Your fat loss journey starts here!
In this article I aim to share with you 10 tips that can help you shed those unwanted pounds. Before we proceed to delve into the fat fighting tips, I feel it necessary to impart a word of advice on how best to approach the strategies and methods to follow.
It would be unwise to attempt to adopt more than two tips at any one time. For example, if you were overcome with enthusiasm and tried to overhaul your lifestyle by implementing multiple tips, you would likely suffer a catastrophic relapse which would result in the renunciation of your vows – to wit: to lose weight and become healthier.
Statistically speaking, smokers who try and quit without first weaning themselves off of their cancer sticks and/or making use of interventions (patches, support groups, etc.), are far more likely to start smoking again.
Thus, if you are serious about shedding those unwanted pounds, accept that the journey on which you are about to embark is long (Tip #3: Remember: there’s no quick fixes!) and that success awaits the traveller who is slow and steady in their approach.
Well, if you’re ready, let’s get going . . .
Tip #1: Daily Diet
It’s not enough to eat healthily occasionally or impose a strict dietary regime one week out of every four. We must observe proper dietary practices every day, week, month and year. And not just because it will contribute to fat loss. But because ‘diet is the number-one cause of premature death and the number one cause of disability,’ (Greger 2017).
So, by eating clean, by transitioning to a plant-based whole-foods diet, you’ll lose weight and (hopefully) increase longevity whilst decreasing your risk of disease and disability. The health restorative effects of going green are truly remarkable. But what constitutes as a plant-based diet?
In short: adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet and cutting out refined carbohydrates and anything processed. In the short space I’ve allotted for each tip I can’t give this topic the breadth of discussion it deserves, so I’ve popped a link below which will lead you to an excellent overview of healthy eating and its associated benefits.
Tip #2: Daily Exercise
The link between a sedentary lifestyle and excess body fat is adamantine. That is, there’s no breaking it: if you sit on your derriere too often you’ll get fat. Though this, of course, doesn’t mean that by being a bit more active you'll be thin. There’s much more to it than that.
However, as fat loss methods go, exercise has stood the test of time and has proved itself to be a highly potent weapon against the tub. Thus no weight-loss campaign is complete without it.
If you do decide to invite exercise into your life, or increase the amount you’re currently doing, you stand to gain much more than just fat loss. In his excellent book The Food Revolution John Robbins shines light on research showing that ‘60 to 70 percent of cancers can be prevented by staying physically active,’ (Robbins 2001 – pp38). Hard to imagine though it is but exercise can confer many more health benefits besides. (Want to learn more about the benefits of exercise?)
To get our hands on these benefits and boil the blob how often do we have to get sweaty?
The winds have somewhat changed on the consensus of how much exercise we ought to be engaging in on a weekly basis. The government has for a long time now been encouraging people to participate in light to moderate exercise for around 30 minutes 3/4 times per week.
However, health professionals, Dr Greger being the most notable, argue that we should be exercising every day. The sweataphobe’s heart may be palpitating at the thought of participating in daily exercise. But you’ll perhaps be somewhat relieved to know this doesn’t mean that you have to go out for long runs and engage in high-intense, CrossFit-style training sessions.
‘From a health perspective, further good news indicates that just moderate exercise (e.g,. gardening or walking >60 min per wk) performed regularly reduces the risk of a first heart attack to the same extent as high-intensity workouts.’
(McArdle et al 2001 – Exercise Physiology)
A light jog, cycle, swim or circuit will more than qualify. Regardless of how much you do and how often, to remain healthy and keep the fat at bay daily exercise must be on the menu.
Tip #3: Remember: there’s no quick fixes!
Before embarking on the journey of fat loss and health acknowledge that the road is long and the travelling hard going . . . and that there are no shortcuts or quick fixes.
I reminded of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Poor old Christian, the somewhat gullible yet lovable protagonist, sets off in search of salvation. But he quickly finds out, after foundering in the dreaded Slough of Despond, that the going is far tougher than he at first envisaged.
“This hill though high I covent ascend; The difficulty will not me offend; For I perceive the way of life lies here. Come, pluck up, heart; let's neither faint nor fear. ”
What, I’m sure the dear reader is wondering, what are you trying to say here?
I’m trying to say that losing fat and improving health, just like salvation, are two destinations that are eminently difficult to reach. Just look around at all those people who have either failed or can’t even be bothered to make the effort.
