Tipping the Scales In Favour Of Weight Loss

March 30, 2010 · 5 comments

This is a guest post by Duncan.

A couple of years back I worked as a personal trainer after completing my sports sciences degree at university. Admittedly this wasn’t a very original career choice for a sports scientist, but I really wanted to see if I could apply theory to practice. To my amazement, after about two months working as a personal trainer, I learned a very important lesson that I hadn’t really be taught in my three years at uni. This was the idea of gradually tipping the food/exercise scales in favour of weight loss.

One of the first things you get taught in sports science education, and indeed something that is now very much in the public’s consciousness, is that if you burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight. This is a simple enough idea for most exercise professionals to grasp, and you might think that the average Joe could run with this as well, but the truth is most people just don’t get it. This is not down to stupidly or lack of commitment etc, but instead down to the vague nature of the statement.

Most of the clients I had did not know what a calorie was, let alone how to use them up, in what quantity to use them and how many this was in relation to the amount they were consuming. I would go as far as to say it was pointless me passing this theory on to clients, as it didn’t give them a starting point or anything to work with. I would often get clients saying things like “I only ate a couple of potatoes and then ran 5 miles, why haven’t I lost any weight?” or “If I do 15 minutes cardio vascular exercise per day, how many beers can I have at the weekend?”. Of course there are too many variables for me to give an accurate answer. How big were the potatoes? When were they eaten? What conditions were they running in? What was the CV exercise and how intense was it? What type of beer? Etc etc. I found this very frustrating because although I could carefully monitor the calorie intake and usage of my own body, I couldn’t hope to do the same for my clients, and I wasn’t getting results for them.

Then one day it hit me and I realised that I needed to change the advice I was giving. I told my clients to start thinking about food and exercise as elements on either side of a pair of scales. Currently, the amount of food they ate was outweighing the amount of exercise, causing the scales to tip in favour of the food and so they were putting on weight (or at least not losing any). I told them to slowly start reducing the amount they ate and increase the amount they exercised, to try and tip the balance in favour of exercise. If their weight didn’t start to come off, I told them not to worry, but just to adjust the amounts of food and exercise again to move closer to the tipping point on the scales. A couple of months of using this idea and hey presto, almost all my clients reached their tipping points, the exercise outweighed the food intake, and they started to lose weight.

I put this success down to two things. Firstly the clients stopped thinking about specifics such as trying to match their calorie intakes and usage with complicated equations, and started listening to their bodies more for feedback. Secondly, the clients were given a psycho-physical concept (the scales) to attach their weight loss and gain to. Trying to lose weight was no longer seen as a wishful attempt with uncertain consequences, but instead they knew that once they reached that tipping point on the scales they would have reached the top of their mountain and would see the sun on the other side.

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Seth@1010in2010 March 30, 2010 at 8:20 am

I like this concept. I’m sure it would make them understand it better. Nice post.

Greg March 30, 2010 at 9:10 am

Simple, tried and true advice. Life is about balance.

Frank Dobner March 30, 2010 at 11:22 am

I agree so much. It is the true revelation of losing weight for LIFE. Once you’ve got this weight loss “secret” you will look and feel great. When I say you’ve got it, I mean knowing the theory and putting into action with every decision.

I appreciate your post because it re-confirms my own new view of the body.

Jim@functional-fitness-facts.com March 30, 2010 at 12:45 pm

When it comes to calories and weight loss, if you burn more calories than you consume, your body will tap into stored fat for energy to make up for the calorie deficit and you’ll lose weight. If you consume more calories than you burn, regardless of if the calories come from carbohydrates, fats or proteins, your body will store the surplus calories as fat and you’ll gain weight. Some foods may get stored as fat more easily than others because of the way they affect your hormones or blood sugar, but too much of any food will get stored as fat.

Since you must create a calorie deficit if you want to lose body fat, what’s the best way to create this deficit? Should you decrease calories, increase your physical activity, or do a combination of both? The most effective way to lose body fat is by decreasing your calories a little and increasing your physical activity a lot.

Dave from Running Tips March 31, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Counting calories is difficult to do. I think about weight loss in the respect of a balance too. I know I am not going to lose weight if I am not exercising. On the other side, instead of counting calories, I look at how much fruits and veggies am I consuming. The more veggies and fruit I eat usually translates to less calories consumed.

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