5 Things to do BEFORE Implementing a Calorie Deficit
Oftentimes, when we embark on a fat loss journey, the first thing we're told to do is to sort out our diets and make sure we're in a 'calorie deficit'. As a society, we've been brainwashed into believing that successful fat loss is 80% down to what happens in the kitchen. Although yes, the only way to lose body fat is through a calorie deficit (even with keto, low-carb, paleo, carnivore, IF and all the others), there may be a few things holding you back from reaching your full potential. This post covers the top 5 things I implement with my clients BEFORE even thinking about decreasing their calorie intake.
1. Get your activity levels and/or training in check.
In general, when dropping fat, we want to keep calories as high as we can, whilst doing as little exercise as possible.
For this reason, we want to find a comfortable level of daily activity BEFORE we drop our calories. Many times, increasing daily activity is enough to drop the body fat we desire.
Start by increasing your daily steps (to a comfortable level) and then if you want to, you can start introducing workouts. We should aim to find workouts that we enjoy doing as these are going to be easier to adhere to in the long run. I recommend incorporating resistance training as this form of activity helps to keep our muscles, bones and joints healthy as we get older.
2. Take care of your sleep hygiene.
There are two main reasons that taking care of our sleep hygiene is important.
Firstly, when we haven't been sleeping well enough, our bodies require more energy to function. In response to this, we then eat more (to take energy in) and move less (to conserve energy) throughout the day. This results in higher calories consumed, and lower calories burnt making it even more difficult to adhere to a calorie deficit.
Secondly, whilst we sleep, our bodies repair, detoxify, regulate hormones, correct chemical imbalances and adjust blood sugar levels. If we do not get enough, good-quality sleep these functions are impaired. Being in a calorie deficit causes additional stresses to the body, some of which also decrease the efficiency of these functions.
3. Decrease and manage your stress levels.
As mentioned above, a calorie deficit causes stress to the body. When we consume less energy than our bodies require to function (a calorie deficit), our bodies end up having extra work to do. in a bid to source energy from the bodies internal stores, your body releases stress hormones which can result in higher fat storage. On top of this, the actual breakdown of tissue (fat loss) also causes stress to the body - this is why keeping protein high whilst in a calorie deficit is so important.
Mentally, a calorie deficit sometimes causes additional stress through anxiety, fear and guilt. Essentially, you want to do everything you can to keep all forms of stress at a minimum whilst you're in a calorie deficit.
4. Fix your relationship with food.
When our relationship to food is damaged, a calorie deficit is not the answer. Counting calories, should only be used if and when we have a healthy relationship with food.
Calories are fuel, but food can also be fun and social. Without having a balanced approach to food, too much stress, guilt and emotion will be involved in our food choices. If counting calories causes you food anxiety, then it is not the right method for you. Start by using calorie counting as a tool to learn about the food you fuel your body with, but if you start to overthink, become obsessed or have negative thoughts toward food, tracking and/or the process, you should seek an alternative approach.
5. Get into the correct frame of mind.
And finally, as with anything in life, we must be in the right frame of mind to implement a calorie deficit. This final point is the most important of them all. If you don't fully understand WHY you want to be in a calorie deficit then not only will adhering to your fat loss program be more difficult, it may actually cause damage to your future goals. There is generally more room for error than people realise. For example, if you don't get it right one day, that's ok, but you need to be able to pick up where you left of the following day without getting upset. Understanding that a calorie deficit is a tool to be used over the long term, rather than a quick fix to be implemented as quickly as possible, will help you get the most out of your fat loss program.
If you have any questions or would like to chat about your own fat loss journey, please feel free to email me on Beth@bethlavisfitness.com. Always here,