Almost every client that inquires about my coaching has a goal of losing weight. What they typically mean is they want to get rid of the unwanted weight (fat) on their belly, hips, butt, thighs, arms, and other specific areas they don’t like. They want to look more “toned”, but don’t know how to do it.
The majority of women want to wear the specific outfits confidently and without feeling uncomfortable. They want to feel this way whether they are walk into a meeting, playing on the beach or hitting the social scene. They want to experience this transformation without feeling like $h!t.
I mean who’s ever enjoyed a diet or exercise program where you’re constantly feeling stressed, hangry, fatigued, guilty, and burned out. That’s a recipe for nothing good.
Instead, let’s walk through a simple, effective way you can lose unwanted weight while minimizing all of the crap that goes with it.
That doesn’t mean it won’t take some learning and hardwork, but if you’re ready to take steps towards change I encourage you to walk through this blog with me, one step at a time.
Are you ready?
Get Clear on Calories
You might be asking, “How do I do that?”
Gaining clarity on calories takes two important data points:
- How many calories do you burn on an average per day?
- How many calories do you consume on an average day?
There are a number of different factors that can go into a person’s individual and truly unique metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn), however, for simplicity, we’re just looking for the 20% that makes up 80% of the results. In this case, you’ll simply need the daily averages of what you consume and what you burn.
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never tracked this information before.
The simplest way you can do this is to utilize today’s technology, tools, and trackers that make it convenient and easy. There are plenty on the market to choose from that may take a little effort, but are overall very user friendly.
Here are a couple I recommend…
For tracking average calories burned:
- Oura Ring
- Apple Watch
For tracking average calories consumed:
- MyFitnessPal App
- Carb Manager App
- MyNetDiary App
For perspective, our clients spend approximately 30 minutes per day on average to track their nutrition, exercise, and other predetermined activities. Just like anything else, in the beginning when they are learning about food groups, portions, calories, and macronutrients it may take a total of 60 minutes per day (not at one time). As they learn and get better it’s as little as 10-15 minutes per day.
As you track, calorie tracking alone will help you create awareness, better understand the energy needs of your nutrition/exercise habits and get clear on the lifestyle behaviors that may be helping or hurting your weight loss efforts.
This all begins by identifying the caloric outcome of your typical day. Each day will end up in one of the following three caloric categories:
- Caloric Surplus – Daily consumption of more calories than burned. In a surplus, the body prefers to store fat and eventually will gain weight over time.
- Caloric Maintenance – Daily consumption of calories is equal to that burned. In maintenance you don’t gain or lose weight, however it is possible (when done strategically well) to gain muscle &/or lose fat while in maintenance.
- Caloric Deficit – Daily consumption of less calories than burned. In a deficit, the body uses stored fat to make up for the deficit and will lose weight over time.
If you have no idea about either of these numbers then it makes sense why you’ve been having a difficult time losing weight or adding lean muscle. If you truly want to lose weight, having clarity around how many calories you consume and burn can give you the upper hand you need.
Although calorie tracking provides you with a big advantage, it’s really up to you to do it.
It’s up to you to research and pick the tech, tools and trackers that work for you.
It’s up to you to analyze and review the inputs, outputs and information gathered.
It’s up to you to make tweaks to your workouts and to your nutrition plan.
We’ll look more into the specific calorie numbers later in this blog.
Understand Macronutrient Mix
Most people know food has calories, but there’s more to food than simply calories. Food also has varying portions of macronutrients. “Macros” for short, are also important components of a healthy diet. Let’s look into these a little further…
- Carbohydrate – “Carbs” are found in a variety of food sources. The main types are sugars, starches, fiber and are made up of 4 calories per gram. Through digestion, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, the most efficient source of energy for the human body.
- Fat – Fat is found in both plants and animal sources. Dietary fat is made up of 9 calories per gram and is essential for certain bodily functions. Fat is broken down into fatty acids through our digestion and is the preferred backup source of energy when the supply of glucose is limited.
