3 Secrets for Sustainable Fat Loss
Minimum Effective Dose, The Law of Averages & SetPoint Theory
Fat loss doesn’t have to be an all or nothing endeavour. By determining your minimum effective dose and applying the law of averages, you can have your cake and eat it too.
PART 1: Minimum Effective Dose
Finding the minimum effective dose when it comes to dieting for fat loss means finding how little you need to subtract to elicit the desired result (fat loss), instead of how much.
Conversely finding the minimum effective dose of exercise for fat loss means finding how little you need to add to elicit the desired result.
Now that’s a breath of fresh air.
The problem is that most people do the opposite and do a complete diet overhaul and go crazy at the gym. They cut everything, bread, pasta, pizza, ice cream, booze, petting cute puppies, joy and happiness and garnish their salads with a side of sadness and vomit-inducing workouts at the gym.
There is a better way, and it doesn’t require calculators, food logging apps, or a gym membership to get started.
To do this, you will need to conduct an audit of your current eating habits. You don’t have to be pedantic, a general outline of your daily eating habits (through the week and on the weekend) will do.
When you look at the list, I can almost guarantee you that several offending items will jump out at you. From that list, pick just one thing to improve.
Pick one thing.
It might be swapping out a sugary breakfast for something higher in protein. Perhaps you’ll focus on ditching sugar in your coffee. Or replacing the afternoon Tim Tams (I mean who the hell only eats one Tim Tam?) with an afternoon apple.
Stick with this change for two weeks, but before you start jump on the scale, take a waist measurement, and take before photos (front – back and side profile). Assuming you’ve been maintaining the same weight for a while, the smallest of changes could have enough of an impact to kick start weight loss.
If you’re currently gaining weight, you may have to make a slightly larger adjustment, but a complete overhaul is rarely (if ever) necessary.
After two weeks, jump back on the scale, slap that tape measure around your waist and take another set of progress pictures. If things have improved, don’t change a thing, keep doing what you’re doing.
Mindset Tip: Instead of thinking about what you should remove from your diet to improve it, think about what you can add. Say “I’ll add more vegetables” instead of “I’ll remove “bread and cereal.” Say “I’ll drink more water” instead of “I’ll stop drinking so many soft drinks.” The moment our brain registers, we cannot have something, we want that thing more than anything. Nothing should be off-limits in a well-rounded diet. So instead of depriving yourself, simply make room for more of the good stuff. This will naturally help reduce the amount of “sometimes foods” you eat without blacklisting them.
GIVE IT TWO WEEKS
Don’t, I repeat, DON’T get upset if the scale, measurements or photos don’t move the way you would have liked them to. It’s just information that is moving you closer to your goal. Keep calm, adjust and carry on.
If things haven’t changed then pick one more item off your list to improve and give it another two weeks. I can almost guarantee you this; it will only take one or two adjustments to see yourself headed in the right direction.
Not only is this method achievable, but it also leaves plenty of wiggle room if fat loss stalls down the track. The best thing is you will be able to achieve fat loss and still get to enjoy all of the good things in life.
The take-home message here is this: make a small adjustment to your diet, give it two weeks, assess and adjust.
Minimum Effective Dose and Exercise
I don’t want to delve too deeply into exercise in this post, but the same rules apply but in reverse. What is the minimum you need to ADD to speed fat loss?
If you’re currently quite inactive, it could be as little as a 15-minute walk each day. If you now drive to the gym to exercise, walking or riding your bike there instead might be all you need to insight fat loss
The take-home message. Don’t shoot too high, aim low (or shall we say, only aim high as necessary) and adjust up as required.
PART 2: The Law of Averages
You don’t have to be perfect every day to lose weight.
What if I told you that one perfect day might be enough to get the ball rolling? Would that make it easier for you to commit to losing weight?
The 24-hour food cycle isn’t really the best measure of calories in/calories out. 24-hours doesn’t take into account the ebbs and flows of life. How do we reel a bad day back in if we only have that day? The answer is we can’t.
