The Weight Loss Mistake Most Parents are Making
“I keep trying to lose weight… but it keeps finding me!” – Author Unknown
Ready to pull the curtains back on “weight loss” and view “weight loss” in a new way? Here’s a hint, it’s not weight loss you’re after, it’s FAT loss.
What do you think about when you hear “I want to lose weight”?
- Fitting into your clothes better?
- Creating a healthier lifestyle with less risk of disease and illness?
- Looking as good out of your clothes as you do in your clothes?
- More energy and the ability to participate in life?
- More self-esteem and a better self-image?
“Weight loss” can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. However, regardless of your end goal or motivation, the concept seems to be the same for everyone… lose weight.
The question is… what does “lose weight” really mean?
If you just wanted to get on the scale and lose 10 pounds, you could easily achieve this through starvation, dehydration or a combination of the two. Not eating enough and not drinking enough water are both quick ways to lower the scale weight quickly. Just ask anyone stranded in the wilderness for days or weeks without food or water. However, does that sound like an appealing way to drop some pounds?
The problem is that this is how most of us view “weight loss”, doing whatever we need to do in order to move the needle on the scale in the other direction. Of course, few of us would volunteer to suffer the same harsh realities forced upon shipwreck victims. We know starvation and dehydration are not healthy or sustainable ways to make ourselves better.
The fundamental flaw most of us have when considering “weight loss”, is that we focus on weight. In reality, what we really want to achieve, is FAT loss, not weight loss. Weight loss at any cost is not the goal. Losing the weight you don’t want, fat weight, is the real goal. Reduction in your body fat % will not only take pounds off the scale over time, but will give you a healthier body composition, higher resting metabolism and help you obtain the physical appearance you are looking to achieve.
Quick question: who is healthier, a 5’6” woman weighing 120 lbs with 30% body fat, or a 5’6” woman weighing 120 lbs, with 16% body fat, muscle definition and tons of energy? The scale says they are both equally healthy using weight alone, but I think we all know the answer. Weight is not necessarily the enemy. Rather, it is a symptom of excess fat. Fat is the true enemy, and excess fat creates excess weight, poor body composition and a host of health issues.
So now that we have identified the real culprit in the “weight loss” process, the obvious question is, how do I get rid of excess fat?
The 3 Pronged Fat Loss Attack
1. Nutrition and Caloric Deficit
The first place most people will turn when addressing fat loss is to reduce their calories and clean up their diet… and rightfully so. Even if you are doing everything else right, if you eat too much, you can’t burn fat. However, much like the concept of weight loss, this can be misunderstood and abused.
It is true that you need to create a caloric deficit in order to burn fat, even if you change nothing else in your routine. Any time you consume more calories than you burn, regardless of the type of calories, you create a surplus that will be stored as excess fat. When you consume less calories than you burn, you create a deficit, and your body consumes excess fat for the required energy.
So to burn fat you need to starve yourself silly right? Not quite. As with most things in health and fitness, moderation and small changes is the key. Like I always say “Simple changes and small steps lead to life changing results”. If you cut calories too dramatically for too long, your body actually compensates and puts you in a worse position than when you started. This condition can be created with a lot of the more popular meal replacement diets or crash diets you see on the market today.
When you reduce your calories too much, your body goes into starvation mode, which results in the following:
- Your body begins to store more fat, in order to have a future energy source. This is your body’s reaction to not knowing when the next meal will come, a true starvation adaptation.
- The lack of calories makes your energy levels tank, which leaves you sluggish and unable to fully perform daily tasks and exercise (it can also make you moody and irritable).
- After the initial loss of fat from the calorie deficit, your body begins to burn lean body mass (muscle). You definitely don’t want that to happen.
- Your metabolism actually slows down in an effort to preserve more energy due to the drastic reduction in calories, which means you start losing weight less quickly.
- Hormonal and emotional balance is interrupted, and you feel miserable due to your lack of nutrition.
- Weight loss plateaus as your body adjusts, and the initial rate of weight loss slows and eventually stops (you can only cut so many calories from your diet without dying).
The result in drastic calorie reduction is that you eventually get tired of torturing yourself while not seeing the same results you saw initially, and you regress back to old ways after becoming frustrated.
The long-term problem is… your body has already reduced your resting metabolism rate and burned off lean body mass, which can actually cause you to gain back more weight than you had when you first started. After all the torture and misery, you come out in worse shape than you began. This explains why these types of plans and inconsistent crash diets aren’t sustainable and can do more harm than good.
This abuse of the caloric deficit concept is the source of so much frustration and disappointment, that if you try something like this, you are likely to give up all together or bounce from one diet to the next. You are never able to see long-term results or manage to keep weight off for good. It is true that you need a caloric deficit to burn fat, taking in less than what you burn each day. However, to be sustainable, you must do it the right way. Consider the following tips to make the adjustment more effective, enjoyable and long-term:
- Find your daily requirements. You can use the formula below for a quick, ballpark estimate of your total caloric expenditure each day: (Current Weight * 16). While this doesn’t take into account body composition of activity level, it does give you a quick starting point.
- Evaluate what you are currently doing. Counting calories for a “typical” day is the best way to do this. With free online tools it is easier than ever to know the calories you are consuming each day. You don’t have to do it every day for the rest of your life. Just track it for a week in order to get a good feel of your typical caloric intake. Until you know what you are eating, you can’t adjust to a target range.
- Reduce calories gradually. As mentioned above, a drastic reduction in calories could have a negative impact on your fat loss goals long-term. In order to find the sweet spot of fat loss for your specific situation, reduce calories gradually until you find the right amount for fat loss, while not compromising your health and sanity. Most recommendations are reducing your daily intake by 300-500 calories, or about one pound per week. Everyone is different, so if your initial reduction is not working after a few weeks, you can drop your intake again assuming you are adjusting well. If the initial reduction gets you burning fat, stick with what you are doing and add in the next 2 phases of fat loss.
