As discussed in Episode 9 of the Wise Eats Podcast
Any time I set a goal to lose weight, the method I use to achieve it can be broken into 7 general steps:
Step 1: Establish a goal to lose body fat.
Step 2: Estimate my daily calorie needs based on activity level.
Step 3: Eating 300-500 calories less than my needs in order to create a deficit.
Step 4: Eat real, whole foods and drink plenty of water. Also avoid toxins and refined sugar as much as possible.
Step 5: Track every meal and stay as close to my calorie and macronutrient requirements as possible.
Step 6: Lift weights 3-6 days per week to grow and retain muscle and doing 20-30 minutes of cardio a couple times per week
Step 7: Rest fully, minimize stress, and recover actively
Effective weight loss all comes down to energy balance. How many calories does your body burn on a daily basis? How many additional calories does it burn based on your activity level? When you combine those two numbers to get your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), you have a pretty accurate estimate of the calories you need in a day to maintain your current weight. From there, it’s simply a matter of taking in slightly less calories to lose weight, or taking in slightly more to build your body up. After that, it’s just dedication and consistency. Also, keep in mind that as your body changes, so do your daily needs. As my bodyweight decreased during this weight cut, I eventually had to drop a few hundred calories per day in order to keep the weight loss going. After the cut was over, I slowly increased calories to maintain weight and build some strength.
Here are 12 tips to help you along in your fat loss journey:
- If I Can Do It, You Can Do It. I’m not a certified trainer or nutritionist, yet. I’m not a bodybuilder or training for a competition. I’ve never even played sports. I used to be 90lbs overweight, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, living solely on fast food, and bordering on alcoholism. I abused my body with no regard for my health or longevity. But, I turned it all around, and today I’m in the best shape of my life. If I can start from the bottom and work my way up, you can too. I promise.
- No Fad Diets Necessary. I didn’t use Paleo, keto, Atkins, or any other secret formula to lose weight during this time. Essentially, the strategy I use to lose weight in 2019 is the is the same I used back in 2009. Eat based on energy requirements, exercise consistently, stop poisoning yourself, and try to have healthy foods in wide variety as much as possible.
- You Have to Meal Prep. Honestly, I spend quite a bit of time in the kitchen, but cut corners everywhere I can. Making large batches of food to have for several meals is key. At the start of the week, I’ll make enough of the breakfast energy bowl to have for multiple days. I’ll prep salads two at a time to have for today and tomorrow’s lunch. I’ll bake large portions of chicken, potatoes, and steamed rice all at once to have on hand for quick and easy meals. Accountability and preparation are key in your ability to improve your health.
- Think of Food as Fuel. On average, I had around 6 meals per day and ate every 2-3 hours based on activity levels during this weight loss. Most meals were designed to either fuel up for or recover from a workout, nothing more. Try to think of food as fuel rather than just for pleasure or satisfaction. Of course, I absolutely love the healthy meals I eat on a regular basis, but the primary goal is to always keep my body and mind performing at its best. If you can’t get up and go for a quick jog around the block because of what you just ate, then you done messed up.
- Treat Yourself in Moderation. Discipline will help you see results much faster,but treating yourself can also help keep you motivated and avoid burning out. Throughout the 13 week cut, I had about one cheat meal every week. Sometimes, it was eating out, sometimes it was home cooked. Sure, I could’ve lost weight faster without cheating, but I’m pretty proud of the shape I got in despite going off the rails here and there. The trick is not allowing yourself to spiral out of control. I didn’t let one meal turn into an entire day or weekend or full week of bad eating like I used to. Enjoy just that one meal, don’t lose sight of your goal, and get right back on track.
- Lose Fat Faster with Cardio. I know I said in Episode 8 that cardio is not required, and I stand by that statement, but after losing an average of 1lb per week in the first half, I was able to lose an average of nearly 1.5lbs per week in the second half. The biggest change I made was increasing cardio through walking, biking, and a few high intensity kettlebell routines. Cardio does not need to exceed 20-30mins a couple days per week to get results, so don’t overdo it. You don’t even have to do it at all, but it might get you to your fat loss goal faster. Plus, it feels amazing and is really good for your overall health, so if you love doing it, more power to you.
- You Gotta Lift Some Weight to Lose Some Weight. Weight training is my favorite form of exercise, and offers the best bang for your buck when it comes to fat loss and improving your body composition. During this weight cut, I gained strength consistently during the first half and felt great despite being in a calorie deficit. It wasn’t until the last few weeks where I experienced a noticeable drop-off in gains and energy levels. At that point, I knew it was time to call an end to the weight loss challenge and give my body some much needed rest. Lifting weights is the best way to build or retain muscle while getting lean and losing body fat, so I can’t recommend it enough.
- Avoid the Clean Eating Trap. Prior to this weight loss, I spent years trying to gain as much muscle as possible, but got to the point where I was easily eating up to 5,000 calories a day, including excessive amounts of dietary fat. I figured since I was lifting weights and building muscle, I could just eat as much nutrient dense food as I wanted. Wrong. Just because food is healthy doesn’t mean you can eat as much of it as you want and not gain extra weight. Bummer, I know.
- Be More Mindful of What You Eat. Specific ingredients, total calories, and macronutrient amounts. Once you control these things and understand them, changing your physique becomes a matter of routine, math, and proper dietary choices. Some experts debunk calorie counting, but I can say for sure that it’s worked wonders for me, both in my original 90lb weight loss and this 15lb weight cut. Calorie counting or not, you need to take control of what you put in your body.
- Reverse Dieting. After a period of sustained weight loss, your body is highly susceptible to gaining fat very quickly if overfed. It’s important to “reverse diet” by slowly increasing your calorie intake to avoid putting the body fat right back on. If you just call an end to your diet and start eating like crazy, you can quickly undo any progress you’ve made. So, after this challenge, I slightly bumped up calories each week, which allowed my energy levels to return to normal and start building strength again.
- Get Hooked on Improvement. Tracking your meals and workouts takes some work, but the feeling of knowing you’re in control and making progress becomes addictive. Plus, it’s a lot harder to move forward when you’re not sure where you’ve been. Evaluate your performance and strive to keep getting better. Get more reps, lift heavier weight with good form, or increase your intensity. If you’re getting better each time, chances are you’re doing everything right. If you’re not making progress though, something is likely off with your training, diet, stress levels, or rest. Also, if you’re monitoring your weight, don’t get caught up in day-to-day fluctuations. I recommend weighing yourself each day and taking an average for the week, which is a more accurate indicator of progress than the day-to-day number. Stay focused and, over time, the scale will move in the direction you want.
- Keep Exercise Simple. If you’re just beginning a workout routine, don’t make it too complicated. Start with some light activities that you can do safely and comfortably then build yourself up from there. Go for walks and focus on quality bodyweight movements like squats, burpees, jumping jacks, lunges, and core routines. If you can’t even do a push-up or pull-up, it’s probably too early to start throwing weights around. Just get out there and get your body moving. You don’t have to break yourself down for an hour in the gym to get an effective workout. You just gotta start somewhere.
I got into the best shape of my life using these strategies. Summer is coming, so it’s time wise up. Make one positive change today and it will add up to major benefits in the future! Thanks a lot for reading this article. Now, get out there, get ready for summer, and start making some wise choices!