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Fat Loss: The Hierarchy Of Importance

Have you ever heard the saying: “Don’t major in the minor”?

This saying has stuck with me for a few years now and it’s one of those things that I see A LOT of people doing when it comes to trying to lose weight or change their body composition.

When it comes to fat loss, many people tend to focus on areas that truly have the least amount of importance for long-term, sustainable results. They’re ‘majoring in the minor’ rather than paying attention to what actually matters. 

So in this post, let’s break down the hierarchy of what you should be focusing on when trying to lose body fat.

1. Patience + Consistency + Adherence

Consistency > Perfection. Patience and adherence are the keys to long-term and sustainable results.

“You just have to be patient.”

Whomp whomp, the phrase NO-ONE wants to hear... like ever.

The reality is, we live in a world of instant gratification. New technologies are popping up left and right that make it SO easy to get things done fast or create systems that literally ‘do it for you.’ This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can cause us to become so ‘desensitized’ to the ability to practice patience.

When it comes to fat loss, patience is probably one of the most difficult concepts to buy in to. We’re hard-wired to want to see change immediately and when it doesn’t happen right away, we get discouraged or tell ourselves “this just isn’t working, I need to try something else.”

Here’s the reality: your body is NOT Amazon Prime, it’s not going to ‘show up’ in two days.

If you want real, lasting results you have to play the long game and understand that the results WILL come if you stick with it. And one of the determining factors to ensure you actually can stick with it, is if it’s something that YOU personally can adhere too.

This part may take some trial and error at first, but once you discover and test out different strategies and methods that start to work for you, you’ll always have those ‘tools in your toolbox’ that you can pull from as time goes on.

Things like intermittent fasting, calorie cycling, carb cycling, PSMF days, and others...these are tools that once you learn how to use properly and strategically, will help you adhere long-term. Teaching you these different strategies and tools is the basis of what I do in the Keto For Women program.

Finally, if you try to be perfect every day, you will NOT succeed. That was blunt, but it’s the absolute truth.

Stop focusing on perfection and start aiming for CONSISTENCY. One of my favorite quotes is:

“Small disciplines, repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.”

If you can commit to focusing on the process instead of the end-result (patience), learn the tools and strategies that work for you personally (adherence), and stop trying to be perfect (consistency), you WILL succeed!

2. Awareness & Energy Balance 

You must be AWARE of the food you consume and be in a negative energy balance.

Awareness is EVERYTHING!

Seriously though, how can we expect to make legitimate progress with our fat loss efforts if we have NO idea what we’re actually putting into our bodies each day?

Knowing how much, how little, and what type of food you’re consuming on a daily basis is such an important piece of the puzzle. It cannot be overlooked.

Although tracking your food may seem daunting at first, the benefits far exceed the small learning curve. You will gain incredible insights not only into how much you’re consuming on a daily basis, but how the different types of foods are affecting how you feel, how you look, and ultimately how best to implement legitimate changes to further progress towards your goals. 

And when I say ‘tracking your food,’ I’m not necessarily only referring to tracking macros. Tracking macros is by far where I’ve seen the best results come, but you can still get great results using other tracking tools such as handful measurements, picture diaries, or a good ole’ fashion food journal.

Again, awareness is the key here. Work towards becoming more aware of what you’re consuming daily and you’ll start to see where changes need to be made.

Once you are aware of your daily intake, THEN you can start to manipulate your energy balance to create a deficit. I hate to break it to ya, but you MUST be in some sort of a negative energy balance (deficit) to lose body fat. There’s just no way around it.

Creating that deficit to be something you can actually adhere to and is sustainable for more than just a week, is a whole other topic and something I teach in-depth in my nutrition programs.

3. Protein & Real Food 

You must consume adequate protein and focus on eating nutrient-dense, whole food.

Consuming adequate protein is essential when it comes to losing body fat and changing your body composition. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • Protein increases satiety.
  • Protein has the highest TEF (thermic effect of food).
  • Protein is the hardest macronutrient to store as body fat.
  • Protein is harder to overeat compared to fats and carbohydrates.
  • Protein is essential for building and preservation of muscle mass.

I dive into each of the above points in more detail in this blog post: Protein is QUEEN!

Additionally, if you’re not consuming at least 80% real, whole food ‘as close to nature as possible’ on a regular basis, you’re going to have a MUCH harder time losing body fat (and keeping that body fat off).

This means when grocery shopping, your cart should contain mostly foods like meat, eggs, seafood, vegetables, and smaller amounts of fruit. Does that mean you can never eat something out of a package or box? No. It just means that the majority (~80% or more) of the food you put into your mouth on a daily basis should have either 1) had a face at some point or 2) grown from the earth.

Focusing on nutrient-dense, real food will make you feel better, increase your satiety (fullness), decrease cravings, create more optimal hormones, aid in performance and recovery, and ultimately make losing body fat so much easier than if you were to rely on their highly-processed counterparts.

