How To Lose Weight – The Complete Back To Basics Post
So this is it. You’ve made the decision to beat fat and this is where it all starts. Contained in this post is absolutely everything that you will need to lose weight and become the next MAN v FAT Amazing Loser (while you’re at it, check out all the weight loss before and after stories we’ve got on the site). The idea of this post is to give you the ultimate back-to-basics guide – for some it will be laughably basic, but returning to the fundamentals and making sure you’ve got them cracked is never a bad idea.
Before we begin, you should take twenty seconds to click on this link and sign up to our posts. They’re free and they’re all the support you’ll ever need to help you win your battle against fat.
Let’s start with the bad news:
- Beating fat takes effort over a period of time.
- You will make mistakes.
The much better news:
- If you are sick of being fat and want to lose weight then you absolutely have the power to change your life.
- The science of how you lose weight is comically simple and can be learned in five minutes.
- Once you get going, reclaiming control of your body is going to make you feel awesome.
Use the resources we’re going to equip you with and losing weight and reclaiming your body is going to be straight-forward. Trust us. Remember, we’re here for you: if you’re still left with questions or you want something clarifying then get in touch on Facebook, Twitter – you can do this.
BEFORE YOU START
You’ve probably tried to lose weight before. Maybe you followed a harsh diet for a few days before losing faith. Perhaps you’ve been “on a diet” for most of your life? Potentially, this is the first time you’ve ever really thought about it. No matter what your history with weight and weight loss, one thing is true: the work you do before you start your weight loss accounts for its success or failure.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO BEFORE YOU START?
There are just five things you need to do to have a successful weight loss
- Understand why you got fat
- Set reasonable goals and regular reviews
- Understand how you lose weight and choose how you want to do it
- Select activities that you genuinely enjoy
- Identify where your support and threats will come from
Answer the question: why are you fat?
This question is often overlooked when it comes to losing weight, but until you can pinpoint why you got fat, it doesn’t really matter how successful any period of weight loss is. Unless you stop the behaviour that’s causing the problem then you’ll always be at risk of putting the weight back on. You’ll probably have a good idea of what’s caused you to put the weight on, but if it’s a mystery keep a food diary for the next two weeks and be honest and accurate – don’t just write “had a binge” write down what you binged on, why you did it and how it made you feel.
There are two things that you’re looking to isolate at this stage:
1) What is your poison?
2) Why are you poisoning yourself?
The answers that you’ll get to these questions often don’t make for particularly pleasant reading and many times it’s simpler to ignore the truth, or make a short-term concerted effort to change and then relapse when the effort becomes too much. So what sort of unpleasant things? Maybe you use alcohol to cope with unpleasant emotions. Maybe you’re stressed to breaking point and you deal with that by bingeing. Maybe you’re depressed and you’re using sweets as a cheap and easy way to prop yourself up. Told you it wasn’t always pleasant.
Some classic reasons men get fat:
|Reason||Sound familiar?||Solve it.|
|Time||Stressed, overworked and overfed? Going from desk to TV to bed? No idea how you’re going to fit in a diet, let alone exercise?||You need to address this medically before you’ll get better.|
|Medical Issues||Medicines such as anti-depressants, steroids, antihistamines and betablockers can cause weight gain.
Injuries that prevent you from
|Speak to your GP and raise your concerns, look at alternatives. Likewise with a trained physio – can you get better, if not how can you work around this?|
|People||Does everyone insist on you eating double portions? Can you not leave the table until you’ve been dished up second desserts? Or maybe your mates would hate to lose the one in the group who can do the Truffle Shuffle||Read this.|
|Emotional eating||Do you search out and use comfort food? If you’ve got a tough day do you look to the odd Twix to boost you through the day? You may well be eating emotionally – in other words you’re feeding a hunger other than one for nutrition.
|Speak to your GP who would be able to refer you to a relevant resource. Do it in secrecy if you need to but understand that failing to resolve this will make your weight loss so much harder.|
|Alcohol Issues||Binge drinking defined as anything above 4 units a day (I know!) is rife in men. Do you drink every day? Every night? Every weekend?
|Monitor your drinking and change your habits. If you find you’re struggling to then reach out to your GP.|
|Knowledge||No idea how to cook good food or what healthy food even looks like? Do you find yourself choosing takeaways because it’s quicker and easier to feed yourself?||Read MAN v FAT, simple.|
Set reasonable goals and regular reviews
This is the fun part – this is where you can make a decision about how much weight you are going to lose. There are a number of systems for helping you plan how much you should look to lose.