Also, the path along which you must walk is peppered with temptation: never, throughout all human history, have calories been so cheap and easily accessible. Food that makes us fat and unhealthy is quite literally everywhere. And, to compound the problem, we use our legs less than we ever used to.
But if you prepare yourself psychologically, if you recognise that getting rid of the blob is going to be an arduous slog, you will improve your chances of success. And if you persevere when the going gets tough, which it inevitably will, you are almost certain to arrive at your destination.
Tip #4: Don’t Snack!
Snacking is the fat fighter’s arch nemesis. It’s like an evil villain that Discipline, the super hero in this strange metaphor, must always do battle with. But why, you ask, is snacking so pernicious?
Uncontrolled snacking can significantly increase the number of calories that a person consumes throughout the day. According to the NHS females are advised to consume between 1500 and 2000 calories a day, males 2000 to 2500. These calories can easily be got from three healthy daily squares (Tip #1: Daily Diet). But throw a few snacks into the mix and those figures could balloon 50% or more (Tip #5: Cut Down on Portion Sizes).
Moreover, snacking is the Scarlet Pimpernel of food. Most people know in their heart of hearts that they snack but few can ever remember when and where they committed the sin. Having worked for many years in the health and fitness industry, both as a personal trainer and health and lifestyle coach, I’ve found snacking to be one of the hardest lifestyle habits to combat. It’s as though snacking induces a sort of amnesia. Here’s what I mean:
I’ll be interviewing a client who perhaps wants to lose weight. I’ll ask them about their diet, what foods they eat, what times during the day they eat those foods. Quite often they’ll paint a rosy picture and tell me that their diet, though by no means perfect, is certainly not bad – ‘I eat my five a day!’ they nearly always proclaim, in a futile attempt to exonerate dietary wrong doing.
After packing away my polite smile I’ll tentatively broach the subject of snacking. ‘Do you snack between these ‘relatively’ healthy meals,’ I put to them. And the response is always the same. They’ll vigorously shake their head and deny that they ever eat between meals.
But I know by looking at them that something doesn’t add up. For it is not possible to pack on so many superfluous pounds when you live off three small healthy(ish) meals a day. I don’t care what anyone says: It’s not possible!
This is my solution to the problem. Because, though it’s obvious that they are concealing information from me, I can’t waterboard it out of them. So what I do, in an attempt to bring about awareness of what I suspect to be a snacking issue, is ask them to take a quick pic of everything they eat over the following week.
At the end of the week I’ll upload all those images and create a collage. By doing this they can see the extent of their eating habits (if they’ve not been fudging the accounting of course – but for the purpose of this tip we’ll assume that they haven’t). Once their weekly dietary consumption is displayed in HD I’ll make a rough estimate of the total calories captured in that image. Though not before writing down how many calories someone of their gender, size and activity output should be consuming.
Of course, when they see that smorgasbord of dietary misdemeanours, and clap eyes on that crude calculation that shows extreme calorie consumption imbalances, they inevitably wake up from their delirium. Snacking is all of sudden seen for what it is: a fast track to being fat.
Not all snack are created equal. Believe it or not but snacking can be healthy! See below examples of some healthy alternatives:
1: Homemade avocado guacamole (or courgette guacamole or chickpea hummus) with carrot sticks. To make avocado guacamole scrape the creamy flesh into a bowl and add a couple of finely diced cherry tomatoes, a dash of cumin, a quick crack of sea salt, black pepper and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Mash together until sufficiently pulped. Spoon into a container, cover and keep refrigerated until serving.
2: A fruit salad is a great pre/post lunch snack. Healthy, nutritious and tasty. The combination of fruits selected I will leave to you. However, one point of note. The nutrient quality of any fresh fruit or vegetable deteriorates once cut (if it is not cooked or preserved). Every hour the nutrient content falls by 50%. It is for this reason why the fruit should be kept in its whole state until snack time. If it has been pre-washed and dried all you’ll need to do is cut it up into a bowl and serve
3: Mixed nuts, dates and dark chocolate (with a cup of fresh coffee on the side). This is a simple, zero-fuss snack which packs a nutritional punch. Why? Read on . . .
Nuts are bursting with high-quality protein as well as a plethora of vitamins and minerals.
Dates (medulla), as well as just being generally delicious, have been shown to protect against mouth and oesophageal cancer.
Dark chocolate (70+%) contains antioxidants which inhibit free radical proliferation (a free radical is an unstable molecule which can trigger chain reactions resulting in cellular damage). A recent study showed that people who regularly consume dark chocolate were of a healthy weight and tended to snack less on undesirables.
