There are no perfect exercise routine to melt, torch, or incinerate gobs of body fat in a mere 10 days, and there are definitely no magic foods or pills for similarly super-fast fat loss. Even among savvy fitness folk who know that there are no quick fixes, unrealistic expectations around the pace of successful fat loss are fairly common.
Trying to achieve overly ambitious results during an unsustainable burst of effort rarely yields lasting results. Instead, a fast-paced fat loss scheme often ends in hunger and exhaustion, followed by burnout, frustration, and discouragement.
If you’re trying to achieve a leaner figure long-term — without losing your sanity — there’s a better way to go about it.
Slow And Chill For The Win
People of a healthy weight and body composition, who are basically seeking to get leaner for athletic or vanity purposes, would do well to plan for slow fat loss, around a half pound per week at most. Trying to lose fat faster than this is usually a recipe for rebound fat gain via hormone-driven overeating. While avoiding the nitty gritty of all the physiology that coincides with caloric restriction, it’s sufficient to say that extreme calorie deficits mess with hormones.
The result of upsetting hormonal baselines means you’re messing with sleep and mood, and this puts even the most stoic of dieter at risk of succumbing to a binge that undoes any caloric deficit they’ve earned. Yo-yo dieting is characterized by drastic calorie deficits followed by an inevitable cave-in and pig-out. This approach is both miserable and completely ineffective — truly the worst of both worlds.
Three Tips For A Low-Key Lean-Out
Doesn’t “get lean” sound better than “lose fat?” I mean, who likes to lose? Anyways, when it comes to eating to get leaner, consistency is the name of the game. Moderation is the way to make any changes to your diet manageable, especially if you’re focusing on making calorie restriction livable. Here are three suggestions for a moderate, manageable way to lean out and maintain.
1. Start with a modest deficit.
Aim for a calorie deficit of no less than 2,100 calories per week (or 300 calories per day). You can increase the deficit if you see no progress after two to three weeks of consistently and actually meeting your target weekly deficit. Be flexible with your daily calories and shift focus to your weekly target deficit as well as your overall longer-term adherence.
2. If you’re counting calories, round up on your estimates.
Google is still my favorite way to get nutrition facts for foods. Measuring your food can be useful, but isn’t usually practical, so estimate and round up. If you aren’t sure whether the portion of carnitas and rice you ate is closer to 650 or 700 calories, call it 700. This buffering strategy will give you better odds of consistently meeting each day’s target deficit.
Of course, counting calories obsessively isn’t the most sustainable or fun way to approach healthy eating habits or to stay lean. But if your goal is to lean out, you’ll need to have a general awareness what you’re putting in your body and how many calories you’re consuming. Once you’ve got a general notion of your daily consumption habits, you can apply some helpful hacks to avoid having to rely on calorie counting all the time.
3. Use “cheat meals” wisely.
Cheat meals have a double benefit. Foremost, they provide psychological respite in the form that only yummy eats can. Secondly, a cheat meal after following a period of hypocaloric eating (aka calorie deficit) “refreshes” hormone levels (namely leptin and ghrelin) and can help chase away cravings for treats. Both of these make adhering to a calorie deficit much more comfortable. Still, that doesn’t mean you can just stuff yourself with wild abandon. A cheat meal is not an excuse to binge on junk food.
A better way to enjoy your so-called “cheat meals” is with a balanced approach. Try not to overeat and stuff yourself to the point of feeling like your stomach is being stretched out. Plan them carefully, and choose your cheat meals wisely. Eat slowly, chew your food and pay attention to how you feel when you eat.
Stay With it, Stay Balanced
A more moderate pace to fat loss efforts makes the process easier to stick to. This increases likelihood of eventual success, so chill out and embrace the slow burn. Another benefit to taking it easy is that smaller caloric deficits, along with high protein intake and strength training, help to preserve lean muscle. While some diet and exercise practices are more effective than others, sustained effort is probably the best predictor for fat-loss success, so choose methods you can comfortably maintain.