BMI – one of the most well-known and it’s the one that you’ll be judged on when it comes to whether you’re classified as obese, overweight, healthy or underweight. You want a BMI of between 18 and 25. There are plenty of arguments against BMI as a good measure so take it with a pinch of a low-sodium salt alternative but it can be a reasonable starting point. This will give you a target weight. You can check your BMI here.
Height-Weight Chart – Take a look at the chart, work out where the healthy weight range is, then make the obligatory joke about not being over-weight you’re just under-tall! Then make a mental note never to make that joke again.
Body Fat – this one explains what percentage of your body is made up of fat and what is made up of lean muscle. You can track your body fat in any number of ways, most of which are riddled with inaccuracies and complexities. Pick one (electronic measure, callipers) and accept that it will fluctuate, so don’t be too despondent. This is really about a very long-term measurement.
Appearance – What do you want to look like? Is there someone you think you’d like to model in terms of what you look like? Get a picture of them and add it to your record. Other appearance goals: what trouser size do you want to reach? Shirt size? Get a tape measure and record all the important stuff you need to know about your body.
Health – The most important measurement there is. Does your current weight and fitness allow you to do everything you want to without any form of concern? If not, then that is a brilliant objective. Your body is a tool which is capable of doing many incredible things – does your body give you that or does it fail you on certain things? Don’t worry if it does fail you, achieve your goal and soon it won’t.
Your goal list should now have:
- Body Fat
Break each of these down into a reasonable number of sub-goals and make a list of these. Maybe for appearance you want to work your way back into 28” jeans. Well, every size between now and then is a sub-goal. It could be that you split your weight into mini-goals – under 20 stone, every 7lb – and so on. Now next to each mini-goal add a reward. It could be a CD, a nice experience, a MAN v FAT t-shirt, a trip somewhere nice.
Well, durr: Don’t use food as a reward, it’s fraught with issues!
You will now have a list of lots of goals on a piece of paper. If we were the analogy types we’d say that these are the stepping stones that are going to see you crossing the mighty river of fat onto the banks of Healthiness on the other side. If it was in any doubt, that analogy should show you why we’re not analogy types. What you emphatically shouldn’t have is a timescale. Think about all the disappointments surrounded by diets – it’s nearly always because things haven’t gone according to the timescale you’ve imagined.
Weight loss isn’t a precise science, sometimes things go slowly, sometimes they go a lot quicker. We can have a rough idea of 1-2lbs per week as a general guide, but you should only consider you’re deviating from that if you haven’t followed it for a month. By all means, try and reach your goals as quickly as is safely possible – but just don’t say that unless you hit a certain target within three weeks you’ve failed.
Know what your goals are.
Know what the rewards are.
Let the timing issues go.
Now you’ve got your goals you’ve got a method of tracking whether you’re reaching your goals or not. However, this brings up the vexed issue of monitoring your diet. This can be dangerous because so many of the metrics that we use to measure our progress are unreliable. Body fat can be 5-10% off each measurement. Your weight can fluctuate by up to 4% depending on whether you’re hydrated or not. Have a bad week on the diet, get on the scales and watch your motivation fade away. However, what you need to do is make sure you’re measuring regularly enough that it provides you with encouragement and feedback to make changes.
Weighing yourself daily is a pathway to a messy, fat-coated insanity. Weighing weekly is equally problematic as it’s still not long enough for any minor fluctuations to appear. Monthly measurements gives you a sign of progress, an idea of whether your plan is going in the right direction. It also trains the mind to stop looking for scale victories and re-focus instead on how you are feeling about yourself and whether you are hitting your targets. That’s not to say that you won’t be checking in with your weight loss every day – you will. But that will be in the form of your daily record.
Finally, it’s time to kiss goodbye to your old self. You’re going to start losing weight and you’ll want to get some souvenirs of you as a fat dude, after all, you’re never coming back.