- Protein – Protein is found mostly from meat, fish, and poultry sources. They are one of the building blocks of tissue and essential for the body. Proteins are made up of 4 calories per gram and are the least preferred and most inefficient source of energy.
There are a ton of voices in the market saying things that aren’t necessarily true. You may have heard some of the following statements (or very similar statements)…
- “Fats make you fat.”
- “Carbs are bad.”
- “You need more protein.”
These are things you’ve probably heard over and over in the world of fitness and weight loss or maybe you’ve even been directly. Statements like these confuse people. The truth is, your body needs a mix of these macronutrients based on your lifestyle and goals. So what am I saying?
We have to stop making broad statements about nutrition. Each individual’s circumstances, goals, and physiology are unique.
We need to understand the complete picture before we use these statements.
We need the complex whole to provide proper perspective in order to design and develop an effective weight loss plan.
We need this kind of context in order to create the kind of clarity, focus and direction we need for success.
Here’s what’s great about this…
NO ONE has a better perspective of these things than you do. You know you. You know your life. You know your behaviors better than anyone else.
That means with a little work, you can not only do this yourself, but do it very well.
Once again, we’ll look into specific macronutrient numbers a little later in this blog.
Understand Micronutrient Mix
You may have heard the words “nutrient dense” when certain foods are described. They’re usually talking about the micronutrient profile of a specific type of food when they do.
Micronutrients are the other important component of food we should consider when wanting to lose weight. Our body uses micronutrients (along with macronutrients) to construct other compounds such as glycogen, hormones, fat, muscles, and more based on what the body needs. We like to organize micronutrients in the following groups…
- Amino acids – When proteins are consumed, digested, and broken down amino acids are left and used for vital processes such as building tissue, hormones, and neurotransmitters.
- Vitamins – A vitamin is an essential micronutrient needed in small quantities and obtained through the diet for the proper functioning metabolism. Vitamins are needed for normal cellular functions, growth, and development.
- Minerals – Your body uses minerals for many different functions including keeping your bones, muscles, heart, and brain working properly. Minerals are also important for making enzymes and hormones. There are two kinds of minerals: macrominerals and trace minerals.
As you can see these micronutrients are used for a variety of very important jobs in our body. Because of this, our body’s consume micronutrients frequently. This is how we become nutrient deficient. What this means is we don’t consume enough of the types or amounts of food to supply us with these nutrients equal to how much or how often we use them in our everyday activities.
When we use micronutrients faster than we consume them from our diet, our body must adjust. Here’s a simplified version of how your body will respond over a prolonged period of deficiency…
- Compensatory Response – occurs when your body finds a way to make what it’s deficient in from the other compounds in the body. This is a minor deficiency.
- Metabolic Response – occurs when “enough” (relative to the needed process) micronutrients are deficient that the body can no longer compensate and therefore decreases your metabolism to preserve energy (aka nutrients).
- Hormonal Response – occurs when the body has been consistently nutrient deficient over a period of time (unique to each person) and results in hormonal imbalances.
This may seem a little deep when we’re talking about losing a few pounds, however micronutrient deficiencies are not uncommon. In fact, they’re highly prevalent in the U.S. as much of the standard American diet is loaded with processed foods low in nutrients.
Putting It All Together: Cultivating Your Own Nutrition Plan
Now that you have a better understanding of the science behind weight loss, now comes the art; creating and adapting a plan that works for you. Let’s look at some approximations you can start with and apply to support weight loss…
Planning Your Calories
First, your tracking will provide you with estimates of what you burn on an average day.
Next, you’ll find the calories you need for caloric maintenance. For example, if you burn 2000 calories on average, then you’ll need to consume 2,000 calories for maintenance.
Once you have identified your number of calories needed for maintenance, you’ll want to subtract 10-20% from that number in order to nail down a starting point of caloric deficit. For example, if 2000 calories is your maintenance goal then subtracting 10-20% would result in a starting point of 1600-1800 calories.
