When it comes to fat loss & weight loss, one thing is undebatable and that is that there is no one right way to succeed. It flabbergasting how much information exists these days in regards to this field, everyone seems to be an expert, from celebrities to sport stars. So how can you even begin to decide which way to go? Nutrition is a reasonably young science and its only in recent times become an area in which lots of research has been undertaken to find better methods for fat loss, weight loss and general health and wellbeing. Im very thankful for the research leaking into our homes, as some of the crazy fads, and trends we have utilised over the decades have been chaos. Check some of these out, and I bet most of you have tried at least 1 if not more of the methods in the past, YES?
As we take on this fat loss adventure, recall: there is no “one” right way to lose weight and incinerate body fat. The right way will be different for most people, so its about what works best for you. And most of all it must be sustainable, and optimise the way you perform, feel and look!
Okay are you ready to time travel? Lets get cracking:
1. Calorie Counting
The idea behind this is that if you hope to shed excess body weight, you must be consuming fewer calories than you burn off over the course of the day. Doing so will create the calorie deficit necessary to get the body turning to your body fat stores as incinerating it. This diet set-up can definitely work. Today, researchers recognise the importance of monitoring total calorie intake. However, thanks to the continued research in the food sciences and aligned sciences (chemistry, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, exercise science) we are starting to realise thats its not just about the calorie total, but the make up of these calories that play a vital role as well in the goal of sustained and healthy fat loss and weight loss.
Back in the day, as far as exercise was concerned, we saw most people doing aerobic type of training. Step aerobics, running, and water aerobics were all popular as a means of getting the body to burn more calories and hence lose weight. As the scales was the measuring tool of success and or failure, many people found that with the aerobic style exercise they did lose weight, however, they were just a little version of themselves. They had no dramatic body shape changes, but the scale told them they were lighter, so they had succeeded. Today we know much more about the correct way to change or transform your body shape using the training methods that align to stimulating ones metabolic functions, not staling.
So what came after the “calorie counting” fad, well it was the shift to “fat free” food, and this era was a debacle, catastrophic really!
Lets read on:
As time passed, people started looking more at what they were eating, not just how much. This caused us to enter the “Fat-Free fad”. Basically, if a food had dietary fat in it, the notion was this would be more likely to lead to body fat. As such, people everywhere began avoiding all foods that contained more than a couple grams of dietary fat. We also saw food manufacturers coming out with every version of a low fat or fat free food possible. Low fat cookies, fat free ice cream, low fat cake, and on it went. People immediately saw this as an invite to eat these foods (since fat was the enemy here) and feasted on as many high carb – (high sugar) low fat, man made lab foods possible.
Metabolic chaos was being engineered. Some people may have initially lost some weight at first, but quite often, heavy weight gain was experienced. Now we know that this type of diet would induce a serious state of insulin resistance thanks to all the sugar ladened crap that people were eating on a regular basis. If it was low fat, it was ‘diet friendly’, or so they thought. People would easily tally up thousands of calories per day if they weren’t careful, which also contributed to weight gain, and plays a part in todays Diabetes epidemic thanks to the decades of metabolic abuse.
Cardio training was the still the primary focus on the fitness front as people worked hard for hours each week on the bike, treadmill, or elliptical trainer, recall: Oliver Newton John in “lets get physical”, oh its brining back great memories! While this exercise did help keep them in good cardiovascular condition, it didn’t do a whole lot to change how their body looked, they were still fat and floppy!
So things had to change, but what was next? Yes you got it: it was “The Low Carb or No Carb fad“!
Research was coming out illustrating the problems with all these low-fat, high sugar foods and pointing to the fact that we do need dietary fat to function optimally. More people were starting to realise that cutting out fat entirely was leaving them famished (since fat and proteins are highly satisfying nutrients), leaving them suffering from nutritional deficiencies, and leaving them actually gaining weight.
The see-saw had moved. Fat is not the enemy, carbs are! Rather than avoiding fat, carbs became the food to avoid. Just like before, we saw numerous low carb foods popping up everywhere on the market. Low carb cookies, low carb chocolate, low carb noodles – if you wanted a food, chances were you could find a low carb variety. Who could forget the low carb pasta (angel noodles?).