4. Resistance Train

The MORE muscle you have on your body, the LEANER you will be.

More muscle = easier, sustained fat loss.

If your exercise protocol does not include some type of resistance training, you will NOT achieve the body composition changes you desire.

Resistance training includes anything that puts your body (muscles, bones, tendons, nervous system) under stress and creates an external stimulus to allow your muscles to grow and bones to remain strong, ultimately causing your body to adapt and then flourish over time.

Yes, losing body fat comes down primarily to diet... BUT, what is often overlooked is the fact that building more muscle actually equates to MORE fat loss.

And for women, I’m not referring to getting “big and bulky” or anything like that... I’m saying that:

The MORE muscle you have on your body, the LEANER you will be.

The less muscle you have, the less efficient your body is at using the calories you consume on a daily basis and the greater decline you will have in your overall health.

In order to change your body composition (for good), you MUST focus on building lean body mass (specifically muscle mass) and also consume sufficient amounts of protein to support this.

I can go on and on about the benefits of having more muscle on your body (especially for women who are looking to get rid of cellulite, get ‘toned,’ have a nice butt, age gracefully, etc.), but this would turn into a novel.

The main takeaway here is that you need to build muscle and in order to do that, you need to work towards lifting heavy shit AND doing a little bit more each time you workout (also known as progressive overload).

In order for changes to occur and progress to be made, you must understand how to implement proper progressions and strategic training protocols to achieve these results. Check out my exercise programs if you need further direction on this.

5. Sleep 

Sleep keeps your hunger in check and allows you to recover and recharge.

To put it frankly, crappy sleep makes losing body fat soooo much harder. We can get by in the short-term with less sleep but eventually, it always catches up with us. No matter what, our bodies need recovery time and this is especially important when it comes to fat loss.

Lack of sleep has been shown to increase hunger, caloric intake, and snacking. Here’s what the research shows:

  • Those who sleep less than 7 hours per night have higher energy intake and snack more often. [1]
  • Lack of sleep is associated with decreases in leptin (the ‘fullness’ hormone) and increases in ghrelin (the ‘hunger’ hormone) which increases overall appetite and cravings for calorie-dense foods. [2]
  • Snacking has been shown to increase with sleep deprivation. [3]

Moral of the story: If you want to make fat loss easier for yourself while also increasing your overall health and well-being, DON’T SLACK ON YOUR SLEEP!

Download my Top 10 Sleep Tips HERE

6. Move

You must be aware of your NEAT and use cardio strategically as an added tool.

NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.

Sounds complicated but it’s really not. Basically, NEAT refers to the calories burned during activities that are not considered formal exercise (i.e., cleaning the house, walking the dog, taking the stairs, walking from the car to the store, fidgeting, etc.).

Many people don’t think about NEAT as being a super important component when it comes to fat loss, body recomposition, and overall health; however, you may change your mind after reading this…

Studies have shown that low levels of NEAT are predictive of fat gain over time and variations in NEAT can actually have a large (if not the most significant) impact on the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) that occurs from person to person.[4] TDEE is everything involved in the ‘energy out’ part of the energy balance equation.

In all of my programs and with all of my clients, the easiest way we estimate and increase NEAT is by setting a daily step goal and gradually working up to a number that is doable but also gets you moving more than normal.

Okay, so hopefully you understand why NEAT is important for fat loss... but what about cardio?

Do you need to incorporate cardio to lose body fat? Not really.

Will implementing appropriate and strategic cardio help you reach your goals faster? Probably.

Incorporating appropriate cardio can help you create a larger negative energy balance and therefore lead to faster fat loss...BUT, you must do this in a strategic way or else you will burn out, reduce the actual 'caloric burn' you’re getting each time, and your resistance training sessions will suffer.

If you’re doing cardio for the sole purpose of burning more calories/losing body fat, you DO NOT want to become efficient at it. You MUST change the type, modalities used, time, frequency, etc. to ensure your body is not adapting to the stimulus (adaptation = less energy burned = less bang for your buck).

So yes, cardio can help and you should probably incorporate some form of cardio into your training. 

But again, there’s a reason why cardio is last on the list. It’s something that WAY too many people are majoring in when in fact too much of it could actually be detrimental to your fat loss efforts.

If you want to learn more about implementing cardio strategically for your specific goals, it’s something I address in more detail throughout the lessons and videos in my exercise programs.

So there ya have it…

If you’ve been struggling to lose body fat (and keep it off), start thinking more about what will actually get you long-term, sustainable results.

Hint: Stop majoring in the minor! 

And if you’re wondering how following a keto or low-carb lifestyle fits into this hierarchy, check out this post: Keto For Weight Loss...The Truth Revealed.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20857867
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15583226
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2615460/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15534426
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