The joys of January: our bank accounts are empty, party season is over and our waistbands are tighter. You’d have to have been super human to resist the odd seasonal temptation over Christmas, and a few extra pounds are bound to have slipped on. Rest assured you are not alone. Coupling the excess food with excess alcohol, all of us are feeling the pinch this January.
As the New Year reigns in, we all seem to be in pursuit of that ‘magic’ diet that will help us shred our post-Christmas muffin top – one that promises we will achieve our perfect body in a matter of weeks. As an expert in fat loss, I can safely say that this isn’t the best way to approach things – you need to have an effective fat loss programme in place, tailored to you and only you. If you ensure that you follow the five steps below, slipping back into those skinny jeans after the festive period will be easier than ever.
Step 1: Ask yourself, how much fat do I need to lose?
Instead of tumbling into a state of despair and turning your scales into your worst enemy, the best way to set out on your weight loss journey is to ask yourself ‘how much fat do I need to lose?’ The key word here is ‘need’ and not ‘want’. There could be a significant difference between the fat you want to lose and the fat you actually need to lose.
One way we tend to notice if we have put on body fat is by the way our clothes fit, particularly around the waist. Performing a simple waist measurement is probably the easiest way to find out if you need to lose some body fat.
Waist to height
Recent research has uncovered that the ratio between our height and waist – as opposed to calculating your BMI – is a better method to use when trying to work out how much fat you need to lose. In an ideal world, we should aim to keep our waist measurement at less than half of our height. For example, a man 6ft (182.88 cm) tall should aim to keep his waist less than 36 inches (91.4 cm), while a 5ft 4in (162.56 cm) woman should keep hers under 32 inches (81.28 cm).
Step 2: Define your weight loss goal
Unless a health care professional suggests otherwise, your initial fat loss goal should aim to reduce your body weight by 5-15%, regardless of how much weight you ultimately need to lose. Any targets beyond this threshold often give people unrealistic and potentially unachievable goals – it’s important to remember that even a small amount of fat loss can have you feeling healthier, fitter and ready to tackle what 2015 has in store for you.
Step 3: Create your fat-burning programme
Exercise will play a vital role in helping you shed the excess weight – dieting alone will not be enough. In order to profit from the many benefits exercise can have – and to maximise its fat burning potential – it’s important you perform the right type and quantity of exercise on a weekly basis. Aerobic activities such as walking, running, cycling and rowing should make up the majority of your fat-burning fitness programme.
Step 4: Plan your aerobic prescription
So, how often should you be doing these activities?
It’s desirable that you aim to get your heart-racing and the sweat dripping at least five days per week to achieve significant fat loss. Ideally you should perform 30-60 minutes of exercise a day, or two sessions of 20-30 minutes to a total of 150 minutes per week, progressing eventually to 300 minutes per week of moderate physical activity.
Step 5: mix and match to add variety
Resistance training is now generally viewed as a vital aide to aerobic exercise. A combination of the two has been shown to produce greater reductions in body fat compared with aerobic exercise alone. It can also help you to keep burning those extra calories long after your training session has finished. Mentioning the words ‘increase muscle’ can cause some people, particularly women, to panic as they imagine themselves suddenly becoming too bulky. However, this is not likely to happen as muscle is more dense than fat. You may lose several pounds of fat and gain several pounds of muscle, but appear slimmer.
Your fat loss goals should be based on what is best for your health, not an unhealthy or unrealistic images that you’ve seen in the media. Remember, once you have achieved your fat loss goal, it’s advisable you keep up the good work throughout the year – leading a healthy, active lifestyle is one New Years’ resolution you shouldn’t break.
About the Author
Paul Orridge has a first class honours degree in exercise and health and has over 20 years’ experience within the fitness industry. In this time he has performed a variety of roles including personal training, lecturing and writing. As personal trainer, Paul has conducted several thousand training sessions, and has taught over two thousand exercise professionals. Paul’s work is based on his practical experience gained working with a diverse range of people from very unfit, overweight individuals to highly conditioned elite athletes. You can learn more from Paul in his guide 'The Scientific Approach to Exercise for Fat Loss', available on Amazon.