Losing body fat is theoretically a very simple process: increasing your activity levels and decreasing the amount of calories you take in to create a calorie deficit will lead to weight loss. So why do so many people struggle with the practicalities of shedding body fat and becoming healthier?
Many of us are looking for a quick-fix; something which will make us lose body fat without us having to make any lifestyle changes or make any real effort. There is currently no such solution.
There are medicines which stimulate the central nervous system to boost your metabolism and others that prevent you from absorbing fat from the food you eat, but these substances make a marginal change when not accompanied by a healthy diet and exercise, and potentially have some unpleasant side effects.
The trap some people fall into is fad dieting inspired by celebrity culture and the desire for instant results, which can be effective in the short term, but will ultimately fail when these diets and plans prove unsustainable, at which point the weight piles back on.
To make a real and lasting difference to your figure you have to reassess your whole lifestyle and make some meaningful changes to how you’re living.
If you’re not doing any exercise you’re not only inviting your waistline to expand, you’re risking the health of your heart and allowing your body to weaken and waste away. Doing something as simple as going for a brisk walk several times a week will get your blood pumping and start to burn off some extra calories.
Do something you enjoy to stay active – join an amateur sports team, take up cycling, learn a martial art, take up yoga or join a gym and participate in classes. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you’re enjoying yourself, you’re more likely to stay active.
Doing some strength training with weights or some basic bodyweight exercises will stimulate your body, making your muscles bigger and stronger, improving your bone density and causing your tendons and ligaments to become more durable.
Another benefit of strength training is that as you add muscle mass it becomes easier to lose body fat; that’s because muscle takes a lot of energy to maintain, so the more muscle you’re carrying the more calories your body will burn, even when you’re at rest!
Some women worry about becoming “too muscly” and fear that weight training would leave them looking unfeminine. The good news for these women is that building a significant amount of muscle is a very difficult and takes years of training and it’s much harder for women due to their lower testosterone levels. This means you’re not going to turn into a she-hulk overnight. So don’t be afraid of weight training. It’s very beneficial.
Remember to take any existing medical conditions into account when you’re exercising. Those with heart conditions should consult a doctor before undertaking anything too strenuous. And anyone with a history of asthma should make sure they have both blue and brown inhalers and are using both as directed.
Many people say that they’re too busy to find time to exercise. If this is true and not just an excuse for laziness, then you need to take a look at your life and make time for yourself to exercise, even if it means setting the alarm clock 30 minutes earlier to give yourself time before breakfast to work out.
One alternative is to add exercise to your morning commute by walking or cycling to work instead of driving. If you get the bus or train to work, get off one or two stops early and walk the rest of the way. Many companies offer ride to work schemes which can help spread the cost of buying a bike.
You’re aiming to change your lifestyle in order to change your body, so if you honestly can’t squeeze some time to exercise into your schedule, then you’ll have to change your schedule.
When it comes to your diet, take an honest look at what you’re consuming every day. Keep a food diary for a week including every meal, snack and drink you have, and then look at where you can cut out extras or make substitutions for healthier less calorie-heavy alternatives.
One simple change to make would be to switch from sliced white bread (which is little better than eating sugar with a spoon straight from the bag) to wholemeal bread, which contains more fibre, less sugar and takes longer for your body to digest.
Make changes gradually and figure out what works for you – if you change your diet too much and too quickly, you’re less likely to make those changes permanent.
Home cooked food is almost always going to be better for you, since you can control the ingredients, and food always tastes better when you’ve made it yourself!
Focus on balanced meals with a good mix of protein, carbohydrate, fat and fibre. Fruit and vegetables should feature heavily in any healthy diet.
Don’t be afraid of a weekly “cheat” meal. Setting aside one meal per week (Friday or Saturday nights are popular choices) when you can eat whatever you want with no regard for calories and nutrition, is a morale booster that helps many people maintain an otherwise strict diet. If you’re living an otherwise healthy and active life, one takeaway meal per week is not going to do any lasting harm – just make sure it is just once a week.
Changing a diet in the long term is a difficult thing to do, but be strict with yourself – remember, you’re changing your whole lifestyle for a reason.
Making a Choice
There’s a simple saying to remember when you’re trying to lose body fat and get healthier: If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. So it comes down to choice; if you really want to change how you look and feel, then you have to change how you live.
Photo source: CherryPoint
Author Bio – James Armstrong is an experienced journalist and a keen weightlifter. He’s currently writing on behalf of Dr Thom – the online doctor. Take a look at the Irish Dr Thom too.