By Leo Babauta
I think I’m not the only one among us who wants to lose fat. I’m embarking on a 2-month fat-loss plan, and I thought I’d share it with you in case you’re interested.
Some background: when I started this blog, almost 10 years ago, I was overweight but had already made a lot of progress in losing that weight. Changing my diet to a healthier, vegetable-based diet was a big part of it, and learning to exercise regularly was another. And learning not to overeat so much was also pretty huge.
I lost 70 lbs. at one point (almost 32 kg, for you non-Americans), and all was great. However, I wasn’t that strong, so I started lifting weights. That helped me gain some of the weight back. Lately, I decided to intentionally eat more to gain more muscle, and it worked … except I also gained some fat. That was expected, and it’s not a problem. Now I’m going to try to lose most of that fat.
Finally, I should say that I’m not anti-fat. I prefer to be lean, because it helps me run better and move better, but having some fat on my body isn’t a big problem. I don’t think anyone should feel bad about having fat on their body, though I understand that feeling. In the end, it’s about moving towards a healthier lifestyle, and figuring out what works for you.
This plan is what works for me.
Here’s the plan:
- I eat a calorie deficit. You can’t lose fat if you’re not in an energy deficit. So I first calculate my Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), then subtract 500 calories. I suggest you start by subtracting 250 calories, and then adjust downward if that isn’t too hard or if you’re not losing enough fat after a few weeks. For me, I know that 500 calories is a good number for me.
- I plan out my daily diet. Some people don’t like to eat the same thing every day, and don’t like to plan. I know I work best if I just figure out an eating plan and stick to it, without having to think about it every day. So I create a spreadsheet, and figure out how much I’m going to eat on training days and rest days (more calories on training days, though this isn’t absolutely necessary for everyone). I eat the same thing for breakfast every day, and eat the same thing for lunch and dinner. I don’t count green veggies in my spreadsheet, though I eat a lot of them. As many of you know, I also eat a completely vegan diet, and really love this way of eating.
- I lift weights. If you want to lose mostly fat, and not a lot of muscle, it’s essential that you do strength training. You probably won’t gain a lot of muscle on a calorie deficit (unless you’re new to strength training), but the idea is to retain the muscle you already have. For me, that means a simple plan: three full-body workouts a week, focusing on just a handful of key lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press, bent-over barbell rows, weighted chinups). See the plan at the bottom of my spreadsheet. I try to add weight or reps to each lift every workout, so I’m progressing each week.
- I keep protein high. I’ve found that eating a good amount of protein helps you retain muscle while you’re on a calorie deficit. So I eat about 150g of protein a day, which isn’t as ridiculously high as bodybuilders often go, but is good enough for my purposes (it’s about 1g of protein per lb. of lean bodymass). To do this, I eat seitan, which is a good source of vegan protein, along with PlantFusion protein powder and soymilk.
I also go running, just for health and fun, and let myself eat out about once a week or so just so I’m not crazy strict on myself. If I’m hungry in between these meals, I’ll eat an apple or have some tea, and that helps tide me over.
So I eat the same thing every day, which is a caloric deficit with high protein, and lift weights three times a week. That’s about it! I didn’t invent any of this (lots of it I got from Dick Talens), but it seems to work for me. I hope this was helpful to some of you.