Are you someone who exercises regularly but just isn’t seeing the results you expected from your training? You’re feeling fitter and stronger, but can’t seem to shift the excess body fat? It’s time to face an uncomfortable reality: you’re just not making enough healthy decisions to get the body you deserve.
Losing body fat is easier for some people than others and it usually comes down to genetics, so you can thank your parents for that, but there are three fundamental reasons why, even with regular, quality training, your body is not relinquishing it’s stubborn body fat. This article addresses the “big three” and by following the advice herein you should be able to start to see and feel the results of your hard work, because you deserve to!
1. You’re eating the wrong foods
This is not your fault. Until now you’ve just been given the wrong information by people you trust (government, medical professionals, friends, family, most of whom know nothing about nutrition). As a result you’re fuelling your body on the wrong type of fuel: carbohydrates. Carbs are grouped into sugars and starches. Sugars deliver quick energy and then they’re gone, so you need more. It’s like putting paper on a fire, it burns hot then its gone. Starches are just long chains of sugars so they take longer to digest into sugars before they are absorbed into your body, but ultimately it’s still sugar that you absorb. So when people ask me “whats the difference between a bowl of pasta and a bowl of Haribo, the answer is “20 minutes”.
I want to help you switch from fuelling your body on carbs, to fuelling your body on fat, your body fat, which is like burning coal on a fire. The problem with carbs is that after you eat them your body releases insulin, a hormone which locks-in your body fat and tells you to make more fat cells. The secret to burning body fat has nothing to do with how many calories you burn in the gym, it’s to do with keeping insulin low. Only this way will you switch to burning body fat. You’ll feel less hungry, the cravings will go, and your energy levels will naturally become more stable.
Follow this advice to switch your body from a fat-storing, to a body-fat-burning machine:
Eat less starch (bread, rice, cereal, pasta, potatoes), no sugar (sweets, cakes, confectionary, ice cream, biscuits, tropical fruit) and include some protein (meat, fish, eggs, beans, pulses) at every meal.
Eat as much green vegetables as you like (preferably Organic) and no more than two portions of local, seasonal fruit per day.
Snack on nuts and seeds but don’t overdo it, they can be quite calorific.
Dairy should be full fat, ideally unpasteurised, and consumed in moderation.
Drink water throughout the day and no fruit juice or fizzy drinks. Drink up to six cups of green/herbal tea daily and no more than two cups of normal tea or coffee. Avoid beer and spirits completely, the occasional glass of wine is ok.
Chocolate should be at least 70% coco and eaten in moderation (a portion is 20g).
Saturated fat will not make you fat and does not cause heart disease. Cook with coconut oil, butter or ghee and never with sunflower oil, vegetable oil or other so-called “healthy” seed oils.
If it says “healthy” it probably isn’t: always avoid the “light”, “diet”, “lowcalorie” options: they are usually worse than the real thing. Remove artificial sweeteners and flavourings from your diet forever.
Replace your table salt with an unrefined sea salt (pink or grey appearance).
Use lemon/lime juice, chilli, pepper, fresh herbs and spices to add flavour to your meals. Sit down to eat, relax and chew your food
2. You’re eating too much
If you’re already doing all this and still not seeing results, then the most likely reason is that you’re eating too much. “Wow this guy’s good!” I hear you say, with a hint of sarchasm. But seriously, either you’re eating the right foods but the portions are too big (which also raises insulin), or you’re eating more calories than you require throughout the whole day.
So, the first thing to do is reduce your portion size – here are a few tricks to help you to reduce your portion size…
Serve your meals on a smaller plate.
Avoid going back for seconds. If you’ve made too much put the excess into a contain and put it in the fridge for tomorrow.
Have a large glass of water before you eat, ideally with a squirt of lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt, this helps get your digestive juices going so that you derive more nutrients from your meal.
Pre-empt your hunger. Try not to let yourself get so hungry that you gorge yourself when you do finally sit down to eat. Do have a snack but just don’t go mad.
Now, if you’re in a daily calorie excess it’s unlikely to be the amount of vegetables that are pushing you over the edge and if you’re following the advice above, it surely isn’t going to be the carbs. So it’s either that you’re eating too much protein, or too much fat. A helpful guideline for the protein portion of each meal is approximately the size of the palm of your open hand. It’s more likely to be the higher fat foods that may be tipping you into a calorie excess. The most common culprits are nuts and dairy (especially milk, cheese and yoghurt). Nuts make a convenient snack, but try not to eat more than you can hold in one hand. Milk and yoghurt will never help you get lean, due to the natural sugars they contain and cheese, while ok in moderation, is easy to over-eat.
3. Stress is halting your progress
If after all this, your nutrition is on-point yet you are still struggling to lose the excess body fat, then it is likely that stress in whats holding you back. Stress has a chemical effect on our bodies which is similar to what happens in a more dramatic way when our lives are under threat. Think about how you felt immediately after a car accident, or if you’ve ever been attacked or robbed in the street. That chemical response is the same when we are under prolonged stress only instead of it being acute then disappearing, it becomes chronic and lasts for weeks, months, even years.
The most common causes of long-term stress are financial worries, abusive or toxic relationships, lack of security, feeling trapped in a job you hate or being bullied. While these things are going on in your life, there’s no amount of exercise that will offset these major stressors. You’re body is going to find it nigh impossible to relinquish it’s stored energy reserves (body fat) while it feels under threat. So it’s absolutely essential for your long term physical and mental health that you get some help in addressing the stressors in your life before you can start to address any weight loss or body composition goals.
To learn more about strategies for managing stress, read this article on how to manage stress and have more energy
Once these major stressors have been eliminated, there are minor stressors that may hinder your progress: alcohol, sugar, caffeine, skipping meals, rushing your meals. So it’s not rocket science: get off the booze, switch to decaf, eat regular meals at the same times each day and sit down to eat your food, slowly.
So there you have it. Stop listening to bad advice from people who are not qualified to tell you about nutrition and start putting these things into practice. Having been a personal trainer for over ten years, and a Nutritional Therapist for five, the more I read and the more teach nutrition, the simpler the advice I give: eat real foods, in their most natural form, and don’t overdo it.
Rob Suchet is an award-winning personal trainer with a MSc in Nutritional Therapy. He is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Trained in functional medicine, Rob works with athletes, celebrities and the general population to help them achieve life-changing health and bodyshape transformations. He has been featured in the Guardian, Red Magazine, FHM, on Sky News, and in 2014 the Express described him as “one of the UK’s best personal trainers.” More…