Fat Loss for Beginners
It wasn’t January when I got into fitness. It was four and a half years ago in June 2014.
Ironically, this was spurred by something that happened when I was attending a funeral. Before it started, we were waiting outside and my phone rang.
It was my sister.
“Robert, you’ve got to come straight away!”
She sounded distressed. “What? I can’t. What’s wrong?”
Sometimes it takes something drastic to spur you into action.
It was a heart attack. His second one.
I knew a sedentary lifestyle and being overweight increases the risk for heart disease and early death, but I’d always just ignored this. Heart disease supposedly runs in the family, but you can put yourself at much lower risk by changing your lifestyle.
Now something had happened that I couldn’t ignore. After the shock and following period of grieving, I started to look at my own behaviours.
I had to face up to the reality that since I’d finished university and entered the world of work, I’d become much less active, ate a lot of junk, and was starting to look chubbier in the face and around the middle.
So I joined the gym and started looking into healthy eating.
At first I had no clue what I was doing.
My gym routine was questionable – but we all have to start somewhere and learn (If you want a simple beginner routine, click here!)
My new eating habits were just as questionable.
I’d discovered something called the Paleo diet and (in my misinformed state) decided it was what I needed to do.
The Paleo diet is based around the idea that you shouldn’t eat anything that a caveman couldn’t have eaten.
Therefore, a lot of foods are off limits because so much of it is processed – even bread – in a way that a caveman couldn’t have replicated.
My Paleo Beginnings:
- I threw out all junk food from the house.
- I vowed I’d never touch chocolate, sweets etc. again
- Thought I could no longer eat bread, rice, pasta or potatoes.
Said I’d only eat things that we grow or kill – not that have been changed from their natural state (e.g. most foods these days apart from fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and fish).
What happened next?
I struggled massively with adherence, but I lost a hell of a lot of weight!
Why was my fat loss so radical?
Now a diet that minimises junk and focuses on whole foods is no bad thing!
However, the problem with many of these diets is they create an ABSOLUTE black and white way of viewing food. They create social problems where food is involved and make you feel “bad” for eating certain things.
They also can leave you lacking in certain micronutrients or fibre – important for general health and not ruining your digestive system! (Depending on what’s not allowed by the diet)
These diets also don’t teach you anything about how your body works
I thought my fat loss was because “carbs are bad” and eating only things that a caveman could have eaten was somehow good and correct.
In reality, I lost weight because I had entered a calorie deficit.
I probably reduced my daily calorie intake by about 1,500 kcal by removing all snacks, and replacing many moderate and high calorie foods with low calorie vegetables and salads.
I know a lot of people don’t believe in the importance of calories. They think there’s some kind of “magic” to weight loss – but take it from someone who’s lost weight with both methods (the other being tracking calories and eating normally) – it’s definitely because of the calories!
Calories are a unit to measure energy, and because I was now mainly eating lean protein, fruits and vegetables (low calorie) my energy intake was lower than my energy expenditure. Therefore weight loss occurred.
I know this is correct because I have tracked the calories I eat since then, and am now able to manipulate my weight up and down by eating different amounts of calories – regardless of whether I’m eating “clean” foods, or whatever foods I want. So have thousands of others. Scientific studies have been done on this and found it to be correct.
We all have a unique number of maintenance calories that is influenced by things like our height, weight, muscle mass and level of activity. Taking in less energy (measured in calories) than this amount, leads to weight loss.
Keep an Eye Out for People Jumping on Fad Diets this January
Because January is a time when lots of new people flood into the health and fitness scene, ready to hop on board whatever radical diet sounds fancy and promises them the results they want.
The list of fad diets is extensive but they all work the same way:
- The carnivore diet (works by putting you in a calorie deficit by eliminating many foods)
- Keto diet (works by putting you in a calorie deficit by eliminating many foods)
- Paleo diet (works by putting you in a calorie deficit by eliminating many foods)
- Intermittent fasting (works by putting you in a calorie deficit by giving you a smaller timeframe in which to eat – leading to lower consumption)
- 5:2 diet (really stupid one – (works by putting you in a calorie deficit by making you eat only 500 calories on some days)
- Scandinavian diet – (works by putting you in a calorie deficit by eliminating many foods)
- There are many more – and if people lose weight on them it’s always for the same reason – a calorie deficit!
These diets may or may not work!
It’s very easy to NOT lose weight following a fad diet – because you can still eat a lot of calories from foods that are allowed.
On many of the above diets, there are high calorie foods which are not off limits.
There’s no portion or frequency control, so you could eat as much as you want. For example – salmon, nuts, avocado and peanut butter . They’re not off limits. They’ve got loads of calories. You could wipe out any deficit you created from changing your eating habits.
However, if you have a good idea of how many calories you should be eating to lose weight, and you eat this amount, you CANNOT FAIL to lose weight!
Remember this information when you hear about any fancy new diet!
- Calories rule for weight loss/gain.
- There’s no need to eliminate ANYTHING from your diet
- Obviously it’s going to be difficult to eat pizza and ice cream all the time and be in a calorie deficit, but anything can be enjoyed in moderation.
- Don’t try to cram your allotted calories full of junk – you’ll end up deficient in certain vitamins and minerals. You may lose fat, or maintain, but that doesn’t mean your diet is necessarily healthy.
- Eliminating entire groups of foods from your diet is also unhealthy as you’ll become nutrient/fibre deficient. For this reason I’m completely against diets such as carnivore, keto etc. Carbs are not bad and they’re not the reason people are overweight. You need to eat your vegetables!
To get started with fat loss, first work out your maintenance calories. Learn how to track your food, then eat fewer calories than your maintenance. To do this healthily, aim to go 20% under your maintenance and eat a varied diet including carbohydrates, lean meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy etc. Enjoy everything, and fit some treats into your calories too