You must give up the entire concept of dieting on very low calories to lose weight.
You will never lose weight permanently with low calorie diets – it’s physiologically impossible!
Temporary dieting can only produce temporary results. You must use other methods. Let’s look at the eight strategies you can use to lose fat permanently while staying out of the starvation mode.
1. Adopt the “habit” mindset instead of the “diet mindset
The first step towards losing fat permanently has more to do with your mindset than it does with nutrition or exercise. You have to change your entire attitude about nutrition and exercise.
Instead of adopting the mindset of short-term “diets,” you must adopt the mindset of lifelong “habits.”
A habit is a behavior that you perform automatically without much conscious thought or effort. Once a habit is firmly established – good or bad - it takes enormous strength to break it. It’s like trying to swim upstream against the current.
The entire concept of “dieting” for fat loss is flawed. When you say you’re “going on a diet” the underlying implication is that it’s a temporary change and at some point you’re going to have to “go off” the diet. With this type of attitude, you’re setting yourself up for failure right from the start.
Permanent fat loss can’t be achieved by going on and off diets. It can only be achieved by adopting new exercise and nutrition habits that you can maintain for the rest of your life. Depending on your goal, you may need to make your diet more or less restrictive at certain times, but you always must maintain a baseline of healthy eating habits that never change. Usually you’ll eat the same foods all year round. When you want to lose body fat, all you need to do is simply eat a little bit less of those same foods and exercise more.
The best way to get rid of undesirable habits such as poor nutrition or inactivity is by replacing them with new ones, not attempting to overcome them with sheer willpower.
Good nutrition habits are not easy to form, but once you’ve formed them, they’re just as hard to break as the bad ones.
Initially, there will be a period where starting the new habit feels uncomfortable. Be patient – everything is difficult in the beginning.
For a new behavior to become permanently entrenched into your nervous system, it could take months. However, the roots of nutrition and exercise habits can be formed in just 21 days.
That’s why it’s so important to give 100% total effort and commitment for the first 21 days. Once those 21 days have gone by, you'll already be leaner and you'll be on your way to making your new habits as effortless and natural as brushing your teeth or taking a shower.
2. Keep your muscle at all costs
The critical factor in turning your body into a “fat-burning machine” is to build and maintain as much lean body mass as possible.
Muscle is your metabolic furnace. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even at rest. With more muscle, you burn more calories even while you sleep.
With a higher lean body mass, you’ll also burn more calories during exercise. If you put two people side by side jogging on a treadmill, one of them with 180 pounds of lean body mass and the other with 150 pounds of lean body mass, the person with 180 pounds of lean body mass will burn more calories from the exact same workout.
The most efficient way to burn more calories and lose more body fat is to gain more muscle. That’s why weight training is an important part of the fat loss equation.
3. Use a small calorie deficit.
The best method is to set your calorie deficit as a percentage of your maintenance level. 15-20% is the recommended starting calorie reduction for fat loss.
This is considered a small calorie deficit and a small calorie deficit is the key to losing fat while maintaining muscle.
The reason the percentage method is better is because using an absolute number like 500, 750 or 1000 calories as a deficit instead of a percentage deficit might drop your calories into the danger zone. For example, if you are a male with a 3500 calorie maintenance level, a 750 calorie deficit to 2750 calories per day is only a 21% drop (a small, safe and acceptable deficit.) However, if you are a female with an 1800 calorie per day maintenance level and you cut your calories by 750 per day to 1050 calories, that is a 41% cut. Using the percentage method is more individualized.
4. Use exercise to burn the fat rather than diets to starve the fat
To lose body fat, there must be a calorie deficit. Such are the laws of thermodynamics and energy balance. However, there’s more than one way to create a calorie deficit. One way is to decrease your calorie intake from food.
The other is to increase the amount of calories you burn though exercise. Of the two ways to create a calorie deficit, burning the calories is the superior method. This is because large calorie deficits cause muscle loss and trigger the starvation response. Ironically, most people do the opposite: They slash their calories to starvation levels and exercise too little or not at all. This causes a decrease in lean body mass and invokes the starvation mechanism.
Stupid as it seems, the most effective approach to fat loss is to eat more (keep the calorie reduction small) and let the exercise burn the fat.
You don’t have to starve yourself – you just have to choose the right foods and make exercise a part of your lifestyle.
Why would anyone resort to starvation diets when they can burn fat more efficiently through exercise? Perhaps they believe that eating more food and working out at the same time will “cancel each other out. Maybe they shy away from the hard work involved in exercise.
6 Reasons why exercise - not dieting - is the superior method of losing body fat:
1. Exercise – aerobic and weight training - raises your metabolic rate.
2. Exercise creates a caloric deficit without triggering starvation mode.
3. Exercise is good for your health. Dieting is harmful to your health.
4. Exercise, especially weight training, signals your body to keep your muscle and
not burn it for energy. Dieting without exercise can result in up to 50% of the
weight loss to come from lean body mass.
5. Exercise increases fat-burning enzymes and hormones.
6. Exercise increases the cells sensitivity to insulin so that carbohydrates are burned
for energy and stored as glycogen rather then being stored as fat.
5. Eat more frequently and never skip meals
Your goal should be to eat approximately every three hours. Establish scheduled meal times and stick to them. Regularity in your eating habits is critical!
Let’s say you eat lunch at 12:00 noon and dinner at 7:00 pm. If you skip breakfast the next day, that’s 17 hours without food. This sends a signal to your body that you are starving, even if your lunch and dinner are large meals
That is why we recommend eating your 3 main meals and 2 snacks in between.
6. Don’t stay in a negative calorie balance long
The chances are good that you know at least one person who always seems to be on a diet.
The odds are also good that although these habitual dieters may achieve some small weight losses, they are among the 95% that always gain it back.
Then, discouraged with the failure of their last diet, they quickly embark on the latest “diet of the month” and repeat the cycle.
When fat loss stops or begins to slow down after being in a substantial calorie deficit, most people panic and cut their calories even further. Sometimes this works and it breaks the plateau. More often than not, it digs you into an even deeper metabolic rut.
The best thing you can do is to raise your calories for a few days or sometimes even for a few weeks.
Your body’s weight regulating mechanism works both ways: It can decrease your rate of energy expenditure when there is a calorie deficit, or it can also increase its rate of energy expenditure when there is a calorie surplus. When you eat more, your body burns more. A temporary increase in calories when you have hit a plateau will “spike” your metabolic rate. It sends a signal to your body that you are not starving and that it’s ok to keep burning calories.
This is known as "cycling".
7. Be patient.
The best way to lose fat permanently without muscle loss is to lose weight slowly with a focus on exercise rather than severe calorie cutting.
You can lose more than two pounds of weight per week, but you’re highly unlikely to lose more than two pounds of fat per week.
Even at two pounds per week, it’s difficult to lose 100% body fat with no loss of lean body mass!
It’s better to lose only one pound of pure fat per week than it is to lose two pounds per week with one pound from muscle and one pound from fat.