Lately, I was thinking about what kind of diet would be best to lose fats, especially stubborn fats like belly fats.
When I searched through google, it amazes me at how easy it is to get practical information that actually works, but…
I still wonder why there are people having trouble losing their unwanted fats because you and I have probably read and heard about the millions (maybe not millions but dozens) of ways to lose fat.
You may have tried almost every possible diets and recommendation out there, but all of them seemed impossible for you to follow through.
No matter what type of diet you follow, it all end up as failed attempts.
You felt like your efforts were for naught. By then, your hope and confidence had plunged to the bottom of the Pacific ocean, never to rise again.
It’s no surprise, though, those who wish to lose fat will feel overwhelmed and they will give up too soon.
It’s not because of poor and unrealistic diet, but most of the time it is just part of the process because our body hates any type of changes we try to make.
Due to that reason, we have to understand how our body uses energy and how it regulates hunger and appetite.
What is Fat Loss?
Fat loss occurs when the body’s primary supplier of energy (glucose) runs out. When glucose is sparse in the bloodstream or in the liver where excess is stored, the body will turn to the next source of energy – Body Fat.
On a normal basis, our body does not use fat as a source of energy. Whenever glucose is low, our body will start to signal hunger.
The feeling of hunger triggers us to search for food which usually contains carbohydrates, then it will break them down to glucose and use them for energy in the form of calories.
There are a few conditions which will change the way our body gets its energy source from.
- If we don’t take in enough calories.
- When doing low-intensity exercises.
- Suffering from terminal sickness
Should You Blame It on Calories?
Our body uses calories as a source of fuel. Similar to a car using petrol as fuel for the engine.
Although, our body is more complex that that.
Cars don’t get fat when you pump in excess petrol.
It does not go from 5-seater sedan to a 14-seater mini van if you force 20 more liters in the tank. You’ll just get drenched with a high flammability liquid, and you would be late for work.
Then again, you will not be able to get to work with an empty tank.
This concept applies to our body as well.
If you have wondered what makes you fat and the first thing that comes to your mind is oily food and fast foods, you are partially correct.
The truth is, anything edible that has calorie in it WILL make you fat.
That piece of bread, biscuits, even those green leafs you hate so much will make you fat if you have them in excess.
If you understand this, then you are on a good start to losing fats.
While some food especially starchy foods and process foods would make it’s way into our fat storage cells faster than others, we must control our consumption of other types of “healthy” food as well.
The General Rule Of Thumb
Anyone who is trying to lose fat needs to understand this General Rule to its core because without this rule, you will never see results.
What am I talking about?
I’m referring to the rule of Calorie In = Calorie Out.
The way our body achieve energy homeostasis or energy balance.
“Calorie In” refers to everything that you have eaten during the day (or even through the night).
“Calorie Out” refers to the amount of calorie your body needs to survive + other activities.
How this concept works is that your body has an excellent system of ensuring that your weight stays constant as long as possible.
To do this, the body needs to balance the energy we use up and the energy we obtain from food.
It achieves this state by signaling hunger whenever our stomach starts to get empty and if our energy gets low.
When the body receives enough energy, it signals satiety or the feeling of full. This cycle repeats until the heart runs out of steam.
It is the body’s natural system to achieve energy balance. Thus, constant weight.
How does the body know when is the right time to eat and how much to eat?
Every single one of us is born with the minimum energy requirement to stay alive. This is referred to as our Resting Metabolic Rate or Basal Metabolic Rate (RMR is more accurate than BMR)
Then, our body also needs energy for digestion and other physical activities as well…Both of them are called Thermal Effect of Digestion and Thermal Effect of Physical Activity respectively.
(And there are other ways the body utilizes energy, but I want to keep things simple.)
All of the above adds up to Total Daily Energy Expenditure(TDEE), the estimated amount of energy from food the body needs in a day to maintain our weight.
This system works like this:
When the body sensed that the available energy is lower than TDEE, we get hungry.
If we eat more than our TDEE, the body will store it as fats.
