healthy-is-perfection gets a lot of questions, and sometimes I can’t help but want to respond.
I am not a doctor. This post is drawing from my own experience and from the information that I’ve read. This post is intended to help people get started on real fat loss, and it definitely is not a complete guide.
Look, people, I know that you want to lose weight. I also know that the messages you’re given is that you need to be SUPER INTENSE, and you frequently hear the phrase, “eat less, exercise more”.
As my about page mentions, my gut size when I first began to exercise was 47 inches (119 centimeters). That was pretty big. I’m a bit over six feet tall so the size didn’t look quite so big while I was standing, but I have photos… ugh. Let’s just say that those photos are not being shared.
Here’s the point.
- First and foremost: I’m being completely serious. Your goal is not actually “weight loss”. Your goal is to lose fat.
I strongly suggest engaging in a mental exercise that will help you A LOT in your progress. It’s a simple exercise, but it relieves you of stress, of obsessing over the scale, and it really focuses your thoughts. Each time that you think the phrase “weight loss”, try to remind yourself that what you’re actually after is “fat loss”.
Why do this? Because the scale is your enemy, not your friend. Your weight is going to bounce around like a fish out of water. It’s going to go up, stay up for a while, go back down, get stuck and not move for awhile, and so on. It’s completely maddening if you’re paying attention to it. Contrary to what you may be thinking that’s not actually a big deal. That’s perfectly natural. It’s a part of the process.
If you’re thinking “weight loss” and you see the scale not budge or even show an increase then guess what that does to your frustration levels? Yeah, it goes straight through the roof.
So what do you do? First, tell yourself that this is a process. You’re smoothing away years of neglect that slowly added up to whatever your present health situation is. You’re going to have to accept, not just know, that years of neglect are not going to be undone in a few short months.
If you can’t accept that then you’re not going to succeed. Yeah that’s discouraging on the surface but once you accept it, it actually becomes a very liberating thought. For example, if you’re stuck on the idea of losing a certain amount of weight by Summer (or by some other arbitrary date) then you’re going to seriously stress out as the date approaches. Get that train of thought of your head and suddenly you’re free of a lot of stress and self-hate that you may not even be fully aware of.
This acceptance is one of the two most difficult aspects of living a healthier life style. With modern technology we have come to expect easier methods to achieve our goals. Commercials take advantage of this expectation and shovel “lose weight quick!” messages at us. We see it so much that a lot of people assume that it’s possible.
It’s not. It’s not possible. If it were possible then we would not have over 30% of the adult population that’s obese. You know and I know that this number is getting bigger each year. Europe is also suffering the same fate.
If it were so easy to lose weight quickly then do you really think that this would be happening? No, of course it wouldn’t. We would have the obesity epidemic solved. You would not be reading this because being over weight would not be an issue.
So let’s try to refocus our thoughts on reality.
There is no way to “lose weight quick”, so what do you do? A lot of people will think that if they do some intense exercise every day for an hour, or two hours, or even three hours a day then that’s what will get them to their goals quickly.
That’s both correct and incorrect. First, let’s address something very important: The more that you exercise, the more that you need to eat.
Yes, you read that correctly. A lot of people are probably very confused right now. “Eat more, exercise more” is exactly what I’m saying. How does this make sense?
You can think of your body the same way that you think of your vehicle. Let’s say that you go out to your vehicle and you turn it on. You then leave your vehicle running and you go back into your house. You don’t go anywhere, you just leave the vehicle sitting there running all day.
Okay, don’t actually do that because someone could steal it. The point is this: What is going to happen to the gas in the tank? It’s going to get used. The gas tank will eventually hit empty, the vehicle will shut down, and then you’re stuck hauling in fuel in portable gas tanks to get your vehicle running again.
Your body is the same way. People don’t think about this, but you’re burning calories no matter what you’re doing: Sleeping, Sitting there at your computer reading, watching TV. It doesn’t matter, you’re burning calories no matter what.
“But!”, you may say, “it’s not enough to matter.”
You’re right in that this will not make you burn the fat away. However, that calorie burn absolutely does matter.
This calorie burn is called your “basal metabolic rate”. This is super important because it is the absolute minimun number of calories that you need in order for your body to continue functioning at your present “weight” and daily activity level (remember, we’re actually talking about fat loss and not “weight loss”).
In order to lose the fat at the rate of one pound per week you must cause your body to burn off an extra 3,500 calories per week. Thankfully this is a number that adds up, so an easy number to focus on is removing 500 calories per day, every day. However, that’s actually a lot of food, and if you do this “cold turkey” then you’re probably going to feel hungry all the time. That’s no good.
Back to the vehicle analogy. Let’s say that you’re driving the vehicle and you step down on the gas peddle. The vehicle goes faster, it burns the fuel faster, and the tank runs out faster.
That’s like exercise for your body. It’s like stepping on the gas peddle, making your body burn through its energy faster than usual. This is a good thing, but you don’t want to run the tank dry. This is called “bonking” (or “crashing”), and it’s a very uncomfortable - sometimes physically painful - experience.
