I have a student who needs to lose a little bit of weight. He’s hardly obese but he’s let his gut run away from him a little too much and needs to dial it back in. To help with that we’ve been sending each other daily weigh-ins, which I hope will continue to encourage him to drop those few pounds that he needs to, and I’m writing this post today because I want to create a resource for my students in case they need to lose weight too. It’s a similar situation which a lot of guys find themselves in: they aren’t too fat such that they shouldn’t be approaching and should instead be 100% focused on dieting, but are fat enough such that losing those 5kg/10lbs will give them a very worthwhile improvement in their looks and energy levels.
I’m not a dietician, personal trainer, or any kind of certified weight loss person, but I’ve lost a lot of weight in the past and managed to keep it off. These are the 14 points I wrote down for guys to follow:
- Accept that to lose weight it’s calories in, calories out (CICO)
- Understand what makes up your metabolism
- Understand how many calories per gram of each macronutrient there are and what they each do
- Understand the thermic effect of food
- Weigh yourself every day
- Post your weight online or send it to a friend each day
- Accept that the daily variations are 85% water weight
- Keep a food diary for a week
- Identify where you’re overeating calories
- Swap high calorie foods for low calorie ones
- Eat more calories from protein and fibre
- Feel very full once a day
- Install a pedometer app and walk an extra mile a day
- Try to lose 0.5%-1% of your body weight each week
And here I’ll explain each one:
This is number one because there is a metric shitload of bad information on the internet. At the end of the day, if you want to lose weight you need the “CO” part to be larger than the “CI” part; there are no bones about it. Anyone who wants to tell you that isn’t true is trying to sell you something. Don’t argue with them though, they’re usually fanatical about their thing – I used to be one of them (for low calorie and ketogenic diets) – but instead just nod along and think how what they told you impacted how many calories they were taking in, or burning.
One last thing: each pound of fat contains about 3500 calories i.e. you need CO to be bigger than CI by 3500 calories to lose a pound of fat.
Understand Your Metabolism
You can break down all the calories you burn in a day like this:
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): basically what you burn at rest to keep the lights on
- Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): non-exercise calorie burning like fidgeting or walking
- Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): the calories you need to actually break down the food you eat (more on this later)
Add those all up and that’s Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). Your TDEE is also your maintenance calories: where if CI = TDEE then your weight will stay the same.
If you lose weight your TDEE will be lower: you need less calories to keep the lights on (BMR is lower); moving your body requires less energy (exercise calories burned is lower); you’ll fidget and move less if you’re in a calorie deficit (NEAT is lower); you’ll eat less (TEF is lower). What you can take from this is that as you diet your TDEE will decrease and so if your weight loss stalls it could be because you’re eating at your new maintenance calorie level.
Going back to that shitload of bad internet advice, you’ll see stuff demonising one food group or macronutrient. I don’t like to do that (anymore) because if you make something forbidden, it suddenly becomes the forbidden fruit -> you crave it -> you binge on it. It’s much more sustainable to find balance.
Here is what each macronutrient does and its calorie content:
Carbohydrates (4 calories per gram): can be stored in your muscles and the liver as glycogen and used for immediate and explosive energy such as lifting weights. Fibre comes as a subcategory of carbs and has 2 calories per gram.
Fats (9 calories per gram): can be stored as fat tissue and used for energy and for producing hormones.
Proteins (4 calories per gram): can’t be stored but can be used as energy (if carbs or fats aren’t available) and is used for building muscle.
Do you see how you might want to be consuming all three? (Technically there’s alcohol as well, which has 7 calories per gram and can’t be used for much… except a good time!)
It takes more calories to break down some macronutrients over others:
- Fat: 0-3%
- Carbs: 5-10%
- Protein: 20-30%
So if you were previously eating a load of fat and carbs and swapped some of those calories for protein, you’d immediately make the “CO” part of the CICO equation more favourable. Plus, since protein only has 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 you might be eating a greater volume of food (making you feel more full) and/or simply eating less calories.
Weigh Yourself Every Day
Your weight can quickly get away from you; if you weigh yourself every day then you at least can see when things are getting out of hand.