Fresh ground coffee (not crappy instant!) can reduce liver inflammation, aid digestion, enhance cognition (thanks caffeine) and encourage the metabolism of adipose – aka fat.
Who would have thought snacking could be so good for you?
4: The Buddha bowl. Traditionally the Buddha bowl is an assortment of fresh vegetables accompanied with a healthy grain such as quinoa or couscous. However, I’ve created a variation comprised of banana, mixed berries, crushed nuts and medulla dates. Into a bowl chop one banana and add a cup of mixed berries (blackberry, raspberry, blue berry, strawberry in any combination you like – just ensure to rinse well before consuming). Sprinkle over 50 grams of crushed mixed nuts (and/or seeds) and top with a sliced date, drizzle of honey and a dash of sweet cinnamon.
Tip #5: Cut down the portion sizes
The human organism is a fabulously energy efficient machine (metaphorically speaking). Here’s what I mean: you could, if you were stupid enough, pop down to McDonald's and order a Big Mac meal. In the 5-odd minutes it’d take to consume that disgusting salty, chemically, saturated fat-laden toxic ‘food’ you’d ingest about 1500 to 2000 calories.
To expend the same number of calories – if you’re stupid enough to believe in the calorie in calorie-out theory of fat loss – to burn those 1500-plus calories you’d have to run a marathon; which takes the average (trained) runner around 4.5hrs.
The truth of the matter is, we really don’t need to eat as much as we do. As a population (I’m talking statistically here, I just want you do bear that in mind) . . . as a population we’re collectively consuming far too many calories. Some nutritional scientists suggest that the average person in the West could well be consuming as many as 500 calories a day more than they should.
Calculated over a week this would equate to 3500 superfluous calories! Which is roughly 1.5 additional days of unnecessary eating every week, 6 days every month and a staggering 72 days every year! Is it any wonder that obesity is at epidemic proportions?
But the great thing with this tip is that it’s super easy to rectify. By cutting down our portion sizes we will inevitably cut down the number of calories we are consuming. The simplest method of achieving this is to serve meals prior to placing them on the table. No buffet-style help-your-self set-ups. Also, consider reducing the size of you plates – a psychological trick: well-stocked small plates present the appearance of a big meal.
Tip #6: Stick to it!
The number one reason why the majority of people fail to lose weight is because they give up. I’ll be honest with you: the pursuit of health (and/or trying to maintain it) is a constant battle. Truly, the person who wishes to lose weight must be prepared to wage war on a daily basis.
Wage war against what?
Everything! Our inherent laziness. The propensity to favour the couch over exercise. Culinary temptations. Cake! Croissants (my personal predilection)! The vending machine. Etc., etc. ad infinitum.
Thus if you set your sights on losing weight know that it will not happen overnight (Tip #3: Remember: there’s not quick fixes!) and you will frequently have to engage in fisticuffs with that most belligerent of foes who goes by the name of Temptation.
But if you stick to it! If you stick to it and pursue your goal with dedication and determination you will emerge victorious.
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
Tip #7: Fat people skip breakfast! (So the saying goes.)
The title of this tip is not strictly true. My mum never eats breakfast – unless you class a coffee and cigarette as breakfast of course – and her body fat percentage is on par with that of a cold chip. However, one could well argue that she is a Gladwellian statistical outlier.
But though there is perhaps scant (if any) empirical evidence to support that statement – fat people skip breakfast – you really don’t have to use the full force of ratiocination to support a convincing argument in its favour.
The theory behind that old saying goes something like this: by skipping breakfast – aka the most important meal of the day – you are, in a bid to quell hunger prangs, more likely to snack on undesirables (the dangers of which are outlined in Tip #4: Don’t Snack!).
By stoking the metabolic fires with a good hearty breakfast we are, so the theory goes, less likely to snack on undesirables through the day thus reducing our calorific intake. This reasoning smacks somewhat paradoxical I know but, because snack foods tend to pack a higher calorific punch, parrying with a healthy breakfast will defer hunger prangs till lunch. If all goes well, and lunch consists of a homemade salad, fewer calories will be consumed.
However, before the pedant pips me to the post, I hasten to point out that this tip hinges on the assumption that the breakfast be healthy. Don’t think that just because you’re eating a full English for brekky biology will somehow be tricked by the time of day. It doesn’t work that way. Your breakfast must be healthy. Below I’ve included the recipe of my breakfast to give you an idea of what constitutes as healthy. Also, because I'm a proper good egg, I've included a couple of video links which broaden the breakfast menu.
