How to lose body fat by changing how you eat
One of the biggest mistakes made in the quest for loss of body fat is setting out with a restrictive mindset. This is the focus on good versus bad foods, or removing all ‘unclean’ foods from your intake, in a desperate effort to eat ‘clean’. However, let’s flip this and go with an abundance mindset instead; one that focuses on the foods to add into meals and snacks, rather than remove. As we add nourishing foods that will help you achieve your goals, something magical happens. You start eating less ‘bad foods’ almost by accident and most certainly by choice. And you do this without resentment.
Before heading down this path, first consider why you want to lose body fat. It is important to acknowledge that losing body fat is different to weight loss, so you need to set realistic expectations from the outset. Aiming for a gradual loss of body fat will assist in managing sustainable change and protect you from muscle-mass losses. If you want to measure progress, remember that scales aren’t going to be all that useful. A change in the scales doesn’t necessarily mean a loss (or gain) in body fat. The best option for monitoring progress is either a DXA scan or having a qualified anthropometrist measure the sum of seven skin folds.
And avoid the trap of changing everything at once. When you do, you’ll probably end up changing nothing long-term. Changing things too quickly creates too many friction points throughout your day, and these will make it hard to sustain change.
So instead, start by considering small changes that you can build into a sustainable program, which will result in immense progress long-term. For example, there is no point in recommending you eat half a plate of veggies at lunch and dinner if you are not currently managing any veggies at these meals. Start small and look to link these to bigger changes as you progress. These changes should fill you with confidence and be achievable each day without you having to exert a whole lot of mental energy to achieve them.
So, to lose body fat, what foods should we focus on adding bit by bit into our meals, and when should we do this?
Add in food during the day:
Sounds counterintuitive but, because often we set out to lose weight by over restricting during the day, we fall victim to extreme food cravings and hunger by evening. If you find yourself bingeing late in the day, it may be that you have over-restricted early in the day when motivation might be highest. Instead, start the day with a realistic intake that is going to keep energy levels steady and appetite satisfied. There are few things as life-sustaining and habit reinforcing as getting to the end of the day without the crashes or the out of control feelings of guilt from ’failing again’.
Add in colour to your plate:
Plate up your food with more volume, colour and variety, without eating dramatically differently. If you usually enjoy a plate of pasta and bolognese with a side of garlic bread for example, you can still enjoy these foods by changing how you plan the plate. First fill the plate with ⅓-½ plate of salads or veggies, then the remaining ¼-⅓ plate with the pasta and ¼-⅓ plate of bolognese.
This crowding with colour still allows all that fullness and satiety from a full plate, but also means you’re able to reduce overall energy intake with lower energy density – and higher nutrient density!
Add in quality protein:
Although eating enough protein is important, there is protein and then there is protein. Adding quality protein to each meal is just as important. This spread of the right protein not only helps with muscle protein synthesis (muscle growth and recovery), it also helps keep us full and satisfied between meals and over the day. Want to learn more about the right kinds of protein:
[An article on protein in a previous musclebox edition is here…]
Add in quality carbs:
Stop hating on the carbs! There is no need to eliminate carbs to lose body fat. Most of us overdo the carb intake (particularly on days at our desk), however, with our active sessions being weight-centric and often high intensity, carbs are going to help fuel those sessions, driving greater energy output, and support overall performance.
So instead of focusing on which sugars to ‘quit’, focus on the carbs to add that are going to align with your body’s needs and your body composition goals.
Add in water:
So often when we’re changing our food, we forget one key component in improving our overall intake, recovery and energy levels: hydration.
There is no magic number when it comes to how much fluid to aim for over the day. However, you can make a good start by aiming for a drink of water at each meal (and snack), while carrying a water bottle with you over the day.
Not a water fan? Try choosing sparkling water, or make it taste a little fancy with some flavour-infusion tea bags designed for cold water!
So, to sum it all up, what does this adding strategy look like in real life? Here’s a couple of examples to get you started:
- Add a sachet of frozen veggies to your usual serve of leftovers at lunch.
- Bulk up your egg breakfast with some grilled veggies;
- Quickly pimp your boring, dry salad at lunch with a tin of tuna and a sachet of brown rice/quinoa
- Serve each meal alongside a glass of water.
Advanced Sports Dietitian and co-founder of the performance focused athlete dashboard, Compeat Nutrition
Alicia Edge is an Advanced Sports Dietitian and co-founder of the performance focused athlete dashboard, Compeat Nutrition. When she isn’t wrangling her 3 young kids, she is supporting a range of athletes, from everyday active to professional, achieve their definition of performance.
We offer free preliminary assessments at www.compeatnutrition.com and share plenty over on our socials: