Beyond the Scale - The Psychology of Fat Loss
Updated: Dec 13, 2022
Fat loss in its simplicity, comes down to energy balance, calories in vs calories out.
Create a deficit via diet and/or exercise and you will lose weight, simple. Any “expert” or “guru” suggesting otherwise isn’t worth your time. Yet, it’s not so simple. If it were then literally every one of my previous, current and dare I say future clients would be lean, mean, lifting machines in a matter of months.
Sadly, this isn’t the case. So, what’s missing? The obvious; The Human Element. Sometimes we fuck up and make mistakes and in reality, that’s fine, but that’s not how we think. We think having one “extra” cookie and “blowing” our diet for the day entitles us to binge for the rest of it. We adopt a one step forward two steps back approach because all we do is focus on the dreaded “diet”. Besides the underlying foundation that is calories in vs calories out, your diet, or should I say your fat loss is going to be governed and influenced by your psychology, your willingness, your current and developing habits and your environment.
First of all, you should ask yourself if you’re ready to diet. Is your head clear enough to undergo that additional stressor? Are other stressors or factors in your life taking precedence? If everything’s going well and life is peachy, now might be the time to consider dieting. Secondly, how willing are you? Are you ready to be disappointed? Because this shit is gonna take way longer than you think. Are you addicted to the scale? Because I can tell you, that shit might not move for a couple of weeks. If that’s the case, are you gonna have a paddy and quit, or are you mentally strong enough and willing enough to push through the shit times? Thirdly, you need to address your habits, honestly. Are you the type of person who eats to satisfy an emotional impulse? Had a bad day at work, tub of ice cream kinda person? Favourite TV show not on, bag of cookies, etc? If you’re not mentally fragile then consider approaching a diet but build your diet piece by piece. The person who tries to do everything at once, often fails. Trust me, as someone who Coaches fat loss and someone who has run two pretty successful fat loss "phases" I've more or less seen and heard it all.
My personal advice would be to focus on hitting your protein targets for one or more weeks. This is step one. It's simple enough to accomplish and not overwhelming enough to fluster (most) people. Once this is habitual, then we typically start supplementing the majority of your meals with copious amounts of vegetables. Choose vegetables you actually like or tolerate, not the latest trendy vegetable because you’ve been told it’s a “superfood”. Next, start regimenting yourself to eating 3-5 meals per day. This will ultimately keep you in check and should stop you snacking. You do not need a snack and you sure as fucking hell don’t deserve a “cheat meal”. Stop focusing on rewarding yourself, you don’t deserve a reward. Your reward will be your healthier, better, more resilient physique, not a fucking burger. Finally, slowly reduce the amount of “treat” foods or highly processed shit you have. Don’t eliminate your favourite foods. Again, DO NOT eliminate your favourite foods, you can still have these in moderation, maybe even daily if you know what you’re doing. If you love a certain type of chocolate then feel free to keep it around, but maybe get rid of all the other shit. If you know you’re the type of person who is prone to binge and quick to indulge your impulses, then it may be wise to remove any form of temptation from your home. Personally, I can't have anything like that around the house when I'm dieting. I will eat anything that isn't chained down if I'm able so for me it's simply best if I don't have any crap in the house.
A little collage demonstrating my latest fat loss phase after recovering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome
If you’ve established these habits (over weeks/months) you should be well on your way to making long term, sustainable fat loss, while not going batshit crazy and maintaining your sanity. Now, all that’s left is those 3 little words I’m constantly banging on about: Discipline, Consistency, Autonomy. Live your training/dieting life by those terms. Understand motivation is bullshit and extremely short lived. Discipline is forever. Dieting (for fat loss) isn’t something you (should) do your whole life and the people who argue that diets aren't sustainable fail to grasp this. Being consistent with your training and food choices is something you should be doing forever. Being autonomous when it comes to eating is the ultimate goal. Eating similar foods every day, knowing how to train and what to do if you “fuck up”, keeping shit as simple as possible etc. Oh, and while I remember, on the topic of keeping things simple, I’ve had a read through some paid for “tailored” diet plans and fuck me, what a load of bollocks. I’m sure every fucker writing a diet plan assumes everyone is loaded and/or has their own personal chef. Listing 10-20 ingredients per meal is mental! I know I personally wouldn’t adhere to that. Example being, my breakfast almost every day is either a steak, a couple of eggs, a piece of fruit and glass of milk or oats, whey, peanut butter, and blueberries. Hardly difficult.
Plan ahead and plan for the “suck”. For the average Joe, starvation type diets or trying to be "hardcore" eating 800 calories a day or some shit will bite you in the ass sooner or later. Might seem cool in the first day or so, maybe even the first week, but hunger will come knocking, and then you’ll be faced with a choice: embrace the suck or flip flop on your diet and binge. Or option 3; don’t be a fuckwit eating 800 calories a day and acknowledge this is a slow and steady process.
To conclude let's just reiterate that dieting adds another, oftentimes huge stressor to your life. If you're already under a lot of stress, whether it be at work, home, school or whatever then adding in a further stressor might not be ideal. Additionally, with that being said, diet success can be highly influenced by managing stress and stress hormones. So being stressed out and/or under pressure all the time is literally going to add hurdles to your fat loss. For those ready to lose weight who are fairly new to dieting, start slow. Don't try and do everything at once. Implement little changes over time and develop healthy habits. You'll also have to be honest with yourself. You are your biggest variable. If you're constantly half-assing or skimping on your diet, then you've only yourself to blame. You'll also need to consider whether you have an obsessive personality. If that's the case, then using the scales as a measure of progress might be more detrimental than beneficial. I know too many people who become obsessed with the scale to the point where they're weighing themselves multiple times per day and freak out if their weight fluctuates (which it inevitably will). You'll have to figure out a strategy that works for you, either on your own or with the help of a Coach.
I'll go over principles of fat loss, how to create the perfect deficit, and a proactive and a productive way of looking at Fat Acceptance in future posts!