The F Word (Part 2) Katrin Schlee busts some myths.
If you enjoyed reading the F Word (Part 1), you will feel ready to learn all about the truth behind fat loss and dieting. Shedding pounds is, after all, what is behind the average person’s decision to join a gym, put on their running shoes or bulk-buy that fat-free yoghurt. It is safe to say that a lot of women are living their lives between diets, just finishing one or starting another. But what is it that really makes a difference when you are trying to reshape your body? Is there such a thing as a universal recipe or the ideal diet that will magically melt away fat? Let’s look at the facts and bust the myths.
Myth: Weight loss is easy and effortless. Many companies advertise slimming products and exercise gadgets that promise rapid weight loss and a toned body in a matter of days or weeks. They can’t all be lying! Warning: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Fact: Losing weight is hard work. Be prepared for this challenge. It is not effortless and easy otherwise everyone would be in fantastic shape. Prepare yourself properly by researching and gathering all the dietary advice, support and clean foods you need well before starting a new eating plan. Note that I said ‘eating plan’, not diet! I recommend to clients that they keep a food diary to record exactly what they are eating and when in order to gain control of their eating habits. It is important not only to learn what to eat but also at what time of day certain foods ought to be avoided. Timing is as crucial as the quality of the food you are putting into your body. Set realistic, short-term fat loss goals! The body fat you have gained over a 6-year period won’t be lost in 6 days or weeks!
Myth: Consuming as few calories as possible per day is a fool-proof method for rapid and sustainable weight loss. Hollywood celebrities are now doing a 30-day soup diet and the weight is dropping off. This thing works and will lead to success! Don’t believe the hype!
Fact: Starving oneself over a short period of time, as is the case with many diets, will not enhance fat-burning. Consuming smaller servings of quality calories (clean food such as chicken, turkey, wholegrain rice and vegetables) frequently, will more effectively boost your metabolism and contribute to muscle gain (which will also boost the metabolism). Crash diets will lead to frustration and will yield, at best, only short-lived results. Depriving the body of calories will, in fact, have the opposite effect: breakdown of muscle tissue and eventual fat gain. But does it matter if muscle tissue breaks down? It certainly does. Weight loss is often quoted as achievable through 80%+ nutrition and 20% exercise. This 80/20 rule, whilst a good rule of thumb, is nonetheless misleading. It has been abused by companies selling slimming products who emphasise that exercise really is not all that important in the quest for a slimmer body. After all, if only 20% of a 100% lifestyle adjustment consists of physical activity it won’t make that much of a difference, right? Wrong. Apart from the obvious benefits of exercise in warding off ill health (a higher body-fat percentage and physical inactivity are linked to coronary heart disease, cancer and diabetes) it must be said that exercise in general and weight training in particular, will increase lean muscle mass and turn your body into a fat burning furnace. The higher your lean muscle mass, the more calories you will burn at rest. Increasing your BMR (basal metabolic rate) is one of the most important ways of ensuring that the calorie burning process is enhanced even as you sleep. And what better way to get in shape?
Myth: Your best friend did the “Stay Slim for Life Diet” for 3 weeks and has lost nearly a stone in weight. The weight is gone so she must be doing something right. Beware!
Fact: Beware of “anecdotal” evidence. Anecdotal evidence is evidence based on one person’s experience. Just because your best friend tried an eating plan or diet that worked for her or an author wrote a book on a miracle diet that, according to them, is the key to a slim body this does not necessarily mean that the same approach will yield similar results for you. There are of course general recommendations for consistent weight loss but your body and its responses are unique and what works for your friend may not work for you. Look for published results that rely on random, controlled trials of a large number of test subjects before you place your trust in any new weight loss concept or plan. One size does not fit all. Your metabolism is unique and you will find no “off-the-shelf” nutritional programme that will bring about change for an extended period of time without any adjustments.
Myth: Weight loss is simple math. 3500 calories make a pound of body fat, so logically if you reduce your weekly calories by 3500, or 500 per day over seven days, you should lose a pound of fat in a week, right?
Fact: Not exactly. Your metabolic rate is variable and will slow down dramatically if you cut your calories too much, inhibiting any weight loss. Eating small meals on a frequent basis will boost the metabolism and stimulate fat loss as long as the meals are relatively low in fat, moderate in carbohydrates and high in protein. Protein has a positive effect on the metabolism while fat and carbohydrates can impede weight loss if they are eaten in larger amounts. Complex carbohydrates such as brown rice and sweet potato are to be chosen in favour of those higher on the glycaemic index (sugary foods and carrots for example). Try to limit carbohydrates as the day progresses as they may be converted into fat if unused. Six nutritionally dense meals per day, spaced every 2-3 hours, should be what you aim for. Eating small portions frequently will also ensure that you won’t get hungry too soon, thus preventing you from binge eating.
Myth: What difference can a brisk walk make? It’s: ‘everything or nothing’, right? Wrong!
Fact: Low intensity aerobic training (brisk walking for example) directly burns body fat and stimulates the metabolism to burn calories while you are at rest. Even though it is true to say that the harder you work cardiovascularly, the more calories you burn, you need to be aware of what the body’s preferred energy sources are. Your body dips into its fat stores while you train at lower intensities whilst utilising glycogen (principal storage form of glucose in human cells) during high intensity work. The body prefers carbohydrate as it is easy to break down and provides a quick release of energy. Aerobic training in the morning, whilst in a fasted state, seems to work best as this tends to target body fat directly, due to the body’s carbohydrate stores being low at that time of the day. Low-intensity, longer duration Aerobics 3-4 times per week will significantly increase your chances to obtain a slimmer physique.
Myth: Weight training just bulks you up. It is to be avoided at all cost when trying to lose weight! Oh dear!
Fact: A common misconception amongst women is that weight training will make them look muscular and masculine. This could not be further from the truth. Women lack the testosterone necessary to build muscle like men do. Weight training will of course increase muscle mass but for women the effect is not one of large, bulky muscle tissue but of a firm and toned appearance and better body shape. Apart from the fact that resistance training helps to increase bone density (an important consideration for those suffering from osteoporosis), it creates lean muscle mass which – as an added bonus to you – indirectly contributes to fat loss. The body will use energy in the form of fat to maintain muscle mass, given the fact that muscle tissue is highly metabolically active. In theory, the greater the degree of muscle mass you possess, the higher your metabolism will be and the easier it will be to lose body fat. So next time you are tempted to walk past the weight training area at your local gym, remember what resistance training can do for you! Now that you are armed with the facts, all you need to do is apply them, preferably with the help of a qualified and experienced Personal Trainer. I have guided my clients through amazing transformations over the years and it is this that makes me want to get out of bed every morning. Body fat reduction is not as easy or quick as some advertisers make it out to be but, done in the right way, will make you glad you rose to the challenge.