Fat Loss Nutritional Strategies Based on How Much You Want to Lose
How Much Do You Have to Lose?
The first question is, how much weight do you have to lose? Is it between:
5 and 10 pounds,
10 to 45 pounds,
or more than 45 pounds?
This question matters, because depending on where you are, there are different methods that might work better for you. Below is a quick breakdown of what you should be focusing on in terms of your nutrition, depending on how much weight you have to lose.
Two Quick Notes:
1 – You Won’t Be Perfect and That’s Fine. Pick Yourself up as Quickly as Possible
Before we get into specific strategies about what to do depending on how much weight you have to lose, there is one strategy that affects you no matter how much weight you have to lose, the ability to get back on track after you fall off track, as quickly as possible.
If you have a “bad” meal or don’t follow one of your strategies, that’s alright. You’re human. Get back on track during that meal or the next meal. Not tomorrow or next week or next month or next year. Your next meal. And that doesn’t mean if you’re in the middle of a meal where you fell off and had something you think is “bad” that you should continue it for the whole meal. It means, you acknowledge it, hopefully you enjoyed it and get back on track.
Don’t dig yourself into deeper holes and you will find the journey becomes much more enjoyable and durable.
2 – Food Prep is Always a Good Strategy
I list food prep for those who have more than 45 pounds to lose, but the truth is, no matter where you are on the spectrum, learning to prepare healthy meals is always a good strategy. So although I only list this strategy for those who have more than 45 pounds to lose, consider it something you should practice no matter where you’re at.
With that said, let’s get into strategies that might work for you depending on how much weight you have to lose.
Strategies if you have more than 45 pounds to lose:
There is some research that points out that when you have a lot to lose, you can be more aggressive initially with your weight loss efforts. This means you can cut your calories dramatically and from those who I’ve personally known to lose over 50+ pounds, they have been very disciplined.
In general, they get a target calorie range, and then make that calorie range work for them, by sticking to being more active overall and then finding an eating strategy that works for them.
BUT…this doesn’t mean that you have to do things aggressively. Below are 5 strategies to choose from. From this list, I would choose two to focus on, initially. After you’ve mastered 2 (between an 80-90% compliance), then add in another one and so on.
Below are what I would consider the “Basics” of eating for fat/weight loss. Follow these, get them down and then move onto the next section.
By learning portion control, you have the option to continue eating a wide range of foods, and thereby not feeling like you’re depriving yourself of anything you really enjoy, while still cutting down on calories. A simple strategy is to try to eat 400-500 calories per meal, 3 meals per day and figure out those meals within that calorie range.
This is a good habit to learn, no matter where you’re at, but some people really like this strategy, whereas others feel overwhelmed by it. So if you’re someone who might feel overwhelmed by this strategy, don’t use it. If, on the other hand, you feel like you’ll have more freedom and therefore would stick to your eating plan better, definitely try to incorporate this into your repertoire.
2 – Eat a Healthy Breakfast
When you have a lot of weight to lose, one thing a lot of people do is start skipping breakfast, if they don’t already skip it. They use reasons such as, “I’m not hungry in the morning,” and, “I don’t have time in the morning.” Both of those reasons can easily be worked around with some adjustments, but needless to say, most people, especially those with more weight to lose, would benefit from a healthy breakfast. It will ensure that you naturally eat less calories throughout the day, have less cravings at lunch and most importantly, can help to stave off late-night cravings. Aim for at least 20 grams of protein at breakfast, with 40 grams being even better.
With that said, the easiest way to get 40 grams is to have 3 eggs and a plain Greek yogurt.
3 – Add More Vegetables and Water
Water and vegetables are two ways to add volume to your diet, without adding many calories. In addition to that, the vegetables have micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that can help your body run the way it should. Beyond that, the increased water can help keep your body running the way it should.
Beyond that, both of them help to naturally displace other things. Instead of drinking juices and sodas, focus on getting enough water, even if it’s seltzer water. Instead of more carbs, learn to add more vegetables to your meals and they will help with getting you full.
4 – Limit Trigger Foods
Trigger foods are foods that you feel like you lose control around. You logically feel like, you can “handle it,” but emotionally or just from experience, you know that if that food is around, you’re going to over-indulge. For these types of foods, you might want to limit them. Don’t buy them, and if you do, get the smallest size possible, while learning to incorporate it into your eating.
For me, I can’t have chocolate peanut butter ice cream in the house. If I do, I will finish the carton. Not because I want to, or even that I like it so much, but it becomes an obsession and I forget how to stop eating when I’m satisfied.
