Updated: Apr 1, 2019
Hi, I'm Jessica. I am the founder of CheerConditioning.Academy and if you take carbs away from me, I will cry. Just ask the poor personal trainer who took my last Calliper test when I sobbed, "but I had no caaaaaarbs!". Not my proudest moment.
Today I wanted to talk about that question you probably ask yourself a lot, "Do I Need To Lose Weight?"
We are so obsessed with "losing weight" that we are actually losing our minds.
When concerned with body image, WEIGHT is not the object.
FAT, is - and here is why:
Fat takes up more volume than muscle - 1 kg of fat takes up a lot more space than 1kg of muscle (full explanation below), so you will look "bigger" even if you are lighter. Luckily, the message is getting around. Just look for #strongnotskinny on instagram. I am not in any way condoning that your goal should be to get into bodybuilding: trust me the amount of effort it takes to look like THAT is almost like a full time job (and for many people, it is!)
The question is not DO I NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT, but instead: DO I NEED TO DECREASE MY BODY FAT PERCENTAGE? The answer: it depends on what you're after:
So instead of asking yourself if you should lose weight, ask yourself DO I LOOK AND FEEL AT MY BEST?
Believe it or not, I was one of those people for the last 3 years. After taking a sabbatical from my own fitness and spending my days in front of a computer to focus on "growing my business" - my body started to look like a piece of cheese that had been in the sun for too long.
Fitness is not about size. You can be unfit at any size, just in entirely different ways. Because my body type is an ECTOMORPH (i.e. don't put on muscle and fat on easily) - this big change of body composition was thankfully not noticeable when I was wearing clothes (I was around 26% body fat, ie an ectomorph cheese stick - or what people call "skinny fat". Sure, clothes were tighter than usual and I stepped up a dress size or too, but nothing drastic to anyone seeing me in clothes.
Whether you are slightly off-piste or have completely fallen off the wagon - never compare yourself to anyone else. You and your DNA are unique and body type is just the start - but wherever you're starting from, know that you CAN make a change. My friends and family used to look at me a year ago and say "oh but you look greeeat darling! What are you even worried about?". The truth is that to me, I didn't feel or look great: and even though there are bigger problems to think about (I mean, this is a big dose of First World problems, right?) - the changes I have implemented to get myself back fully on the wagon have positively effected all aspects of my life: my work, my relationships, my moods, my health. Getting back to where I felt truly happy (currently around 16% body fat) required a CHANGE. Not "sacrifice" - because "sacrifice" means that you're not enjoying your journey or feeling empowered. It should be about making better choices and feeling good about them.
If you've read this far and you feel ready to make a change - however big or small. Read on to the "action" phase of this article. Here are 5 small things you can do, to make a bit change. The world of fat loss and fitness can be a scary world out there, and sometimes making a few small steps is just enough to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
STEP 1: TEST & ASSESS
Visualise what you want, as long as it's realistic: find out what your body type is, your weaknesses and your strengths. You can easily go to your local gym and have one of the SENIOR Personal Trainers (juniors might be cheaper but for the sake of a few bucks, getting someone with more experience in this, will make all the difference). Things that you will want to know are:
What body type am I?
What percentage of body fat do I have?
What are my strongest / weakest muscles?
Do I have any food intolerances?
This will form the basis of what you do next: finding out what you like to eat that's healthy, and what you like to do for exercise. Go on a 2 week exploration: try a different class or activity every day, experiment in the kitchen. Find out what are the things that make you happy but that are the better choice. Trying to stick to a diet you hate is a recipe for disaster, I found out the hard way because all it did was make me cheat and develop hatred towards fat loss. Small steps, better choices, commitment.
STEP 2: THROW AWAY THE SCALES
As I mentioned before, WEIGHT should not be your concern: it's an outdated and frankly horrendous way to measure your body image. As far as I’m concerned scales belong in the kitchen to weigh ingredients. The reason they are so misleading is because:
1) Fat takes up more space than muscle for the same weight. 1 litre of muscle weighs 2.3 pounds, while 1 litre of fat weighs 1.98 pounds.
2) Weight fluctuates depending on the time of day, month, etc.
