch of people.
6) Modest Calorie Deficit – You can find simple ways to eat less or move more in your lifestyle without trying too hard on either end.
Want a simple way to reduce calories? If you like full-fat dairy like I do, switch some of it to low fat. This is easy to do if you cook/prep your own meals. You can eat some of your dairy low fat and then once or twice a week eat full fat. You can easily create a deficit by using low fat dairy sometimes throughout the week.
Relax. I’m not saying go on a low-fat diet.
7) Self-control – Practice self-discipline, not self-flagellation. It can be strengthened with practice and by establishing new habits (that don’t include mindless eating or eating beyond satiety).
Going out to eat is a problem for a lot of people because they eat too much, or eat really high-calorie dishes. That by itself is not a problem if done only occasionally, it becomes a problem when it’s done consistently. Why not stop going out to eat as much? Instead of 3 nights, do 1 per week. You live in NYC and go out often? OK, then how about ordering a salad or veggie as an appetizer instead of chips, guac and a cocktail.
8) Snacks Are Overrated – Don’t eat impulsively, when you’re not hungry. Fun snacks are fine on occasion, but frequent eating of snacks above your calorie needs adds up fast. Switch out some of those fast food snacks you eat regularly for some fruit.
Look at your normal meals. Where can you substitute a snack, appetizer, side or dessert with fruit? Everyone knows fruit goes well in smoothies, but have you ever had fruit in your omelettes? You can gently warm up or cook fruit, if you like. Fruit is delicious, nutrient dense, and can satisfy your sweet tooth. I’m pretty sure there are grocery stores in your area you’ve never been to. They have fruits you probably have never tried.
Pro Tip: Anyone who says ‘fruit makes you fat’, or that it’s nothing but a ‘bag of candy water’ or something equally asinine, should not be taken seriously.
Fruit Recipes: http://www.pinterest.com/urbanantonio/fruit-recipes/
9) Sleep – Make quality sleep, in adequate amounts, a priority.
Good sleep habits are vital, as well. Not enough sleep and you’ll probably eat more the next day. To have consistent energy levels during the day, and not need to rely on caffeine and frequent snacks to keep you going, it’s necessary to get enough quality, restorative sleep. Enough sIeep also helps regulate hormone production. I recommend common-sense practices like turning off all screens a couple of hours before bed, getting to sleep at a reasonable time (around 10:30 PM), having a regular, relaxing bedtime routine, and allowing for at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
10) Sane Exercise – Stay active and get regular exercise, but don’t get caught up in punishing, extreme exercise. That’s asking for burnout and injury.
A consistent routine of strength training, yoga, or whatever you enjoy is sustainable. You can (and probably should) do strength training, not just for ‘expending calories’, but for the psychological and metabolic benefits and overall quality of life.
Pro Tip: Try running a mile first, instead of a marathon.
11) Increase NEAT (non-exercise activity) – Stand more, walk more, sit less.
I used to make fun of people who said “oh I parked farther away so I’d walk more”. Guess what? I was the fool, because that stuff works. Walking every day can make a big difference. Even simple things like walking around your office, at lunch time, or early morning walks support weight loss. It all counts, and adds up to higher NEAT.
I suggest weighing yourself at the end of the week, certainly not daily. Keep in mind weighing yourself on a scale has its problems (water weight changes frequently, when you poop, etc). A better idea is to get your bodyfat tested; however, there are problems with this as well. I prefer to take circumference measurements of your body or simply go by how your clothing fits/feels.
If weight loss is a good idea for you, it can be done without the stress or madness it creates for most. If you create too much of a deficit, you’ll binge at some point. So don’t get all gung-ho about a new program. I suggest a modest deficit for most people. Slow (mindful) and steady wins the race.
Start with a modest 250-calorie/day deficit for a week, before you try a 500-calorie deficit.
Be aware that if you try too hard to avoid sugar, you’ll crave and probably binge. Use moderation, and make your own desserts or fruit.
Same goes for Intermittent Fasting (IF). It can result in reactive bingeing. Craft your lifestyle, meal plan or ‘diet’ so at the end of the week, the balance is in favor of fat loss, not bingeing.
There is a time for feasting/overeating sometimes (i.e. your mom makes a holiday dinner). Feasting and Fasting are both normal in most cultures (for various reasons), please don’t take it to extremes or do it too often like we see in our culture.
Focus on a diet of minimally processed foods, but you don’t need to completely avoid other foods, because ‘moderation’ does work. ‘Junk food’ or ‘processed food’ is hyperpalatable (super tasty) and easy to overeat. Super tasty food that’s higher in calories and easy to overeat, combined with sitting on your ass all day, as many people do, makes it very easy to gain weight and rather difficult to lose it.
For the majority of your diet, choose protein, veggies and fruit more often and get better sleep. You just might be surprised how ‘effortless’ and enjoyable your weight loss journey can be.
Most people would benefit by learning how to CTFO, practice self-awareness and learn how to self-regulate rather than forcing or micro-managing. You can make a few, small tweaks and usually you’ll get fantastic results, especially if you are a beginner. As you get more advanced and closer to your goal, you will have to work harder continue to see fat loss, eventually reaching a permanent plateau of a healthy weight for your body.