This is the one absolute requirement for weight loss, and it’s something you’ve heard of before. However, there’s one critical distinction about this familiar advice that you might not have considered – and this 1 thing makes all the difference in the world…
Let me quote Melvin Williams, PhD, professor emeritus of exercise science at Old Dominion University and author of the textbook Nutrition for Health, Fitness and Sport (McGraw Hill)
“Human energy systems are governed by the same laws of physics that rule all energy transformations. No substantial evidence is available to disprove the caloric theory. It is still the physical basis for bodyweight control.”
If you do not know how many calories you are consuming on a daily basis you are fighting a losing battle.
The down and dirty way to figure out your caloric needs for fat loss is to multiply your current body weight by 12. This is a good starting point. After 2 weeks if you have not lost any fat, go with 11. This is how many calories you should be consuming on a daily basis for fat loss.
For some reason people think they do not need to do this. They feel that they just know how many calories they are consuming. I doubt this very much.
I would start with a 40% carb, 40% protein, 20% fat program based on your caloric needs.
Also remember that initial weight loss in almost always water weight so don’t get too excited in the first week when the number on the scale goes down. It is body fat we want to lose.
There are a variety of diet programs and weight loss “gurus” who claim that calories don’t count. They insist that if you eat certain foods or avoid certain foods, that’s all you have to do to lose weight. Dozens, maybe hundreds of such diets exist, with certain “magic foods” put up on a pedestal or certain “evil fat storing” foods banished into the forbidden zone.
Other weight loss “experts” invoke the insulin/carbohydrate hypothesis which claims that carbs drive insulin which drives body fat. That’s akin to saying “Carbs are the reason for the obesity crisis today, not excess calories.”
They are all mistaken.
Of course, there IS more to nutrition than just calories. Food quality and nutrition content matters for good health. In addition, your food choices can affect your energy intake. We could even point the finger at an excess of refined starches and grains, sugar and soft drinks (carbs!) as major contributing factors to the surplus calories that lead to obesity.
However, that brings us back to excess calories as the pivotal point in the chain of causation, not carbs. A caloric deficit is a required condition for weight loss – even if you opt for the low carb approach – and that’s where your focus should go – on the deficit.
Now, here’s that critical distinction…
You’ve heard it said, “exercise more and eat less” a million times. However, saying “focus on the deficit” is NOT the same thing. If you don’t understand the difference, you could end up spinning your wheels for years.
You could exercise more, but if you compensate by eating more, you cancel your deficit.
You could eat less, but if you compensate by moving less, again you cancel your deficit.
This type of compensation can happen unconsciously, which leads to confusion about why you’re not losing weight or why you’re gaining. That often leads you to make excuses or to blame the wrong thing… anything but the calories. It is always about the deficit.
Therefore, “focus on the deficit” more accurately states the most important key to weight loss than “exercise more and eat less.” Make sure you understand this distinction and then follow this advice.
Last but not least, keep in mind that there are a lot of ways to establish a deficit and many of those ways are really dumb. Eating nothing but grapefruits, cabbage, twinkies… but in a deficit?… Dumb!
A calorie deficit is required for fat loss, but once your deficit is established, the composition of your hypo-caloric diet DOES matter. That’s why any good fat loss program starts with calories but doesn’t stop there – you also need to look at protein, essential fats, macronutrients, micronutrients, food quality and how the diet you choose fits into your lifestyle.
Don’t let the simplicity of this idea fool you. This is the #1 key to your successful weight loss this year, and every year: Focus on the deficit.