Losing fat (or weight) is simultaneously simple and extremely challenging.
Over the past few months I’ve been re-evaluating the process of fat loss. Calorie calculations are a great way to figure out how much fuel you need to consume to lose fat at a certain rate, there’s no doubt about that. But they also have a tendency to steer you towards a nervous breakdown. Go too low on calories too soon and before you know it you’ll be sucking down Reddi-Wip cans faster than Demi Moore (google it).
So what’s the answer? How can you succeed psychically without breaking down mentally?
Well, luckily I have 3 phases that I put together from my research over the last 16 years. I’m not kidding; it took me 16 years to figure these out. These steps take into account mental health, physical health, results, sustainability and adherence. So far, this is the absolute best advice I’ve been able to come up with.
Phase 1: Look for Culprits
When you begin a fat loss program it needs to be simple. Like single cell organism simple. The less complicated the diet, the easier it is to adhere to.
Looking for culprits in the diet is the easiest way to keep things simple. What is a food culprit? Actually I’d be willing to bet you already know. For example, if you are having a large cappuccino and 2 doughnuts for breakfast – you guessed it, those are culprits.
Now it would seem obvious to tell you to cut out those foods entirely and replace them with something much “healthier”. But that wouldn’t be single celled organism simple now would it?
So let’s make things even easier to adhere to – how about just switching to a small cappuccino and keeping the 2 donuts? Or (notice I said OR, people tend to get overzealous when they start a diet) cutting out one of the doughnuts?
Drinking regular soda? Boom. There is a culprit – the advertisement for that one should read “Woman (or man) switches to diet soda and drops 10 pounds!” You may think that is wishful thinking, but removing liquid calories is freaking huge when it comes to losing fat quickly.
So without going into tons of detail, simply find things in your diet (using your common sense) that you can quickly and easily remove. One warning here: do not cut out regular soda and replace it with something just as caloric like fruit juice. That ain’t gonna work.
Phase 2: Education (calorie counting)
You didn’t think the King of Calorieland himself (that’s me silly) would turn his back on the numbers did ya? No way! Calories are still the master – the absolute best way to assure that you are eating less food than you were when you were rotund (that word gets you in less trouble than ‘fat’).
Educating yourself on the amount of food it takes to sustain your body, lose fat, and gain weight (all of which you need to learn) requires learning this tedious process. There is no better way to educate yourself about food portions and fuel than counting the ole’ calories.
Still, calorie counting is not all sunshine and roses – in fact it’s downright challenging to pull off on a consistent basis. Like I said, it’s tedious, aggravating, and time consuming – but it’s also devastatingly effective.
So how can you pull calorie counting off without going crazy? Here are a few tips:
Make use of the internet and apps like myfitnesspal.
If you feel more comfy with pen & paper then go old school, write it down.
Keep the majority of your calories in your big meals – snacking 10 times throughout the day requires Calculus level Mafft. Screw dat.
Stop thinking of calorie counting as the end of the world. It’s a few freaking numbers; sure it sucks but so does doing the laundry and getting hair out of the drain.
Remember calorie counting is a tool – like a hammer, or shovel – you use it to reach your goals then your can put it away (I explain this further in Phase 3).
Phase 2 takes a while to master, but when you get it down pat you’ll know everything you need to know to lose fat at will. You’ll be the master of your body. You’ll also have a great idea of how many calories (and how much food volume) it takes to sustain that meat vehicle of yours. And that leads us to…
Phase 3: Maintenance
This is the best Phase of all – the goal Phase. After ridding yourself of your bad habits in Phase 1 (you little culprits you) and learning the numbers in Phase 2 – you now have a very good idea of how much food your body requires in a day.
Since you have a good idea – you can now stop being an accountant and live a little. Notice I said “a little”, this isn’t an invitation to your Swedish cousins Smorgasbord – it’s just a chance to sit back and consume food like a normal fit person.
In this step you’ll keep repeating the “fullness” pattern you set up in Phase 2. You’ll eat until you are satisfied but not stuffed. You’ll learn that beautiful word that eludes so many of us – moderation.
Finally, you’ll want to keep an eye on that waistline. You don’t want it to start expanding, and if it does – well, that means you’ll get out the calorie counting tool again and get to work. Catch it early and you’ll only have to count calories for a week or two.
So there you have it – my 3 Phases of Fat Loss…because nobody cares how thin you are if you’re in the nuthouse.
Follow Jay on Twitter, and Follow the Podcast on Facebook
Jay Scott, is the host of The Full Disclosure Fitness Podcast. He is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer, business owner, the author of Live Fit Live Free, a National Level Bodybuilder, and since I’m the one writing this – a very good looking and intelligent chap. 😉
Alan Delamater, “Improving Patient Adherence,” Clinical Diabetes, 24, no. 2 (2006): 71-77; Leslie Martin et al., “The challenge of patient adherence,” Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, 1, no. 3 (2005): 189-199; Juta Mata et al., “When weight management lasts. Lower perceived rule complexity increases adherence,” Appetite, 54, no. 1 (2010): 37-43; Juda Mata et al., “Keep it on: How complex diet rules prevent weight loss,” Appetite, 50, no. 2-3 (2008): 562