Let’s break it down further, if you need more explanation.
Try To Understand This
Having The Same Amount of Calories
When you consume the same amount of energy your body needs in a day, your weight will not change.
For example, an average man in his 30’s would have a TDEE of 2200 Cals, and if he consumed food or drinks that total up to just 2100-2300 Cals, there would not be any weight change.
All the 2100-2200 Cals he consumed will just be used to maintain his weight and for the activities he had performed during the day.
This is what most of us have been doing; we are giving what the body needs to maintain itself. No weight gain. No weight loss.
Having Excess Calories
Then again, if we take in more calories than what the body usually needs, there will be an excess of calories in the body.
What do you think will happen to the excess calorie?
Same thing you would do if you have extra clothing in your wardrobe. You save them for later. You store them.
If you take in more than 2200 Cal a day, more than what the body needs to maintain itself, you will start storing excess calories.
Firstly, our body will try to store it in the initial energy reserve, like the liver. When the liver can no longer store the excess energy, it will be turned to fats and then it will be stored in the fat cells.
It gets dangerous when is starts to get in between organs and even in other organs.
Excess calories are turned into stored energy (Fats). The body looks at it as a long-term solution in case we would run out of energy one day.
Eating 2500 a day will give you 2500 – 2200= 300 Cal excess.
So it decides (without even seeking our permission) that “Hey, these are valuable energy sources, we should hold on to it for future sake!”
According to most researchers, 3500 Cals = 1 pound (0.45kg) of fat. If you have 3500 of excess calories every week, you will gain 1 pound of fat.
Having Less Calories
Let say one day, you decided to try a strict low-carb diet with only minimum food consumption for a week.
I wouldn’t recommend this, but it has its benefit for short-term wise.
You managed to endure a 1000 Calorie diet plan for a week, your body goes chaotic mode, screaming for it to be fed.
When your body knows well it needs 2200 Calorie to function normally, it gets desperate. It tries to find desperate ways to get them calories.
Your empty stomach starts to give constant alarm signals to your brain, making you feel weak, dizzy, starved, confused, but you still endured with the help of mini snacks just to trick the body that it is receiving calories like it used to.
But your body knows it’s just not enough.
Finally, it decides to open its dusty and old wardrobe where it used to keep excess energy.
The body goes “Olaalaalaa” and start gobbling up that stored energy.
That stored energy are the fats that you had gained when you had excess calorie before.
So simply, to lose fat is to take in fewer calories or burn more calories right?
I don’t think so.
It Is Not That Simple (But it can be)
Calculating Calories Is Troublesome
How many of us bother to calculate our TDEE?
How many of us even bothered to take notes of every food we eat in a day and to spend some time calculating the calories of each meal we had?
Oh come on, no one ever does that. Unless, it’s your personal trainer doing it for you. Even so, it will never be accurate.
We already have so much in our mind like calculating our finance, isn’t it?
If you asked me to calculate my daily calorie requirement all the time, it’s just absurd.
Fat Loss and Fat Gain Isn’t 100% Dependent On Calories
After understanding the General Rule of Thumb, you need to understand too that your body is not a car or a machine.
It doesn’t work like a vehicle which you put in fuel and expects it to cover a certain distance according to the amount of fuel you put in.
There are a lot of factors influencing your appetite, energy balance, weight gain or weight loss efforts.
If we have heard about people who have gained back their weight after a crash diet or people who became skinny again after quitting the gym for some time, we should understand that these are all the body’s ways of resisting change.
How To Make It Simple
Instead of depending totally on quick solutions or calculating your calories, what you can do is:
- Learn to understand portion size
- Learn to eat more nutrient dense foods
- Learn to form simple, healthy habits one at a time
- Learn what ways you can be active
- Learn to sleep better
- Learn to control your stress
which simply means, “Just live a healthy lifestyle with healthy habits”
We will talk about these things more in upcoming articles. But for now, you have to accept the fact that whatever fat loss methods available out there, they will always go back to the General Rule of Thumb.
So, is your diet helping you to lose fat?