Updated: Oct 9, 2018
When it comes to fat loss, by know everyone knows there is no magic pill. Fat loss comes down to a complex array of factors. The good news is, fat loss has an inverse relationship with health, so if you focus on smaller, sustainable, healthier choices, weight loss will happen naturally, and more easefully. The days of crash dieting, over training, and all or nothing approaches are long gone in most health circles. They key to weight loss is health, and these 10 strategies will help set you up for long term fat loss success:
1. Keep meals simple
The more you can take the decision work out of what to eat, the more successful you can be. Keeping food plans simple, and relatively similar each day, is a great way to take the stress out of meal planning. It’s also been shown that eating simpler meals naturally leads to eating less, so aiming for plain old steamed vegetables with a side of meat is a nice, simple yet nourishing meal.
Simple food may sound boring, but by decreasing the number of ingredients, seasonings etc, you are not only making your life easier, but also decreasing the likelihood of overeating. Highly palatable foods make it harder to stop eating when you are full, so stay away from extra spicy, salty, fatty, sweet foods.
2. Breakfast (or not!) is the most important meal to get right
Winning your start to the day sets you up for success through the rest of your day. For most people this looks like a nutrient dense breakfast like bacon, avo and eggs or smoked salmon and avo, meat and nuts, or a porridge bowl with nuts, seeds and berries. In the morning especially, increasing protein intake is beneficial because it is the most satiating macronutrient, and will help keep blood sugar balanced though your day. Because protein is less rewarding than carbohydrates or fat, it’s harder to overeat. Merely increasing protein content before lunch time is a surefire way to help your brain thrive and avoid those 3:30pm dips in energy and willpower which often result in sugar and salty snacks.
Now your morning start is important, but it might not necessarily include eating. Some people thrive on fasting through the morning, and gaining the benefits of a continues starvation period. Men, people with blood sugar issues, overweight people, people with neurological issues, and those who are naturally not hungry in the morning typically benefit from fasting. It's not for everyone, so if you are unsure, read more about it here, and who should or shouldn't try intermittent fasting.
3. Do not starve yourself
Many people make the mistake of thinking they need to eat less to drop fat. The truth is low carbohydrate diets, intermittent fasting or high fat diets work specifically for certain populations, but can cause chaos in others! Dropping too low on calories decreases metabolic rate, which can increase fat storage in certain populations. Undereating, or letting blood sugar levels drop too low can ignite the stress response and create problems with hormones, the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis (stress response), cellular metabolism, and thyroid, all of which promote weight gain.
4. Modify carbohydrate levels based on your health and activity levels
Some people thrive on low carb, others (like athletes, women or those with certain chronic health conditions) need more carbs to feel great. A common barrier to weight loss in many active people (especially women who are training) is actually under eating. Increasing healthy carbohydrates in the diet, can assist in hormone balance, thyroid function, better sleep and mood control, and the result can be effortless weight loss. Malnutrition and undereating can also be a barrier to fitness performance and results, so eating a nutrient dense diet is critical for those who are pushing their body through the demands of intense training.
Tweaking carbohydrate ratios is often the easiest macro nutrient to control, and has the biggest impact on health. To ascertain your best carbohydrate ratios, have a read of this article to see where you fit. Never eat only carbs in a meal, always try to accompany carbohydrates with fats and protein in meals to avoid blood sugar dysregulation.
5. Avoid over training
The body needs health to liberate fat from our bodies, and adding more stress in the form of overly intense exercise isn't always helpful for fat loss. It's not a matter of calories in versus calories out, when it comes to fat loss (read more about this here). It's more to do with food quality, blood sugar, inflammation, hormones and detoxification!
Going as hard as possible in the gym doesn't equal results and we see this time and time again. Being kinder to your body, especially one that is overweight, inflamed and stressed is a much more sustainable approach that will generate long term success. (If this concept is new to you, read more about how less really is more for accelerated results here)
6. Move throughout the day
Sitting too much stalls body composition goals. A common misconception is that people think they are safe from the dangers of inactivity because they exercise often, but studies show that even moderate intensity exercise isn't enough to offset the health risks associated with prolonged sitting. Exercising for an hour a day doesn't offset the negative effects of being inactive for the remainder of the day. The solution to offsetting inactivity isn't more structured exercise, it's more intermittent physical activity. That is, we need to find opportunities to include small bouts of movement into our daily lives to break up long periods of inactivity. Do some more chores, take a small lap of the office or block, drop and do even just 3 pushups, it all counts towards increasing your daily activity and success.
7. Hack Your Lifestyle
Many people underestimate the importance of lifestyle factors like sleep, stress management, artificial lighting, time in nature, social and family connections on their overall health and weight. There is no such thing as 'luck' or genes determining your success, because 90% of human disease can be attributed to the exposome which is the myriad of non-genetic influences that you are exposed to throughout your life. Managing the food you eat, the air you breath, the water you drink, your stress level, the people you interact with, your metabolism and the environment you live in will shift your epigenetics, the expression of your genes.
8. Reduce toxin exposure
Detoxification is no myth, and it's CRUCIAL for fat loss! Everyone has a reserve ability to detox. Your body can only process so many toxins until it becomes backed up, and these foreign compounds, begin to spill into the body and get stored in connective tissue, muscles, fat and even in your brain. Many toxins are fat soluble and so they live in our fat tissue. The more fat you hold on your body, the more of a toxic burden you have. Toxins comes from the chemicals in processed food, plastic packaging, body care products, pharmaceutical drugs, cleaning products and more. These chemicals can cause weight gain, hormone imbalance, neurodegeneration, blood sugar problems and so much more and are prolific in our environment. Doing what you can to reduce exposure (read more here) and increase clearance is key in healthy fat loss. Drink more water, eat great quality food, avoid toxic chemical products (food/beauty/cleaning) and you'll be leaner for it!
9. Stress Management
Stress is a major player in almost all chronic diseases and weight gain. Drop weight by increasing recovery with active movement, meditation, massage, listening to music, time in nature - whatever it is that helps you unwind! Try a gratitude journal, a few deep breaths, or a 2 minute headspace meditation, any reduction in stress, no matter how small is a win for your body! Don't underestimate the effect of simple stress management in helping you lose fat, it's often the missing link that many people skimp over.
10. Sleep Like a baby
Sleep is where we recover, regenerate and it's essential for fat loss. Getting a good 8 hours of shut eye will help you lose weight. Sleep deprivation and fatigue is correlated with increased hunger hormones ghrelin and decreased leptin and insulin sensitivity, meaning it programs you to want more food, and not know when to stop eating, AND you more likely to store your fuel as fat. Read more tips about how to sleep like a baby here.
Pick one, a few or aim to do several of the above techniques, and move towards a healthier and happier version of yourself. Being better every single day, beats being 100% perfect. Make fat loss sustainable, and you'll win every time. For more advanced strategies on conquering your fat cells, read 'why we get fat' or reach out to a wellness coach for specific advice.