Body Fat Loss & How to lose fat effectively
Being overweight (over-fat) usually means that the intake of energy (Calories) from food and drink is higher than the energy expended through daily activity. When a calorie surplus is present, the body is forced to store this additional supply of energy. So if we consume a 2200 calorie diet, and expend 2000 calories every day resulting in a 200 calorie surplus, over a period of time we will gain weight. Likewise, a calorie deficit of any kind over a period of time will result in weight reduction. Just like when we try to pay off a 1000 dollar bank account debt. Interest aside, if we deposit 100 dollars into our account every day, we will slowly reduce the debt, however, if we kept spending 100 dollars from the same account per day, we would not actually reduce our debt at all. Deposits must exceed the withdrawals in order to slowly reduce the debt. It is the same thing with energy calculations in the human body. This energy Intake-Output relationship is affected by our thoughts, environment and behaviour.
Our behaviours are influenced by our thoughts; therefore, changing unhelpful thoughts into proactive ones help us change our perception of the situation and inevitably, our behaviour. Maladaptive and/or inaccurate thoughts such as ‘I struggle to exercise as I have too many commitments’, could likely lead to a person not increasing their physical activity. By identifying these thoughts and evaluating them for accuracy (looking for evidence to support that there actually is no time for exercise), a more realistic and logical thought can be generated to help us change our behaviour, such as ”what can I give up (e.g. 30 mins of TV) so I can make time to exercise’. Try this for yourself.
Most of us try to implement this proactive approach in our professional and family life, but for some reason many struggle to do it when it comes to health. Perhaps many of us don’t quite prioritize our health enough until we become sick. By listing the pros and cons of losing body fat and/or being healthy (i.e. decrease risk of heart disease, increased energy levels etc), it becomes easier to prioritize the importance of physical activity and diet, and change our thought process. In fact, once a list is made to assess the benefits of changing our behaviour (i.e. beginning to exercise vs. staying sedentary), it will significantly add to the motivation behind our success.
Thoughts such as, ‘I don’t have time to prepare a healthy meal’, will become ‘I have a busy day today so I will need to organise my time well in order to eat healthier’. Set a simple task everyday of changing an unhelpful thought into a proactive one in regards to exercise and diet.
Our environment might seem to restrict us from a healthy lifestyle, for example, no access to a gym near by, no access to parks, our work is too far away to walk, or the work canteen only sells junk food. While these restrictions can be inconvenient, we can still balance the intake-output relationship in our favour by adapting to the environment we live in. All we need to do is prioritize physical activity and a better diet, and we can always find ways to improve. Below are some recommendations to implement a healthier lifestyle that can be performed anywhere.
- Instead of taking the elevator or escalator up 2 or 3 floors at home or in your office building, WALK the stairs! Make it a rule that any thing less than 4 floors should be walked.
- Park the car a little further away from the office, supermarket and walk a little further. Calories will add up over time and help decrease your body fat – 10 Calories a day for a year means a reduction in 3650 Calories a year – which is a little under half a kilo of FAT (by doing hardly anything!)
- Walk quicker. Increasing the intensity level of your walk will burn more calories, increase your endurance levels and help reduce your body fat. Walking further and quicker is the most inexpensive, most convenient way to improve your health.
- Don’t spend any more than 30 minutes sitting in front of your computer. Get up and move around a little. Take a walk outside or stroll around for a couple of minutes. It is not only good for your body but also your brain to refresh.
- Instead of sending emails, calling or faxing people in the next room or even the same building, take a walk and go see them.
- Ride a bicycle every now and then as opposed to the car or motor bike.
- Buy a dog! Have a companion and reason to walk every day.
- If you have children, be more active with them.
- Join a sporting team. Tennis, squash, netball. Whatever interests you had before or as a child, bring it back! You don’t have to be young to play sport!
- Eat 5 smaller meals a day as opposed to 3 larger ones. This helps boosts the thermogenetic effect of food and increase your overall energy expenditure (it also helps to keep your energy levels constant throughout the day)
- Plan ahead, and prepare your meals for the following day to ensure you are not forced to eat something unhealthy.
