So, last night in my Facebook Live stream we talked about how your body works and the basis of how weight loss actually occurs - the calorie equation. It's a very simple formula, but one that is often neglected or ignored in many commercial diet plans. But it's such an important factor when it comes to weight loss that I decided to write a blog about, just to recap and provide more detail. Read on if you want to lose weight, as you'll not manage it without getting it right!!
What is the calorie equation then? It's basically a formula which looks like:
Calories in - Calories out = Weight loss/Weight gain
That's it! There are no secrets when it comes to weight loss - if you get the above formula right you will lose weight. It's that simple!!!
Everyday that your body is functioning it requires energy to carry out it's biological functions. Your body uses food as fuel to provide this energy. Yes food tastes nice and we enjoy eating and cooking it, but at the end of the day it is basically just fuel for our bodies. Some days you will be more active than others and your body may need more fuel depending on your activity levels.
If you eat more food than your body uses in terms of energy then you will store this excess energy as fat, and that's how you start to gain weight. The converse is true, if use more energy than your body consumes then you will start to dip into your fat reserves (energy stores) and lose weight. It's really that basic!! However this message seems to get lost in amongst all the fancy, commercial diets - but at the end of the day they are just a way of getting you to eat less than your body needs.
If you want to eat less than you need, you need to put your body into "calorie deficit" - that is burn more calories than you consume in food. And you can do this in two ways, or a combination of the two. You can eat less calories, you can exercise to burn more calories, or as I usually recommend you can do a combination of the two.
There are several reasons I recommend the combination approach. Firstly, one pound of body fat equates to around 3500 calories. So in order to lose 1lb you need to create a deficit of 3500 calories - which is quite a lot! Over the course of the day an average female probably consumes somewhere between 1500-2500 calories. If you wanted to lose a pound in a week this would mean cutting your daily calories by 500, that's equivalent to a main meal for most people. Most people would find it difficult to cut that amount from their daily diet and not be hungry. When losing weight I want my clients not to be hungry, as hunger often leads to binge eating and is an unsustainable way to lose weight in the longer term - who wants to be hungry after all??
So if you reduce your calories by 200-300 per day instead but combine it with exercise to burn more calories you create a much more sustainable way to lose weight. In food terms, this amounts to cutting a couple of slices of bread a day from your diet - which most of us could probably manage. Plus you will of course be getting some exercise, and all the health benefits that come with that too! Look better, feel better, sleep better etc etc etc... the list is long!
However most of the commercial diets and diet clubs don't talk about the calorie equation, or exercise as a way of assisting weight loss - they rely on an arbitrary system of points and "syns" which means their customers never really understand the true value of calories and therefore never understand how their body actually uses food. Which of course means as soon as they stop the diet they put they weight back on again, and it's a vicious circle but very profitable for the diet industry!! I actually wrote a blog on this topic alone and you can read it here - the-problem-with-most-other-diets.html. It's a bit like giving someone who has never used money before a bank card - they have never learned the true value of money so how will they know if they have spent too much or too little?
I take great pride in teaching my clients properly about the calorie equation and how their body uses food so that they can understand how to eat well and how to keep the weight off for good. If you'd like to learn more check out my Service page here www.exerciseformums.com/services.html or my great 6 Week Summer Bootcamp programme www.exerciseformums.com/6-week-bootcamp.
So now we come on to body composition, which is something we personal trainers manipulate to help you lose weight and get a better body shape. When we talk about body composition we're talking about amount of fat vs amount of muscle. Muscle is what gives us better body shapes and will help us lose weight.
Muscle is a metabolically active body tissue. That means that even when it is not working it continues to burn calories. Fat doesn't do this. If you want to lose weight muscle is your friend and the more you have of it the better! You may have heard people say that muscle is heavier than fat (another reason why diet clubs don't talk about exercise). It's sort of true - muscle is actually denser than fat. Here's what I mean...
*image courtesy of Bamboocore Fitness and Jennifer Regan
But we have such an obsession with the scales in the western world we think that in order to be healthy we must be skinny - not true! Yes it's true that we may need to lose some weight for other health reasons if we are overweight. But I have plenty of clients who have not lost a lot of weight on the scales yet their clothes fit them better, they are looking great and getting lots of compliments and they're shopping for clothes a size smaller. This is because they have lost body fat but replaced some of that with muscle. Muscle takes up less "room" in the body, so their measurements have gone down but the scales might not have done as much as they thought it might. But if you'd lost two dress sizes in the process would you care??
When I became a PT I actually put a stone on in weight but dropped two dress sizes, because I'd started weight training and the result of that was I lost body fat but replaced it with denser muscle. I couldn't really give a toss that I've put a stone on when I've gone down two dress sizes!!
Once we break away from our hang-up over the scales and see health as meaning more than being skinny and not weighing much we will be in a much better place than we are now. A lot of people lose weight and that is a good thing, but I see many women in the gym doing hours of cardio but still not feeling happy about their body shape. They're spending hours on the cross-trainer but still not getting the results they want. Doing hours of cardio and nothing else will help you lose weight but it won't give you the body shape you want - you need weights for that. When I ask women in the gym what their aims are they often say they want to look "more toned". What that actually means in training terms is they want to drop body fat and expose the underlying muscle to give them a better shape. That is what gives you that "toned" look and you'll not get that doing cardio alone. You need to lose the fat then grow and develop the underlying muscle using weights. I often do lots of shoulder/upper body work with my clients to develop their upper body, then lots of squats and lunges to develop the bum and thighs and this gives them a more defined hour-glass shape, as well as a nice bum!
And don't worry, you won't end up looking like a body builder - use women don't put on muscle at the same rate as men do as we don't have as much testosterone as men. So it's a biological impossibility, unless you start taking steroids. I spend most of my time in the gym lifting weights and I am a size 10.
I should also mention at this point that it isn't possible to spot-reduce fat - sadly! Your body decides where it will lose the fat from and in what order. So no amount of sit-ups will give you those abs you want if they are still hidden under a layer of fat. You need to reduce the overall amount of fat in your body to expose the muscle first. We all have abs - it's just they are often hidden under some body fat!
So there you have it, a quick run through the basics of how we lose weight and body composition, and how you can manipulate these things to get the results you want. And the next time you're disappointed at having only lost 5lbs of fat, give yourself a pat on the back as that's nearly 18,000 excess calories you've burned!
I hope you've found that really useful and interesting. If you have please like, comment and share with your friends!! Thank you!
Exercise For Mum's was created by PT mum Susan Flintoff. Susan is a busy working mum of two who specialises in helping other busy mum's fit health and fitness back into their lives, and hopes to inspire them to be the best mum they can be!!