As it stands today, Australia is currently experiencing one of the highest rates of obesity in 1st world countries and yet our health industry is BOOMING! In 2015, Suncorp bank released a Cost of Being Fit report for Australians and their spending on gym memberships, sports equipment and fitness fads with an estimated value of $8.5 billion.
Yet as a nation according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, it is estimated that 63.4% of Australians over 15 years of age in 2014-2015 were either overweight or obese according to BMI (which as some implications).
Interestingly though, in the same report, 56.2% of Australians over 15 years of age considered themselves to be in excellent or very good health and only 14.8% claimed their health to be fair or poor despite >60% of the population being overweight. Which is quite a large disparity between the two figures.
Do we have a weight issue or a mindset issue? Maybe we have both?
Regardless of each individuals understanding on whether they are healthy or not, as a nation, we have work to do on both aspects.
So what are the two things that are stopping our nation from achieving healthy fat loss despite our willingness to spend $8.5 billion as a country on the fitness industry?
The first major problem we face as a nation is that we eat more and do less, of which we then also have a huge issue with dietary and training change compliance.
So the #1 factor stopping fat loss is… Compliance.
What we know
We know that based on human physiology the number 1 determinant on body weight manipulation is determined by the amount of calories we eat, versus the amount we burn.
Simply put – If we eat less than we burn (calories) we lose weight and vice versa if we eat more than we burn we gain weight.
This is a universal law of thermodynamics and human physiology that cannot be beaten and is fundamentally true in all individuals who are otherwise healthy and not suffering from any metabolic issues that have a known negative effect on metabolism.
What we can do about it
We need to form healthy habits and be compliant.
This doesn’t mean we have to remove all the yummy foods, exercise for hours or have no social life. Quite the contrary actually!
What we need to do is form healthy habits and maintain compliance.
Healthy habits for someone may just be something as simple as moving more each day
- They may park further away from the door at the shops
- They may take the stairs and not the elevator
- They may walk the dog instead of solely taking him/her to the dog park and sitting down
Healthy habits for someone else may be eating 2 controlled meals a day
- They may swap a snack for a protein shake
- They may decide to eat 1 less fast food meal per day or week
- They may eat a vegetable and meat meal at work that was pre prepared as opposed to buying lunch at a cafe
If there is one thing I know from experience and have seen in my years of coaching individuals to physique goals, is that balance is the key to long-term success.
Removing things you enjoy in life is a fast way to ‘failing’ at trying to form new habits. Whereas learning to reduce the things you need less of and increase the things you need more of, generally results in a much higher adherence.
So whether you are an over eater or an under exerciser, simply make a small change to fix that balance first. Once you begin to move more consistently, then start with a small step to eating less, like swapping pasta for potato as potato has fewer calories per serve.
And then overtime start to find the balance in life through physical, psychological and social health.
You need all 3 to be harmonious in order for a new habit to be formed and for the first factor of compliance to be achieved. Having 1 without the other, whereby you make physical change in dieting habits that then cause a negative change in your social life, is a sure way to long-term failure.
NEAT: Non-exercise activity thermogenesis
I touched on this briefly in factor 1 but NEAT refers to the amount of calories we burn from day to day activities that are not from direct specified exercise.
What we know
When we eat less calories and place our body into a net calorie deficit, as a defence mechanism a cascade of hormonal changes occur in order to make you want to eat more, do less and stop your body from burning more fat.
It has been suggested that individuals currently in a dieting phase may experience up to a reduction in NEAT of 200-500 calories per day. Which, depending on your understanding of calorie requirements is a HUGE amount of calorie burning to be missing out on.
After all, dieting to your body is essentially long-term death via starvation.
Ok that sounds a little harsh but the reality is, it is true and the great thing about knowledge is it gives you power. It gives you the power to take affirmative action, to acknowledge your hurdles you may need to jump and to make conscious decisions on how to deal with the dieting process.
What can we do about it?
Don’t be a victim to the dieting process by succumbing to its inherent genetic predisposition to make you move less and do less during a dieting phase. Remember, we can’t fix what we don’t know.
And we know that our body is going to attempt to force us to do less so make some active choices to move more.
- Create a standing office instead of sitting
- Park further away from the destination you’re driving too
- Walk in the morning to wake you up instead of relying on coffee
- Take the stairs not the escalator
- Play with your kids more
- Walk your dog twice a day
Moving more will allow dietary calorie changes to be more effective so that the removal of calories work. By being unaware of a reduction in NEAT, which the large majority of us are, it is easily achievable to offset a calorie reduction by 200kcal by moving 200kcal less.
Fat loss for someone who has struggled with his or her weight for years is not an easy task, however it is absolutely achievable.
By recognising the two primary factors preventing fat loss, which is being compliant and moving more, you are setting yourself up for success.
- Set realistic goals
- Make measurable changes
- Move more
Above all… enjoy the process and involve your family and friends in the process so you have a support network to help you achieve what you are setting out to do.
As cliché as it is, make a lifestyle change, not a dietary one.