You don’t necessarily have to avoid any food, per say, but for you individually, you might want to consider limiting foods that you lose control around.
5 – Aim for 7+ hours of sleep per night
Yes, this one isn’t necessarily a step that deals with food per say, but it definitely effects both food intake and how your body reacts to the food it takes in.
Research has shown that when you don’t get enough sleep, it becomes much harder to have discipline around food. In one study, those who got 7 hours of sleep were able to resist food temptations compared to those who got 5 hours of sleep and gave into the temptations 60% more often.
In another study, those who got 7.5 hours of sleep for 3 days versus those who got 5.5 hours of sleep, had more of their calories go to their muscle, whereas, the other group had more of their calories get stored as fat.
Therefore, one of the best steps you can give yourself is to get more sleep. Now, if you have trouble sleeping, that’s a whole other issue, but for now, try to prioritize sleep. That means, have a cool, dark and quiet environment where you can sleep, avoid screens, including your phone for at least 90 minutes before you plan on going to bed and have a sleep ritual that helps you calm down.
Between 10-45 pounds:
These strategies are what I would consider the “intermediate” level of strategies.
When you have between 10 and 45 pounds to lose, these are the strategies that has the potential to really help you the most.
One of the biggest steps you can do is to track your food intake. You start to realize all the food you might forget that you’re eating. Most people will come to me and often remember the healthy salad they had for lunch. Yet, when they start tracking their food, they see that salad had creamy dressing, croutons and bacon in it, they had a high calorie snack, a piece of cake for their co-worker’s birthday and then might’ve had 3 drinks at dinner while ordering a burger and fries at a bar.
This isn’t to say the person was intentionally forgetting those “not so healthy meals,” but instead, it probably wasn’t even registering.
By tracking your food intake, you start to become more aware to the foods you’re actually eating and are better held accountable to yourself.
2 – Eat 3 Higher protein meals and one snack per day
Eating three, high protein meals per day and a healthy, hopefully also high-protein snack, will help to keep you fuller longer, will help regulate your appetite throughout the day and will help you to naturally eat less calories throughout the day. The extra protein also helps to keep more of the muscle or lean body mass you have, while allowing your body to lose fat at a higher rate, as long as you’re in a caloric deficit.
The key with this is to try and get at least 40 grams of protein per meal. Start with one meal at a time and expand from there. So for example, try to get 40 grams of protein at breakfast. After a week or so of doing that, expand that to lunch. Then figure out a healthy snack. Finally, add in a high protein and ideally, healthy dinner.
3 – Aim to eat 40 grams of carbs per meal
A lot of people like to avoid carbs, but I find that if you allow yourself a serving to a serving and a half of carbs, you end up feeling fuller longer and you don’t feel like you’re depriving yourself.
With that said, you also learn what 40 grams of carbs looks like. This is 1 and a half potatoes or sweet potatoes, or 2 servings of fruit, or one and a third servings of rice or a serving of rice and one serving of beans. By allowing the carbs, you also do something else. You learn to mix and match. Say, you know you’re going to be going out for dinner at an Italian restaurant. To be able to enjoy yourself, you limit your carbs for the two to three previous meals, so that when you go out, you have your “carb” allowance.
This one sometimes takes some practice, but once you have this down, you realize that you can eat carbs and also lose fat.
4 – Limit alcohol to 4 drinks per weekThis is a trick that I have some clients use if they’re really serious about losing fat. By limiting alcohol to 4 drinks per week, it gives them enough to be able to go out and have a couple of drinks, but it also helps to eliminate the nights where they can consume 10 drinks and then lots of bad foods afterwards.
Most clients report feeling overall better and having more energy when they start to limit their drinking and don’t feel like they’re missing out on social events. For some people, this will be easy, but for those who consider this one a challenge, you can really start to see and feel a stark contrast when you do.
5 – Prepare at least two meals per day at home
Meal Prep is a key. But often times people can feel overwhelmed by prepping a lot of food at a time, so I prefer that two of your meals are made at home each day.
So this can be something like a breakfast of eggs and yogurt in the morning and then you go home at the end of the night and cook dinner. That leaves you with a healthy lunch, as the only thing you have to look out for during the day.
This can also be you cooking one time per day – dinner. You cook dinner, and you ensure that you cook enough so that you have leftovers for lunch the following day. Then in the morning, you grab something quick and easy out the door.
