What you need to understand to start losing weight and why

Some of you already you know what you need to do, but let me explain the why. Why do you need to address food because when you understand why you’re doing something. It protects you from misinformation and you’ll gain more confidence in the process, helping you succeed in the long-term.

This is written in lamens meaning some phrases may not be 100% scientifically accurate but the underlying idea and concepts absolutely apply. Keep that in mind. I want you to walk away with understanding the concept and not necessarily memorising big scientific words.

But, before we start…

Take responsibility.

If you’re unhappy about your circumstances, about your weight or the way you look, whatever it might be. Let me tell you now, blaming is not productive to resolving a situation. Whether it is your fault or not, it doesn’t help to dwell on it. At the end of the day it is your responsibility, and no one elses. Take responsibility so you empower yourself to facilitate change.

Responsibility is empowering. Now personally, I didn’t really understand how responsibility is empowering. So let’s enter into an example. You’re responsible for planning a party. You can do whatever you want with this party. Set the theme, decorations, time, location, the people. The choice is yours. How powerful do you feel now? But this also means if the party is a hit, it’s because of you, if it fails, it is also because of you. This might be a little daunting but be courageous. Remember if you’re not ready for the failures, you’re also not ready for the success.

Take responsibility of your weight. Take responsibility of your health. Start making changes. If, that is, you want things to change.

It is challenging.

Don’t make the mistake that losing weight is easy. I’m also not going to say it’s going to be hard either, that’s a matter of perspective. But saying or thinking it's easy doesn’t put you in the right mindset for the journey ahead. Statistics say around 90% of dieters regain the weight they’ve lost and then some within 5 years. Yes, they initially lost weight but it came back with friends - this is a failure. If I was a millionaire for 3 months (summer), and afterwards I was broke and back to square one - would you consider me financially successful?

Be careful of the mindset of easy. It will be challenging. You need to be in a mindset that is ready for a challenge, ready for change.

Be open minded.

You’re guessing, or you’re not sure. That’s why you’re here. In my experience a lot people are held back because they have their own ideas. Ideas that aren’t working for them and they are not open to other ideas, because it’s not the things they want or expect to hear.

Let’s bring down our walls and get into the mindset of learning, not just looking for the things we want to hear.

How all diets work for weight loss

For weight loss. There are a lot of different diets out there, but they all have something in common. They all start with food. They all manage food.

For weight loss, all diets work by controlling how much you eat. All diets work by controlling your caloric/energy intake, how much you eat. We will revisit different diets in more detail, but if all diets start with food, we should too.

Why food first and energy balance

Calories (kcal) and kilojoules (kJ) are measurements of energy.

Food. Calories. Energy. What does it all mean?

First of all, what are calories? Calories or kilojoules are a measurement of energy. It is not good. Nor is it bad. It is simply a unit of measurement. For the purposes of weight loss we can substitute the word energy with calories and vice-versa.

Let's consider some phrases in the back of our heads and we'll bring them back in to help our understanding. Firstly, for simplicity, everything we eat or drink is a form of energy, meaning everything we eat or drink often contains calories. And secondly, we can consider body fat as stored energy, meaning we can consider body fat as stored or excess calories.

Everything we eat or drink is a form of energy.
We can consider body fat as stored energy.

When talking about weight loss, we're really having a conversation about manipulating energy. Remember, we can substitute energy and calories. So when we're talking about weight loss, we're really talking about manipulating calories.

Since weight loss is a conversation about manipulating energy. Let’s learn about how all humans use energy everyday. This is total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). This is important because if weight loss is a conversation about manipulating energy, we should know how we as humans use that energy. Our energy expenditure can broken down into four major groups.

  • Roughly 60% of our energy is used to keep us alive.

    • (BMR) Basal Metabolic Rate.

  • Roughly 10% of our energy is used to digest the food we eat.

    • (TEF) Thermic Effect of Feeding

  • Roughly 20% of our energy is used for general movement.

    • (NEAT) Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis

  • Roughly 10% of our energy is used for exercise activity.

    • (EAT) Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.

You've probably heard it before "you can't outrun a bad diet". But you’ve never really asked why. As we can see through our total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), up to 90% of how we use energy, how we use our calories is outside of exercise. 90% - you can't out exercise a bad diet.

So let’s answer the question. Why food first? For weight loss, everything we eat or drink (except water) is a form of energy and we begin with food because roughly 90% of how we use energy is outside of exercise. Roughly 70% of how we use energy is outside of overall activity. Addressing activity and exercise, is only 30%. Exercise only, addresses only 10%. Why are we addressing the smallest parts of the equation? Using exercise solely to lose weight is a recipe for a failure. If this was a subject at school or an assignment and you decide to focus on the 10%, focus on exercise, you’ve missed another 90 and you have failed the subject.

