My Fat Loss Philosophy, Part 1

14 07 2010

I’ve been actively trying to either lose fat or gain muscle most of my life. While I’m no expert, I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t. Especially over the past 5 years, when I haven’t gotten the results I’ve wanted, it hasn’t been because I didn’t know what to do, but simply because I didn’t do it. My knowledge is based on reading hundreds if not thousands of articles by some of the world’s leading experts in strength and conditioning and fatloss, who in turn base their work on research and extensive personal experience.

Of course, all of that knowledge would be useless if I hadn’t applied it to myself to see what works for me. At my best, I’ve lost more than 70 pounds of fat and made significant gains in the weightroom. After having gone through this process several times, I’ve developed a certain philosophy to fat loss and training. I don’t think there’s anything particularly unique about my approach, but I thought I’d share it for those who are interested. At the moment, I’m going to focus on fat loss since that’s what I’m working on right now. After working on this post for a bit, I realized that it’s much more likely to get finished if I break it up into parts. In this first part, I’ll cover some general principles. In part two, I’ll cover exercise, and I’ll wrap up with part three on diet and nutrition. Throughout, if anyone wants me to expand on anything, let me know.

For the record, in the past, I’ve been rather dogmatic about my approach to these things, but recently I’ve become much more flexible. What I’m about to say works for me, but there are many ways to skin a cat.

Overview

Ultimately, losing fat is simply a matter of creating a caloric deficit (i.e. eating fewer calories than your body uses in a given day). Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is probably trying to sell you something. However, there is some disagreement over how to go about creating a caloric deficit.

Some people recommend calculating your caloric needs, and then logging everything you eat to ensure that you’re eating less than what your body requires. Other people recommend just eating healthy foods, and just trying to eat a little less if you’re not losing weight. Personally, I tend toward the latter, but part of the reason I’m able to do that is because I’ve done the former so I have a pretty good idea of the nutritional content of most of the foods I eat. For someone just starting out, I’d probably recommend just trying to eat clean (I’ll talk more about what I mean when I get to diet), but to try the log if you get stuck.

You CAN lose weight just by dieting, but I wouldn’t recommend it. When doing so, you tend to lose muscle as well as fat, which in the long run will decrease your metabolism and make it harder to maintain your fat loss. In addition to helping to create a caloric deficit, there are also many other healthful benefits of exercise, so I consider it essential to any fat loss program.

A Calorie is not Exactly a Calorie

Let’s say you’re taking a more structured approach to creating a caloric deficit, and you budget around 400 calories a meal. There are many ways you could fill those calories. For example, you could eat 1 or 2 donuts depending on the type, or you could eat 50 cups of raw spinach. Either way, you meet your deficit requirements. But the spinach would definitely leave you full (you wouldn’t even come close to being able to finish it!) and is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The donuts, not so much. So clearly, how you get your calories matters. I’ll save specific recommendations for the diet post.

Fat Loss vs. Weight Loss

Note that I’m making a distinction between losing fat and losing weight. Just losing weight can also involve losing muscle (which you want to avoid) and losing water (which is mostly temporary and is largely to blame for sudden swings). Measuring fat loss is more involved than just tracking weight loss, but if you follow my recommendations and ignore fluctuations due to water, then generally if your scale weight is going down over a span of weeks and months, then you’re losing fat.

Settling in for the Long Haul

A common mistake in fat loss is not taking a long term view. If you’re severely overweight, you can lose a ton of weight initially, but eventually – and probably long before you reach your ideal weight – you’ll reach the point where a pound or two a week is the most you can safely and realistically lose. You’ll also have periods where your fat loss will stall, and you’ll want to take a short break to refeed. You need to be patient, and you need to look at your diet and exercise changes not as temporary modifications to lose fat, but as permanent lifestyle changes. For this reason, you need to do your best to find ways to eat and exercise that you enjoy, and be sure that you really want to do this for you.

Weight: 214.0
BF%: 28

Jan 1st starting weight: 232.5
Starting BF%: 31

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2 responses

14 07 2010
Success Warrior

I’m following along.

14 07 2010
myopicrhino

I’m glad someone is!

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