This page continues from part four here: There are no good or bad foods for fat loss.
When you know the following things, you’ll be able to have a much more flexible approach to your fat loss process:
- How many calories you’re eating.
- The calorie intake you need to AVERAGE under to lose fat.
- How fast your fat loss is likely to be if you AVERAGE around your goal daily calories.
The experience you gain from spending time tracking your food means you’ll start to get much better at knowing roughly how many calories are in things. By no means am I saying you should start to estimate everything. However, being in shape and paying attention to food should not get in the way of your life.
Perhaps to begin with you should avoid eating things of unknown calories that you can’t track (eating out, takeaways etc.). But once you’ve got the hang of tracking and eating within a certain range of calories , you should be able to eat out sometimes or eat at your family’s BBQ without sabotaging your progress.
What you shouldn’t do is get to the BBQ, and go:
“F*** it! I can’t track this, so let’s just go all out.”
Don’t eat an unknown (massive) amount of calories just because you can’t track it exactly.
So what if you don’t know how many calories you’re eating?
You still know you’re eating a shit ton of calories even if you don’t know exactly how many. Remember, your body is still tracking your calories, even if you aren’t!
What can happen if you do this, is you end up extending the binge across multiple days. You know, the “I’ll start again on Monday” mentality. This especially happens if you’ve been depriving yourself.
The other way it can go is that you feel horrible and guilty afterwards and then restrict yourself. This is a very dangerous path that leads to eating disorders.
What You Should Do When You Can’t Track Calories (e.g. At Social Occasions)
If you want to eat a bit more at a social occasion, that’s fine. There are several strategies to handle it.
If you know this is going to be a one-off, you can eat what you like then just go back to normal the next day.
If this is a rare occurrence and you’re usually very good at sticking to a calorie limit and making fat loss progress, then the effects on your progress will be negligible. At worst you’ll probably only undo a couple of days of progress.
If you end up going over your maintenance at the social event, then that’s just one day that didn’t contribute to any fat loss. Instead of eating 20% under maintenance like you have been doing, you might have eaten 20% over maintenance. In that case, you only lost 2 days. If you’re right back on track after, then you’ll be fine. You just have to make sure it doesn’t happen often if you’ve got a goal you’re working towards.
If you don’t want to lose ANY progress, then you can try the following things:
- Try to estimate what you’re eating and track it all. Use your experience to come up with your best guess for how many calories you’ve eaten.
- If you think you went over your maintenance, you can have a bigger deficit on the next day or next two days to bring the average down to your usual deficit calories.
- Planning in advance for a day of eating at, or above, maintenance means you can eat less on the day before so that you average in a deficit across the two days.
- If the event just involves one meal (e.g. lunch, or dinner) but it’s likely to be a lot of calories, you can fast before and/or after. This results in having one meal that is much higher in calories than usual, but across the day you still remain in your usual deficit. This way, the day doesn’t slow down your progress at all.
If these kind of days or social events happen often, what you should NOT do is treat them as “cheat days” that somehow “don’t count”. Don’t think they won’t affect your fat loss. Definitely don’t believe the bullshit that gets thrown around about cheat days helping fat loss!
Here’s how the cheat days can sabotage you:
You have maintenance calories of 2,000 per day. This is the amount that would see you maintain your current weight.
From Sunday through to Friday, you follow a rigid diet plan which was given to your friend by their personal trainer. She had great success on it, so she passed it on to you.
You follow this plan for 6 days a week, an unbeknownst to you, your friend or your friend’s trainer, you’re eating 1,600 calories per day for these 6 days.
Now IF you were to do this for all 7 days, you’d be creating a weekly deficit of 2,800 calories.
You want to lose 5kg, so you would need to keep this up every day, for about 14 weeks.
However, you currently don’t know about maintenance calories and how fat loss works. So on Saturdays, you have a day off from your rigid plan. One day can’t hurt right?
On your day off, you still follow your planned breakfast and lunch. That night, however, you go out to eat with your partner. You pick the tastiest looking thing on the menu, you get a dessert and you have a few glasses of wine (nothing wrong with drinking alcohol, but it contains calories too). It’s only one day.
Unfortunately, on this one day you have per week which is off plan, you consume 3,500 calories. This is really easy to do, especially when you consume liquid calories and you get restaurant food that is cooked with a shit load of butter, cream and sugar to make it as delicious as possible.
You’ve now eaten into the deficit you created on the other 6 days by 1,500 calories. Now your weekly deficit is not 2,800 calories, it’s 1,300 calories. Instead of taking fourteen weeks to lose 5kg, it will now take you thirty.
And this isn’t even the worst case scenario.
The Cheat Day Cycle of No Progress
Some people really go all out on their cheat days. I’ve known people who follow a boring, rigid diet of steamed white fish, plain chicken breast and steamed vegetables for 5 days a week, and then let rip on the weekend.
They’ve adhered to their miserable diet for 5 days of the week, and now they get their reward. The weekend is like Christmas, every week.
Out goes the fish and vegetables, in comes vast quantities of pizza, chocolate, ice cream, kebabs, Indian and Chinese takeaways, beers etc.
A staggering number of calories are consumed.
Any deficit that was created by the boring “weekday” diet has been ENTIRELY wiped out in just one or two days.
The “diet cheater” may even go into a calorie surplus for the week, and will end up gaining weight over time doing this.
What’s worse is, certain people think that doing this actually gives their fat loss progress a bit of a boost. There’s an infuriating school of thought, that is so contagious because we so want it to be true, that having cheat days somehow ramps up your metabolism and puts you back into fat burning mode.
It does not. Don’t fall for it, it will slow or even completely sabotage your progress.
How to “Cheat” Properly
If you want to let loose a little at the weekend and consume more calories, do it, but know how it will affect your fat loss progress or potentially even make you gain unwanted fat.
If you’re in a 500 calorie deficit from Sunday to Friday, that’s a deficit of 3,000 calories you’ve created. Just under the amount required to lose a pound of bodyfat in a week.
Eat 1,000 calories more on Saturday (so 500 over maintenance) and you’ll slow your fat loss progress by 2 days every week.
Instead of eating 500 under maintenance every day and losing a pound a week, you would average at about 350 calories under maintenance every day.
Instead of losing a pound of fat per week, you would lose a pound of fat every 10 days. If that’s worth it to you, then do it!
Want to be guided through the fat loss process?
I’m here to answer any questions you have.
Losing fat is faster if you apply what you’ve learned here with a good training program.
Get in touch with me for online coaching and I will help you through every step of the process.
- I’ll devise your diet plan including maintenance calories, a calorie goal, and a macronutrient split (protein, fat, carbs)
- I will teach you how to track foods.
- I’ll teach you habits that will stay with you for life. You’ll never struggle to lose fat again.
- You’ll get a tailored workout plan for your goals, and suitable for your level of experience and confidence.
- I’ll show you how to do exercises by video, and check your videos.
- I’ll keep you accountable.
- We’ll have weekly check-ins by video call.
- I’ll reply to emails daily.
- I’ll use my years of experience losing fat and gaining muscle to help you on your journey. I know loads of tricks – no gimmicks!