Post Your Weight Online or Send It To A Friend
This is purely to stay accountable. Will you overeat today when you know someone else will see it tomorrow? Even if it’s to a Twitter account with zero followers, I still think this point would have a positive effect.
Understand That Daily Weight Variations Are 85% Water Weight
I’m only estimating that “85%” but the point is that you shouldn’t take a one-day change as the reason to drop your calories or do anything differently. The amount of salt and carbs that you eat and how much water you drink will drastically outweigh any daily fat loss. Instead look at the weekly average change.
Keep A Food Diary For A Week
You’d be surprised at how much you’re eating if you actually track it. And I mean really track it. Down to the oils that you cooked with and the sauces that you had on the side.
Identify Where You’re Overeating Calories
Now look at your food diary and see where you’re going overboard. As an example, the three areas where I would overeat were: buying reduced items from supermarkets, eating after long Daygame sessions and eating junk food after drinking alcohol. So I came up with three ways to try and stop doing those:
- Limit myself to one reduced item in any purchase
- Not buying food on the way home from a session (then telling myself that if I was hungry the next day I could eat more)
- Having something tasty and pre-prepared in the fridge for when I came home from a night out
Swap High Calorie For Low Calorie Foods
The easiest way to do this is to swap from high to low fat versions of meat and dairy products and to swap from regular to diet versions (the artificially sweetened ones) where possible.
Eat More Calories From Protein And Fibre
Swap out calories for protein and fibre ones and you’ll feel fuller for longer and your TEF will increase.
Feel Very Full At Least Once A Day
This isn’t me advising you do the “One Meal A Day” (OMAD) diet; instead I’d recommend having at least one meal each day which is a huge (yuge!) salad or has a lot of low calorie vegetables in it. When I say huge, I mean huge. I could literally wear my salad bowl as a helmet and I fill it to the brim. Then I make sure it’s tasty by using zero fat salad dressing and low fat mayonnaise.
Walk An Extra Mile Each Day
Here’s the “magic:”
- It takes a 155 lb person 100 calories to walk one mile
- That’s about 20 minutes
- (100 * 365 days in a year) / 3500 calories in a pound of fat = 10.4 lbs of fat
So for 20 minutes extra movement a day you could lose, or at least keep off, 10 lbs of fat each year, which is exactly the amount I talked about losing in the introduction. Plus, you probably weigh more than 155 lbs already and so it would be more than 10 lbs! (Just scale the number up for your own weight)
Try To Lose 0.5% – 1% Of Your Body Weight Each Week
I’d recommend comparing your median weight from week to week, but if that’s too much for you then use a simple average.
You’ll probably lose more than 1% in the first week due to water weight loss but then after that:
- If you lose less than 0.5% per week for two weeks running, drop your calories by 10% or eat a bit less* (or exercise more)
- If you lose more than 1% per week for two weeks running; increase your calories by 10% or eat a bit more
* Note that you don’t have to count your calories. Some people enjoy doing it, others don’t.
Juergen, also made these suggestions (I trust him when it comes to health and fitness):
Accept that no diet “works” unless you can follow it for the rest of your life. If you don’t have a sustainable way of eating then you’ll end up yo-yo dieting and this makes each round harder than the last.
If you’re skinny fat then get a coach as it can be very difficult to lose those kilos since you aren’t fat enough to easily lose weight. Here are some coaches you can contact:
- Khalil: https://www.apprentus.com/en/private-lessons/tunis/sport-dance-nutrition-wellness/body-building/fitness-coach-to-help-you-get-fitter-help-
- Marcos: https://www.apprentus.com/en/private-lessons/ixelles-elsene/sport-dance-nutrition-et-wellness/coaching/sports-coach-brussels-your-quality-persona
- Villach: https://www.apprentus.com/en/private-lessons/villach/sport-dance-nutrition-wellness/fitness/fitness-class-from-ex-soldier
(I would also recommend Greg Doucette’s YouTube channel and his books)
I hope that this post has been useful for you. Before signing off I want to say that I’ve disabled comments for this post because it’s a representation of how I approach weight loss and I want to avoid the comments section being turned into a debate on what the best method is or whether CICO really works, what about XYZ?, etc. But please feel free to tweet (@crowndaygame) or email me if you want to comment, critique, complain and/or contribute.
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