I mean, people lose fat on low carb diets, low fat diets, paleo diets, vegan diets, raw food diets, diets that involve eating “clean” instead of “dirty” or not eating after a certain time at night, and countless other types of diets that involve every gimmick, fad and method you can think of except the specific task of creating a caloric deficit. But yet, they have all caused people to successfully lose fat.
Useful goals should be (1) specific; (2) attainable (doable); and (3) forgiving (less than perfect). "Exercise more" is a great goal, but it's not specific. "Walk 5 miles every day" is specific and measurable, but is it doable if you're just starting out? "Walk 30 minutes every day" is more attainable, but what happens if you're held up at work one day and there's a thunderstorm during your walking time another day? "Walk 30 minutes, 5 days each week" is specific, doable, and forgiving. In short, a great goal!
Many diet plans cut out entire food groups, which can create nutrient deficiencies as well as health problems. For instance, if the diet is very low in carbohydrates and you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, it’s probably not a good fit. And if it’s too restrictive and you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s not a good idea, either. Keep in mind that pregnancy is not a time for weight loss. Speak with your doctor before making any changes to your diet if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
The scale is not necessarily your friend. You may want to lose fat – but the scale measures muscles, bone and internal organs as well. Gaining muscle is a good thing. Thus weight or BMI are imperfect ways to measure your progress. This is especially true if you’re just coming off a long period of semi-starvation (calorie counting), as your body may want to restore lost muscles etc. Starting weight training and gaining muscle can also hide your fat loss.
I have one question though. I think I’ve read most of your site at this stage and I think I can find most of the answer to my question but I can’t seem to find the complete answer and it would be nice to see it pulled together in one place. Now I understand the whole calorie deficit thing & I understand that you can create the deficit through diet & exercise. I also saw your article saying that, although weight training does have *some* effect on weight loss, its actually very small. I’ve also seen you virtually dismiss (:-)) cardio. The thing is, I haven’t seen all these things drawn together in one place. So: are you saying that changes to diet has BY FAR the greatest effect on fat loss? And that weight training and cardio have such a small effect on fat loss that, relative to diet, they are almost insignificant? Because that is the impression I’m getting. Actually – and I know this is not really possible – could you quantify their relative effects as you see them? e.g. diet 70%, cardio 20% weight training 10%. Again, I know, that’s not possible, but just to give a “feel” for their relative impacts. You can see what I’m getting at here: I’d like to get an idea for where to concentrate my efforts.
That means taking in fewer calories than you burn. That means making healthier choices. That means ... well, you know what that means. You know what you should eat. We all do. White flours and white sugars are the enemy. Foods like white breads, cookies, white pasta, white rice, and white potatoes are out. (The same is true for "white fats" like butter and full-fat cheese.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Specifically, Mark went on a 10-week diet comprised primarily of snack foods. Twinkies, Little Debbie cakes, Doritos, Oreos, sugary cereals like Corn Pops and other equally crappy foods that are all highly processed, lacking in nutritional value, loaded with sugar and “bad” carbs, high in “bad” fat, contain trans fat, and possess other similar traits that are common among typical “junk food.”
The Core Plan is based on the science of energy density. Energy density refers to the amount of calories in a given weight of food. Foods that are considered low energy dense foods have a small amount of calories for a large volume of food (for example, vegetable soups, vegetables, and fruit). High energy dense foods provide a lot of calories for a small amount of food (for example, oils, butter, cream sauce). The Core Plan provides a "balanced diet by centering on a list of healthy foods that keep you full longer."
Basically, the effect of exercise on our weight is vastly overrated. That’s why it’s only number 15 on this list. There are other things you need to take care of first. It’s not a good idea to eat bad food, drink sugar water (so-called “sports drinks”) or be on medications which force you to exercise for hours daily just to compensate. Metaphorically that’s like digging a hole, into which you put your ladder, on which you stand and paint the basement-level windows of your house.

Unintentional weight loss can occur because of an inadequately nutritious diet relative to a person's energy needs (generally called malnutrition). Disease processes, changes in metabolism, hormonal changes, medications or other treatments, disease- or treatment-related dietary changes, or reduced appetite associated with a disease or treatment can also cause unintentional weight loss.[25][26][27][31][32][33] Poor nutrient utilization can lead to weight loss, and can be caused by fistulae in the gastrointestinal tract, diarrhea, drug-nutrient interaction, enzyme depletion and muscle atrophy.[27]
Continuing weight loss may deteriorate into wasting, a vaguely defined condition called cachexia.[30] Cachexia differs from starvation in part because it involves a systemic inflammatory response.[30] It is associated with poorer outcomes.[25][30][31] In the advanced stages of progressive disease, metabolism can change so that they lose weight even when they are getting what is normally regarded as adequate nutrition and the body cannot compensate. This leads to a condition called anorexia cachexia syndrome (ACS) and additional nutrition or supplementation is unlikely to help.[27] Symptoms of weight loss from ACS include severe weight loss from muscle rather than body fat, loss of appetite and feeling full after eating small amounts, nausea, anemia, weakness and fatigue.[27]
If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you'll lose weight. But when you're hungry all the time, eating fewer calories can be a challenge. "Studies show people who eat 4-5 meals or snacks per day are better able to control their appetite and weight," says obesity researcher Rebecca Reeves, DrPH, RD. She recommends dividing your daily calories into smaller meals or snacks and enjoying most of them earlier in the day -- dinner should be the last time you eat.
A deload is needed more when volume is higher and you’re pushing for progress every workout. When fat loss is the goal, volume should purposely be reduced a little and you’re shooting more for maintenance (maybe with the occassional progress) rather than constant progress. Now if you’re going to be in a deficit for a while, sure… I can see taking a diet break when needed and possibly using that time to deload as well if it felt needed.
Lastly, as I indicated, all my lifts are going up, but my weight (and even LBM, assuming my scale is even remotely accurate) so is it fair to say that strength gains are not directly related to muscle gains? Is this the “beginner” phase that you speak of frequently? The scale would indicate that muscle is going down….. But my presses, squats, deadlifts are all up.
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