Three Berry Porridge – aka: the only breakfast you’ll ever need!
Berry prep: so as to make life easier for yourself and to prevent eating all the berries before the end of the week, it is wise to spend a bit of time preparing them. On a Saturday, after shopping at the local market, I separate the berries across six containers so that, each morning when it comes to making breakfast, I have but to grab a pot, rinse and dry the fruit and serve. (A word of wisdom: don’t try and be too efficient by washing the berries at the start of the week. I can assure you that by Wednesday you’ll be throwing away mouldy fruit.)
1: Pre-cook preparation: firstly thoroughly rinse the fruit; drain and dry. Hand-mill the linseed and hempseed in a pestle and mortar (or buy a packet or mixed milled seed and save yourself time and an arm ache). Chop and crush the nuts. Slice the dates.
2: Add to a pan one cup of oats and two cups of water. Place on a high heat and continue to stir until the porridge is vigorously bubbling. Stir throughout. (Never microwave your porridge – that is sacrilegious!)
3: Once the porridge has taken on your desired consistency remove from the heat and leave to rest for five minutes. Stir intermittently.
4: To serve: spoon the porridge into bowls. Drizzle over natural honey then add the seeds, nuts, dates and fruit . . .
As far as breakfast foods go porridge is arguable the healthiest – made even healthier with nuts, seeds and fruit! Because of its high-fibre / low fat content porridge has been shown to contain all manner of health promoting properties. Recently published studies have demonstrated that people who regularly consume porridge are less likely to develop serious conditions such as coronary heart disease and bowel cancer. It is for these reasons and many more besides why I recommend starting every day with a bowl of porridge.
The health benefits of porridge
Tip #8: Move More
Being active is not about how much physical exercise you do each day, it’s about how often you move in a day. Even if you exercised for 30 to 45 minutes every day but spent the remaining twenty three(odd) impersonating a potato, you’d still be leading a sedentary life.
Emerging research is starting to show that, people who are generally more active, who are up and about, they tend to be at a healthier weight and are less likely to develop the diseases associated with sedentarism.
Sedentarism: The habits and routines associated with relatively low levels of activity and movement, leading to health-related problems such as obesity
(Oxford Reference – 2020)
So what does being more active look like?
It’s quite simple really. It’s about engineering your daily habits to include movement. For example, a couple of years back I got so sick of sitting in traffic when commuting to work that I sold my car and bought a pushbike. Now I actually enjoy the six mile commute to work. No traffic. No polluting. And an extra 40 minutes of exercise!
But of course this is not a viable option for everyone; some people commute much further than six miles and others work from home – and others are just far too lazy. However, there are literally a million and one ways to get more movement into your life.
Before turning the keys in the ignition ask yourself: do I need to drive? Can I not make this journey by foot of bicycle? Apparently the vast majority of car journeys are entirely unnecessary and the average distance so short that it could be covered bipedal in almost the same time. (I read somewhere that the average American drives 1500 miles a year but because the commutes are mostly short and spent idling in traffic they could walk the distance quicker.)
If possible go for an afternoon/evening walk. It only needs to be a 30 minute stroll at a gentle pace. That’s more than enough to burn calories and get the blood circulating.
When at your desk (presuming that, like the many millions of people across the globe, you spend most of your day tapping away at a computer) try standing or swap the chair for a stability ball. Or, if your company is too tightfisted to supply you with an elevated desk and health & safety prohibits soft spherical objects, set a 20 minute timer to remind you to get up off your arse and move. Maybe go for a five minute walk or do some squats.
Some quick ideas
Spend as much of your day as possible in the horizontal position. On account of the heart having to pump harder to circulate blood, the body uses more energy when we are standing.
Always take the stairs, never the escalator or lift.
Walk when possible.
Buy a cheap exercise bike and pedal whilst watching TV.
Tip #9: Fast Regularly
Fasting – or ‘restricted calorie intake’ – is an enormously healthy lifestyle practice and an excellent way to encourage the body to metabolise excess fat. The practice of fasting is thousands of years old and has long been recognised as a method of cleansing or purifying the body and, if you believe in such a thing, the soul.
Few people realise that digestion places a tremendous metabolic burden on the body. It takes a lot of energy to break down the foods we eat; this is especially so if those foods are processed or are derived from animal sources. This accounts for the saying: we age from the inside out.
