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What’s Right & What’s Wrong: Fat Loss
As a personal trainer whenever I first meet clients they all expect to lose weight very quickly. People expect that they should be able to lose 25 lbs in 2 months. But this isn’t very realistic. Everybody has a good reason for that expectation. They’re excited about their goal and changing their life!
Yet, when you set the bar so high that leaves a lot of room to fall. What do you think happens when people don’t meet their expectations? They become discouraged and even worse: quit.
Fat loss is not as fast as we’d all like. Wouldn’t it be great if we could fall asleep and wake up fit overnight? That’s what we all want. But if you want to lose your body fat, then you need to lower your expectations.
There are 3500 calories in a single pound of fat. That’s a lot! So for every single pound of fat, you have to burn that many calories. In order for you to lose that 25 lbs in 2 months you would have to burn almost 90,000 calories! If that doesn’t sound healthy to you that’s because it’s not.
If your weight loss plan is too aggressive it can damage your body. For you to be fit for life, you need to know how fast you should be losing weight. This way you can lose fat in a sustainable manner. Nothing is worse than losing tons of weight and gaining it back.
So, what makes for good or bad weight loss?
The Dangers of Rapid Weight Loss
By eating too little, or working out too much, you will lose the wrong type of weight. You will stop losing fat and burn up your muscle mass instead. That’s bad because muscle mass is important for losing fat!
During times of rapid fat loss, your body will enter survival mode. By entering survival mode your body lowers your metabolism, making it harder to lose fat. Additionally, your body will make you hungrier and hold onto fat for longer.
Being in survival mode is bad for your body, but what’s worse is the aftermath. Once someone has lost 25 lbs in 2 months they will definitely relapse. We all know someone like this. They always end up regaining the weight, and then some! They gain that extra weight because their metabolism is lower and they are also hungrier. That person will not gain 25 lbs back, but instead 30 lbs!
This makes for a negative cycle where they lose and gain over and over.
Having the expectation to lose weight so fast will damage your mental health. Imagine the despair and hopelessness these people feel. I see this happen all the time! What’s the point of losing all the weight if you end up in a worse mental state?
Instead, set realistic goals for yourself so you can remain healthy.
The Benefit of Slow & Steady
It’s Sustainable 🌿
What’s the point in losing 30 lbs, if you gain it all back, because the diet was unsustainable? If you want to lose fat and keep it off, then sustainability is important. That’s why slow & steady is always better. Dieting is a skill, that like other skills, takes practice. Losing weight at a healthy rate shows that you are getting better at the skill of dieting.
Saves Your Muscle Mass 💪
When people lose too much weight some of that weight loss is not good. If your diet is too aggressive you will trigger your body to burn up muscle mass. Which makes losing body fat harder. Muscle burns calories, which is why muscle maintenance is key, so you don’t want to lose that!
Think about it, if you lose fat and muscle, then your body fat will not change as much. Take 2 people who weigh 100 lbs and are 25% body fat:
- Person A: Loses 2 lbs of muscle and 2 lbs of fat. Their new body fat percentage is 24%.
- Person B: Loses 0 lbs of muscle and 4 lbs of fat. Their new body fat percentage is 22%.
Of course, having more muscle makes your metabolism burn more calories too. If your goal is to lose body fat, then building muscle can be important!
You’ll Develop Healthy Habits 😋
It’s no secret that healthy people have healthy habits. But, habits take time. They don’t come overnight. On average, it takes people 3 months to build 1 new habit. Again, it’s like practicing a skill, you’ve got to put in the repetitions and earn your results.
So losing weight at a healthy rate is a sign that you are on the right track. Think of how many bad habits you need to replace, and realize it takes time. That’s ok though! The time will pass anyway. Consistently good habits create consistently good weight loss.
How To Lose Weight At A Healthy Pace
Whenever you begin a weight loss journey you have to start out with realistic goals. A reasonable weight loss rate is 1-2 lbs/week. Over time, the weight loss will add up. At that rate, in 1 year you could lose 65 lbs.