I recommend that you start out with a 10% reduction of calories first. It’s usually easier to start small and adjust rather than making a big change you find stressful and difficult to sustain.
Starting here also makes it easy because you don’t need to begin swapping foods. Most people are resistant to removing their favorite foods, especially in the beginning. However, when our clients start to see their body’s transform, they’re eager for more. The early momentum seems to make them more accepting of swapping foods.
Lastly, as you’ve defined your starting point for calories, the goal is consistency. It’s important to remain close to that calorie total at least 90% of the time for a period of 2-6 weeks. If you remain consistent for 4 weeks, check your weight, measurements, how your clothes are fitting, pictures and other biofeedback (energy, mood, resilience to stress, etc.) to assess your progress.
Doing a couple periodic check-ins is highly important because the scale alone can be deceiving. We’ve had clients who’ve lost 15 or even 30 lbs of fat (bad, unwanted weight) without the scale dropping much if at all (1-5 lbs). How can that be? They gained lean muscle (good, fat burning weight).
For weight loss we estimate that most women will be in a caloric deficit if they consume about 10-12 calories per pound of body weight. This means if you weighed 150, you would be able to consume 1500-1800 calories daily while maintaining a caloric deficit.
Finding the right amount or calorie range that works for you is the art of weight loss.
Planning Your Macronutrients
As you track, you’ll also be able to identify trends for macronutrient consumption. Each macronutrient (carb, protein, & fat) makes up a percentage of the total calories consumed in a day. This is what we call the macronutrient mix.
Why is this important and why should you care?
Macronutrient mix is the difference between burning “unwanted weight” (excessive fat) and simply losing weight (caused by the breakdown of fat, muscle, and other compounds).
This is the difference between a lean, firm, and toned look and a look that’s perhaps svelte, but more soft and squishy.
This is the difference between feeling focused with good energy rather than feeling more foggy and sluggish.
Macronutrient mix is important to the “other”, more specific benefits you desire while losing weight
That said, let’s look at some macronutrient approximations you can use to help guide your transformation.
From our experience, carbohydrates should make up for about 30-50% of your total calories. Carbohydrates are 4kcal/gram and therefore equal out to about 135 grams for a 1500 calorie diet up to 225 grams for an 1800 calorie diet.
The standard recommended intake for protein is about .8 – 1.2 grams/ per pound of bodyweight, however to make math easy we simply stick with 1 gram per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 140 lbs then you’ll want to plan on consuming 140 grams of protein. Protein is equal to 4 kcal/gram, therefore equalling 560 calories of your daily total calories consumed.
After adding the calories from carbs and proteins, subtract it from your daily total calories, 1500-1800 for this example, and the remaining amount of calories should be consumed in healthy fats. We recommend a range of 20-40% of your daily calories come from fat. Fat is equal to 9 kcal/gram.
Now once again, the art of weight loss comes in finding the amounts and ranges that work for you.
Planning Your Micronutrients
Micronutrients are much more difficult to track (follow FDA guidelines for daily allowance) and so for simplicity we simply tell our clients to focus on three things.
- Quality – Eat the highest quality of food you can find. Avoid foods, drinks, and other substances that “take away” from your health as much as you can at each meal. Eat more organic, grass fed, wild caught, pastured and other quality labeled foods.
- Variety – Fill your plate with a variety of colors. Make each meal colorful with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other high quality foods.
- Seasonality – Try new and different foods. “In season” foods are picked when they’re most nutritionally abundant, which means each season brings its own unique micronutrient profile. I recommend exploring more foods and experiencing different combinations of foods and recipes.
Summarizing Weight Loss
I’m sure that may seem like a lot of information, however it essentially comes down to you doing the following three things:
- Achieve a caloric deficit.
- Integrate the mix of carbs, proteins and fats you believe works for you.
- Eat a variety of the best foods you can in order to achieve the above targets.
Want a more formal assessment of your specific calories, macros, and nutrition, feel free to email me here to setup a consultation.