Fat Loss – 8 steps to get started

fat loss exercise

Fat loss is a hot topic especially at this time of the year, and everyone claims to have the answer as to how to shed the Christmas pounds as quickly, and with as little effort as possible!

With every website providing different advice, it can be very confusing to know what to follow. We find the trick is not to overcomplicate things, so here we have provided you with a simple recap on what is required to lose body fat, as well as 8 easy steps to kick start your fat loss journey


We eat food because our bodies need energy to survive and stay healthy. The energy value of food is measured in calories. This is a measure of energy just like a meter is a measure of distance. Whether you lose or gain weight is determined by the energy balance, which simply means calories consumed minus calories burned.

Energy balance = calories eaten – calories burned

When this equation = zero, you will neither lose or gain weight, as the energy balance is neutral. If this number is positive, you’re in a calorie surplus and you will gain weight. If the balance is negative you’re in a calorie deficit and you will lose weight

For more detailed  information, see our article on how energy balance works.

These 8 steps will help you to manipulate your energy balance equation in order to reach your fat loss goals.

1 – Make an estimation of your calorie needs

How many calories you need depends on your body size, body composition and how active you are. Calorie requirements can vary a lot from person to person, and one of the mistakes people make is in tending to underestimate how much they eat and overestimate the amount of calories they burn with exercise. If you spend most of your time sitting, like many of us working an office job do, you’ll need to be conservative with your estimation. There are many websites that can calculate your calorie needs for you, including our own order form – simply enter in your details here  selecting the Fat Loss goal, or ask or the FFF team.

2 – Apply a calorie deficit large enough to make a difference but small enough to be sustainable

As previously mentioned, the energy balance is the most important factor when it comes to fat loss. So once you have made an estimation of your daily calorie requirements, you need to eat less than that to lose weight. Now it may sound like a good idea to just eat half the calories required, because then you need to stick to your plan for a shorter period of time, right? Theoretically, yes. The reality is that you may be able to live off minimum calories for a day or 2 maybe if you’re very strong willed, but in the long run it is not sustainable. As a rough guide, a deficit of 20% is sustainable for most. This means that if you burn 2000 kcal on any given day, your calorie budget with a 20% deficit would be 1600. The more overweight you are, the larger your deficit can be.

Even at 20%, a calorie deficit can be tricky to stick to, we know, we’ve tried it. We therefore have ample tips on how to stick to a deficit even when it seems impossible.

3 – Make a plan that works with your lifestyle and preferences  

Most diets out there ‘work’ in the short term, but are not sustainable in the long run. The problem with most of these is that they are too restrictive or don’t fit in with your lifestyle, or align with your preferences. Therefore we recommend finding a diet that suits you and your body. So whether you create your calorie deficit by going vegan, intermittent fasting or eating like a caveman.. that is entirely up to you as long as you adhere to the one rule of eating less than you burn.

4 – Exercise can support fat loss by creating a calorie deficit, but is more important to maintain health

You can increase your calorie budget by exercising. However, people tend to overestimate how many calories are burned during exercise so be careful not to use this as an excuse to double your food intake! That doesn’t mean it is a useless way to spend your time because exercise is important to stay healthy, it helps to build muscle, as well as reducing the risk of cardiovascular and bone disease. And don’t panic if the gym is not your thing, your body does not differentiate between exercising in a gym or anywhere else. Find an activity that you enjoy and that can be anything, running, walking or playing tennis. You’re more likely to sustain the activity if you enjoy doing it.

5 – Focus on eating whole foods

Eating a diet based on whole foods resolves a lot of issues as to why people gain weight in the first place. It is more difficult to overeat on whole foods (nobody overeats broccoli, but it’s very easy to eat a day’s calorie budget with chocolate). Whole foods will satiate better than processed foods and they provide vitamins, minerals and fibre to support your overall health too.

6 – Incorporate foods you love, occasionally

Everyone fancies something delicious every once in a while and trying to make these foods forbidden fruits for the rest of your life is not realistic, no matter how motivated you were on January 1st. It’s also unnecessary. As long as you keep your portions in check, it is possible to enjoy treats on a fat loss diet. There are ways of doing this sensibly. If your favourite food is carrot cake, don’t go and buy a whole carrot cake with the intention of eating only one slice, because chances are you probably won’t stick with one slice. Rather than buying a whole cake, go to your favourite coffee shop, order one slice and enjoy it. Successful weight loss involves controlling your environment, because motivation can only take you so far. Having a carrot cake lying around in the fridge will not make your life easier.

7 – Measure, because you’re not as skilled at counting calories as you think

As mentioned earlier, we tend to underestimate how much we eat but we’re also not very good at estimating the calories in food. So when you first begin dieting, it is really useful to start keeping track of what you eat. There are many handy apps available such as My Fitness Pal to help you do just that. Try this for a week religiously and once you have a better understanding of calories in food you’ll be able to make better choices without having to track everything all the time.

8 – Stick to your plan, monitor progress and adjust accordingly

Once you have created your nutrition and training plan, tailored it to your lifestyle and tastes, then tracked your meals for a while so you know what you’re doing… here’s the magic tip: stick to it. Understand that it takes time to shift weight. Nobody ever gained weight from overeating for one day and similarly you will not lose weight from eating one healthy meal. Losing weight is a gradual process achieved by consistently making the right choices. As long as you are moving in the right direction you are doing well.