Up to 90% of how we use energy is outside of exercise… you can’t out exercise a bad diet.

So if we eat more than we use. Our body stores it as body fat. In other words, if we eat more energy than we need, our body turns it into stored energy.

Now, it is also entirely possible to eat just what you need and not tap into your body fat, your stored energy. For weight loss, what we want to do is be in a scenario where we’re eating enough but not so high, so we can still use our stored energy, this is also known as a calorie deficit. See the images below which help illustrate these concepts.

I’ve personally called it “energy source” for your understanding. But, this is the concept of energy balance and creating a calorie deficit is the foundation for weight loss. Any and all weight loss.

A calorie deficit is the foundation for weight loss.

Revisiting diets

Now you understand the importance of energy, you now understand the importance of how much you eat, lets revisit diets and discuss how they work for weight loss. Firstly, let’s put up our major macronutrients on the board. Our major macronutrients being Proteins, Fats and Carbohydrates.

1 gram of Protein is 4 kcal.

1 gram of Carbohydrates is 4 kcal.

1 gram of Fat is 9 kcal.

Note: this is not 1 gram of food weight, but 1 gram of the macronutrient in the food.

Let’s take an average daily calorie intake of 2500 kcal. For simplicity sake anything less than 2250 kcal we can consider to be a calorie deficit and sufficient to elicit weight loss.

Calories (kcal) Proteins (g) Fats (g) Carbs (g)
2500 100 100 300

As an example, let’s enter into some popular diets and their basic philosophies. For your understanding we’ll simplify the diets and won’t enter into the nuanced details.

  • Ketogenic Diet - little to no dietary carbohydrates, increase dietary fats

  • Low Fat Diet - low dietary fat.

  • Paleo Diet - no processed foods (which are usually high in fats and carbs)

  • Carnivore Diet - only meat, less fats, less carbs.

Diet Calories (kcal) Proteins (g) Fats (g) Carbs (g)
Before 2500 100 100 300
Ketogenic 1950 100 150 50
Low Fat 2050 100 50 300
Paleo 1900 100 60 240
Carnivore 1920 220 80 80

Remember this is purely a conceptual example on how diets may work for weight loss. That is, if you’ve been eating a certain way and you enter into a specific diet, in one way shape or form something gets eliminated. Therefore, calories get eliminated.

Based on our knowledge of energy balance, yes, it is possible not to lose weight and even gain weight on a particular diet if we eat more energy than what we use but are still within the parameters of a given diet. Remember, it is the resultant calorie deficit and not the diet itself that elicits weight loss.

It is the resultant calorie deficit and not the diet itself that elicits weight loss.

So let’s answer the question. How do diets work for weight loss? Diets work for weight loss by managing food through eliminating specific food groups, which eliminates calories, which reduces overall caloric intake and potentially creates a caloric deficit. As discussed previously a calorie deficit elicits weight loss.

Short and sweet. Q & A.

  • Do we need a diet to lose weight? No, not necessarily. Though a particular diet may be beneficial if it fits your lifestyle.

  • What do we need to do lose weight? Manage our total intake of calories and create a calorie deficit, where we eat less than we what we use.

  • Why do we need to create a calorie deficit? Due to the concept of energy balance.

  • How do we create a calorie deficit to elicit weight loss? That is up to you.

How do we create a calorie deficit to elicit weight loss?

How do we create a calorie deficit? That is very individual (lame). There is no one answer and there is no right answer (lame). Unfortunately, ‘how’ is the hardest part of the whole thing. ‘How’ relates to the process and we’ll discuss some ideas you might use to be able to shape your own process in the future. For now, understand and accept the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of weight loss and you might begin to develop your own ‘how’.

Extreme diet methods and constant failure are discouraging people and making them feel helpless. Don’t fall for another unsustainable fad diet. Now that you understand the concept for weight loss. You can protect yourself from unsustainable, extreme and likely unsuccessful methods.

Motivation

You don’t need motivation to start, as a matter of fact you don't want motivation. You don't need to be disciplined. Motivation will let you down and discipline is a lie. Instead care.

Care about your health, care about your weight and care about your goals. Care enough to do the things you don’t want to do. Care enough to take the necessary effort to start making moves towards your goals.

Lingering questions

You didn’t mention exercise… I kind of did. But I’ll address exercise more specifically next. Right now, start with food.

But my friend Sami from work says... Listen fuck that Sami guy.

Okay. I need to start managing my total intake of food. But what’s the secret…? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ

This is simply the beginning, there is definitely more to discuss but for now this is a good place to start.