For many people, myself included, losing weight is difficult. It requires patience, consistency and discipline. Yet the diet culture has led us to believe that weight loss should be easy and rapid… so much so that when it is not as fast we ‘think’ it should be we start to look for other ways to speed up the process.
We look for ways to ‘boost’ our metabolism, or try flashy supplements to help us shed weight fast, or we may even resort to lowering intake and increasing workout intensity.
When we are struggling to lose weight, feel unhappy with how we look, or lack confidence and knowledge to approach weight loss in a sustainable manner, we will try just about everything.
I know I did.
I tried the fad diets, hopped diet to diet thinking that the next thing would finally make things easier and I would get more results.
Unfortunately, though, I made it worse by cutting more calories and adding more stress from training. Then I started to get injured, I was tired, hungry and craving all the things, constipated/bloated and overall it felt like all the effort I was putting in was returning minimal results. And I know I’m not the only one.
But, losing fat doesn't take some crazy, super restrictive, unsustainable plan.
Losing fat takes a good nutrition plan, moving your body, staying hydrated, and prioritizing sleep and recoveryconsistently.
So, let’s dive into the specifics of fat loss. Most people claim that they want to lose weight, yet is weight loss REALLY what you mean? When we dive deeper into goals, the majority of people we talk to want to get rid of fat, and maintain a lean physique versus just weight.
So, let's clarify the difference between fat loss versus weight loss.
Weight loss is a decrease in your overall body weight. This weight includes muscle, fat, and water in your body. That’s what your regular scales show you: you’ve simply lost some pounds. Fat loss usually designates a reduction in body fat.
One pound of muscle weighs exactly like one pound of fat, yet they look entirely different. One pound of muscle is smaller than a pound ofbody fat. If you gain 6 pounds of muscle and drop six pounds of body fat, your scale weight will be absolutely the same, but your body composition will have likely changed a lot.
Here are 6 things we recommend focusing on to lose fat rather than just weight.
Manage Stress- This is the first thing we look at because it is often overlooked and is very important to being able to lose weight.
To fully understand more how stress impacts fat loss, check out this article we wrote a few weeks ago.
Sleep - Our Circadian Rhythm impacts a lot of our internal processes includinghormonal regulation, the ability to increase and maintain muscle mass, blood sugar regulation, neurotransmitter profile, our immune system, the body's detoxification process and our ability to recover properly.
Read more about how our circadian rhythm and sleep impacts weight here.
Walk - If you are like me, you read that and automatically discount the positive effects walking can have.
Walking is a non-stressful exercise that is extremely beneficial for fat loss. When we enter into a calorie deficit, we are depriving the body of energy and that is also a stressor so it is important that we are moving outside of just exercise or intense training sessions.
As someone who overlooked it for years, hitting 10K+ steps daily by taking a couple short walks has been great for my health AND results. It also helps with digestion, so one of my favorite things to do is get in a 10-15 min walk in after main meals.
Not only does walking help you burn more calories, but it can also help with natural energy levels by getting outside and getting sunlight. Sunlight naturally supports our energy levels by boosting a chemical in your brain called serotonin, and that can give you more energy and help keep you calm, positive, and focused. When your energy is up, you will feel more like working out, it's easier to say no to temptations, and you're more likely to stick to your plan.
Eat Adequate Protein - Protein is essential as it is part of every cell in the body, which is why it is often referred to as the building block of our body. It is also very satiating, so if you are in a fat loss phase, it is important to maintain adequate protein to help maintain muscle mass in a calorie deficit!
We have a whole blog on the importance of protein, 3 key benefits, how to determine how much protein you need and how you can work to include protein in every meal. Read more here!
Stay Hydrated -Water is extremely important in the metabolic process. If your goal is to lose fat, water should be at the top of your priority list.
Water supports every cell, organ, and tissue in the body and helps regulate your body's temperature while also maintaining other bodily functions.
Drinking enough helps you burn more calories, remove waste and toxins from the body, and is necessary to metabolize stored fat or carbohydrates.
If you are not hydrated, your body cannot detox efficiently. Additionally, water can help you gauge how hungry you are and manage a bit more hunger in calorie deficits. If you feel hungry, which is normal in a fat loss phase, try drinking water throughout the day to help you stay feeling full longer.
We have an entire blog on the importance of hydration for fat loss as well!
Strength Train - If you want to maintain a lean physique, it is important to strength train! Building and maintaining muscle requires constant work. This is especially important in a fat loss phase as the amount of muscles directly impacts your metabolism. Less muscle causes lower basal metabolic rate (BMR) which means a lower calorie burn throughout your day.
As we talk about in our blog on Why & How to Build Lean Muscle, strength training is important as muscle increases our metabolic rate. The more muscle you have, the more active tissue you have and therefore, you are burning more calories at rest. Plus, when you come out of the fat loss phase and cycle up to maintenance you will likely find you can eat more and maintain your weight... Who doesn’t want to eat more and look better?!?
Muscle tissue also regulates your insulin sensitivity, which is a biological process that determines how well your body absorbs nutrients. If you lose muscle tissue due to incorrect dieting, the nutrients you eat are less likely to be partitioned to your muscle cells and more likely to be turned into fat cells (4).
So, if your attention is onslashing calories and carbsor upping your cardio in order to burn fat, that focus is probably coming at the expense of strength training. Although, if your goal is fat loss without muscle loss, you need to be resistance training and focusing on eating adequate protein as mentioned above. If you’re eating in a calorie deficit without resistance training you’re most assuredly losing muscle mass as you lose fat.