Fat Loss Principles: Part I
Updated: Apr 15, 2019
The number one reason people come to see us at Catalyst is to help them with their fat loss goals (Rehabilitation and getting out of pain/feeling better overall is a very close second). What I have noticed over the years is that I think most people are looking at fat loss the wrong way and I wanted to take some time in this months newsletter to share some strategies and tactics that have been on my mind for a while. This will be a 2 part series so as not to overwhelm you and I will share the second half of the list in May’s newsletter so stay tuned!
As someone who struggled with my own weight for the better of a decade (between the ages of 15-25) I can tell you from firsthand experience that there is a lot of misinformation and confusion out there. So, lets dive into this list to help shed some light on something that is extremely misunderstood (even to this day) in the mainstream fitness and health world.
Fat loss “hacks” sell but don’t work. There is no “hack” to this! Hop onto Instagram/Facebook or just check out your local magazine stand and you will see pills, wraps, tea, detoxes, Magical “7 minute” workouts and a bunch of other ludicrous items being marketed to the masses. Everyone is trying to lose fat yet everyone is failing at it. Obesity is at record heights and so are supplements and fat loss related products.
In this first edition we will discuss more of the Diet/Nutrition Side of things (Stay tuned for Part 2 in May’s Newsletter incorporating more ideas in relation to Strength Training)
1. The number one reason people gain weight (and body fat) is because we eat too much and are underactive. Don’t buy the media hype of how cold showers will help burn “stubborn brown fat cells” or why you need this special Ancient Tea recipe that will get rid of fat in all those stubborn areas. There are no secrets. Fat loss is not only your hormones and it is not only your genetics. Does it affect those things? Yes. Is it affected by those things? Yes. BUT the true issue is that we overeat food beyond what your body needs and as long as you are overweight this is a self evident truth.
2. If you have more than 20lbs to lose then you also likely have high estrogen, skewed leptin levels, lowered testosterone levels, and are insulin resistant. What does this all mean? Your hormones are contributing to you being overweight and/or obese, and you need to fix them by way of dietary changes. This is why fat loss is NOT only calories. Your biochemistry is what is responsible for how your body metabolizes food, stores fat, and burns fat. For most people a high protein, moderate fat, and moderate to lower carb, with zero to very low sugar diet is probably going to be best to get you on your way. “Everything in moderation” is not going to be a good strategy when you are first starting off. You have to go all in if you are serious about making big changes in your fat loss goals.
3. Being overweight/obese changes your genetics for the worse. A large part of your genetic code is malleable (epigenetics) and being obese leads to negative adaptations in your body that then are passed on to your offspring. If you want to learn more about this check out Deep Nutrition by Dr. Catherine Shanahan or if you want more of the deep science hop onto Pubmed right now and type in Epigenetics and nutrition.
4. Fat loss will require an energy deficit. You will need to eat less food than you currently consume. Period.
5. Fat loss VS. Weight loss. There is a difference. Fat loss refers specifically to losing fat cells. This is what you WANT to diet for. Weight loss refers to any combination of losing fat, water weight, and muscle. You do NOT want to lose muscle. To avoid muscle loss when dieting you must eat an adequate amount of protein and having protein with every meal is a simple and effective strategy for this.
6. If you have no sense of how much you eat, you must start accounting for any and all food intake. Begin by keeping a daily food log. Develop awareness of when you eat, what you eat, and what behaviors surround your eating.
7. Calorie counting is not the be-all-end-all solution but probably the most effective and a reasonable place to start. If you are completely confused when it comes to all things nutrition and cannot understand how you are overeating, assessing your daily intake and caloric contents if very illuminating and will help you to make better dietary choices.
8. There is no such thing as a “perfect” diet. Diets that are based on food demonization are simply bad science and fear mongering by people that have vested interest. The “best” diet is the one that covers your protein, fat, and carbohydrate needs and supplies you with sufficient micronutrients. Different kinds of diets work for different people and different situations. Some are just proven to work better and more reliably then others.
9. It is not expensive to change your eating. It is expensive to diet if you think dieting involves special diet foods (think “superfoods”). Eating healthy is not expensive once you understand what foods are healthy.
10. A good diet is one that is based upon whole food, nutrient rich foods. You can tailor this list to suit your preferences, but a good diet should begin with:
a. Meat/Fish/Poultry/Eggs (unless you are a vegetarian of course)
b. Dairy Products (if you digest them well)
c. Vegetables (including root vegetables)
e. Whole Grains (Oats, Brown Rice, Quinoa)
f. Legumes (Like dairy if you digest them well)
h. Healthy Fat Sources (olive oil, coconut oil, etc)
11. Listen to your body and use Biofeedback. Do not eat and multitask. Eat as slow as you can tolerate. Learn the difference between being full and being stuffed. Pay attention to how you digest food and what you feel like afterwards. Do not continue to consume foods that you have a tough time digesting or that make you “crash” after. Do not eat foods that make you feel bloated and sluggish.
12. Start to understand that fat loss has a hormonal component and long term this dramatically impacts your results. Your insulin, your leptin levels, your testosterone, your estrogen, your cortisol, ALL of these hormones influence how your body partitions, burns, and stores fat. Fat loss takes time because you are adjusting your body’s hormones simultaneously.
13. Lower your sugar intake. Over consuming sugar is becoming an epidemic in this country and the world in general and it causes a host of metabolic problems leading to overeating, screw up hunger hormones (Leptin and Gherelin), increased inflammation, Type 2 Diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Just by cutting out all added sugar in your diet can dramatically change your eating and lead to fat loss.
14. Eat protein at every meal. So important I had to say it again. Protein is highly satiating, highly nutritious, and it prevents overeating and quick food grabbing impulses that people have which sabotages most peoples efforts.
15. You cannot be dieting or in a calorie deficit FOREVER! You need to take periodic breaks from dieting where you simply maintain your new weight and give your metabolism a break from the calorie restriction. The science on this isn’t exact and will vary depending on how aggressive your goals are. One good rule of thumb I have seen work is a 2:1 ratio. So if you diet hard for two months aim to maintain your progress for one whole month before starting again with your caloric restriction.
Stay tuned for Part II...