People talk about weight loss all the time. It’s part of our media, our daily lives, and even our personal fitness goals.
But what do we really mean when we talk about weight loss?
Well, we are normally talking about fat loss.
See, when we lose weight, it can be from a variety of different reasons. Sometimes it’s as simple as losing excess water weight, other times, it’s as serious as losing muscle mass.
However, for long-term weight loss that can boost our health and slim our waistlines, it’s the fat we look to lose.
Unfortunately, the path to fat loss has become filled with conflicting information. One quick internet search will show article after article of Dos and Don’ts. Avoid Carbs. Buy a meal plan. Replace meals with protein shakes. Stop eating sugar.
More problematic still, we view some foods as good and others as bad. This leads many of us spiraling into shame, guilt, and fueling the multi-million dollar diet industry as they produce the next waist-saving fad.
It’s really no wonder we can’t sort it all out.
But here is the simple truth: science already has the answer. It boils down to a concept called thermodynamics. In plain english, you need to consume less energy– less calories– than you burn.
Without further ado, here is the fat loss formula for women.
- 1. Maintain a Calorie Deficit
- 2. Eat Plenty of Protein
- 3. Food Quality Still Matters
- 4. Get Moving
- 5. Incorporate Strength Training
- 6. Consistency and Patience
1. Maintain a Calorie Deficit
Fat loss is an energy process – meaning you must eat fewer calories than you burn, creating a calorie deficit. The driver of this calorie deficit is your nutrition choices, far more than your exercise routine.
Calculating a healthy and realistic caloric deficit is an integral part of losing fat. The goal of a calorie deficit is to eat as much food as possible while still losing weight at an acceptable rate (.5-2lbs/week).
Many women get tripped up on this by setting their deficit too low, over restricting their calories, and after 3-4 days of misery they fall off the wagon.
Here is an easy equation you can use to determine an estimated calorie deficit:
- Determine a target body weight.
- Multiply that target by 10-12.
The number you receive from this equation is the estimated number of calories you should eat within a day. It’s really that simple.
However, I would like to make one thing clear: your target weight is not always your end goal. Never reduce your target by more than 20-25lbs than your current weight.
For individuals who need to lose a large amount of weight, this means you will need to reassess your target as you meet them– bumping your number down after reaching each new stage.
How to choose a fat loss multiplier? 10 works well if you are sedentary, if you want a faster rate of weight loss, or if you have a lot of weight to lose. 12 works well is you are active (in daily life as well as exercise), want a more sustainable rate of weight loss, or are lean already.
Now, when working with a calorie deficit, you need to accurately track what you’re eating. Depending on your preference, you can use apps like MyFitnessPal or even using a pen and paper to jot down your consumption.
Track everything to consistently hit your calorie target every day. Do this for at least a month, and then assess your progress. Don’t just look at your weight on the scale! It’s also important to consider the circumference measurements of your body (chest, waist, hips), how you look in a comparison picture, and the fit of your clothing.
2. Eat Plenty of Protein
Every time we talk about weight loss, we end up discussing protein. While a common diet trope, protein is popular for some very important reasons.
For one, protein helps keep you fuller, longer. Increased satiety leads to more dieting consistency and less over-eating.
Protein helps to preserve muscle mass as you lose weight, and due to its higher thermic effect, your body actually burns more calories digesting protein than fat or carbs!
How Much Protein do You Need?
Ideal protein intake, just like a caloric deficit, can be uncovered using a simple equation:
- Determine a target body weight
- Take this weight (in lbs) and multiply it by 0.8-1.0
The number you are left with is how many grams of protein you should consume a day. For example, a 150 lb female has an ideal protein range of 120-150 grams/day.
Go ahead and calculate that for yourself – I bet you’re not eating enough!
Here are some high protein food ideas. Pick a couple you like and add them in today.
- Chicken, Beef, Pork, Fish, Eggs
- Cottage cheese, Greek yogurt
- Lentils, Tofu, Tempeh
3. Food Quality Still Matters
Nutrient Dense foods
While food quantity matters most for fat loss, food quality is still very important during a fat loss phase. By prioritizing protein, fiber, and high volume foods, you will feel more satiated while eating lower calories.