Regular fasting, however, gives our digestive system a rest from the daily grind of having to mulch and compost all those organic compounds.
But there are many other benefits associated with fasting besides fat loss. Some of those benefits include:
Improved blood sugar control by reducing insulin resistance
Helps to reduce inflammation
Has been shown to boost brain function
Aids weight loss
Could slow the ageing process
Could decrease the decay of the telomeres
How to Fast
The traditional fast length is 24hrs. For an entire day we would abstain from consuming solid foods. Yes you can drink water and/or herbal teas. But that’s your lot. Pretty austere I know. I remember my first full day fast. By god it was hard going. Quite possibly the longest day of my life. I thought about food every minute of the day; I think I even dreamt about food. When breakfast finally came round the following morning I was salivating whilst stirring my porridge and, because I couldn’t wait the full five minutes for it to cook, I scoffed it cold. And it still tasted nice!
However, to enjoy the benefits of fasting you do not have to put yourself through this torment – not straightaway at least. I recommend that the first timer start with a partial fast of between 16 to 18 hours. Here’s an idea of how we might approach a partial fast:
After your 30 minute morning run (Tip #2: Daily Exercise) enjoy a nice wholesome breakfast (Tip #7: Fat People Skip Breakfast!) comprised of porridge (with water! never milk!!), mixed berries and crushed nuts, then, come lunch time, before your afternoon walk (Tip #8: Move More), eat that healthy homemade salad (Tip #1: Daily Diet) and from then on nothing else until the following morning.
Once you become accustomed to partial fasting you can extend the duration in stages. First cut out the lunch. Try this for a couple of weeks. When you’re ready for it go for the full 24hrs.
Tip #10: Do Your Own Cooking
Michael Pollan, journalist, activist and author of a number of excellent books, including the brilliant The Omnivore’s Dilemma, said that after some twenty years of reading, researching and writing about the human diet the one factor that determines a person’s health, above all others, was whether or not they predominantly ate home cooked food.
Today more people eat out than at any other time in human history. In fact, eating out is so prevalent that many people do not know how to cook. And what’s more concerning is that the art of home cooking is not being passed down generationally. I have no facts or figures at hand but fewer and fewer parents teach their progeny how to prepare and cook from scratch a proper healthy meal.
Consequently, home economics and cookery classes have been left to schools to teach. And from what I’ve seen all that’s on the curriculum is rock cakes and refined pasta mixed with Dolmio sauce. Hardly a balanced diet.
But why’s home cooking healthier than eating out?
For starters, eateries use far more salt, sugar and fat than we ever would when cooking at home. They do this to enhance the flavour of their foods. Otherwise the cheap, poor quality produce that they use would be unpalatable and they’d quickly lose custom. Those three ingredients – which form the title of another brilliant book, Sugar, Salt, Fat, written by Michael Moss – are enemies of health.
Salt ‘has been linked to hypertension and cardiovascular disease,’ (Curtis 1995). High levels of dietary fat (from animal sources) correlate with increased incidences of atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, cancer and stroke. And sugar, well it does more than dissolve your teeth. Sugar – aka white death – has been linked to cancer, degenerative brain diseases, brittle bone (on account of the fact that it leaches calcium from your body) and attention deficit disorders. Also, sugar is believed to be as addictive as some Class A drugs.
When home cooking you are consciously aware of how much of these ingredients are being added to the meal. This is not the case when you outsource this highly important responsibility to a ‘chef’ (inverted commas to denote condescension both at the profession in and of itself and the fact that there are few real chefs to be found).
So, if you’re not already doing so, start, as of today, cooking at home. It’s not only healthier, it’s rewarding, therapeutic and an indispensable life skill.
I do hope that this article has been of use to you. Though fat loss is often taken lightly it is a very serious subject and ought to be treated as such. It’s now no mystery that being overweight is associated with ill-health and a plethora of nasty diseases, diseases that are responsible for cutting short the lives of many millions of people each year.
And what’s so shocking is that those diseases rarely manifest in people who lead a healthy lifestyle.
By losing weight, whether your motivation be one of aesthetics or health, you will with each pound of fat lost statistically reduce your susceptibility to the diseases that currently plague the Western world. In addition, you will begin to enjoy the boon of health whilst also extending your expiration date.
Truly, introducing healthy habits into your life will only ever enrich it. If you haven’t already set off on your journey, do so now – as of this very minute.
(As we are very interested in user feedback at Hungry4Fitness, I would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)
Adam Priest is a former Royal Marines Commando, professional personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.