Updated: Jul 11
This uber-simple 21-day Fat-loss Programme will help you shed those unwanted pounds.
Before delving into the programme proper, we first need to discuss diet and lifestyle. For exercise alone is not enough to banish the blob.
Whenever embarking on a fat-loss programme it is of paramount importance that you make changes to your daily diet whilst looking to improve other areas of your lifestyle. For example, restricting calorie consumption (AKA fasting), reducing alcohol consumption and generally being more active.
But first . . .
There must be a billion blogs on the subject of diet – and a further million books to boot. Much of this diet-related literature is saying the same thing. Below I have encapsulated in a checklist the common consensus on what constitutes as a healthy, fat-loss-promoting diet. Underneath the checklist the points of primary concern have been explained in a little more detail.
· Cut out all processed food
· Cut out all refined carbohydrates
· Limit or remove sugar
· Limit or remove animal protein
· Reduce or remove alcohol consumption
· Reduce snacking
· Increase vegetable consumption
· Increase fruit consumption; especially berries
· Replace refined carbs for wholegrains
· Consume clean liquids: herbal teas, water
· Consume nuts and seeds
To improve health and reduce superfluous body fat all processed foods must be purged from your diet.
As well as being over-laden with sugar, salt and saturated fat – all health filching ingredients – processed food is highly refined, nutrient deficient, and contains chemical additives.
A refined food has gone through a synthetic, mechanical process that transforms raw or natural produce into something that will eventually be eaten. However, during this process much of the nutrient value of the food is lost. For example, refining grains ‘removes the bran and germ, which contain important nutrients like B vitamins, iron, and fibre.’
In addition to depleting the nutrient value of food, the refining process also strips grains of ‘roughage’ – otherwise known as insoluble fibre. The diminution of dietary fibre has been linked to increase rates of obesity and incidences of metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure and diabetes.
In a study of 40,000 males, researchers made a convincing link between high-fibre consumption and the reduced risk of coronary heart disease.
Refined foods have also been shown to exacerbate weight gain whilst causing the adulteration of healthy eating habits. (And such foods, because they have been stripped of their roughage, do not quell the pangs of hunger like their superior wholegrain counterparts do.) People who regularly consume refined, sugary foods come to crave them – sugar is as addictive as some band psychotropic drugs. Moreover, they lose their taste for healthy foods which become ‘bland’ and ‘tasteless’.
This triggers a kind of negative feedback loop where the addiction and lack of satiation drives consumption and the adulteration leads to the reduction of healthy foods in the diet. Thus it is always best to abstain from eating processed, sugary foods.
The argument over the impacts of animal protein on health continues to be hotly debated. Health professionals, dietitians, nutritional scientists and deluded bloggers wage word wars weekly over whether the consumption of meat, poultry and dairy increase disease susceptibility.
However, the relationship between weight-gain and animal protein consumption is largely a settled matter – that is, the regular consumption of meat and dairy can cause weight gain. But this really shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the high saturated fat content of these foods.
The takeaway here is, if you are serious about losing weight you must start cutting down on meat and dairy consumption. Nowadays this is very easy to do as there are loads of vegetarian alternatives and literally millions of healthy vegetarian recipes.
"Alcohol consumption contributes to 3 million deaths each year globally as well as to the disabilities and poor health of millions of people. Overall, harmful use of alcohol is responsible for 5.1% of the global burden of disease"
In addition to increasing your chances of developing fatty-liver disease, mouth, throat and breast cancer, brain damage and a whole host of other horrible health problems, alcohol consumption has been shown to contribute to weight gain.
According to Dr Greger ‘moderate drinking does appear to protect against heart disease, perhaps because of a blood-thinning effect, but even light drinking (less than one drink a day) has been found to increase cancer risk,’ (p144 How Not to Die).
And though the link between light drinking and weight gain is tenuous, with opposing and contradictory findings, ‘recent studies have shown that heavy drinking may be more of a risk factor for weight gain’.
But, irrespective of where you class your consumption – light/moderate/high – if weight-loss is your goal, it is best to banish alcohol from your diet completely. Considering that 1 gram of alcohol contains over 7 calories a glass or two each evening or over the weekend is only going to increase over-all calorie intake which will ‘certainly promote a positive energy balance and ultimately weight gain’.
Snacking is also recognised as an enemy of health – of course that is dependent on the type of snack foods being consumed. If snacks are processed, from a packet, laden with fat and/or sugar, they will – over time – exert a deleterious effect on health and contribute to the accumulation of unwanted body fat.
Ultimately, irrespective of what foods are being snacked on, it is always best to keep this behaviour to a minimum. The body needs far fewer calories than we realise. Two to three healthy meals a day will provide us with all the nutrients and energy we need to sustain daily activity.
It’s old hat that we shouldn’t exercise every day. This erroneous assumption arose from the belief that if we train every day we will impede the body’s ability to repair damaged tissue. However, research has shown that, whilst this is true in people who are performing the same exercises day in day out, if we vary our training regime then we can remain active whilst also giving our body the time it needs to heal damaged muscle tissue.
If you’re not a fan of exercise and you struggle to find motivation for one training session a week, let alone seven, don’t fret! A daily exercise regime is not as imposing as it might at first sound. For example, a light 30 minute jog (or fast pace walk) in the morning or whole-body circuit training session will more than suffice.
‘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 more 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 enjoy the six-mile commute. No traffic. No polluting. And an extra 40 minutes of exercise!
But of course this is not a tenable 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 bike?
Apparently, the majority of car journeys are entirely unnecessary and the distance so short that it could be covered bipedal in almost the same amount of time. (I read somewhere that the average American drives 1500miles a year but because the commutes are mostly short and there is a lot of 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 swop the chair for a stability ball. Or, if your company is too tight-fisted 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 days 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
During the next 21 days look to see where you can factor some additional movement into your life. Remember, when it comes to fat loss, every expended calorie counts.
Before embarking on this fat-loss programme it is of paramount importance that you make changes to your diet and lifestyle habits. As stated above, exercise alone is simply not enough. Thus you must reform your diet and be strict about cutting out refined/processed/sugar foods.
Moreover, you must move more. Strive to take active and meaningful steps to re-engineer your daily round to include additional and supplementary movement. It doesn’t have to be as radical as chopping the car in for a push bike. Walking and standing more will suffice as positive first steps.
The 21-day Fat-loss Programme
Below, in the 21-day Fat-loss Exercise Tracker, you will discover 21 fitness sessions. Each session is structured to last for one hour and they all include an element of cardiovascular exercise – for the simple reason that CV is one of the most effective and efficient ways of ‘burning’ calories.
Remember, though, all the training session can be tailored to suit your current ability, exercise preferences and/or time constraints. The effectiveness of the programme will not in anyway diminish if, for example, you decide to substitute rowing for running or burpees for squat jumps, say.
The tracker is merely supposed to act as a guide for you to follow whilst also providing training ideas. What is important is that you engage in some form of cardiovascular and resistance exercise every day and that each training session lasts for a minimum of 30 minutes.
(As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)
Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.