The Most Important Lesson I've Learned for Fat Loss
In this post you will learn:
The lesson I learned
How you can apply this lesson to your own fitness journey.
Why people aren't doing this.
*Warning* You're about to see some weird photos of me.
I didn't worry too much about my weight growing up. I was pudgy when I was little but then I grew a few inches and slimmed out. I played tennis, I danced, and I ate decent meals, so my weight was not something I had issue with in high school. To be honest, my mind was taken up by other classic teenage things, like boyfriends, getting good grades, "fitting in", and applying to 14 different colleges.
In college, I suffered from spurts of anxiety that led me to lose my appetite. When the anxiety got really bad, I'd have a stomach ache all of the time, so I just couldn't eat. I didn't realize how skinny I looked until I look back at photos of it now. (Sorry, I know these photos aren't the best examples but I don't have many that show my body back then.)
When I graduated college, I moved back home, my anxiety was under control, and I had 24-hour access to a fully stocked kitchen. I didn't cook and got take-out for dinner almost every night. Tacos, tortilla chips, guacamole, margaritas, cacao banana protein shakes, chocolate peanut butter ice cream with M&Ms and hot fudge (I went to Sunny Daes ice cream shop so frequently that they had memorized my order.)
Fast forward 4 months and, hang on a second... Why were my jeans really tight on the thighs? My shirts were tight too! I stepped on the scale and I weighed 10 pounds more than I thought I did!
the truth fairy
I pointed a finger wherever I could to explain my weight gain. First, I blamed the anti-anxiety medication and then I blamed horseback riding lessons as if I had gained 10 pounds of muscle in my legs. Finally, I "accepted" that it was just my body-type and starting buying clothes in a bigger size... Despite looking in the mirror and being thoroughly upset with the way I looked.
One day I admitted to my friend who was in good shape and enjoyed lifting weights, in a stereotypical exasperated sigh: "Ugh I want to lose weight but I don't know how!"
Within 6 months of implementing what I'd learned, I had lost over 10 pounds!
okay, so What's the secret?
I promised you I would tell you the most important lesson I learned when it comes to losing weight.
Do you want to know it...?
Disclaimer: It is not a quick fix. Not by a long-shot. But it's a lifestyle shift, and making that shift 3 years ago has completely transformed my life for the better.
Okay, here it is....
The most important lesson:
Tracking Your caloric intake.
Once I understood the science behind energy in verses energy out, I swapped the $150 per session personal trainers, $25 spin classes, 21-day challenges, special running shoes, and avocado toast for a grocery store points card and a basic student gym membership.
The result? I'm 20 pounds lighter and stronger.
Let me break it down
If you want to lose weight, you need to eat less calories than you burn daily, exercise to burn more calories than you consume daily, or, ideally, a combination of both.
Every day, I calculate the calories I eat, I walk at least 10,000 steps, and I lift weights 4x a week for 50-70 minutes.
By lifting weights, my muscles are put under stress and must repair themselves to get stronger, using energy in my body to do that. Therefore, by consuming less calories than I burn, my body needs to use stored energy as fuel. This causes fat loss.
Where do you start?
Here's how you can get started by understanding how much you need to eat per day to lose weight, how to calculate that, and how to track your calories:
You need to figure out how many calories you burn per day. This is your maintenance calories (how many calories you can eat per day to maintain the weight you currently have.) This is called your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). If you exercise on a regular basis, your TDEE will be much higher.
For the sake of example, I'll use my own stats. My TDEE is 1,711 calories. If I ate 1,711 calories per day, I would neither gain weight nor lose weight.
Next you need to calculate how many calories you should eat per day to lose weight. We call this the calorie deficit. This number will be about 20% less than your maintenance.
Example: I am 25 years old, I weigh roughly 57.5 kilograms (127 lbs) and I am moderately active. My caloric intake for fat-loss is: 1,369 calories.
Mike's app will give you estimated macros based on your stats or you can use a calculator like this. You can adjust your macros (I've noticed some apps give you a lot of protein and it's difficult to fit that much protein in.) Mike's calculator is pretty spot on, though.
Start tracking what you eat every day and hit that many calories.
I have 4 rules:
Stick to these numbers, don't try to go below it to "speed up" the fat-loss process. You still need to fuel your body, especially when trying to lose fat.
Eat a good balance of the three macronutrients every day. Yes, you could technically eat all your calories in carbs but you'd be depriving your body of the nutrients it needs. Carbs, protein, and fats are all important!
Give yourself refeed days. You can't be in a deficit forever. Your body and mind will thank you profusely when you eat at maintenance at least once per 2 weeks.
Allow yourself to fuck up. One day you're not going to hit your calories. You're going to eat out, you're going to binge eat, you're going to eat birthday cake. Do it. Enjoy it. Be happy about it, and tomorrow, get back on your schedule. Don't try to eat less the next day, just get back to your calories and continue.
why isn't everyone doing this?
Because it's hard. It takes time to lose weight. You can speed up the process by adding strength training and cardio to your routine, but it still takes time. It's tedious to track calories. When you're in a calorie deficit, you get tired, irritable, and hungry. You need to be smart about what you eat. You can't eat out all the time. You can't smother everything in oil and butter. You have to read the nutrition labels. This turns a lot of people off.
(I have a lot of tips for that and if you want me to write a post on how to make the most of eating in a deficit, comment below and let me know!)
If you truly want to lose weight, you'll suck it up and do the work. It took me awhile to get into the practice of counting calories but now it's become part of my daily routine and I don't even have to think about it.
One final note
It's not going to be forever! Once you get the hang of it, you'll become a pro at eyeing foods and understanding what your body needs. I'm sure you already understand when you've had too much carbs or fat, but this basic practice will help you form a habit and one day it'll become second nature for you to give your body exactly what it needs every day to stay healthy and fit.