Get some souvenirs from “fat you”
- It’s time to take those photos. The ones that show exactly where you got to and why you hated it. Whatever you do make sure you don’t accidentally upload it to Instagram, or maybe you want to. That’s your call!
- Measurements – get out the tape measure and record the dimensions of your arms, thighs, hips, stomach, chest and neck.
- Body fat – whether you use callipers or an electrical device just bear in mind that none are completely accurate, so you’ll need to use these more as a guide.
- Weight – weigh in the same place, at the same time, wearing the same things.
- Keep your fat trousers for all those hilarious “How did I fit into these?!” photos.
HOW DO I LOSE WEIGHT?
Unbelieveably, for all the confusion, books, talk, pseudo-science that surrounds this question the answer is laughably simple. When you take in excess calories your body helpfully stores them for you in case the food runs out and the famine begins. You lose weight by getting your body to use up those stores of fat. You do that by reversing the process that made you fat – taking in fewer calories than you need. This produces a deficit of calories and your body uses the fat in your body for energy instead. That’s it. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise cover your ears, start shouting “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” and run away from them.
You need a certain amount of calories per day just to exist – this is called the BMR (Base Metabolic Rate). If you didn’t move a single muscle for an entire day then this is the energy your body would need just to keep you alive. Add in the activity that you do which all requires calories and you have something called your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). So, work out what your TDEE is and then take some off. That’s how you lose weight.
What is my TDEE?
We’re glad you asked – here’s a handy-dandy TDEE calculator.
How fast do you want to lose weight?
If we measure fat in terms of energy then to lose one pound of fat you need to have a shortfall of around 3,500 calories. This – like most of nutritional science – shouldn’t be viewed as a precise calculation, but it’s close enough not to spend too much time worrying about. The ideal is to lose between 1 and 2 pounds per week, that means creating a 3,500 to 7,000 calorie deficit from your TDEE.
How do you create that deficit?
Honestly: anyway you want. If you measure your in-coming and outgoing energy then you’ll be able to experiment and see that you can lose weight in a range of ways which defy normal dieting methods – you’ll also see that the diet truism is that it’s about 80% nutrition and 20% exercise is about right – that’s because you can eat 1000 calories in under 10 minutes, but it would take you well over an hour to work the same amount off – getting your incoming sorted and balanced is always going to be more important for weight loss than your out-going.
You might well have noticed that out there are a range of diets that cover every conceivable approach to nutrition. Low carbs, no carbs, only carbs before dinner. High fat, no fat, no one’s doing low-fat. Protein, eat clean, Paleo, go green. Honestly, it sounds like the lyrics to a bad Gilbert and Sullivan musical. The only thing that seemingly everyone agrees on is that you should get a balance of foods and you should track.
WHAT DIET SHOULD I DO?
That’s entirely up to you – in many ways diets tend to just create a smokescreen around the proven science and now you know how you lose weight you don’t need to follow one if you don’t want to, you could just track your calories. That said, following a diet can give you a lot of guidance and support and many men find it comforting that you follow a diet with free foods (you’ll notice that these are foods with a low energy to density rating – i.e. you’d be uncomfortably full if you ate loads of them and you still wouldn’t take on that many calories).
You’ll find lots of different diets written about on MAN v FAT. Our approach is that all of these diets – even the crazy ones – have something to teach us about nutrition. Investigate them all, try them out. Find one that works for you but never forget that you now own the knowledge which is guaranteed to make you lose weight. In many ways learning about nutrition should be a lifelong experience – you are an experiment of one, measure your intake, enjoy your output and find things that work for you.
MEASURE, RECORD AND ANALYSE
It is vital that you record your intake. To do that you can either use a tracking app like MyFitnessPal or DailyBurn or you could go old-school and write it down at the end of the day in a notebook. A good system for keeping track would record what you ate and drank (in as much detail as possible), what activity you did and any problems or questions you want to get answered. It doesn’t need to take longer than a minute, but this is the information that you’re going to come back to if and when you’re not getting hitting the targets you wanted.
FIVE TIPS FOR THE PERFECT FIRST WEEK
In our experience the first week is critical for the success of your diet.