Or this can be, you spending 3 hours on Sunday night preparing your food. No matter how your strategy works, preparing at least two of your daily meals at home, can help you to ensure that you’re getting enough protein, getting in some carbs, while limiting the amount of fat and “other things” within the food.
6 – Limit high fat foods, even the healthy ones
Have you heard nuts, olive oil, and avocados are good for you? It’s true, they are.
But you know what’s also true? They are generally, really bad at fat loss. You see, foods can both be healthy and really bad with fat/weight loss.
Nuts, nut butters, healthy oils such as coconut oil and olive oil, and the beloved avocados and guacamole, are foods you generally want to avoid, because it can be very easy to over-eat them and you end up eating too many calories for the day.
Between 5-10 pounds:
As you get much closer to your goal weight, you might have to start becoming stricter with the methods you use to continue seeing results.
For me, these are the “advanced” yet basic strategies that can really ensure you continue seeing results.
These are also the strategies you might not have needed to incorporated earlier. This includes,
1 – Figuring out a baseline of a caloric intake
If you’re trying to lose fat, and you only have between 5 and 10 pounds to lose, first you want to start with a baseline of the amount of calories you want to aim for. So for example, if you weight 150 pounds, you will start with 10 to 12 calories per pound. So that would leave you with 1500 to 1800 calories per day.
That’s your baseline calorie amount. Stick with that calorie amount for 2 weeks and take your measurements. As long as you’ve been sticking to the plan, then it should work. If it hasn’t, then cut one calorie, and see how that works. In other words, start on the higher range and cut down from there, as needed.
2 – Taking regular measurements
The next thing you should be doing is taking measurements – often. This can be taking your weight every day and your waist and hip measurements once per week. At the end of every week, track your average weight for the week and in doing so, the trend should be moving down. So for example, you might weight 208 one day and 214 the next. Day to day, you might not notice much, but week to week, you should see a downward trend.
The same should be said about your measurements. The key with the measurements though, is to ensure you do it at the same time of day. Usually first thing in the morning is best.
3 – Having a more specific macronutrient (protein, carbs, and fat) breakdown
Once you have a breakdown of your calories, it’s time to break that down even further. So from the example above, if you weight 150 pounds, at 12 calories per pound, you should be consuming 1800 calories.
From those 1800 calories, you’re going to:
A – Figure out your protein needs
For your protein, consume 1 gram per pound of body weight. So, in this example, that’s 150 grams of protein per day. Broken into 3 meals, that’s 50 grams of protein per meal. 150 grams is also 600 calories (150 * 4 calories per gram of protein). That leaves you with 1200 calories for fat and protein.
B – You can split the remaining calories however you like, but for now, we’ll split them in half. 600 calories of carbs equals 150 grams, broken into 3 meals, you’re aiming for 50 grams per meal.
C – For fat, 600 grams equals 67 grams of fat. Split into 3 meals, that’s about 22 grams per meal.
These calculations are a baseline to start with.
4 – Making adjustments to your caloric intake based on your measurements
Now that you have your calories, macros and measurements all figured out, the next step is to figure out, what adjustments, if any, are needed.
If after 2 weeks, the trend with your weight isn’t moving down, then you might need to cut another calorie. If you lost more than 2 pounds per week, you might want to up your calories, just a bit. The key is to figure out what adjustments to make and why.
5 – Can play around with calorie-cycling depending on your workouts and Intermittent Fasting (but you don’t need to)
At this point, you can start to manipulate other factors also. So for example, if you workout really hard on Tuesdays and Thursdays, then it might benefit you to eat more carbs on those days, while eating less fat. The carbs will help with the more intense workouts and the extra carb intake should help make the workouts somewhat easier.
If, on the other hand, you know you’re not going to do anything, except sit around and binge watch Netflix, it might behoove you to eat less calories for that day. This is calorie-cycling. You don’t have to use these strategies, but you can.
This is also where you might want to try Intermittent Fasting. This is where you can eat within any 8-hour block of time (or shorter). The most popular type of Intermittent Fasting is the 16:8 one popularized by Martin Berkham at Leangains.com.
Again, you don’t need to try this, but it’s another strategy that you might find useful. The calories, measurements, macronutrient breakdown and your ability to make adjustments as necessary, are the real aspects of what you can do to best change your body for the better.
If you have any questions for me, please feel free to let me know. Cheers!
I offered a lot of strategies in this post. These strategies are not written in stone, but in general, these are the best strategies depending on how much weight you’re trying to lose. If you want to steal strategies from other areas though, go for it.
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