The majority of those hoping to lose weight will be looking to follow the age-old recommendation of eating less and exercising more. Basic laws of physics suggest that we need a certain amount of energy (in the form of calories) to stay alive and move around. You get these calories of energy from food or from stored energy (your fat tissue). So, in theory, if you eat less energy than you expend, you should lose weight.
Unfortunately, this ‘energy balance’ equation doesn’t work for everyone. If you already have a significantly high, excessive level of body fat then this is a good place to start and likely to initiate weight loss. However, it doesn’t tell us the full story and for a lot of us it can become increasingly frustrating when you’re watching the number of calories you eat and exercising regularly yet the numbers don’t seem to add up or the results do not match our expectations.
The problem is that everybody is different, and the equation discussed above doesn’t take into account factors such as our body composition (levels of lean muscle and body fat), hormone levels, the amount of stress or load our bodies experience day-to-day, the macronutrient breakdown (protein, fat and carbs) of our foods, the efficiency of our digestive system, exercise (style, frequency and intensity) our age, health issues or our metabolism.
The ‘calorie in, calorie out’ equation is actually more complicated than it sounds.
Quality over quantity
If your rate of weight loss has slowed right down and you’ve reached a plateau, then it’s probably time to place more emphasis on quality rather than quantity. Getting lean, looking good and feeling great is often more about the quality of your lifestyle, the quality of the food you eat and the type of exercise you do. Most of us would actually benefit more from flipping the old adage of ‘eat less, exercise more’ and actually trying to eat more and exercise less.
Now, before you dismiss this apparent madness, let me explain what I mean by this. When I say eat more I mean focus on eating more nutritious, unprocessed, preferably organic wholefoods. When I say wholefoods I refer to anything that grew in the ground, on a tree, swam in the sea or once roamed the land. I like to call them ‘real foods’. These foods simply provide all the essential nutrients (in their natural form) needed for life and a healthy body. As a result of eating more of these natural foods you’ll find you start to actually absorb more nutrients and less energy (calories) thus tipping the ‘energy balance’ scales in your favour.
Equally so, it is important to emphasise the quality of your exercise and not just how much you do. With regards to weight loss, often ‘less is more’ when it comes to the duration of your workouts. Mindlessly exercising for hours is often actually more detrimental to your health and so I often recommend to my clients that they do short, intense bursts of exercise to stimulate a growth response that accelerates an improvement in fitness levels, aids with fat burning and develops lean body mass that continues to tap into the body’s energy stores even when you’re not exercising. A good, experienced personal trainer could help you to develop a ‘balanced’ exercise programme.