The Secret To Losing Weight? There Isn't One.
Ever look at someone and think ‘How did they do it? What is their secret?’
Sometimes it seems we have tried every diet under the sun to try and unlock the secret to losing weight successfully and keeping it off. There are thousands of different types of diets and solutions to weight loss out there, from cutting out certain food groups to adding ‘points or ‘sins’. The quest to find the easiest way to lose weight seems to be never-ending and full of myths and old wife’s tales.
But does it really need to be that complicated?
The secret is, there is no secret special combination of mind-boggling tricks to losing weight. It’s all about understanding the basics of how our bodies burn calories and prioritising the food our bodies actually need to function correctly, including maintaining a balance- because life is too short to completely cut out what we love.
We spoke with personal trainer and nutrition coach Johan Florez in our recent live Facebook Q&A to bust the myths on weight loss and get back to basics on nutrition.
Johan highlighted that the most common misunderstanding around weight loss was the concept of calories in vs. calories out, and what this means for our diets and burning calories.
In short, when you take in more energy (calories from food & drink) than you burn- you gain weight, and when you take in less energy than you burn, you lose weight.
But how do we know how much energy, or calories is more or less than we burn?
This is where people are usually confused. We all know about the daily recommended calorie intake, but did you know this differs for everyone depending on size or energy you burn?
Johan recommends we start with working out our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)- this is how much energy your body burns when you are quite literally doing nothing, just breathing or basic bodily functions. This makes up over 65% of your total daily energy expenditure and is the minimum calorie intake your body needs. (Check out our blog on BMR to help calculate yours here)
This allows us to determine how many calories a day we need to consume to either maintain or lose weight through a calorie deficit and how much that deficit should be.
The rest of your body's daily energy expenditure is used on the following:
1. Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT - that’s just your usual daily movements for example walking up the stairs, walking to the car or loading the dishwasher. Which makes up a further 20% of your body’s daily energy expenditure.
2. Then we have Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or EAT- This is exercise that increases your heart rate above normal levels, for example, going to the gym, weightlifting, running, dance classes etc., activities that are purely dedicated to exercise. That’s another 10% of your daily energy expenditure (if you exercise that day). We find it best to track this with a smartwatch.
3. The last 5% is the energy your body uses to consume and digest the food you eat (Thermic Effect of Feeding)
All the above means that our recommended calorie intake will be slightly different for everyone depending on your level of activity.
So that’s the core of the ‘secret’ to losing weight, but what other things should we be factoring in when considering calories in vs. calories out?
There are of course other things that can affect how much we eat, some of which are out of our control such as psychological factors. But many are because of things like hormonal appetite changes, sleep, not reading food labels, eating too many things we know are going to increase our calorie intake more than needed and under-reporting food consumed when calorie tracking.
Whilst these things can affect the calories we consume, and let’s face it, we all need a cheat day every now and then, it’s important to adjust our diets and create a calorie deficit to allow for these.
What can we be doing to take more control over these influences?
1. Adapting your calorie intake to suit the level of activity or lack of, that you are doing.
2. Maintaining a balance between calories in and out by adding more NEAT and exercise to your daily routine.
3. Being honest about what we are consuming when tracking our diets, don’t leave out that well-deserved cheeky chocolate bar or glass of wine.
So now we know more about how our body uses the energy we consume, how can we optimise our diets to make the most of our calorie intake and give our bodies what they need?
The basic idea of calories in vs. calories out means we can still enjoy the food we love, so long as it’s within the limits of our daily calorie allowance.
There’s no need to cut out food groups and shame them as sinful or miss out on the odd treat, but to feel fuller for longer and help our bodies maintain our weight loss there are some things to prioritise when planning our meals or reaching for a snack:
1. Protein- keeps you fuller for longer, and helps to build and repair muscle mass, which is great as muscle uses up a greater % of your daily energy expenditure therefore improving your metabolic rate. It contains calcium that supports bone density, and strength and decreases the risk of osteoarthritis.
2. Fruit and Vegetables- Provide dietary fibre that is vital in maintaining gut health and digestion, a source of vitamins and minerals including folate, vitamin C and potassium, as well as helping to reduce the risk of Diabetes type 2, heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer. Plus they are a tasty and easy way to add lots of flavour to your food.
3. Sleep- make sure you’re getting enough. When you are not sleeping properly you are more likely to reach for fast food options, or sugary snacks to perk you up. This is a waste of your body’s precious calorie allowance, especially when they are only for convenience.
4. Activity- the more physically active you are, the more calories you burn, helping you to keep your calories in vs. calories out balanced.
One of Johan’s biggest takeaways from our chat was that consistency with all the above is key. Getting into a routine with your balanced diet and exercise makes your weight loss easier to maintain. Trying to keep your mealtimes consistent means you’ll be less likely to be hungry between meals and reach for unhealthy convenient choices.
Products like our CollaSlim meal replacement shakes are a great way to keep your diet and weight loss consistent, taking the guesswork out of calorie counting and measuring ingredients. Packed full of protein to keep you fuller for longer, with the vitamins & minerals your body needs to function as well as the added benefits of Collagen. CollaSlim allows you to take control of your calories in so you can make the most of your calorie allowance, without having to totally give up the food you love.
No secret, just balance.