The 5 Stages of Sustainable Fat Loss


The Stages to the Path of Sustainable Fat Loss:

  1. Counting Calories
  2. Counting Macros
  3. Creating a positive relationship with food
  4. Eliminating food as an emotional comfort
  5. Intuitive Eating

The path to long term, sustainable fat loss, and health can be a long and winding road. There are many stops, detours, and speed bumps along the way. For some, we drive a speedy European sports car to our destination, and for others it is more of a smart car approach. Either vehicle can get you there, however, one might be a better option than the other depending on the person.

The vehicle you choose may depend on your current relationship with food, and how many detours, and speed bumps are along your path. For some, it may be a simple fact of realizing that you are just eating too much, and for others, it may seem like you are doing everything right and just spinning your wheels in place.

No matter where you start, I feel that there is a definite path that all must take in order to truly master the long-term challenge that lies with fat loss and maintaining those results.

  1. Counting Calories/Overall Quantity Control

Most nutrition and health professionals with a true background in nutrition will agree; when it comes to fat loss, calories are king. To lose weight, you MUST be in a caloric deficit. Ignoring these simple physics is a mistake that many still make.

The first step to fat loss is figuring out if you are in a true caloric deficit through food and activity. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. If you consume more than you burn, you will gain.

Use this site to figure out your calorie needs: http://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html

Figuring out your intake starts with tracking. You must be aware of how much you consume regularly, and take the appropriate steps towards creating a deficit. I recommend a 300-400 calorie deficit.

  1. Counting Macro Intake/Overall Quality Control

Once you figure out your caloric goals for fat loss, I recommend finding a healthy balance of macronutrients to fuel your body appropriately. What does this look like? It depends. I am not a fan of any diets that cut out a huge chunk of one or two macros (super low carb, super low fat, super low protein – why you even think about super low protein??)

However, it is important to find a balance of nutrients, especially if you consume a huge amount of one of them currently. Most people who struggle with weight loss consume too much of their calories from carbs or fat (think junk food).

How should you structure your nutrients? For starting out, I recommend:

First set you protein around .8-1 gram of protein per body weight. (1 gram of protein = 4 calories)

Second, try to get 25-30% of your CALORIES from fat. (1 gram of fat = 9 calories)

Lastly, fill in the rest of your calories with carbs. (1 gram of carb = 4 calories)

For example: my current fat loss “diet” that I am shooting for is at 2600 calories. I am targeting 200 grams of protein per day (800 calories. Then, 30% of 2600 is 780 calories, or 87 grams of fat. This leaves me with 1020 calories, divided by 4, which is 255 grams of carbs.

  1. Create a Positive Relationship With Food

This is where we get more into the mental side of eating.

Do you feel like some foods are good foods and others are bad? Do you punish yourself or feel guilty if you eat a “bad” food? This is where you need to focus on your relationship with what you eat.

If you look at food as strictly good or bad, and continue to feel guilty when you eat out, or have a treat, you will always be slipping into the diet cycle of doom.

You try to eat super healthy, you slip up, you feel guilty, you say screw it, and start over where you began.

Rather than looking at foods as good or bad, look at them as optimal or sub optimal. Choose mostly foods that are optimal for your calorie and macro goals, but don’t beat yourself up over a few cookies once in awhile, or a small ice cream treat. By learning the calorie and macro content of sub-optimal foods, you can still fit them into your diet, eat them on occasion, and guilt free.

How do you do this?

If your dinner goal is to consume 40 grams of carbs, but you really want a few cookies, (say each cookie is 10 grams of carbs) then make those carbs fit. Maybe skip the normal half cup of rice with dinner, and have the cookies after dinner instead.

Not an approach to follow every meal, or daily, but on occasion this can help you reduce stress with food, and not sabotage your diet.

  1. Eliminate Foods as an Emotional Comfort

You have mastered your calories, figured out your macros, and have stopped punishing yourself for eating “bad” foods. Now we really need to look at why we eat.

Do you eat because you are hungry? Or do you eat because you are stressed, sad, bored, tired, etc.?

One of my all time favorite lines is, “Food won’t fix it”.

It is important to always be thinking about why we are eating, or why are we feeling hungry. If it is because you haven’t eaten in 6 hours, then you probably should eat something. If you just ate, but are dealing with a brutal assignment/co-worker/family member and are all of a sudden craving ice cream – then you probably aren’t actually hungry.

Creating awareness of your emotional eating is step one. Figuring out how to combat it, is a much harder step two.

First, you need to realize what is making you want _______ (food), then how can you actually address this issue without food, and rather to help clear it up. Some suggestions are:

  • If you’re depressed or lonely, call someone who always makes you feel better, play with your dog or cat, watch a comedy.
  • If you’re anxious, expend your nervous energy by dancing to your favorite song, squeezing a stress ball, taking a brisk walk or destroying some heavy iron at the gym!
  • If you’re exhausted, treat yourself with a hot cup of tea, take a bath, light some scented candles, or wrap yourself in a warm blanket.
  • If you’re bored, read a good book, watch a good TV show, explore the outdoors, or turn to an activity you enjoy (woodworking, playing the guitar, shooting hoops, scrapbooking, etc.).
  • If you’re tired, go to bed! (simplest fix)

This is an ongoing struggle for many, but the harder you work at it, the more it can become automated and healthy.

  1. Intuitive Eating

Once you become fully aware of you intake, your quality of food choices, create a healthy relationship with food, and stop using food as an emotional support; you have truly mastered intuitive eating and are on your way to long term success.

True intuitive eating involves knowing your foods, knowing your intakes, and listening to your body. This means that you eat until you are satisfied, but not stuffed. This means you allow yourself to have the occasional treat, because you know how to make it work with your goals. This means you don’t feel guilt when you enjoy a weekend with friends because you are still listening to your body and not gorging on food beyond your comfort levels.

Eating intuitively is a skill that can be mastered, and sustained for a lifetime. It may take a while to get there, but once you do, you will be completely on autopilot and able to succeed when it comes to eating.

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Stay healthy my friends,

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Stay healthy my friends,

Published by Mike Gorski

Registered Dietitian and Fitness Coach OWNER OF MG FIT LIFE LLC