The first thing most people do when wanting to lose weight is to cut back on the number of calories they consume, but a far smarter strategy is to instead increase the amount of energy you burn. That way you can start to build a leaner body without making sweeping – and unsustainable – changes to the way you eat, says New Body Plan editorial director Joe Warner
“The diet starts Monday.”
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard someone say that. They want to lose weight and they know they have to lose weight because they’re nowhere near as healthy and happy as they could (or should) be. But for some reason most people are convinced they can only successfully lose weight if their attempt begins on the first working day of the week.
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A perfect problem
It’s this mindset that is, for so many people, the number two reason why they never lose their belly. They’re waiting for the “perfect time” to start wrestling back control of their health and fitness.
But because there is no such ideal moment, they never start so nothing good happens. Indeed, they gain weight rather than lose it, they become more miserable rather than confident, positive and determined, and they raise their risk of medical problems rather than improve their chances of living a long, healthy and happy life.
I’m not going to say anymore about this second-biggest reason why people fail to lose weight, mainly because I’ve already written an article on the best time to start burning fat, so check it out if you want to stack the odds of success in your favour.
A time for change
Instead, I want to talk about the number one reason why you haven’t lost as much weight as you’d like. And you know what? You’re going to kick yourself. Why? Because it doesn’t involve making even one change to the way you eat. So you can start losing fat – today – without a single more second of stress or worry or hassle about food.
And the best bit is that once you realise the mistake you’ve been making they’ll be no stopping you in achieving the leaner, stronger and fitter body you want. It really is that easy.
The energy equation
Let’s start at the beginning, because this is where the problem starts. To lose weight you need to burn more calories than you can consume. That’s it. It’s called the Energy Balance Equation, and it’s based on knowing how many calories you eat each day then subtracting the amount of energy you burn each day.
A positive number means you’ll gain weight (which will be lean muscle if know how to train like a pro and eat for a leaner body, or will be fat if you’re sedentary and eat junk), whilst a negative number means you’re in a “calorie deficit” so you’ll burn fat and lose weight.
Cut back on calories
What everyone then does, once they realise they need to be in this calorie deficit to burn body fat, is to dramatically reduce the amount they eat, thereby cutting the number of calories they consume each day.
If you cut out all carbs, or avoid all fats, or do a dangerous juice or detox diet, then of course you’ll slash your energy intake. But you’ll feel absolutely terrible, won’t sleep, be moody with poor concentration, and crave everything you’re now suddenly denying yourself. Trust me, I’ve tried it, and any weight I lost (which was mainly water, not fat anyway) came back with a vengeance once the approach became too much to deal with (which always happens).
Feel the burn
What nobody does, once the realise they need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight, is keep eating the way they’ve been eating but instead try to increase their daily energy expenditure to create that deficit.
But you should, because changing your diet can be very challenging, especially when you’ve been driven to your weight-loss decision for the reason you’re unhappy with how you look and feel.
Your confidence and determination levels are already low, and a few days of eating like a rabbit will make you feel worse, not better. So you give up and go back to the way things were, convinced you’re incapable of change.
Instead, if you start moving your body more to increase the number of calories you burn, you don’t have to radically overhaul the way you eat. A few days of smart training will create that calorie deficit, and just as importantly release a steady-stream of feel-good endorphins that are nature’s way of building back up your confidence and motivation.
And I’m not talking about having to go run a half-marathon or pumping iron for hours on end.
A daily walk is a fantastic start – not only to burn calories but also to help your head. An evening stroll around my block has been a lifesaver during lockdown to create a concrete work-life break so I know the working day is over and I can switch off, rather than sit hunched over my laptop until long after the sun’s gone down.
If you do want to try a really good and effective workout today to ramp up your calorie expenditure then why not try my quick 15-minute fat-burning home workout, or my 8-move big arms gym workout, or even go for a quick run or ride (just make sure if you’re always very clever with your cardio to burn fat as fast as possible).
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Ramp up your results
If you can move your body more each day for a week, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to create a calorie deficit. You’ll start to chip away at your body-fat stores, which is great, but the best bit is that now you’re in the right positive mindset to start looking at other areas of your life where some simple improvements can be made.
Take nutrition: you’re now looking and feeling better, confident in your ability to change, and want to speed up your fat loss. So you look at changing one or two things about the way you eat, say snacking on nuts, rather than crisps, and drinking more squash rather than fruit juice. That’s another 200 calories saved a day, without any real effort or sacrifice, or 1400 calories a week!
Combine that with your increasing activity levels and suddenly that spare tyre is deflating quicker than you ever thought possible – and you’re already guaranteed of building the better body you’ve always wanted!
We’re here to help!
It really is as simple as that: start by burning more calories to create that calorie deficit and get a good flow of happy hormones, and only then begin to make some small and smart changes to how you eat. Do that, and you’ve cracked it. If you’ve got any questions about this, or any health and fitness ones in general, reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get right back to you!
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