The great thing about this approach is that you don’t have to make drastic adjustments to your diet. No eliminating meals or removing whole food groups. Just start making small adjustments to meet your individual needs, and then go from there. Clean up what you are eating, and eat in moderation.
Also make sure you consider your specific dietary needs or medical conditions. Meal plans are not one-size-fits-all. As a father to a daughter with food allergies, I know this to be very true. Consult a certified nutritionist if you are unsure about your plan.
Tip: Sugary drinks are a great place to start pulling out calories without adjusting what you eat. Look at sodas, sugary caffeine drinks, alcoholic beverages and juices loaded with sugar as the usual suspects.
Tip: Try eating 6 small meals each day, as opposed to 3 large ones. This will help you control portions, fight off hunger, maintain blood sugar levels and keep your metabolism running high throughout the day.
Warning: The benefits gained through a week of clean eating can be completely undone over 1 weekend. Be careful with your alcohol consumption, a source of empty calories, as well as binge eating on the weekends. Don’t ruin all the hard work you put in at the beginning of the week.
2. Cardio – The Dual Attack
Now that you have a plan for attacking fat loss through your diet, why not boost your fat burning capacity with a weekly dose of cardio.
I know… Cardio is a hard pill to swallow for many people. The idea of running for hours each week is enough to put the most dedicated parent into the fetal position. But before you give up on the idea, or say to yourself “I have never been able to do cardio”, allow me to make a strong case for including cardio into your weekly routine.
You have your diet all worked out, and you have reduced your daily intake by 500 calories. Winning the nutrition battle is huge, and by doing this alone you will burn a pound of fat each week. However, what if I told you there was a way to increase your weekly fat burning potential? Would you be interested?
While controlling what goes in is important, making sure you increase what you burn is equally as vital. Moderate level cardio for 30-40 minutes, 3-5 days a week increases your caloric expenditure and boosts your fat burning potential. The higher the intensity, the shorter period of time is needed. Not to mention, cardio strengthens your heart, helps prevent disease, improves your quality of life both mentally and physically, increases energy levels and can help you live longer. Burn fat, feel better, look better and live longer… sounds worth it to me.
That being said, classic running is not for everyone. For this discussion, cardio is any rhythmic activity, which can be sustained over a period of time, engages large muscle groups and creates intensity sufficient to stimulate an adaptation response and burn calories. In other words… makes you sweat, breathe heavily and feel a little burn.
There are lots of cardio options other than running. For example:
- Stationary bike
- Rowing machine
- Stair climbers
- Jumping rope
- Indoor Interval Training
- A Combination of the above activities.
The key is to find what you like and do it at least 3-5 times a week for 30-40 minutes. Mix it up to keep it from getting stale. Have fun and make sure it is making you work at a moderate level of intensity or higher. Burn fat faster and improve your overall quality of life at the same time.
3. Resistance Training – The Transformation Variable
If you were to only adjust your diet as in step 1 above, you will burn fat. However, you may find that you still feel soft and weak, despite your progress. If you include cardio, you will burn fat faster, improve body composition and reap many health benefits that will make you happier and healthier. However, you still may not have the physique you have envisioned or feel as strong as you would like. So what gives?
The missing piece of the puzzle and the one that is often overlooked when discussing fat burning or “weight loss”… is resistance training. Resistance training has received a bad reputation over the years due to images of professional body builders, who look more like science experiments than healthy human beings. A lot of people, especially women, decide if that is what resistance training looks like, then no thanks.
I want to put that notion to rest. Unless you are lifting weights every day as your job, eating huge amounts of food or injecting rhino testosterone into your thigh, you are not going to look like the people most commonly associated with professional weight lifting. You can get bigger and add more muscle through resistance training if that is your goal. However, you can also burn more fat and create the body you have always wanted… without looking like Mr. or Mrs. Olympia.
The benefits of resistance training are numerous, especially if you are looking to reshape your body permanently. Here are some of the benefits provided through a regular resistance program:
Increased Metabolism – Your metabolism increases when you add lean muscle mass. This means you burn fat every day while doing nothing, and reap the benefits of increased fat burn after resistance training sessions.
Redirect Extra Calories – Your body requires energy to repair muscles weakened by a resistance program. The source of that energy comes from calories, which could be a surplus stored as fat if you aren’t including a resistance program in your routine.
Body Transformation – The best way to transform your body and burn fat is resistance training. While diet and cardio are essential, they will only get you so far. If you want to truly make a life-changing body transformation, you need to include resistance training in your routine.
Stay Young – Consistent resistance training, done safely, can prevent injuries, make you stronger, strengthen muscles, bones and tendons and help you look and feel younger.
Fight the Sedentary Lifestyle – With most of us confined to a desk all day, resistance training is the best way to counteract muscle imbalances and weakness due to a sedentary lifestyle.
Don’t be scared to lift weights or start a resistance training program if you have never done one before. You can start with bodyweight exercises to get you going, and progress to light weights. A set of dumbbells is all you really need to get started today. See my article, “The Back to Basics Strength Plan for Parents”, for more tips.
Armed with the 3 Prong Fat Loss Attack, you are now ready to start changing your life one step at a time. I recommend alternating cardio and resistance training on consecutive days in order to efficiently burn fat throughout the week. Stick to this plan in combination with dietary adjustments to attack fat from 3 directions. Use this article to start thinking about Fat loss, not weight loss. Get started today and make sure to use all 3 methods to burn fat and keep it off for good.
Have questions or comments? Let us know in the comments below.