What do you do when you’re going to go on a long trip? You prepare your vehicle by maxing the gas tank and you may even fill up one or two extra containers of gas, “just in case”. You also know that if you buy the really cheap fuel then you’re going to get less gas mileage and your vehicle may have performance problems.
You need to do the same thing with your body. You need to prepare for your exercise by fueling your body with good food, and yes, you absolutely need to eat food. If you use junk “food” to do this then your body is going to putter out, performance is going to be bad, and you’re basically not going to get anywhere with your fitness.
As such, you need to choose healthy foods. Ideally this means lean meats, good proteins, lots of green and other colorful vegetables, avoid sugar (this is super important), and avoiding highly processed foods.
In reality this doesn’t mean that you will never eat tasty foods again. You can have your cupcake or your pizza or whatever it is that you like and lose the fat, too. The trick is that you eat these foods only once a week. You can look forward to a slice of pizza or cake or some other “cheat meal” at the end of the week. This is strongly encouraged because it helps you to keep your sanity. So yes, have your cheat meal. It’s good for you.
The food that you eat is more important than the exercise that you do. It is technically possible to lose weight without exercising. It’s not recommended, but it’s possible. You only need to cut that 500 calories per day from your food intake. The problem with this is that you’ll get thin, but you won’t look good once the clothes come off. You’ll probably still end up hiding yourself under clothes, and that’s no good either.
Exercise helps to build muscle, and that muscle will “fill in” a lot of the space that is presently occupied by the extra fat. Muscle gives the sexy curves, the sexy butt, and that great figure.
So ladies, yes, you want to put on muscle. Yes, it’s okay for women to lift heavy weights. Check around Tumblr for other fitblrs and you will see amazing photo evidence that, contrary to popular belief, lifting weights make women very sexy, very curvy, and not all bulky or freaky looking.
Okay, so what about those exercises?
You are not going to “go hard”. You are not going to be intense. You will definitely want to avoid “High intensity interval training” (aka HIIT). You are not going to exercise for hours at a time. This is not necessary to lose the fat, and as a beginner if you do try these things then you’re going to burn yourself out real quick.
- Do your strength training first
- Do your cardio (eg; aerobics) after your strength training
If you’re trying to burn fat - and that’s going to be the goal of nearly everyone who’s reading this - then you need to do your weight lifting before you do your cardio. Read the article “Do Cardio After Weight Training” for more information. Another option is to do your weight lifting on one day and your cardio on a different day and just alternate back and forth. This may be better for those who are on a tighter time schedule.
How much should you exercise?
If you’re eating healthy and you’ve set an achievable calorie deficit for yourself then it’s probably safe to say that 30 minutes of cardio per day, five or six days per week, is enough to achieve your goals. For example, you may have decided that you’re going to cut 300 calories from your total food intake every day. You then only need to exercise off 200 calories that day, and that’s completely doable in 30 minutes of moderate aerobics.
Remember that the goal is to hit that magic 3,500 calories deficit in a period of 7 days. Mixing exercise into the equation is going to make your life a lot easier and a lot healthier.
How much should you eat?
The amount of food that you eat will depend on your sex, your age, your height, your current weight and your activity level. It’s impossible for me to give a number that will fit everyone. Use these calorie calculators to get a number that’s right for you.
As I mentioned, the more that you exercise the more that you’re going to need to eat so that you can fuel your exercises. This is how it works, as contradictory as it seems at first. You need to use good fuel for your body (lean meats, etc) to avoid bonking.
On counting calories:
You do not need to obsess over the number of calories that you eat every day. That’s actually not a good idea to do, and some people may develop symptoms that are reminiscent of OCD if they get into the habit of micro-managing their calories.
A good way to get started is to get rid of the unhealthy food in your house. I don’t like the idea of throwing food away, so you may want to donate your food or give it to friends or family. You could also have a “friends night” where you have dinner and a movie at your place. That’s a solid way to use up the food since more than one person will be eating.
When you go shopping you replace the unhealthy food with the healthier options. If you do not have the unhealthy food in your house then you’re not going to eat it.
From there it’s a good idea to start out by managing your meals. You plan ahead a day or two with questions like, What will be breakfast? What will be lunch? You can fix the meals and put them in the fridge, or you can write it down. Or both. Whichever is easiest.
The calorie counting comes in during the preparation. This process will last a week or two, and by that time you’ll probably a good “feel” for how many calories you’re eating per day. You don’t need to continue counting every meal, but you may want check on the numbers every now and then (say, once a month) to make sure that you’re still where you need to be.
Most importantly, eat when you’re hungry.
Calorie counting be damned. Do not starve yourself. If you’re feeling really hungry then go eat. At this point you have healthy food in the house and your body is telling you that it needs more fuel. Don’t eat when you’re bored, but do eat when you’re hungry.
From here I suggest that you search for other fitblr blogs. You’ll see that nobody is perfect and that several other people are doing what you’re doing. It’s not just you and I. . this will get you started: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/fitblr.
You really can do this. Remember that it’s not a “diet”, it’s not a temporary thing, and it’s not something that will be done in 3 to 5 months. You simply have to remember that it’s a lifestyle change. Remain consistent and you will achieve that better image of yourself that you’ve so frequently imagined.