Fat loss basics (part 2)

Earlier this year I hit my 20kg weight loss goal. It was a consistent effort for 6 months, from September until February, building my habits and changing my life. I finally feel like a “healthy person”, you know, those people who choose fruit over cake, drink water, take their vitamins, eat salads and actually love salads. Yeah, it’s good. But since I hit that big milestone, the weight loss has slowed down. I lost about 3 and a half kilograms in the last three months. I’m not unhappy about it, because I have still been maintaining my healthy lifestyle, and I don’t want my life to just be focused on losing weight; but I feel like I have entered the next stage of this weight loss journey. Let me explain.

20kg ago…

20kg ago, my body was bigger, heavier, and needed more food (just to live!) day-to-day. I had a higher basal metabolic rate (BMR). If you don’t know what this is,  head over to my first post called Fat Loss Basics. Having a higher BMR meant, I could eat more and still lose weight. My “energy-in” (food) was less than my “energy-out” (burnt up by my body). I maintained a calorie deficit by eating 1600cal a day, and I lost a significant amount of body fat. Yay.

Now, my body is 20kg lighter, smaller and my energy requirements are less, because my BMR is lower. My body uses less energy (needs less energy-in) to survive. If I continue eating 1600cal a day, its too much for my “new” body size.

What happens is that energy-in = energy-out and I just end up maintaining my weight. This is what people call a “plateau”. I don’t like that word because it makes you feel like you are now stuck in this supposed flat stretch and it’s out of your control. But it’s not. You just need to get back to basics and maintain a calorie deficit.

What is a Calorie deficit?

The idea that your energy coming in (food) must be less than your energy burned up is the only way to lose weight, however you choose to do it. This is basically what is called a calorie deficit. Calories come in from food. Calories get burnt up by movement and bodily functions. A calorie deficit is when your energy coming in is less than what you require daily, so your body uses up your good old fat reserves as energy instead.

As you know, I take a long term, sustainable, realistic approach to weight loss. Of course, I could reduce my calories drastically but reducing carbohydrates, but I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to mess up my journey, my fabulous healthy lifestyle, with “quick fixes” just because I want to drop another 7-10kg to get to my goal weight faster. No. I will reduce my calories slowly and then re-assess monthly, depending on my weight loss. The more weight I lose, the more I will reduce to match my body requirements.

Goal weight

Basically what I am doing,  is slowly moving to my goal weight and the amount of calories I need to eat at that point, to maintain that weight.

So, firstly I calculate my current BMR , and how much I need to eat to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight, now. Then I go and calculate my BMR at my goal weight. I will calculate how much calories I need, at that weight, to maintain that weight.

So, as I lose weight, I will slowly reduce my calories to get to that point. This slow reduction in calories is sustainable and realistic. I don’t want to feel deprived. I love food and I love my body and I still want to be happy and eat dark chocolate every single day!

How to reduce calories or be in a calorie deficit?

There are two ways to reduce your calories slowly. Firstly, you need to monitor your eating habits and see where you can realistically take out 100-200 calories; and it feels do-able and easy. This might be a trial and error process. For me, I find I can cut out afternoon snack time or after even a smaller mid-morning snack. The second way is to increase your exercise. Increasing your exercise means you can burn up more energy and still continue eating a similar amount of food. So, you may not necessarily be reducing that much calories, but you will be in a deficit because your energy-out will be more.

The route I am trying to take, is to do a combination of both. So, I do a very slow reduction of food and a significant increase in exercise to maintain my calorie deficit.

Good luck and stay consistent!

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Siham Arieff
Siham Arieff

Siham is a wellness writer, stroke survivor, mom of 3 and coffee lover on a health and fitness journey who recently relocated back home to Cape Town, South Africa.

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