When you're talking about a fit body, apart from a healthy heart and brain, I assume you're talking of well-toned lean body. That is exactly what this article talks about. Fat loss is a subject I'm extremely passionate about and have been researching for years now. In fact, I am in the middle of writing a book on the subject. In the process, I have experimented quite a few techniques on myself and have learned from research, medical science and most importantly experience.
I co-founded an e-commerce company focused on health products called madeinhealth.com last year. Apart from products, our company used to sell revolutionary and practical dietplans we created for people trying to lose fat, gain weight or gain muscle. (A larger e-commerce player acquired our company recently and dietplans are sold no more... But I still hold the secret formula *wink* )
Disclaimer: I'm not a nutritionist and neither have I attended any formal course on the subject. People in the UK should not follow this article - you might lose a "few pounds" and that is not a good feeling in that country. (Yes, you are allowed to kill me for the miserable pun). Now lets get down to business.
Why weight loss is not the same as fat loss
Weight is a very bad indicator of body fat. Your weight varies throughout the day - when you eat, when you drink water and after you relieve yourself. One can never be sure of one’s progress if it is measured in terms of weight. Moreover, bodyweight includes water weight, muscle weight as well as fat weight.
If you starve yourself, or miss meals, you might as well be losing muscle (yeah even girls have muscle, girls) and being happy about losing weight – which is a favorable circumstance. The first and most important thing to do is stop measuring your weight and start measuring inches. More so, measure your body at the same time of the day - immediately after waking up and having refreshed yourself.
Why a calorie is not just a calorie
When I enter my cutting phase to accentuate my six-pack, you will find me having oily Chicken Tikka and Kebabs at night, or maybe even Chicken Nuggets from McDonalds. Surprised? Don't be. The whole calorie fuss you experience around yourself is true in principle but without a proper understanding of how the body functions, using such simple math with cause more harm than gain.
To move ahead, you need to understand that the villain of this story is called "insulin". Insulin is a hormone that is released in the bloodstream that is responsible for slowing down (or ceasing) the process of fat loss and encouraging fat (and other nutrients) deposition into your tissues. Insulin (read Gabbar) shows up soon after you have something that is very simple for the body to digest (these goons called simple carbs). Some examples of simple carbs are Sugar (Samba), Rice (Raaka), Flour (Kalia), Potatoes (Pappu pager) etc. As soon as Gabbar shows up, all productive villagers in the bloodstream who're busy burning fat run away into hiding and the reverse process of fat gain starts.
The solution here is to have a lot of complex carbs like veggies (Jai), Pulses (Veeru) and slow digesting proteins Chicken (Thakur), Eggs (Ramu kaka), Milk (Jaya Bachchan) in your diet, sprinkled with a few Basantis here or there. These foods will make sure appearance of Gabbar is minimum and fat burn is carried on at all times. Don't judge your diet by the amount you eat but by the quality of the food -and even if you have some fats (Mausi jis) bundled with these foods, you're in no grave danger. You will eat more calories but it will still lead to fat loss (and hence a happier Ramgarh)
Why exercise alone will not get you to your goal
I have often heard people saying – “I'm joining the gym because I want to lose weight without changing my eating habits”. And even though I'm all in for exercise let me say these people will never see substantial or sustainable fat loss. As a thumb rule, with regards to fat loss exercise is only 25% of the deal and diet control is the other 75% of the job.
So if you're a businessman and one customer gives you business worth Rs. 75 and another worth Rs. 25, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out where to put more focus. To put things in perspective, the effect of one long strenuous session of exercise where you sweat your blood out is as good as not eating a medium size chocolate pastry - choose for yourself. Exercise does play its role in burning calories and speeding up your metabolism - all good things - but the effort required to get the same effect is immense. If you're lazy like me, choose the smarter path. Exercise hard but rely only on diet control.
Why fatty foods don't make you fat
As explained earlier, anything that digests quickly spikes blood sugar levels and hence insulin levels - the culprit. Fats, on the other hand, slow digestion and insulin secretion. Infact foods that contain good fats (omega 3,6) actually help with fat loss. Fats by themselves cannot deposit in your fat (adipose) tissues without the aid of insulin in the bloodstream.
Let me chose an example to shed more light on this. If you’ve seen Sholay as closely as I have, you will notice even though Gabbar lives a simple life in the mountains, has a lot of physical exercise (dacoities, murders, horse-riding) he still has a lot of baby fat on his body unlike today’s villains who have a perfect six pack say Chhedi Singh (Dabang) – mainly due to the kind of monotonic vegetarian diet he consumes namely pulses, flour and rice which he loots from the villagers – rich in carbs, low in protein.
Why regular measurement is a must
Imagine you ran a business but there were no books to report the accounts. The only time you would know how your business was doing was when you had too much cash for a long time in the bank or went bankrupt. Reporting and analysis is a must. Fat loss is a science of the body as well of the mind and staying motivated is a big part of the process. Trust me when I say this - there is no feeling greater than seeing the numbers decreasing, seeing your effort and self-control paying off. You measure yourself again just to be sure and you feel blissful. This is the only thing that will keep you motivated to move further. If you're walking blind, you will surely lose focus soon.
Below is a plot of a kind of information I can bet you’ve never seen. This is a graph of my waist measurement vs. date – taken during my cutting phase two years ago around the same time of the year. Every time I saw a drop from my previous measurement, there was no measure of my excitement and this was the best motivation to tread further onto this path.
What is a bad diet
Dieticians will give you all kinds of diets just to make money these days. Someone will ask you to eat only salad, or force you to prepare weird concoctions that require you to live in your kitchen. Truth is fat loss is possible by eating normal food (as much as you need to subside your hunger) but knowing what to avoid. Any diet that is not balanced in macro and micronutrients or that makes your starve is a bad diet and you might see short term results (because the body has no other alternative during fasting) but then it causes harm to you in ways you don’t immediately realize.
A village cannot survive if there are too few people living in it. You need all kinds of people – farmers, traders, Thakurs, Tanga-transporters etc to keep the wheel running. What you really don’t need is too much of those criminals.
To summarize, a few things that you should remember when trying to cut:
- For all practical purposes, don’t worry about how much you eat. Your major concern should be what you eat.
- Don’t be so scared of fat (esp. unsaturated fat. Another post on that soon). Be very scared of simple carbohydrates – sugar, bread, flour, cold drinks, chocolates, ice-creams etc
- Hitting the gym will help a little bit but it won’t solve all your life problems
- Follow a strict diet, exercise and regularly measure progress (in inches and not in pounds)
- Sholay gives deep insight into fat loss and fitness