So know if it was low carb and high fat, they ate it and gained weight as a result. There was again no balance, not diversity, it was lunacy!
During this low carb era, many lower carb diets started coming into play. The Atkin’s diet was a very low carb, high fat diet where bacon, steak, and cheese was often encouraged. Sadly, this diet left much to be desired, as for most people it was so unsustainable, and it soon went out of favour!
The Zone diet (Dr. Barry Sears) was another popular one that came to be, which focused on trying to achieve a relatively even spread of macros – proteins, fats, and carbs (40:30:30). While carbs were higher in this approach, they were still much lower than what was used previously.
The ketogenic diet also made an appearance, which is the lowest carb diet possible and has you restricting total carbohydrate intake to < 5% of your total daily calorie intake. This diet proved to be extremely difficult for most people to stick with, so is one many didn’t stay on long. Again, unsustainable, and caused so much metabolic chaos that many are still trying to recover metabolically.
Today, the Paleo diet is in the vogue, or trend. This diet still stands today and is one of the more well-used plans available. It still focuses on keeping total carbohydrate intake down, but also has the user eating an abundance of vegetables along with moderate doses of fruit. This diet is also heavily focused on eating foods in their most natural state, so any processed food is eliminated. Additionally, high starch foods such as beans, pasta, and grains are all restricted as well, along with dairy products and legumes.
The shift to a lower carb approach did bring about greater weight loss results and people started seeing improved body composition as a result. Provided a calorie deficit existed and nutrient dense foods were consumed, this is one of the better eating plans of today’s times.
Those who were highly active however often did have to make some modifications to these very low carb approaches, as they would need to include some carbohydrates in their diet in order to assure they had necessary energy for exercise, and aiding in recovery and maintaining, if not increasing their lean body mass. Recall: their metabolic furnaces, their fat burning friends!
On the wonderful subject of exercise, in recent times (thank God), strength training started to become highly popular. People realised that cardio training was doing little to actually change how the body looked and now, were focusing on resistance training (panel beating) as a way to change or transform their bodies. This brought about amazing results. Resistance training helped them increase their resting metabolic rate while adding more muscle, definition and shape to their body. It was simply the superior way to exercise and improving their health and wellbeing.
So whats hot today? Yes the Paleo approach still is quite predominant, and well followed. But there is another approach that is gaining momentum; If It Fits Your Macros (IFFYM) approach. This approach is designed to appeal to those who lead the hectic lifestyles of today and who can’t quite plan out every meal perfectly. whats the low-down you ask? You need to calculate how many calories and grams of carbs, proteins, and fats you need and then you simply need to hit those targets with whatever foods you choose. Flexibility is the name of this game – for those who want to be able to dictate what they eat at every meal, it’s a great approach to consider. Advocates spruke this one does tend to lead to weight loss provided it’s used accurately. However, the downfall is that it could lead to nutritional deficiencies if the individual is not choosing foods that are nutrient dense, and diversity isn’t a focus point. Yes with IIFYM you can eat pizza, cake, and fries all day long, making sure it fits your macros, but you will not be feeling well doing so. But, provided moderation is practiced when it comes to indulging in those types of foods, it’s another approach that tends to fare quite well with some. The things we do to our bodies!
Today, CrossFit is massive. A hybrid exercise modality that is gaining in popularity. This mixes strength training with other forms of training such as cardio training and gymnastics. It’s more of an all around conditioning system that has people seeing improvements in all elements of their fitness level and mobility.
So there you have it, a look at how fat loss, weight loss and exercise has evolved over the years. As you can see, there have been some huge changes over time in the approaches we have used to shed body fat. By doing your own research and always staying up to date with the latest evidenced based and scientifically validated information that comes to light, you can be sure that you can tailor an approach that is individualised to your needs, desires and goals.
Remember: If you are feeling great, performing powerfully, and looking amazing, you have found your method.