Let’s blow that timeframe out to two days (48 hours), and at least we’ve got a chance. One bad day followed by one good day.
That could work.
But what if on day two your car breaks down (in a Mcdonald’s car park) and your only option is to eat there? You ask for a salad, but they’ve run out. They only have Big Macs, Oreo McFlurry’s and full cream coke due to unfortunate accident between a medical marijuana delivery truck and a stray family of wondering alpaca farmers on the freeway which gave the Alpacas a severe case of the munchies.
Later that day you finally get home you realise you’ve forgotten it’s Aunty Irma’s surprise birthday party! She insists you have the largest slice of Red Velvet cake.
Life happens, and if you throw your hands up in the air after one lousy day of dieting, you’re going to quit a lot.
I believe a week is a much better measure of how you’re tracking. A week allows for the bad days to happen and gives you time and flexibility to compensate for them.
If you’re currently eating 3000 calories per day:
3000 x 7 = 21000 per week
One of those days, you decide to only consume 1000 calories.
21000 – 2000 = 19000
1900 / 7 = 2700 (rounded down)
That's 300 calories saved per day!
Now let’s not get all sassy just yet, but the numbers don’t lie. By restricting one day of eating, you reduced your weekly average by almost 10%! Instead of depriving yourself every day, you can compartmentalise it and reap the same rewards.
Doing all in one day might be too extreme, in which case cycling your calories might suit you more. Cycling calories means alternating higher calorie days with lower-calorie days.
If you’re currently eating 3000 calories 7-days per week, cut it down to 5, and only eat 2000 calories on day 6 and 7. If you’re now maintaining your body weight, this might be all you need to do to get the fat loss ball rolling.
Tying this back to Part 1 (Minimum Effective Dose) it’s about finding the smallest about of change you need to make to move toward your goal (fat loss).
The take-home message here is: the body doesn’t work on 24-hour timeframes (we do, but it doesn’t). So instead of dieting hard every day, think about picking one or two days to be really good.
Then stick with what you’re doing now for the rest of the week.
NB: Taking a longer-term perspective, the goal should be to gradually improve your whole diet. Eating like a small child at a birthday party 5 days per week, while eating nothing but salad the other two days may work, but it’s not optimal for good health.
About counting calories: You don’t have to. In fact, I suggest it’s not worth your time and effort. I simply used the calorie example to clearly demonstrate how this works. If you didn’t count calories, would the result have changed? I do believe some type of check and balance system is beneficial though, especially if dieting is new to you. Learning to eyeball portions becomes a lot easier when you know what a portion looks like, and calorie counting can assist in this way.
The Law of Averages and Exercise
Exercise works the same way. Achieving the magical 10,000 steps every day is pretty much impossible for most people (there is nothing magical about 10,000 steps btw).
Once again the body doesn’t work in 24-hour timeframes. So if you get 7000 one day and 13000 the next, it works just as well as if you try for 10,000 per day.
Part 3: SetPoint Theory
Your current body, at your current weight, requires a certain amount of energy to operate/survive. This amount of energy, which is individual to you, your habits, your circumstances in life is your current SetPoint.
Your body hates change. It doesn’t want to put on weight, it doesn’t want to reduce weight, it wants to stay the same.
Its goal is to maintain the current SetPoint, regardless of YOUR goals.
If you’ve put on a significant amount of weight, chances are it happened over several years.
Perhaps there were periods that you didn’t put on weight, despite the fact you were eating with wild abandon. Good times, the best of times! I can almost hear you now:
“I defy the laws of thermodynamics, I am a peacock, watch me fly”, you squeal with giddy delight. “Calories in/calorie out don’t apply to me!”
One day you wake up and remember that peacocks can’t fly.
Your body would have tried valiantly to maintain the old setpoint until eventually, due to overfeeding, it gave in and adjusted to a new one.
