Losing fat does not have to be complicated. It is not easy but the steps can and should be very simple. The short of it is, moving more (through consistent exercise) and eating better (focusing on whole foods in reasonable portions). There are however 2 other main aspects that I believe to be very important.
– Making sure to make any changes slow and sustainable
– Setting up your environment to work with and not against you
I’m just going to briefly go a little more in depth on these 4 aspects of losing fat.
1. Moving More:
This is pretty simple but often times is made very complicated. First things first, forget about the best this and the best that because best is a relative term and consistent exercise out does any particular workout every time. If I am not going to sustain the exercise (sustainability is the 3rd key concept) than it is useless for long-term success. Having gotten that out of the way, exercise has some key aspects. First, you want to have a mix of resistance training, cardiorespiratory training and stretching (flexibility & mobility training). Many times the first thing people do when they want to lose weight is take up some form of cardio and though cardio is very useful, it is not going to have the same effect on preserving muscle that resistance exercise will. When losing weight approximately 25% of that weight comes from fat free mass (varady 2011). However, if you perform resistance exercise you can help keep the weight being lost come from mostly fat while preserving as much lean tissue as possible.
– Resistance exercise is a must when losing weight. It aids in preserving muscle mass while losing fat (ultimately improving your body composition)
– Cardio has many benefits and when losing weight it is a great tool to increase your energy deficit without lowering calories too much
– Flexibility and Mobility training helps improve your range of motion and ultimately to more easily perform your activities of daily living (lifting things, rotating, bending)
2. Eating better:
This is another common aspect when losing weight. Unfortunately, like with exercise, many times it is made complicated and unsustainable. As with exercise, skip the best this and the best that and focus on what matters, the quality of food you are getting as well as the quantity you are taking in. Many significantly lower their calories or adopt a fad diet among other mistakes and they either make little to no progress or because of the changes they made are unable to sustain them and end up right back where they were. Eating below resting metabolic rate is only asking to lose as much fat free mass as you do fat mass, ultimately losing weight but not improving your body composition. As with all changes keep things simple and focus on the things that truly matter. What works has always been the same and likely will not change. All the fads and hypes will continue to pop up but ultimately wither away like the nonsense they are.
– The key is to simply; improve your diet by increasing the amount of whole foods (lean meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, etc) and decreasing the amount of processed foods while paying close attention to keeping the changes small and sustainable (as specified in the next aspect).
3. Making slow sustainable changes:
I have already mentioned this one in regards to the last two aspects so I won’t go too far into it. Many people make the mistake of making drastic changes that they cannot sustain in an attempt to make fast progress. Think about this, would you rather lose 20 lbs in one month (having much of it come from water, lean tissue, etc) just to gain it back within the year or lose that same 20 lbs over 3 months (by forming healthy habits) and keep it off? Patience is very necessary when aiming to lose weight (or make any change). Understand that it takes time and changes need to be made slowly and strategically not drastically. We want to make small changes overtime, forming habits out of the behaviors that will produce our goals (consistent exercise+healthy diet= healthy body composition).
– Make your changes small and sustainable. If you feel they cannot be maintained long-term then you need to rethink them and go with something else.
4. Setting up your environment to work with not against you:
Your environment has a strong impact on your actions. Because of this we need to make sure to keep around us things that will encourage good behavior and discourage bad behavior. If I keep soda and junk food around I am not going to maintain a healthy diet. However, if I keep plenty of healthy foods around (especially healthy snacks) I increase the likelihood of eating better. Likewise, if I make exercise easy and accessible (such as setting up a small home gym) then I will increase my chances of exercising consistently. We need to shape our environment to help us in achieving our goals.
– The key is to make it
easy to do what is right and hard to do what is wrong.
So, when aiming to lose weight, make sure to consistently move more (a mix of resistance, cardio and flexibility training), adopt a healthy sustainable diet, make slow sustainable changes, and set up your environment to work for you not against you. Following these 4 key aspects will ensure you see results and maintain them in the future.