- Plan the first week in detail – changing your habits is easier when you’re not having to make decisions on the go – why not make up your snacks for the entire week?
- Get all your measurements in place before you start
- Look at the calendar – what’s going on? Are there any potential clashes where you’ll have to change a previous behaviour – e.g. having
- Remember this shouldn’t feel like hard work, plan your meals research lots of recipes that allow you to have a varied diet but with healthier versions of all those things you like to eat
- Have a goal that rewards you for a solid first week
SELECT ACTIVITIES THAT YOU GENUINELY ENJOY
Let’s return to our earlier calculations – your BMR and TDEE was based on how many calories you intake over what you output. There are two sides to that equation, there’s what you take in in the form of your food and drink and then there’s what you expend in terms of your activity. This therefore follows that if you do more exercise then you use up more calories and your body looks to the fat stores to lose weight. Simple.
Where people tend to get exercise wrong is that they take all the fun out of it. They find themselves groaning on treadmills, or suffering through aquafit classes when they really hate them. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. The first and only rule with fitness is that you have to focus on what you enjoy! If you enjoy something then you’re never going to look at it as a chore, you’ll actively want to do it. You’ll also naturally look for ways to get better at it. It seems so simple but how many times have you pushed yourself to do something you loathe because it could burn some calories?
So it’s time to choose what you enjoy: Walking? Running? Golf? Sports? Yoga? Dancing? Fighting? There are a world of sports and activities out there. If you haven’t found one that you love then it’s probably because you haven’t tried enough. So go out and start trying them. You should aim to do as much as possible (three to five sessions per week is a reasonable target).
If that’s your optional activity sorted then how about your obligatory activity. This is where you need to get creative and start stealing all of the ideas that you see around you. Getting places – swap out a few car journeys with walking or cycling. Sitting still at work all day – if you get a lunch hour can you head out? Would your workplace allow you to swap to a standing desk? Can you set an alarm on your phone or computer so that every 50 minutes you get up and go and stretch your legs or run up and down the stairs a few times. Could you get a ball to sit on rather than an office chair? It’s time you looked at the aspects of your life that you can upgrade and figured out some smarter choices. The more you look the more you’ll see.
What if I’m too fat to exercise?
Providing you’ve got the all clear from your GP to exercise then you simply need to progress slowly. Let’s say you desperately want to get back into running – well, even if your knees and ankles are shot because of your weight, you can probably do a modified form of running such as walking, or aquafit. Over time these modified forms of the exercise will help your body adapt and prepare for the time when you can run, in the meantime they help you lose weight and condition you ready for the time when you can get out there.
This applies to almost all activities. If you are so overweight that you are bed bound then this requires specialist advice – speak to your GP. But almost no one is so fat that they can’t stand up from a chair, or walk 10 yards. Or raise a tin of beans over their head. Then after a week you’ll find that you can get up from a chair twice and walk 12 yards and lift that tin twice. Then after a month you’ll find you can get up and down 10 times, walk 20 yards and clean and jerk your beans 10 times. Then after six months… you get the picture.
Identify where your support and threats will come from
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Jim Rohn
Have a think about who those five are for you and start wondering if that doesn’t explain some of the problems you may have been having. You need to start putting together the five people who you can average out to form the you that you want to be. It should go without saying that those people should be people who champion this new you, who support what you’re doing with constructive assistance and who praise what you’re trying to achieve.
That doesn’t mean you’ve got to find new best mates or partner, but it might mean that you need to get them to understand that you’re going to be a bit different from now on. Don’t forget you’ve already got us behind you 100%, we know you can do this. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and you’ll also be able to find thousands of other men who are in exactly the same situation as you and are looking for help too. If you belong to a gym then you should be able to find a coach there who can assist. When you start recruiting for positive people listen to what they say and take on board their assistance.
If you’ve got medical conditions or you have concerns about the state of your health then before you begin it’s better to make a trip to your GP to discuss your impending weight loss. Your GP shouldn’t just be able to help you treat things that go wrong, they should also be able to direct you to resources that will help you remain healthy. If they’re not interested in that then maybe now is the time to start looking for another GP who doesn’t suck.
You’ve got this, we believe in you.