Have you become obsessed with numbers? How quickly they drop? The percentage difference between last week and this?
Are you worrying that you've plateaued? That you can't quite reach your 'goal weight'? Have you given up because no matter how hard you try it just doesn't work?
If you answer yes to any of the above, I'm sorry to have to tell you but... you've become a slave to the scale!
You see the truth of the matter, the secret that 'diet clubs' don't want you to know is...
You don't want to lose weight.
Yep, that's right. You don't. Not really.
I know you think you do, but you don't. What you want is to look fit, sexy, toned, confident... and all that goes with that. It's important you recognise this before we move on because losing weight and losing fat are two very different things.
In order to achieve fat loss you need to get active and start eating well. You also need to step off the scales. Instead, measure yourself... either with a tape measure or by the fit of your clothes. Then, as you lose fat, you'll start to notice in the inches you lose. Why are inches better than pounds? Because you don't want to lose weight, you want to lose FAT.
When you plateau in weight loss and strive to reach that next 7lb goal, you start taking more extreme measures, cutting more calories, cutting out vital macros, vitamins, minerals, and consequently cutting your muscle mass AND your ability to lose fat. This is bad because you don't want to lose weight, you want to lose FAT!
The main problem with losing weight - no matter where it comes from? Losing muscle mass slows your metabolism meaning you burn less calories overall. You may have heard that muscle weighs more than fat? This of course is impossible - a pound of fat will clearly weigh the same as a pound of muscle. What people really mean by this is that a pound of muscle takes up less room in your body than fat. Fat is all fluffy, whereas muscle is dense and packed. So now, imagine your body with more muscle and less fat - toned, sleek, curvy... sounds good right?
Plus adjusting your goals for fat loss and muscle retention will lead to a healthier way of doing things. You're going to need to exercise, drink more water, eat more protein and veggies; low fat yoghurts and sugar-free chocolate bars just aren't going to shake it.
Diet Starts Monday
You know the saying 'don't throw the baby out with the bath water'? Weight loss epitomises this. Going to ever greater extremes, cutting more and more calories just to achieve your goal of hitting that number on the scale is actually counter-productive. And, what's worse, it's not sustainable. How many times have you done a diet? How many times have you 'got back on it again'? If this was working, you wouldn't need to 'start again on Monday'. Let's face it, if we have to do something multiple times, we need to accept that it's just not working. So why don't we? Because multi-million pound companies and media agencies are telling you it's your fault - You can't stick to it, you're not doing it right, you are clearly cheating. Of course they are, it's clearly a lucrative business!
So, what instead? Let's stop being reliant on the diet industry and start taking control for ourselves.
The diets promoted by slimming clubs encourage a low fat and low carb approach with minimal exercise. This will leave you feeling hungry, fed-up and as though you've no willpower.
Fill up and tune in
Avoid the need for willpower at all by filling up with healthy, nourishing, satiating foods: protein, natural fats and veggies. You won't be hungry, you'll be actually fuelling your body for fat loss and as a bonus, you'll have more energy and recover quicker from exercise.
Eating like this will also reduce cravings and enable you to tune into your body's signals; eating only when you're hungry (and avoiding getting too hungry) will stop you over-eating meaning your calorie intake will reduce, which is also conducive to fat loss.
To lose fat, you need to make sure that the number of calories you've eaten is less than the number you've expended in a day. But this should only be a slight deficit. 10-20% at most. Why? Because cutting calories to an extreme has a longer-term negative effect - essentially, our body will believe there's a famine and will begin doing all that is possible to protect us against that. Our metabolism will slow so we can conserve vital energy to survive this famine, and as a result our fat-burning capabilities will diminish. Rather than returning to normal, when we start eating properly again, our metabolism will remain in this lower state so we can return to our defended weight range plus create stores to better cope with any future famines - this is why the fad low calorie diets promoted through slimming clubs and much of the media, make us fatter in the long run.
Get active for real success
Recent studies by the Oregan Research institute concluded that sustainable fat loss results are attained from 'increasing energy expenditure'. In fact, the studies' results showed that:
'Low energy flux, but not energy surfeit, predicted future increases in body fat in both studies. Furthermore, high energy flux appeared to prevent fat gain in part because it was associated with a higher resting metabolic rate... results suggest that increasing energy expenditure may be more effective for reducing body fat than caloric restriction, which is currently the treatment of choice for obesity.'
Simply put, those in the study who exercised were more likely to keep their metabolic rate high and therefore more successful in achieving long term fat loss.
This result is also backed up in studies by the University of Colorado, Denver, where results showed that exercise prevents the regain of weight after weight loss:
Regular exercise decreased the rate of regain early in relapse and lowered the defended body weight. During weight maintenance, regular exercise reduced the biological drive to eat so that it came closer to matching the suppressed level of energy expenditure.
This is crucial in the fat loss fight as every study conducted on low calorie diets alone has returned poor results on long term weight loss with the majority of participants regaining all the weight they lost, plus a significant majority gaining even more, over the following years. 
If you want to read more about why diets don't work and what we can do instead, I'd recommend Dr Sandra Aamondt's book Why diets make us fat: the unintended consequences of our obsession with weight loss - and what to do instead. Based fully in science and research evidence, she sets a compelling case against diets as well as an alternative way of approaching fat loss and long-term health all in a digestible and engaging way.
Choosing the right tools for the job
There are so many tools out there now to help you track your energy balance when trying to lose fat. Using these tools, plus noting how you feel in terms of hunger and energy levels throughout the day, will help you learn more about your body's relationship with food and exercise. You can then adjust what you eat (and drink) accordingly, until you find the perfect balance for you. You'll understand how food affects you; a far more sustainable, long-term solution than counting points or only eating food from an approved list.
Here are some online tools / apps you may find useful:
- My Fitness Pal - track your calories and macros with this however, it's better to set your own calorie goals than use the MFP suggested as they tend to come up very low.
- Eat this much - provides suggested meal plans and recipes to fit your requirements.
- FitBit - If you own a FitBit, you can track your food intake with their app and it'll automatically adjust your calorie output for the day.
- DQS - Diet Quality Score. Find this in the App Store; it takes a different approach to the others where the 'quality' of your diet is given a score so more processed food in a day, the lower the score, more veggies the higher. What I like about this app is that it encourages you to eat a balanced diet. For example, eating nothing but fruit and natural yogurt will also return a low score, despite both being in the 'high quality' category.
If tracking and weighing seems a little overwhelming at the moment, or you'd like more in-depth and tailored support, Spark Fitness can help with simple and effective nutritional advice. Or, if you live in or around north Manchester personal training sessions to support you in achieving successful and sustainable fat loss. Click here to find out more and book your free first session.