3) When looking at scales, you will always see a number, and the likelihood is that the number you see will never be the one you want to see
4) It can become a dangerous game and it’s easy to start becoming obsessed with how low the number can go.
Instead, body fat percentage is a much more effective way to measure your body and you can get this done with a personal trainer at most gyms. It’s how you feel and how you perform that is important, not the numbers on the scale. Losing weight can be a consequence of you getting into better shape, only if you have a lot of fat to lose.
If you don’t have access to a body fat measurement through a PT, you can still ditch the scales and get yourselves two pairs of jeans. The first is in the size you currently are, the second is your next step target (i.e. if you're a size 14 getting a pair of size 6 jeans is not going to be very motivating!). Try both your jeans on once a week (my day is Sunday) and see the progress that way. Once your target jeans fit you well, you can either use them weekly to check if you're on target, or buy the next size down. Make sure you stop at reasonable size for your body type, and remember that this takes time - but if you put in the hard work it WILL pay off.
PART 3: HOW TO AVOID OVER-EATING
The quality of the calories you’re eating is crucial because nutrients serve a specific function. For example, 800 calories of popcorn versus 800 calories of fish with vegetables and rice will have two complete different effects in the way that the body uses this energy.
Sweets have minimal useful nutrients and minerals, so the body will keep craving nutrition, meaning you are likely to still be hungry and eat more than what you need. Let's imagine for a second that you want to eat a tub of Broccoli instead of a tub of ice-cream (ok, I said imagine!). Broccoli will make you feel fuller than ice-cream, even if it has a lot less calories. WHY? Ice-cream has no nutritional value, so your body will encourage you to keep eating until you have the nutrients you need (or until you have a bad stomach ache!)
With broccoli, your body will be much quicker at sending your signals to say ‘okay you can stop eating now, you’re full of nutrients’. This is why nutritional value is so important to our meals: it’s not just about how many calories we eat but also how much they contribute to our system and help us self-regulate and avoid over-eating.
So a quick hack to avoid over-eating and incessantly snacking: make sure you give your body all the nutrients it needs! Another great way to avoid over-eating is to drink a large glass of water 30minutes before your meal.
PART 4: SHOULD I EAT THE COOKIE?
Now that you've addressed over-eating, let's look at treat deprivation. "Should I eat the cookie" question.
Let me introduce you to the 1st Law of Thermodynamics. (Stay with me, this law will be your friend). Energy can be transformed from one form to another but cannot be created or destroyed. Each calorie you ingest replaces each calorie you have used. Eating fewer calories than you burn will create a deficit, eating more will cause excess to be stored in fat cells.
This means, that as healthy as a handful of nuts can be, eating your way through a bag of almonds “because it’s healthy” is not going to help your calorie deficit. Just to put this into perspective: the average chocolate chip cookie is 80kcal. That’s the equivalent of 11 almonds.
Am I saying you should be eating cookies rather than almonds? No, because the nutrients you’re getting from the almonds are far better. But if you’re killing yourself with guilt because you would really like to have a cookie and you've already had some veggies today, I'm saying: having 11 almonds instead is not always the right answer if you’re concerned with calorie intake and will make you miserable. Here is how you could decide:
I’m hungry and need a snack: pick the almonds, they have better nutrition. It’s the better choice.
I REALLY want a cookie right now but I’ll feel guilty about the calories. Eat the damn cookie. It’s ok, you’re allowed to treat yourself.
I want another five cookies because I’m still hungry: Have 11 almonds and a glass of water and wait 30minutes to see if you’re still desperate for cookies. If you are, don’t do it with guilt but make a point to know this should not be a habit.
STEP 5: CHANGE YOU HABIT LOOP
If you read one book this year, make it THE POWER OF HABIT. This brilliant book by Charles Duhigg is a brilliant insight into the psychology of habits and how you can implement these in your day to day life. I've used these principles for everything from my fitness to other aspects of my personal life, and of course my business. Absolutely brilliant and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
If you want the keynotes, the video below does a good job of summing up the important bits:
That's it! Learn to love YOUR body, get to know it better and keep striving for your own potential, never somebody else's.. wishing you the best of luck and feel free to reach out on Instagram if you have any questions! @jessicaZ00