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Obese, overweight, normal, lean, or ripped

Being too fat is a continuum or a scale where morbid obesity is at one end, and being completely ripped lean is at the other. This is not something new, it’s just a different perspective. You could have a 60kg lean body mass consisting of muscle, bone, and organs, which, is either covered by 4kg of body fat, and you’d be classed as shredded, or, be covered by 40kg of body fat and be classed as obese. Losing body fat is often peoples main goal, and as you start to get leaner you move along the continuum from obese to ripped.

So far this sounds pretty straight forward. So why is dieting so confusing and complicated?

If you search for ‘best fat loss methods’ you will be faced with many opinions that are corroborated with either “scientific fact” or personal “evidence”. Whatever the method, there’s usually some very lean muscular individual purporting the merits of that particular plan, or, a very complicated scientific study that reports a statistic that equals a P value of less than 0.05…. But what does it really mean?

It means that there are many ways to lose body fat, and, most are right to a certain degree. The complications arise when you hear direct contradictions. The classic scenario that I’ve seen over the years from this industry is; ‘it’s just calories in Vs calories out’ against the ‘you don’t eat enough to lose weight’. Honestly, have you ever heard of a more contrary pair of statements? but I guarantee that you’ve heard them both, no wonder we’re all so confused…and still fat.

The basic principle of fat loss is that you must create a calorie deficit between the food you eat and the calories you burn. If your body burns 2000 kcals a day to stay alive, and you only feed it 1500 kcal per day, you have created a 500kcal deficit. Your body will fill that calorie void by releasing 500 kcal of body fat. It really is that simple. Whether you’re getting ready for a bodybuilding show, aiming for 5% body fat, or you’re 150kg and looking to make life saving weight losses, it’s the same. Without a caloric deficit, you won’t lose fat.

So where did the contradictory statements come from?

They are there because they are both true. Where you appear on the ‘fat continuum’ will denote what sort of diet plan you should follow. An obese individual cannot lose fat the same way as a lean individual, and that is why it’s so bloody confusing! Energy input levels, macronutrient ratio, volume of activity, exercise intensity, body composition, insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, metabolic rate, mechanical restriction, fitness levels, and mental state, are just a few of the variables that effect individuals depending on where you feature in the continuum. How can you possibly prescribe the same diet to work for two massively different individuals?

There is no point copying what an elite athlete does if you’re obese, and likewise, if you’re trying to be an athlete, why would you diet like an obese person ought to? Let’s just take energy input as an example. If you’re obese and have poor fitness, limited range of movement, metabolic illness and uneducated eating habits, a slight calorie restriction will not do a damn thing and an intense training regimen will come to halt before it’s started. You will need to get more active, but for you at this stage, this may mean walking for 30 mins a day. You have a massive excess of stored energy and an inability to burn it significantly from movement alone, your body needs to learn to be more insulin sensitive and better at using fat as a fuel. A basic plan would be to severely restrict calories to around 800 -1200 kcal per day, and, implement basic movement until a significant amount of weight is lost. This may seem harsh, but the body is so poor at metabolising food without storing it you must force it to use its own stores. This is often complimented by a drastic reduction in carbohydrate consumption. The majority of energy you’d consume will come in the form of, protein, a small amount of fat, and minimal carbohydrates usually from fibrous vegetable sources only. As body fat is lost and you progress along the continuum, you start to increase calories, carbohydrate, and movement.

Lean people trying to get ripped would do the opposite. You need to fuel your intense workouts with as much energy (especially carbohydrate) as possible, this keeps metabolism high.  Combine high carbohydrate with moderate protein and intense resistance training will maintain a high level of muscle mass. Fats should be kept at a minimum, just enough for basic function, as they slow your foods absorption rate and can blunt fat loss. Your energy input needs to be as high as humanly possible, but on a knife edge of accuracy that balances fat loss between exercise volume and energy consumption, so you’re still creating a deficit. To confuse matters further, the leaner you are the more you’re effected by decreasing hormones especially leptin, thyroid, and testosterone. The technique to restore these levels is to periodically dramatically overeat. This revs up hormone production and metabolism and can kickstart a stalled fat loss journey.

As you can see this can be a confusing and contradictory field. It is hard enough to lose fat even without the misinformation that is out there. The important take home message from this is that you need to know where you feature on the body fat continuum and how this effects your physiology. From this you will be able to make a plan that will work for you now, and how to progress it in the future.

If you like any help or would like to book a consultation to aid your fat loss journey message me at

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