If you have any questions on fat loss or any other nutrition topics, jump onto our Twitter and ask away, be sure to hashtag #ASKROBIN, and you’ll questions will soon be answered!

Twitter – @Fresh_Fit_food


Robin Swinkels

FFF Nutritionist


6 Reasons Why You Aren’t Hitting Your Goals


You’ve decided to set yourself a goal and even though you have increased your training frequency and tidied up your diet, you’re still not making the progress you’d like to. At this point you’ll be racking your brain, wondering what is slowing you down.

Rest assured, you’re not alone with this – everyone feels this way at some point or other. Many give up at this point as frustration gets the better of them. Instead you need to get to the root of the issue and work to resolve it so you can get back on track.

Top 6 reasons why you’re not hitting your goal

We’ve summed up the top 6 reasons why you may not be hitting your goal:

1. You’re not being consistent

We all want to see quick changes, especially when we’re putting in stacks of effort. We can often become impatient if we don’t see noticeable results in the desired timeframe. It’s common to give up at this point as your frustration gets the better of you.

Many fail to stick to the same plan for long enough to reap the benefits and others are strict all week and blow out at the weekend. Consistency is key when it comes to getting results. A constant schedule allows for steady weight management and enables you to get into a better routine and turn the actions from chores into habits.

Opting for a quick fix, e.g. dropping calories drastically will often be more difficult to stick to and you will likely experience negative effects on both your physical and mental energy levels. This will translate into your daily life, making things like getting up in the morning or getting through a chaotic day at work 10x harder.

2. You’re too stressed

Stress is extremely common nowadays. Jobs, relationships, lack of sleep and over-training / insufficient recovery all put a major strain on your mind and body, contributing towards feelings of stress.

When you’re stressed, the body secretes the major stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol plays havoc within your body and can raise your blood sugar levels, affect your appetite, lower testosterone levels, reduce your ability to burn fat and increase the rate you store fat.

Consistently elevated cortisol levels can work against your weight loss efforts. Research has found that as cortisol levels increase, ghrelin (hormone that stimulates appetite) also increases (Adams, Greenway and Brantley, 2010) – this provides some backing for the spiral of overeating we experience when under pressure and feeling stressed.

To overcome this, try to factor in some ‘me-time’ each day and allow yourself to unwind – have a bath in the evening, go for a walk/ jog to clear your mind and aim to get enough sleep each night. Furthermore, ensure you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet and allowing yourself to recover adequately between training sessions.

3. You’re not getting enough sleep

Sleep is needed to allow your body to unwind physically and recover from the day’s activities, but also to give your heart and cardiovascular system the opportunity to relax.

Waking up groggy and tired can make you less likely to want to head to the gym and make the day ahead seem like an uphill struggle.

Poor sleep has been attributed to weight gain. It has been suggested that the number of hours sleep you get each night may influence body weight and metabolism.

Taheri et al., (2004) studied American adults between the ages of 30-60 and found participants with short sleep had reduced leptin (appetite hormone that signals the feeling of fullness) and increased ghrelin levels (appetite hormone that signals the feeling of hunger). The observed changes in hormone levels are likely to increase appetite, potentially providing an explanation for the weight gain observed in the participants.

4. You’re consuming more calories than you think

A coffee when you need a mid-morning pick-me-up and a handful of nuts late afternoon, hardly seems like a big deal, but some of your go-to’s can quickly make your calorie intake rise. For instance, if you had a Starbucks latte, around 150 kcals, followed by some nuts mid-afternoon, it would total over 300 kcals.

If weight loss is your goal, you must consistently be in a calorie deficit. Snacking in this way will hinder your progress.

Now we’re not saying you need to remove these things from your diet, but you should consider being more mindful with your choices and alter your meals to allow for the extras.

5.  You’re focusing on your diet, rather than a lifestyle change

When it comes to setting yourself up to getting the best results, there are multiple factors that come into play. Whilst it is vital to optimise your diet, this should not be viewed as the determining factor.

You should not think of this journey simply as a diet, rather it should be viewed as a lifestyle change. This approach will be more sustainable in the long run and you will make much faster progress.

When it comes to your lifestyle, small changes are all it takes. Aim to be more active during the day, perhaps walk to work or get off the tube a stop early, ensure you’re drinking at least 2 litres of water each day and get into a consistent exercise routine.

At FFF we promote controlled, sustainable weight loss. Our plans facilitate positive lifestyle changes, rather than simply offering a temporary fix.

6. You’ve not given yourself enough time to see results

The rate at which you see results is completely down to the individual as there are many underlying factors which will influence it. Comparing yourself to others will only cause unnecessary stress.

Often, people are unrealistic with their goals and can end up being disheartened when things don’t go as planned. You may not be giving yourself enough time to see results. Take a step back and set yourself a smaller number of manageable goals, which are both measurable and achievable.

In addition, the number on the scales isn’t necessarily always a measure of progress, so it’s important not to get too hung up on it. Mood, energy levels, improvements in the gym are all steps in the right direction and worth noting.

There are always going to be set-backs or obstacles along the way. However, the important thing is to learn to identify and work to overcome them.

At FFF we aim to take some of the stress off your plate and give you more time to focus on yourself!

In good health,


Georgia Head, FFF Nutritionist