If you want to make a major change in your appearance, then at least expect 1-year of hard work. How long did it take you to get to this point? It’s fair to expect the same amount of time to reach your goal.
I want to emphasize realism because losing weight is very hard. 95% of dieters fail, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Being realistic means you know that things won’t always be perfect.
Eat At a Caloric Deficit ➖
To lose weight you’re going to be in a caloric deficit from your normal calorie intake
- Caloric Deficit – Eating fewer calories than it takes to maintain your weight. (What you eat < What you burn)
A calorie restriction by a caloric deficit is the only way to lose weight. So there are a few steps to figure out what you burn and how much to eat.
- Step 1: Go to any TDEE calculator
- Step 2: Enter your weight, height, age, and activity level
- Step 3: Get your maintenance caloric intake (how many calories to maintain your weight)
- Subtract 500
And voila, now you’ll know exactly how many calories you need to eat.
Add In Exercise 💪
By incorporating exercise you can actually boost your metabolism. So not only do you burn more calories during your workout but also at home. Burning more calories is a method to lose fat faster. Exercise drastically improves your physical health, but it’s great for mental health too! They always say:
Look Good Feel Good!
Why You Should Be Tracking Progress
The Different Ways to Track Progress
When it comes to losing weight people only focus on tracking one thing: the scale. But, if you do this you’re setting yourself up for failure. The scale doesn’t always tell the whole story.
Think about it like this. If you were to lose 2 lbs of fat but gain 2 lbs of muscle, what would the scale show? That’s right, zero progress. Yet, you’d agree that progress did happen right? This is one of the instances where the scale provided 0 positive feedback.
To be sure you’re losing fat you must use several ways to track your progress. Here are the 4 ways I track my own clients’ progress:
- Food Logging: While this won’t directly show your weight loss, it’s one of the most eye-opening tools we use. Remember, abs are made in the kitchen. How you eat will directly affect how much body weight you lose. By consistently logging your food you will be able to look back and compare it to how you’re doing now. If the food looks drastically better, then there’s a good chance you’ve progressed.
- Scale: The scale is the most common way to track progress. A scale will typically give you a weight and body fat percentage. Over the course of your journey, it’s important that you keep track of these 2 numbers.
- Clothes: You can track progress very easily using clothes. Simply take a shirt and pants, try them on once every month, and log how they feel. Did they get looser? Did they get tighter? This will provide solid feedback as to whether or not you’re headed in the right direction.
- Tape Measuring: These can be one of the most useful in terms of measuring your progress. It’s quite simple. I recommend taking measurements of areas that should show the most improvements. You don’t want to measure small areas like your calves. Instead, choose areas like your waist, chest, or legs. These are the areas that will show the most change.
The Benefits of Tracking
The most important part of tracking progress is to get feedback. You have to know whether things are moving in the right direction. You wouldn’t go into a cave with no light, hoping to just magically reach the end. Likewise, you need to track so you know where you’re going. If they aren’t, then something definitely needs to change.
Tracking your progress is not just about monitoring your results, but also about holding yourself accountable. By keeping a record of your journey, you’ll be able to see what’s working and what’s not. If you notice that you’re not making the progress you hoped for, it’s time to have an honest conversation with yourself. By looking back at your logs, you can identify areas where you may have slipped up with your nutrition or exercise routine. This self-reflection can be a powerful motivator to make the necessary changes and get back on track toward your goals.
One of the best parts about tracking is when progress finally starts happening! Nothing can be more motivating than seeing the scale change, or your clothes start fitting better. Seeing the first signs of progress quickly snowballs into massive life changes.
How to Track For Weight Loss
We’ve gone over why you should be tracking. Now, let’s move on to how you go about implementing it into your real life.
