What it takes to lose weight?

Sep 23, 2021Nutrition

Most of the people I talk to want to lose weight. Some of them want to lose 10 or more pounds and some want to lose just the last bits of fat.

Those with a higher percentage of fat often think that they need to exercise 1-2 hours a day, weigh every gram of food, and count calories.

On the other hand, those who are already relatively slim often think that for some reason they deserve to be slimmer based on their efforts so far.

Most people don’t realize at first that getting from 30% body fat to 20% requires a different amount of effort, attention to diet, and time spent on exercise than getting from 12% to single-digit numbers.

In addition to the need to create a caloric deficit for weight loss, there must be a change in lifestyle for lasting change.

Here is a brief overview of what it takes to get from obese, through fit and lean, to ripped.

From obese to healthy (20-25% body fat men and 20-30% women)

It is relatively easy for an obese person to get to a healthy body. Obese people have a lot of room for improvement and therefore even small changes in lifestyle lead to great progress. After getting to a healthy body weight, you will feel an increase in energy, improved health, freedom of movement, you will stop taking some medications and this will motivate you.

Nutrition:

In your diet, focus on quality food in 75% of meals. These are whole foods without added oils and sugars.

When preparing a meal, focus on the vegetables and proteins in each meal and fill the rest with complex carbohydrates and fats.

Avoid drinks containing calories.

Substitute soft drinks for zero-calorie versions and drink water, tea, or black coffee most of the time.

Skills & abilities

  • Learn to read the nutrition labels on the packaging and learn which foods are a good source of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
  • Practice noticing your hunger and fullness.
  • Eat 3-5 times a day.
  • Avoid grazing – eating small meals, snacks, or anything throughout the day.
  • Design your environment to remove temptations and foods that trigger you to overeat or crave more food.

Movement:

Move daily (eg 10,000 steps a day), find physical activities that you enjoy.

From a healthy body to a lean body (15-20% body fat men and 20-30% women)

When you reach this level, you will feel further energy improvements, better health, and your body will give you more options than to show the newly acquired energy athletically. With good habits, such a body composition is easily maintained all year round without sacrificing your social life.

Nutrition:

In your diet, focus on quality food in 80% of meals.

When preparing a meal, focus on the vegetables and proteins in each meal and supplement the rest with complex carbohydrates and fats.

Avoid drinks containing calories.

Skills and Abilities:

  • Learn to read the nutrition labels on the packaging and learn which foods are a good source of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
  • Practice noticing your hunger and fullness.
  • Eat 3-5 times a day.
  • Avoid grazing – eating small meals, snacks, or anything throughout the day.
  • Design your environment to remove temptations and foods that trigger you to overeat or crave more food.
  • Learn about the caloric content of food – even healthy foods like nuts can cause your weight loss to stall.
  • Learn how to choose the right food when eating out.
  • Learn to say no, sitting with alcohol and coffee with dessert on a daily basis.

Movement:

Move daily (eg 10,000 steps a day), find physical activities that you enjoy, and exercise 3-5 times a week.

From lean to athletic (10-13% body fat men and approx. 20% women)

When you reach this level, you will be at the peak of your health and energy. However, food and training already require daily attention, and daily sitting with alcohol or coffee with dessert may have to go sideways. You will have to find a compromise for social activities. However, it is still a relatively easy level of leanness, especially if you are committed to sports.

Nutrition:

In your diet, focus on quality whole foods in 90% of meals.

When preparing a meal, focus on the vegetables and proteins in each meal and fill the rest with complex carbohydrates and fats according to the activity.

Consume alcohol sporadically, if at all.

Skills & Abilities:

On top of what you learned at the previous level, there are other skills that will help you.

  • Learn to read the nutrition labels on the packaging and learn which foods are a good source of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
  • Practice noticing your hunger and fullness.
  • Eat 3-5 times a day.
  • Avoid grazing – eating small meals, snacks, or anything throughout the day.
  • Design your environment to remove temptations and foods that trigger you to overeat or crave more food.
  • Learn about the caloric content of food – even healthy foods like nuts can cause your weight loss to stall.
  • Learn how to choose the right food when eating out.
  • Learn to say no, sitting with alcohol and coffee with dessert on a daily basis.
  • Learn about the portion size and quantity of the food you eat and how it affects your energy levels.
  • Pay attention to food preparation and planning. However, you do not have to prepare all meals in advance. Depending on your activity levels, you will still have leeway in social situations if you are smart with your food choices.

Movement:

Move daily (eg 10,000 steps a day), find physical activities that you enjoy.

Exercise 5-7 days a week, 1-2 times at high intensity.

From lean to athletic (10-13% body fat men and approx. 20% women)

When you reach this level, you will be at the peak of your health and energy. However, food and training already require daily attention, and daily sitting with alcohol or coffee with dessert may have to go sideways. You will have to find a compromise for social activities. However, it is still a relatively easy level of leanness, especially if you are committed to sports.

Nutrition:

In your diet, focus on quality food in 90% of meals.

You will need to have a good grasp of the nutrition and the caloric content of the food you eat.

When preparing a meal, focus on the vegetables and proteins in each meal and fill the rest with complex carbohydrates and fats according to the activity.

Consume alcohol sporadically, if at all.

Skills & Abilities:

  • Read the nutrition labels on the packaging and learn which foods are a good source of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
  • Learn about the portion size and quantity of the food you eat.
  • Practice noticing your hunger and fullness.
  • Eat 3-5 times a day.
  • Avoid grazing – eating small meals, snacks, or anything throughout the day.
  • Design your environment to remove temptations and foods that trigger you to overeat or crave more food.
  • Learn about the caloric content of food – even healthy foods like nuts can cause your weight loss to stall.
  • Learn how to choose the right food when eating out.
  • Learn to say no, sitting with alcohol and coffee with dessert on a daily basis.
  • Learn about the portion size and quantity of the food you eat and how it affects your energy levels.
  • Pay attention to food preparation and planning. However, you do not have to prepare all meals in advance. Depending on your activity levels, you will still have leeway in social situations if you are smart with your food choices.
  • You need to be smart about macronutrient composition and tailor your environment to remove any temptations.

Movement:

Move daily (eg 10,000 steps a day), find physical activities that you enjoy.

Exercise 5-7 days a week, 1-2 times at high intensity.

To conclude:

Even elite athletes’ bodies don’t look all the same! Don’t think that moving from 12% fat to 10% will definitely help you win your race.

Take these insights as a guide, not as a complete plan tailored to you. No matter which category you fall into, strength training is always a benefit. It is also not necessary to exercise hours a day if you balance your physical activity with a wise diet.

Keep in mind, that whatever you are doing and you are not progressing, it means you need to do something differently.

If your goal is to be fit and lean, you need to get aware of your activity and energy intake but you don’t need to live in a gym, nor spend hours doing cardio every day, and count every gram you eat. Making smart decisions with your eating and training that are sustainable is the key.

If you are trying to get to your peak physique and performance, you will need to design your life around food and training. Many athletes don’t realize what it takes to get there.

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