It turns out that the process of losing fat is pretty simple. By consuming fewer calories than your body expends, it is forced to use fat reserves. Creating a gap between calories in and calories out is at the heart of any plan.
When we talk about weight loss, we generally mean ‘fat loss’ but it’s also possible for the body to lose muscle, and this is undesirable because muscle is hard to replace and you'll end up with the "skinny fat" look.
You should aim to lose no more than 0.5kg per week in order to prevent muscle loss. The gap that you need to create is about 500kcal per day.
There are a number of ways to achieve this.
- reduce the number of kcal you consume, by changing your diet.
- increase the number of kcal you burn through exercise.
An ideal long-term plan will combine both aspects - eat a bit less, move a bit more.
As you lose weight, your metabolism starts to adjust in order to try and maintain your weight. This is the main cause of weight loss plateaus, but it’s fair to say that most people who think they’re in a plateau are often not.
In previous posts I talked about the importance of tracking your progress by
- weighing yourself regularly
- taking photos regularly
- taking physical measurements regularly
The rate of weight loss is not a straight line. If you were to weigh yourself every day, you’d find that your weight fluctuates. This fluctuation is mostly due to varying water weight - some days you carry more water than other days.
Some people weigh themselves once a week or even two weeks so as to take account of this natural fluctuation. I chose not to do that because that’d give me too much scope to go off the rails. To save my sanity, I used a iPhone app called True Weight to log my weight every day. The app calculates a moving average weight over the last 7 days, and this takes care of the fluctuations. Helpfully, it tells you how much weight you’re losing, and how big a calorie gap that represents. If you're on Android try Libra app.
If you do nothing else, regular weighing and adjusting your diet and exercise until the app shows you the rate of weight loss you desire will get you to your goal.
If you also commit to weekly or fortnightly photos and measurements you should have a lot of evidence to tell you if things are going in the right direction.
Some people don’t want to weigh themselves, and that’s fine too. Just take regular measurements and photos, and keep note of when clothes are too big for you. Your feedback loop won't be as tight, and it will be more difficult to know whether what you're doing is working. But it's better than nothing.
Ultimately it’s about finding a feedback loop that works for you.
Remember - in 12 weeks you could lose 6kg or more. That could make all the difference to how you feel on holiday, whether you can fit in to favourite clothes for a special occasion. Could you commit to that?
As of December 26th, 2015, Easter 2016 is 13 weeks away. If you start now you could be looking and feeling very different by then!
Tomorrow I'll share what I learned about nutrition.