For my clients, I recommend that they measure everything in intervals. For example, I would recommend people weigh themselves at the same time and same day, once every week. However, not everything should be measured weekly. Something like tape measurements won’t show much progress in a week’s time. Rather you would want to measure that on a monthly basis. Still the same day and time.
Being consistent about the time and day you take measurements will get you the most accurate results possible. Your lean body mass and body fat percentage could easily change on a daily basis. So, it’s important to be consistent with your tracking.
Remember this formula for success:
Factors That Affect Weight Loss
Weight loss is going to differ from person to person. There are so many factors that go into fat burning that has to be considered. It’s important to be aware of these factors so you can get the best results possible, for your body! Let’s explain why simple things such as sleep, stress, age, gender, and hormones play a big role in weight loss.
Next to diet and exercise, sleep is one of the most important factors for losing fat. If you sleep well, then you will lose weight quicker and easier. Poor sleep will affect your hormones, and your ability to lose fat and gain muscle. These are necessary ingredients for the recipe of a successful weight loss journey. You will have a much harder time losing weight if you do not get enough sleep. So go the fuck to sleep!
By the time you have entered your 30’s your body’s metabolism will begin slowing down. This is in part because as you age you will start losing muscle mass. For every year you will lose 1% muscle mass if you don’t strength train. Everybody knows that muscle burns calories, so it’s important for a healthy metabolism!
So, as you age strength training plays a larger role in trying to lose fat. By lifting weights you will prevent muscle loss, which keeps your metabolism burning.
A lot of people blame their age for the reason they can’t lose weight. But, that’s not true. Even if your metabolism does slow down you can still be in a calorie deficit. You may need to eat less. Aging does not mean you’re doomed to being fat for the rest of your life. There are some 76-year-olds in better shape than 30-year-olds I’ve trained.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that a woman’s body is different from a man’s. Men carry more testosterone, which makes it easier to lose fat and build muscle. Men’s bones are denser too, meaning they can carry more muscle, leading to a quicker metabolism.
Also, due to menopause and periods, a woman’s cycle will cause her weight to change frequently. Not due to fat gain, but water weight. Sometimes the scale can go up 5 lbs because of this cycle. This makes weight loss much harder mentally and physically.
Yes, it’s true that hormones are going to affect your weight loss. If you are postmenopausal or hypothyroid your hormones make weight loss tougher. But, these hormonal imbalances work by lowering your metabolism. You can actually still lose weight with a calorie deficit, but it will be more challenging. For the most part, these systems are out of your control until you seek medical help.
There is one hormone that you can control and that is cortisol. Cortisol is a fight-or-flight hormone that is secreted when the body is stressed. Let’s say you’re a manager or executive and you had an extremely stressful day. Your body is tense, your breaths are short, and your heart is pounding. Right now cortisol is running amok in your system.
Cortisol works by breaking down your muscle, increasing your hunger levels, and making you hold more fat. When you have high levels of stress your body will break down muscle and store more fat. Needless to say, cortisol is an important hormone to manage when you’re trying to lose weight.
The Cards Aren’t Stacked Against You 🃏
Even when taking these factors into account, you can still lose weight. They simply make it easier. There is no excuse for why someone can’t lose weight. 99% of people are capable of weight loss. These factors are things that people blame for why they can’t lose fat. The truth is those people don’t lose weight because their diet sucks. At the end of the day when it comes to fat loss, diet is king. If you can reel in your diet, then you can lose weight, no matter what!
You’re the Captain of Your Ship
Now you know that losing weight at a healthy rate is imperative for long-term fat loss, while rapid weight loss can be harmful.. Having realistic expectations will not only keep your body healthy but your mind as well. A true weight loss journey involves the transformation of both the body and mind.
Remember your journey will not always be a straightforward one. 1-2 lbs a week might not always happen. Like all journeys, there will be ups and downs. The most important thing is that you continue to make small, continual changes for your goals. Every journey is accomplished by putting one foot in front of the other.
Get up, take action today, and start making small changes that will lead to a healthier and happier you!