When it comes down to it, being in a calorie deficit is essential to fat loss.
And while it sounds simple enough that this would be a simple math problem of calories in vs. calories out, there are a LOT more factors that influence each side of the scale that can make it more complex.
The Complexities of Calories In//Calories Out
To give some examples, here are some of the forces at work in the body when it comes to fat loss…
Factors that can impact your calories in:
+ Overall Macronutrient Balance (i.e. Protein, Fat, Carbohydrate Percentages)
+ Blood Sugar Fluctuations/Insulin levels
+ Portion distortion
+ Absorption of Food by the Body
+ Hormones, especially those that dictate hunger and satiety (Ghrelin and Leptin)
Factors that can impact your calories out:
+ Your Basal Metabolic Rate (the calories your body burns at rest (impacted by muscle mass and prior dieting history)
+ Calories burned during exercise
+ Calories burned during everyday activities such as cleaning, walking etc (called NEAT – Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis)
+ Thermic effect of food (different foods burn more calories to process than others in the body!).
So with all of these factors at play, where should you place your effort if sustainable fat loss is your long term goal?
5 Fat Loss Factors to Focus on to set you (and your body) up for Success
Before we jump in, I want to share one overriding principal that may help you reframe your mindset for success when it comes to fat loss.
If losing fat is your goal then the most important factors to focus on at the start are the ones you can control directly with your daily actions, efforts, and routines.
While it can be easy to focus on factors we can’t always control and blame them for holding us back, there are often very tangible achievable things we CAN do, despite other factors at play, that are very achievable on a day to day basis.
My advice: Start with those! If you are being consistent with these habits and still not seeing progress then the next step would be to dig deeper.
When supporting my clients in beginning their fat loss journeys, here are the top 5 things I help them focus on to create sustainable fat loss routines, all of which they can do to set themselves up for success by prioritizing them.
- Creating a System to Manage Overall Calorie Balance – No matter how you do it, you have to create a calorie deficit for fat loss to occur. While there are more intuitive approaches to calorie balance, strategies like accountability systems (like a coach or program!), portion/calorie awareness, meal planning, and journaling (keeping a daily food journal or calorie counting) are all tried and true strategies for sustained weight loss. This doesn’t mean that lower calories are necessarily better, though. Ideally we want you to be able to eat as much as you can while still seeing progress!
- Consuming Optimal Protein Levels – Many people (especially women) way undereat protein. Getting enough protein, however, is so important to setting you up for success as it increases satiety and satisfaction after meals as well as burns more calories to digest than the other macronurtients. In addition, protein promotes muscle preservation and growth which results in more lean mass that burns more calories at rest and will leave you feeling more fit and allow you to get stronger in the gym.
- Managing Cravings and Hunger – Managing hunger and cravings by stabilizing blood sugar, maintaining adequate protein levels, and eating regularly throughout the day is at the heart of my nutrition coaching philosophy. Why? Because making healthy choices is a whole lot easier when you have balanced energy and don’t feel at whim to your cravings all the time! Creating a blood sugar supportive eating strategy will help make your calorie deficit sustainable.
- Boosting Overall Daily Activity Levels – NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) is the sum of the amount of calories burned during your everyday activities such as walking around the house, doing the dishes, playing with your kids etc. This number adds up to FAR more than your daily 30 minute workout can provide, so get up and find ways to move around during the day multiple times a day! Setting a daily step goal is a great way to keep yourself accountable to hitting these goals.
- Creating Sustainable Routines – Fat loss is a long game. End of story. Sustainable weight loss happens MUCH slower than most people think, at a rate of around 0.5-2 lbs a week, even with consistent efforts. What that means is you have to set up systems and routines and find a style of eating and exercising that you truly enjoy.
After reading these focus points, where do you think you could improve to boost your success on your fat loss journey? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave your comments below….