Fat loss is simple, it’s just not easy. Ultimately, it comes down to 4 factors:
- Calorie balance
- Resistance training
- Protein intake
- Daily movement
The first and most important is a calorie deficit. Without this, fat loss is impossible. You may get it from changes to your diet, or you can try to drive it from an increase in movement, or you can get it from a combo of both (the best option). However you choose to do it, it’s a prerequisite for progress.
The next 2 are resistance training and protein intake. Both initiate muscle protein synthesis, aka the growth and repair of muscle tissue, which helps you retain some muscle mass and ensures that the weight you lose is mostly fat. This has a multitude of benefits, including increased strength, improved joint health, increased metabolism since muscle tissue is metabolically active while fat isn’t, improved physical resilience (particularly important as we age), and more.
Both restistance training and protein intake are important here. While protein intake alone can preserve lean mass, it requires training to create the demand for new tissue. And training needs adequate protein intake to ensure the nutrients are there to build the tissue that is being demanded.
Then there’s daily movement, it helps with the calorie balance, and helps with general fitness and physical and mental health. Getting out for a walk, choosing the stairs instead of the lift, or parking a little further away from your destination and walking the rest of the way are some of the many ways you can increase your daily physcial movement. And as well as the increases in calorie burn you get, you also benefit from the improvements in cardio fitness, boosts in mood and creativity, exposure to natural light (which, particularly in the morning, can help adjust your circadian rhythm and improve sleep quality and quantity), reduce feelings of depression and anxiety and a lot more besides.
Do these things consistently, and with a bit of patience and time, you get the result you want.
Those are a given, they’re so well researched and documented that they aren’t really up for debate, except for getting into the minutiae of precise numbers and, even then, it’s down to adherence and personal preference.
But surrounding these, and strongly influencing them, are 3 more factors that are able to make the process smooth and more straightforward, or can completely derail your efforts:
- and Environment.
Without those being taken care of, you’ll likely struggle with the others.
Your environment includes the foods you keep in the house, the routes you choose to go places, the people who you surround yourself with.
Sometimes these can’t be changed, but they can be influenced. Getting your family involved with food prep, or getting out for walks together can help. Telling your partner your goals and getting them onside to help with accountability can help too. Though this can sometimes be an issue if your other half doesn’t want to see you change because they feel guilt/ shame about not wanting to change themselves.
The foods you keep in the house determine your go-to snacks. The attitudes of those around you can help or hinder your progress (this could be at home, at work or socially). The routes you walk can influence the food shops you go into.
Your environment is far more than just where you live. Taking some time to audit all the environmental factors that might affect your progress, and then make the adjustments where possible can make a huge difference.
Habits are shortcuts that we develop over time to save our mental resources for more important tasks. Often they serve us well such as making our ability to drive without constantly thinking like a learner, allowing you to focus on not crashing into people.
But sometimes they are a little less than helpful, for example having 2 or 3 biscuits with your cuppa, not because you are hungry, but because your biscuit jar is right next to your kettle and you don’t even realise you’re picking them up to eat.
Keeping a journal or tracker can help identify what camp your habits lie in, particularly around food and movement, and help you understand what changes are needed to move you forwards. For a great book on habits and habit change, check out James Clear’s Atomic Habits
Sleep is, I think, the master of all of the above. Getting adequate sleep is essential for making better choices, it helps you feel less hungry between meals, and more satiated after them. It makes you more likely to be active and improves virtually all your health markers, both physically and mentally. Aiming to maximise your sleep quality, through a few key steps should be the first port of call.
- No caffiene after 3-4 pm
- Limit alcohol in the hours before bed.
- Shut down laptops and other tech at least an hour before bed, or at least use the blue light filter.
- Get outside in the morning to get natural light in your eyes and help regulate your circadian rhythm.
Then make a point of trying to get a little more time in bed. More time in bed = more time for sleep. I can’t stress the importance of sleep enough, for more info on this topic, check out this post.
If you want to make your progress a whole lot smoother, take care of your environment, habits and sleep aka your fat loss bubble, and see the difference a few small changes can have.