- Eat low Glycemic Index where possible to keep blood glucose levels steady. Choose fiber rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains often (low Glycemic foods are those carbohydrates that contain less simple sugars – an apple instead of a chocolate bar for example – worth reading more about low Glycemic Index (GI) foods (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycemic_index).
- If eating out, choose Salads, lean meat, brown rice/pasta, and chicken without skin. Always remember that you don’t have to eat everything that is on your plate if you feel it is too much. Would you prefer to appear rude? Or be overweight?
- Limit take-away foods. Cook your own meals as much as possible.
- Drink 30 ml of water per kg of bodyweight per day
Once some of these recommendations are implemented and measured over a longer time frame, all the Calories add up and significantly contribute to fat loss. For example, if walking three extra blocks at a quick pace burns 100 Calories, then over a period of one year it adds up to 36,500 Calories. Since 3,500 Calories is equal to one pound of body fat, we would lose approximately 10.43 pounds if all else remained constant. Therefore, including an exercise program such as a one hour gym session or eating less energy dense, high fat foods throughout the day, will significantly help reduce our body fat and improve overall health.
All of these factors play an integral part of our everyday behaviour, which controls the intake-output relationship. Therefore, changing the way we think, changing or adapting to the environment, being aware of how to work with what we have means we can change the Intake-Output imbalance. Below are some vital steps to accomplishing fat loss long term.
First step – there are NO QUICK FIXES. Supplements, equipment, diets or exercise routines advertising to “lose weight fast” are a waste of time and money. Some express diets might work temporarily, but it is a reduction mostly in lean body tissue and water which also brings a significant reduction in resting metabolic rate, reducing the daily energy expenditure. Additionally, these restrictive diets cannot be sustained for extended periods and the urge to eat eventually wins leaving us back where we started at with our old diet habits. Think long term, and implement healthy habits that can realistically be sustained over a life time.
Second Step – Complete a cost-benefit analysis that can be used to assess the benefits of changing behaviour (i.e. beginning to exercise vs. staying sedentary). A list might have some of the following points.
- Reduce risk of chronic and debilitating diseases
– Type II Diabetes, Coronary Heart Disease, some Cancers and Muscular Skeletal Disorders, Sleep Apnea
- Prevent disorders that reduce quality of life
– Arthritis, Heart Disease, Respiratory Difficulties, Diabetes, Skin Problems, Infertility
- Improve self esteem, social and psychological issues
- Increase energy levels to be more focused at work and active with the kids
- Promote long term happiness and success in life
- Positive stereotype
Third step – Set short and long term goals. Short term goals could be accumulating 10 minutes of extra walking a day, or walking the dog on weekends. Long term goals might be fitting more comfortably into a pair of jeans, running 10 km or playing competitive sport again. Setting behavioural goals over outcome goals are probably more beneficial as they are easier to monitor and less likely to disappoint.
Fourth step – Identify the imbalances in your life (thoughts, environmental, behavioural) and work out ways you can change or adapt to them. Evaluate your current lifestyle from when you wake up to when you go to sleep, and look at ways you can improve activity levels and eating habits. They don’t have to dramatically alter your schedule. There is research to show that exercise only needs to be 30 minutes a day, 3-5 times a week. And it does not have to be all at once. The 30 minutes can even be broken down into 10 minute intervals throughout the day for convenience, making it easier to burn calories over time.
Fifth step – Self-monitor. Keep track of exactly what you are doing in a certain area. One type of self-monitoring is keeping a food diary. This increases awareness of what is eaten, as well as the structure of one’s diet (time of eating, how often, with whom etc.). You can also monitor your physical activity levels by recording the amount of time each day you are active, or wearing a pedometer to count the steps you take. Challenge yourself by increasing the amount you walk everyday.
Sixth step – Identify potential barriers you may face that prohibit you from leading a healthy lifestyle. When potential barriers are identified, they can be reviewed and overcome through proper planning so you are able to progress your program.
Committing to realistic, life long changes in both exercise and eating behaviours that are adapted to your specific life style will facilitate longer term maintenance of fat loss and is the key to achieving optimal health.