Fat loss can be a tricky process. It’s usually overly complicated with far too many variables being thrown in to the mix too early. I’ve recently been looking to improve my own body composition and I’ve learned a lot. Here are my top 5 things to consider before starting a fat loss diet.
Background – The prevalence of the fat loss goal
I am under no false illusion that body composition will always be the main goal for the vast majority of the population. Although getting people strong is my passion, most people just want to look better naked and that’s a perfectly acceptable goal in my eyes. Ones self perception of themselves is usually represented in physical form. A good physique doesn’t mean a good person, but a better body image will improve your confidence and self esteem. This is something everyone deserves to have.
Now I believe ALL world class coaches should be either very strong, very big or very ripped. Cast knowledge aside, if someone doesn’t tick at least 2 out of 3 of these boxes then they’ll need a minimum of 20 years in the industry or high quality port folio of results to prove their stature. This may sound slightly obnoxious coming from someone still in their 20’s, but let’s face facts. If you have the knowledge to immensely enhance someones physique, why would you not apply it to yourself? Walk the walk, talk the talk.
Here is what I believe is key when training for fat loss.
Educating yourself on food makes your life so much easier
One of the most inconvenient aspects of the diet initially is not knowing the amounts of X, Y, Z in foods. Constantly getting my laptop out, checking my diet plan, referring back to food packets and weighing food can become time consuming. Learning about food, or more specifically, what’s in it will save you time and energy.
So for example, after a couple of weeks I knew 100g raw chicken yielded 30g protein, 180g cooked rice meant 60g carbs, 1 full avocado meant 20g fat. Learning these figures made food prep much easier, especially in a hurry.
I am by no means insinuating we should all become rain man like encyclopaedias reciting the entire contents of My Fitness Pal by heart. However some simple familiarisation with the most common foods you eat goes a long way. In any form of dieting, consistency is key. What we eat the most often will ultimately shape our bodies. Knowing the make up of these foods will pay dividends during preparation.
You can’t beat the law of thermodynamics
We all like to think we’re special. I suppose in a way, we are. However when it comes to the basics in physics and biology, we all follow the same law. Energy in Vs energy out ULTIMATELY determines whether you get lean or not. Yes digestion, sleep and stress management (DSS) are all vital aspects of fat loss and health, but all else being equal, such as the three mentioned factors, the person consuming a fewer amount of calories loses more fat.
I would whole heartedly agree that if someone has an obvious issue with “DSS” that this needs to be addressed immediately. Any coach worth their salt knows that without first assessing these commodities telling someone to “eat less” is rather spurious advice. However, far too much emphasis is put on detoxing methods and hormonal disorders without first doing one very simple thing; establish a baseline.
You can have results or excuses, but not both
Ok so this one sounds like it’s been torn straight off of Instagram by a guy who posts cheesy quotes on the background of his own logo. This being said, sometimes the cheesy “motivational” stuff is bang on the money.
When you have a goal which resides with you, means a lot to you and has a lot riding on it, you get it done. We often become martyrs to our excuses and use the safety net of victimisation as a way of justifying our lack of progress or stagnation. This may sound harsh to hear, but sickness, bereavements, heartache and stress are categorically not excuses for not achieving goals; they are distractions. It is absolutely acceptable to greave, morn or back off intensity during hardship, however this should merely be taking a side road during bumper to bumper traffic, not stopping the car and choosing a different destination altogether.
I’ve written about this before and will do so again. Whenever you say “I could have done that but…” all you are doing is trying to justify your lack of commitment or dedication. When a goal means a lot to you, you do it. End of. Sometimes it might take longer than anticipated, more patience and various strategies, but by hook or by crook it gets done.
You will be hungry
I always like to use the house and bricks analogy for fat loss. Say a house has 10,000 bricks. Unfortunately, it wasn’t built in the best of locations and every single day it is knocked down by a treacherous hurricane. Luckily, a team of skilled and efficient workers rebuild it every single day.
If the house only needs 10,000 bricks to be built, what would happen if a truck full of 12,500 bricks turned up each day? Well there’d obviously be bricks left at the side that wouldn’t be used. As time accumulates, so do the bricks. Due to an ordering error, 12,500 bricks start to turn up every day. Although a shock at first eventually the builders receiving this amount of bricks becomes the norm and everyone cracks on with what they’re doing.
One day, the geographically challenged home owner decides they’d like downsize their house. They take off a room which means the house now only requires 7,500 bricks to build. They re-evaluate their order and make sure exactly 7,500 bricks turn up. This comes as a shock to the builders leaving them thinking “Where have all the bricks gone?”. In their eyes, they have a lot less materials to work with, when in reality all they’re doing is working with exactly what they need.
Being hungry during a diet is the same principle as when the workers are saying “Where are the bricks?”. A reduction in supplies will cause an initial shift in normality but this is 100% necessary to illicit change. This does not by any means mean that the hungrier you are, the more fat you lose, far from it. The sensation of hunger and physiological fat loss are two different mechanisms. However it’s safe to say that being slightly hungry when in a calorie deficit is a good indication you’re heading in the right direction.
The emotional connection to food
When you think emotional eater, you may think of a struggling weight watchers attendee demolishing Ben and Jerry’s whilst watching the Bridget Jones boxset. This is an example of an emotional eater but not the only one. We all are emotional eaters and myself definitely included. The emotional connotations to food created by our habitual behaviour is one of the greatly overlooked aspects of body composition training.
I found that I used to justify food choices based on feelings; this most commonly being experiencing stress leads to over indulgence. I believe a very prevalent outlook is that when we feel stressed we feel hard done by. We seek to rectify this injustice by empowering ourselves with “feel good” foods.
The irony is, these feel good foods are quite the opposite. They bring acute feelings of happiness but chronic levels of distress. Eating a full dominoes pizza is not a feel good food. The amount of carbs and fats, along with the sugar, dairy and gluten wreak havoc with the digestive system. From a physiological, not emotional stand point, these foods do not make us “feel good” at all.
“OK Chris, you just dissed pizza, you can go fuck yourself now”
Fair enough, I may have deserved that, but think about this a little more analytically. Once you have an emotional connection to a product you have a sell. Advertising industries know this and so want to programme us in to feeling happy when we so much as even think of a meal, e.g. a happy meal. And it works!
We experience an emotion (stress), follow a habit (eating junk) to lead to a counter balance to the initial emotion (relaxation). Therefore our brains build networks that tells us pizza equals lack of stress. Although this is something we may come to believe, it’s not exactly physiologically true.
When sugar, bread and alcohol was taken out of my diet, I realised how reliant I was on it to handle emotions. I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with “balance” but if you want to get lean, or at least “leaner”, it’s something that must be addressed. After the first week or so, all cravings for foods like this were completely gone. You may think it’s down to personal discipline, but I think it’s more so to do with the body adapting to not having these stimuli and being more capable to handle stress levels due to being in a healthier state.
These are my 5 things that I have learned from improving my body composition. If you’d like to learn more about specific factors check out my podcasts for more information.
Gut health – Steve Grant
Stress management – David Behrens
Getting lean – Adam Hayley
Recovery supplementation – Calum Raistrick