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you might have gone through similar trials and tribulations. Weeks of strict adherence to a plan with little or no reward.
Doing everything right yet seeing no return for your efforts. Once again, your body is trying to maintain its setpoint.
Your body loves nothing more than a little more of you to love. Meanwhile, you’ve thrown the bathroom scale through the window.
Here is the thing, your body doesn’t care about your deadlines, goals or aspirations. Nor does it care about making sense to you, it cares your alive, it cares that you are maintaining equilibrium.
Crash diets and the SetPoint Checkmate
Crash diets don’t give your body time to adjust to new metabolic requirements. Put in lamens terms, this means a heavier person needs more energy for day to day functions than a lighter person.
If you suddenly become skinny, your body will see this as a threat, commence a counterstrike.
In general, the faster you lose it, the more aggressively the body compensates, especially if you go back to what you were doing before the diet.
SetPoint calls CHECKMATE! Then you gain it all back, and probably a little extra for good measure.
Minimum Effective Dose, The Law of Averages and SetPoint
Applying the minimum effective dose to dietary change is an effective way to change your setpoint. As I’ve already stated, the body doesn’t like change, particularly significant changes, small ones can be far more productive.
The law of averages is also excellent because, for the most part, your calorie intake is on par with what you usually eat. Small planned fluctuations in calorie intake are far less likely to be perceived as a threat to the existing setpoint.
The key with dieting (or exercising) for fat loss or anybody composition goal is sustainability.
The minimum effective dose applied in combination with the law of averages provides a flexible solution that allows you to lose weight while still living a life you enjoy.
Yes, the weight loss will be slower than if you went on a crash diet, but it will likely be weight loss that stays with you, that you don’t gain back.
The key takeaway here is this: to change your bodies setpoint you need to do is slowly. You didn’t put on 20 kilos in a week, and you won’t take it off in a week. The trick is to find flexible options that allow you to enjoy life will gradually chipping away at your goals.
Bonus Section: More isn't always better. Sometimes it's just more.
“More isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s just more.” ~ Barbara Benedek
If fasting one day per week has kicked off my weight loss, what would happen if I fasted seven days per week!
If going to the gym four days per week for one hour has lead to this progress, imagine what would happen if I went every day for 3 hours!
Did I ever tell you the story about my uncle? He was a window cleaner, and he survived a 99 story fall from a building after his harness broke. Unfortunately, it was a 100 story building, and it was the last floor that killed him.
Bad jokes aside, the point is this; if you keep adding exercise in an attempt to speed progress, sooner or later you’re going to hit a roadblock or an aspect of unsustainability.
You’ll hit the 100th floor, you’ll burn out, get injured or just give up.
Likewise, if you keep stripping food away the same will happen, you’ll run out of options, life will become too unpleasant, you’ll give up.
The unfortunate truth is that most people skip level 1-99 and jump straight to 100; from sitting on the lounge eating pizza and ice cream every day to hitting the gym and eating salad. Most of them don’t last the first week.
The beauty of the minimum effective dose and the law of averages is that you get to figure out what your number between 1 and 100 is to move you toward your goals. Don’t you think it would be comforting if you found out the 30 was your number? Leaving the remaining 70 to do what you have always done. Your life doesn’t have to change drastically to reach your goals. When it comes to sustainable fat loss, or sustainable anything for that matter, it’s got to fit into your life, not consume it.
When it comes to sustainable fat loss, there really aren’t any “secrets”; We all know what to do. Eat more vegetables, eat protein, drink water, get good sleep, walk more, lift heavy weights. The secret is doing these things in a sustainable way. A sustainable now and for the rest of your life type of way. Hardcore diets and exercise plans don’t fit those criteria. That’s why I prescribe a much more moderate approach so that you can indeed have your cake and eat it too.
If you looking for a coach that will meet you where you are at, and find solutions that fit into your life, instead of taking over your life, please feel free to get in touch via the contact page on this site.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, have a great day.