It’s evident that most people can lose body fat to some degree, however many fail to continue their progress and achieve their end and desired goal.

On many an occasion, this leads to dieting and habit failure, relapsing and weight regain – potentially to a greater extent than baseline.  This period of relapse is often followed by a certain trigger that increases motivation to achieve a desired goal. In this sense, dieting is often cyclical in nature where significant improvements over a long period of time are rarely achieved.

When looking at inspirational ‘before and after’ photos, you may think to yourself; how have they actually done this? Success often leaves clues, so here are four lessons you can learn and put into practice on what it actually takes to lose a significant amount of body fat and how to keep it off for good.


Calorie restriction; the fundamental principle of fat loss nutrition is balancing energy intake and energy expenditure. With regards to energy intake and energy expenditure, three possible outcomes are likely to happen;

  • If energy intake equals energy expenditure, no changes in bodyweight will be observed.
  • If energy intake is greater than energy expenditure, weight gain will be observed.
  • If energy intake is less than energy expenditure, weight loss will be observed.

With the aim of losing body fat, positioning yourself with the latter will produce the most favourable outcome. Therefore, ensuring this is made a high priority will guarantee fat loss success. Of course it’s not as simple as this as many behavioural and social factors will interfere with this and make a calorie restricted diet difficult to adhere to – However it’s simply a case of finding an approach and modifying behaviours appropriately . It’s worth noting that the intricacies of nutrition; nutrient quality, meal frequency, meal timing, supplements etc will not overcome a calorie deficit – If this is not the primary focus, then the dieting phase will end in failure. The following points will shed some light on how this is achievable.


Total Energy Expenditure (TEE). TEE plays a large role during a fat loss phase, and can be divided into four categories;

  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) – the energy required to run cellular processes within the body.
  • Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) – the energy required to break down and process foods eaten.
  • Thermic Effect of Exercise (TEE) – the energy burnt through exercise
  • Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) – the energy burn through movement that is not classified as ‘exercise’.

During periods of calorie restriction, TEE becomes reduced to compensate for the lack of energy provision. This is an adaptive process of dieting and occurs through the reductions in BMR and NEAT component of TEE. BMR reduces via two uncontrollable means; 1) calorie restriction to facilitate weight loss (adaptive thermogenesis), 2) being a smaller person (small individuals require less calories).

NEAT; Essentially, energy expenditure through movement such as; walking and fidgeting becomes reduced to preserve energy stores. In other words; subconscious laziness. This is sometimes a sufficient compensation to reduce or eliminate the balance of energy intake and energy expenditure. For example, If 300 calories were removed through food which subconsciously causes less movement and expenditure by 300 calories – the calorie deficit would equal zero.  Again, this is over simplified, but being mindful of the fact that this will happen can be used as a strategy to offset this compensatory mechanism. This is where measuring movement through activity trackers can be very beneficial as it can highlight the level of laziness and change behaviours to further increase energy expenditure outside of the gym. Don’t worry about the accuracy, simply move about more to counteract.


Calorie Budgeting, Weekends and Alcohol Intake. Calorie budgeting takes into account the total weekly calorie intake required to facilitate a goal. For example, if following a 2,000 calorie diet was adequate to result in weight loss, this would result in 14,000 calories consumed over the course of a week – it is then preference orientated with regards to how these calories are allocated and used to meet the bodies demands. From experience, many would simply ‘diet’ Monday to Friday and follow an ad libitum intake over the weekend. This would often consist of alcohol, take away or junk food (energy dense, not nutrient dense). This is absolutely fine, assuming that total weekly calories don’t over spill and causes ‘calorie debt’.  However, this is rarely the case – it is more than possible to tally 5-7000kcal over the course of a weekend through social events and over eating, in return eliminating the calorie deficit caused throughout the week.

Contrary to popular belief, calories on the weekend do actually count. Anecdotally, I’ve had many individuals contact me claiming that they can’t lose weight despite eating very small portion sizes. Granted, they may be under eating Monday to Friday, but never account for their actions on the weekend. As mentioned, it is possible to achieve the best of both, albeit the ‘best’ won’t be quite as extensive as previous. Smart calorie budgeting would consist of saving calories throughout the week and creating a calorie allowance to be used on less nutrient dense foods and alcohol on the weekend. One rule needs to underlie this method to dieting; nutrient goals must be met prior to allocating calories elsewhere.


Sustainability, Food Choice Restriction and more Calorie Budgeting. Calorie restrictions involve a restriction, not elimination.  Therefore, eliminating preferred and favoured foods will not work in the long run as craving may become unbearable leading to a relapse and bingeing. Therefore effective calorie budgeting and keeping a flexible approach to dieting is favoured. Assuming that calorie requirements can be met within the set daily calorie goal, remaining calories can be allocated to ‘fun’ foods. Calorie budgeting resembles financial income and expenses. For example, millionaires can pay all their bills and still have sufficient funds remaining to buy new cars and go on holidays, where individuals with a much lower financial income may not have the same luxuries as the remaining money after paying bills and expenses is very limited.

The same applies to nutrition; large calorie restricted diets will result in fewer calories left over to use on favourable foods. Likewise, bulking types diets can accommodate this very well as their calorie allowance is far greater. For the serious physique athlete where the calorie deficit will become further restricted during the latter phases of their transformation, the ratio of nutrient dense foods: fun foods will favour the former greatly – this ratio will decline with the calorie restriction. Furthermore, how the allocated allowance is spent is up to the individual; consume daily or save them for a social event. Either way, pre plan the week’s calorie allowance accordingly to prevent calorie debt and ensure continual progress. A side note; if one of the favoured foods craved is a ‘trigger food’, then it’s probably best to avoid it until the fat loss phase has been completed. A trigger food is essentially an item of food that opens the gateway to everything in the kitchen. For example, having the ability to have one biscuit and not the whole pack – if this isn’t possible and the whole pack gets eaten, then it would be pragmatic to stay away from them as it can become destructive to the end goal.


  • Calories and portion control are the main driver for fat loss and fat gain.
  • As calorie intake and bodyweight are reduced, energy expenditure declines –therefore there is a need to monitor activity to offset the subconscious compensation of laziness.
  • Account for calorie intake on a weekly basis and use the calorie budget wisely.
  • Most of the time, don’t eliminate foods, simply restrict and factor them into the total weekly calorie budget.
  • Calories count on the weekend; don’t let the over consumption offset progress made during the week.




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