Oh man – this could be a long post. I’m going to try my hardest to keep it short and to the point but, seriously, there is so much I wish I would have known before kickstarting my fitness journey last year. For a little bit of background: I made the decision in June 2018 to get my health on track. I was the unhealthiest I had ever been physically and emotionally. I was considered slightly overweight for my height. I had horrible stamina. My digestive system was all out of whack. I won’t even get into the emotional stuff. I was a mess.
I hired a bomb trainer to start attacking the physical stuff first. My goals were like most people’s:
- I wanted to lose fat.
- I wanted to reach a certain weight on the scale.
- I wanted to get my confidence back.
- I wanted to develop a healthier lifestyle that would help me maintain fat-loss.
- I wanted it to happen quickly.
Until June 1st 2018 I had a very unrealistic idea of how all of those changes would happen. I truly believed I wouldn’t be able to eat pasta ever again. I assumed I’d be doing 60+ minutes of cardio every day. I couldn’t wait to see 136 pounds on the scale because I was 136 pounds six years ago and believed that was the happiest I’d been with my appearance.
Like many women, I based a lot of my goals and expectations on things that I heard other people talk about in magazines and on social media. Methods that worked for them. Trending diets that seemed to spit out quick results. I had no idea that my fat-loss journey would take such a different form and there are quite a few things I wish I would have known before I got started.
What I Wish I Knew About Fat Loss
ONE. YOU CAN EAT CARBS AND STILL LOSE FAT
With all of the low carb diets and low carb foods out there, it’s no wonder we’ve been brainwashed to think that carbs = the enemy. I had every intention of never eating pasta or potatoes again. I’m also VERY happy that I was 100% completely, totally wrong. Spoiler alert: carbs are good for you. Your body needs carbs for energy. You can’t eat a diet with only fat and protein – it’s not gonna work long term and it’s definitely not going to give you the fuel you need for workouts.
The key to incorporating carbs into your diet is choosing whole grains and avoiding overly processed variations. I eat lots of whole grain bagels, chickpea pastas, sweet potatoes, tortillas. I do it all and I’ve still managed to lose 30 pounds. Another major key? If you want to lose fat you have to be in a calorie deficit. That means you have to burn more calories than you’re consuming. I wrote all about this concept and macros in my latest Newsletter Freebie (see below) but the short story: it’s not necessarily the number of carbs or fat or proteins that you’re eating that lead to fat loss, it’s the number of calories. Macros like carbs and proteins and fats help you identify how nutrient dense your food is and they should definitely be something you should pay attention to but at the end of the day, a calorie deficit is the only way your body will lose fat.
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TWO. YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO EXCESSIVE CARDIO TO LOSE FAT…AND IT’S OKAY TO LIFT WEIGHTS
Raise your hand if, like me, you thought cardio was the key a slimming down? Back in the day I was doing 50-60 minutes of cardio every day. I was skipping weights because I didn’t want to bulk up and wasn’t noticing results. How was I not losing weight after doing hours on the elliptical every week?
Long story short: lean muscle mass leads to fat loss. Your body needs lean muscle and lean muscle is built my doing resistance training aka lifting weights. When I first started working out again, my trainer created a plan that consisted of about 10 minutes of cardio 2-3 days/week. I was surprised to say the least. Here I am doing all of these squats and shoulder presses and hip thrusts and only 10 minutes of cardio…and then I started to see the fat drop off and my legs getting toned. Even to this day I only do a max of 30 minutes of cardio a few days a week and it’s usually just to clear my head and catch up on a TV show.
The majority of my workouts are 30-45 minutes of weights and resistance training with heavy loads!
THREE. IT’S NOT JUST ABS THAT ARE MADE IN THE KITCHEN
We’ve all heard the saying abs are made in the kitchen. It eludes to the fact that you can train your abs as much as you want but for that “6 pack”, your diet is the main contributor. And this is true. But not just for abs. You can do all of the hard workouts you want and while you might see small results, the real changes won’t occur until you change your diet. Now, I’m not saying go ON a diet. I’m talking about eating a balanced diet with cleaner, whole foods instead of the processed stuff.
I didn’t understand this truly until the past few weeks. For the first 6 or so months of my journey, I was following a meal plan. 80% of my “diet” was pretty darn clean and then I would indulge every now and then and still be in a deficit to lose fat. I started easing back in to more of a maintenance stage and for the past few months I’ve been indulging a lot more. Now that I’m heading into another trimming phase (setting some new challenges and goals for myself), I changed my diet again to be about 80-90% clean and in a calorie deficit and the fat is dropping again. It’s only been 2 weeks so it’s nothing crazy but I can already tell a major difference in the lack of bloat and how my insides feel. It’s been a friendly reminder that what you eat plays a huge role in what your body does and how it impacts your goals. When I was looking to maintain my body composition, I could eat with a little more flexibility when combined with 4-5 workouts/week. Now that I’m trying to lose a little fat, I know that in addition to my 4-5 workouts I also have to be more conscious of what I’m eating.
Anything you guys want to know before stating your own journey or have you picked up little tricks along the way? Comment below!