Nutrient dense foods contain many vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) while being low in sodium and sugar. Some examples include, meat, fruit, vegetables, and other whole foods.
High Fiber Foods
Fiber is a plant-based nutrient… think of it like a scrub brush for the inside of your body. It can help your digestion and reduce your risk of disease. Aim for about 25-30 grams per day.
Here are some nutrient dense, high fiber food ideas:
- Raspberries, pears, apples, bananas
- Peas, broccoli, brussel sprouts, potatoes with skin
- Spaghetti noodles, quinoa, oats, popcorn
- Lentils, black beans, chia seeds, pistachios
High Volume Foods aka Low-Calorie Life Hack
One life hack when eating in a calorie deficit is to eat food that is high in volume.
High volume foods are those which take up a lot of room on your plate (and in your stomach) but are still low in calories. When you get to eat more, you feel satiated, ultimately stopping midnight trips to the fridge.
Some examples of high volume food? Instead of a handful of granola, try a bowl of oatmeal. Instead of pretzels, try popcorn. A big salad is a great way to get a lot of volume. Add sliced cucumbers or watermelon to your meal.
You don’t have to eat cauliflower rice, but this concept is why people do it!
No Foods are Off Limits
However, just because we want to eat a nutrient-dense diet doesn’t mean we sacrifice dessert in the process. Treats are fine in moderation.
Ideally, shoot for 80% “nutritious” foods and 20% “fun” foods. In fact, having treats occasionally is a good way to prevent falling off the wagon from an overly restrictive dietary plan.
4. Get Moving
Walking, in my opinion, is the most underrated type of exercise. It’s low risk, free, accessible, and mood-boosting!
Getting your steps in doesn’t have to mean talking a 1-2 mile walk each day. Sometimes we can accumulate steps as we do normal daily activities– try pacing when you’re on the phone, walking the sidelines of your child’s soccer game, and taking the stairs.
Over the course of your day, movement adds up. These types of organic exercises help contribute to a concept called NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis).
NEAT is the energy we use for everything other than intentional exercise. Even activities like blinking and fidgeting add up to increase our NEAT, in addition to getting up to stretch during the workday.
The higher our NEAT, the more calories we burn each day.
5. Incorporate Strength Training
During weight loss, resistance training tells our body to shed fat instead of muscle. The best type of training in this category has what’s called progressive overload.
Progressive overload is a type of weight training where you increase the intensity, volume, or frequency of the weights you lift over time. As we lift, we place tension on our muscles , telling our bodies to adapt. This translates into gaining muscle and losing fat.
Fat loss isn’t the only benefit here either.
Losing weight, changing our lifestyle, and working out all come with their own unique psychological ramifications. As we dedicate time to our own wellbeing, we learn new ways we can push ourselves to succeed.
Adding weight training, for most women, helps boost our new sense of confidence both in and out of the gym. There’s something about reaching a personal best, or accomplishing something even when it’s hard, that makes you feel more capable in life.
6. Consistency and Patience
Fat loss takes dedication and time. One of the most common reasons I see women fail is because they quit trying.
Often, they quit because they aren’t seeing results. They plateau. They eat a few too many cookies and think, I may as well finish them off, only to later spiral into shame.
But here’s the thing. Weight loss is not only physical, it’s psychological. We need to learn to be kind and forgiving to ourselves, just like we would be for another person. We need to gain an understanding that, even if we make a mistake or see some weight gain back, we can still keep going.
There’s no hurry, no rush, no deadline. The ultimate goal is to incorporate knowledge and skills that will lead you to a a long term healthy lifestyle.
Think of it this way – if you get a flat tire, you don’t slash the other three. You get the tire fixed and keep on going!
Going Professional Pays Off
These tips might be simple cornerstones of fat loss, but they are not easy.
If you truly want to lose fat, get lean, and change your body, then you need to consistently dial in your diet. This means small changes, realistic goals, and setting yourself up for long term success.
Here is the part where seeking help from a professional nutritionist comes in handy. Nutritionists can help tailor these plans to your specific needs, boosting your chances of being, and staying, successful.
Bottom line – I tell my clients what to do, and they execute the plan. And I’m by their side to hold them accountable and encourage them along the way.
Need help? Hit me up. I’d love to talk more about your goals and provide individualized instruction and accountability to lose fat and get healthy.