How To Start Losing Weight

If a Physicist wrote a weight loss book, it would be the shortest book ever: ‘Consume calories at a lesser rate than you expend calories. The end.’
— Neil deGrasse Tyson

Let’s go back to the start.

I want you to forget everything you ‘know’ about weight loss. I want you to forget what you have read in a magazine; forget about your friend who 'lost 10kg eating kale and almonds'; forget about your favourite celebrity who gained 2kg of muscle without lifting a weight; you can even forget about everything I have written. Forget about it all, for a few minutes.

Sometimes we make it too hard – we get a little bit too fancy, a little bit too confusing, and the resulting action is no action being taken at all.

Without any knowledge of the human body, nutrition, or exercise science, you find yourself trying to put together a strategy that burns fat, build muscle, tones the stomach and hips, makes you stronger, and has you feeling 21 again... all in the three weeks before your overseas holiday.

To be honest, I know a bit about the human body, nutrition, and exercise science, yet I have been guilty of trying to build programs for myself that are too ambitious!

At the end of the day, body recomposition is a numbers game – fat loss occurs when more energy expended than consumed. Therefore, the aim of any strategy where fat loss is the goal is to create an energy deficit, which we can do by altering energy expenditure and energy intake.

I have written about energy balance previously, but our options are decreasing energy intake and/or increasing physical activity to create an energy deficit, and therefore fat loss.

Whether the success stories you have heard involved kale, no sugar, or obscure exercises, the reality is that the results came from the creation of an energy deficit.

It's more glamorous to talk about the how a new core exercise targets fat loss or a new diet trend that unlock longevity, and you might find yourself thinking that you need these things to get a result. However, you don't - it's just an example of selling the sizzle, not the steak

It's a very similar story for anyone looking to buy a house, particularly for us spoiled and entitled millennial's (not my words). We can get caught up all we like in the smashed avo debate, overseas investors, and the government not helping us enough. But until we spend less money than we make and save the difference, no progress will be made towards that deposit that will get the house.

PLUS, the longer you delay, the harder it becomes because every day houses are getting more expensive. Likewise, the longer you don't take action and remain in an energy surplus - the more fat you will gain and have to lose later on.

To help you stop getting caught up in the hysteria, confusion, and stress of lacking results, I have outlined the approach I use with my clients.  I have a three-step process I go through with new and potential clients. It is simple, easy to implement, and you can learn some valuable insights into your own regime. Any resources that you need are linked in this article.

While it's not revolutionary, and I have covered all of these concepts in the past, now it is all in one place for your reference. The simplicity of the system is wherein it’s genius lies, if I say so myself!


One: Understand Your Intake

What you are doing right now is your starting point, no matter how 'good or bad' it is. We need to turn this into data that can be assessed and analysed to make your first changes - this is where tracking comes in.

The first action my clients take is to track their food, activity, and sleep for a seven-day period. This has a host of benefits for helping them understand what their nutrition, physical activity, and lifestyle actually look like. More importantly, it gets them taking action towards their goals which is an important starting point. Inspiration and ideas don't get results, actions do.

90+ people have downloaded the Tracking Challenge yet only 27 have completed it and undertaken a free strategy consultation.

From my point of view, the Tracking Challenge also helps me judge how serious someone is about getting a result. There is no need to change anything about their lifestyle or intake during the challenge  – just record it – and if people are not unwilling to do that, future changes are going to be a challenge. The last thing I want to do is take on a client only to have them leave after four weeks, so it is my responsibility to make sure I pick the right clients in the first place.

Once the tracking is completed, we now have a personalised data set just waiting to be assessed and manipulated, which is probably more exciting for me than it is for my clients. This data is essential for assessing their energy balance, but it also provides valuable insights into the foods and times of day they eat, what kind of exercise they do/enjoy, and sleep patterns. This information is invaluable when it comes to personalising a strategy to their goals, experience, and lifestyle, as it allows me to make as few changes as possible to their regime which reduces stress and promotes adherence. 

Resources: my client’s use the Integrated Fitness & Nutrition Tracking Challenge or mobile app such as My Fitness Pal.


Two: Assess Your Intake

The bridge between understanding and assessment is where science meets art. Now that you have this data and you know that an energy deficit is the goal, you could just remove some food and add some exercise.

But we can be more tactical than that!

There are many ways to create a 500-calorie energy deficit, here are the three general approaches:

  • Balanced Approach – remove 250-calories from food (chocolate bar) and burn 250-calories from exercise (30 minutes)
  • Food Removal– remove 500-calories from food (ie. remove all snacks)
  • Exercise Addition – burn 500-calories from exercise (60 minutes of high-intensity exercise).

The best option will depend on it's suitability to the individual.

For someone who is unfit, one-hour of intense exercise is likely their beyond capacity, rendering it unviable for their first change. In this case, food variation is a better option.

Before we implement any change, it's important to assess whether we are actually creating an energy deficit. If someone is currently in a 700-calorie surplus, and we reduce intake by 500-calories, they are still in an energy surplus (200-calories).

This is OK - they are making progress towards their desired outcome - but what it means is I need to be honest with the client about their expectations from these changes, because they will not lose weight while in a surplus.

Stopping weight gain is the first step in a body recomposition program. However, the clients I work with have usually been trying their own systems and not making progress in either direction. This means their weight has plateaued and it's my job to get it moving again, as opposed to halting weight gain.

If someone is still gaining weight, it’s akin to driving down the highway at 100km/h. If they decided to lose weight, they essentially want to turn around and go the other way. The best way to do this is to slow down, turn around, and head back in the other direction. This is much better than putting the car into reverse at 100km/h.

Introducing the 500-calorie reduction in intake is equivalent to slowing the car down, before making a later change and turning it around. This is not just a 'long-term approach' - it can help keep clients motivated in the short- and middle-term, because they are able to adhere to their changes.


Three: Implement

Most people think they have an implementation problem, but the truth is implementation is easy when you have a plan.

I use the control and variable approach, whereby we implement a few changes and keep the rest of the program as similar as possible. This allows a good understanding of the efficacy of the changes and also doesn’t overwhelm the individual. 

The reason that some people fail so often is they take on too many changes - ie. reversing the car at 100km/h – and sticking to your new plan becomes stressful. When you are preparing, cooking, and eating four new meals per day, and trying to follow a new training program at the gym, you can quickly feel like your program is running your life.

You might do really well for 2-3 weeks, but eventually you hit a point where it becomes too much.

The alternative it to make 1-2 small changes, such as a new breakfast meal and 25-minutes of exercise per day, which can help you feel in control and making progress towards your goals.

Once you have each change dialled in, move on to something else. This promotes adherence and the progress feeds back to provide future motivation.


Putting It All Together

So there you have it - the strategy I use with all of my clients. You are welcome to copy it, trial it, change it, or ignore it.

My recommendation is that you try it. Track your food and physical activity, assess it for small changes and then put them into play. Once you have success, take it to the next level and let the motivation from your progress fuel future results.

I know it works, but it's up to you to do it!