Credit: Instagram @jonocastanoacero

Now that the new year has come around, one of the main questions asked is: What is the best way to shred for beginners who are looking to start their journey to lose weight and get healthy? Most articles written are for people who are already in shape. But what about something for those who are trying to jump start our healthy lifestyle.

If you are just starting out, here are the things you should focus on to gain the initial momentum. And yes, these are in the order of importance.

Discover what motivates you

Here’s the harsh truth about motivation: everyone struggles with it at some point or another. Most people who struggle with fat loss know exactly what they should be doing. The internet is proof of this: there is more fat loss information available than you’ll ever need. It’s all there, accessible with a click of a mouse, ready to be applied. Yet only a fraction of people take action. The rest, majority, struggle with finding the motivation to take the necessary action.

Before you even try to apply a single fat loss action you need to do a bit of self-reflecting: why do you want to lose fat?

Once you’ve answered the why, ask yourself why another four times to dig past the superficial “to look good”. What’s the burning reason you need to start today?

When the answer makes you feel uncomfortable you are on the right track. Don’t even read further until you’ll discover the deeper why. None of the following information matters unless you know why you want to lose fat. And if you can’t find a why? There’s a chance that none this will stick for long enough to make a difference in how you look and feel.

Put 90% of your effort into improving your eating habits

Are you currently maintaining, or even gaining fat? If so, there is only one solution (provided that there are no medical conditions etc): You need to eat less food than what you currently do OR you need to make healthier food choices, which leads to eating less calorie dense foods. There is no ways around this. Training harder won’t alone solve your fat loss problem.

Stop drinking your calories

Most people struggling with fat loss don’t realise how many calories they drink each day. It might well be that stopping soft drinks, milk and sugar teas, a variation of frappuccinos and by dramatically reducing alcohol is all you’ll ever need to lose enough fat.

If you don’t cut calorie heavy drinks out now, you will once you’ve done the below.

Build awareness about your current eating habits

For the next two weeks eat as you currently do and track it all on MyFitnessPal or another calorie counting app. Everything that you eat and drink goes into the app. The reason? To build awareness on how much you are currently eating and drinking.

Most people are unaware how many calories a daily snack of a handful or two of dried fruit and nuts has. Having two handfuls can be enough calories to make up an additional meal and doing that everyday adds up.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to count calories for the rest of your life. Just the next two weeks to become more aware of how many calories are in different food items that you habitually consume. But be specific, and avoid guesswork. Throughout these two weeks you will likely have more than just few of these moments: “Wow. I didn’t realise how many calories there were in X, Y and Z.”

That knowledge is gold.

Eat 3-4 wholefood meals a day using these hand portions with each meal

– A palm size (or two) of protein
– Two fistfuls of vegetables
– A cupped handful of starchy carbohydrates
– Thumb size of fat

Why? Most people ignore this because it seems too simple. Those who do stick with it reap the results.

If you have time to cook, do it yourself. If not, use a meal delivery service that caters according to the above portion guidelines. Focus on wholefoods that are nutrient rich, not on the stuff you get from the freezer aisle at your local supermarket.

Don’t snack

Snacking throughout the day can significantly add up to your daily total of calories. At times we snack not because we are hungry. Rather, snacking is often related to psychological cues (boredom, stress etc). When you feel like snacking, ask yourself “Am I actually hungry or is this something else?”

If it’s hunger you will most likely feel it in your stomach. And it’s time to eat a proper meal. If you are not hungry, don’t eat. And yes, having a drink that is calorie dense is also considered a snack.

“I have been doing 3-4 meals without snacking, but I am not losing weight”. First, give it two weeks before making changes. If you haven’t lost any fat you are eating too much. Slightly reduce the serving of fat or carbohydrate from each meal. Give it another two weeks and reassess.

A good guideline for each meal is that you should be able to go for a slow-paced walk straight after finishing a meal. You shouldn’t feel bloated, tired or exhausted after eating.

10% effort goes into training

Lift weights 3-4 days a week, keeping the training intensity at moderate

Your training goal at the gym is not to burn fat. Fat loss will happen regardless because you are following eating habits that support the goal of fat loss.

The training goal is to get stronger and keep the muscles stimulated. This way the body will emphasise dropping fat and you will keep more of your muscle, even on a reduced calorie diet.

Since your calories are a bit lower than what they’d usually be you might feel a bit hungry and even tired. By avoiding hardcore sessions you are less likely to feel run down and it’s easier for your body (and mind) to recover so you can come back for another sessions.

Add low level activity into your days

Go for a walk, swim or a bike ride to be more active each day. All of this adds up to your total daily calorie expenditure in a sustainable way that stops you from burning out.

Acknowledge even the smallest results and don’t stop

Any progress means that you are taking the right action and heading into the direction you want to go. There will be times when you don’t feel like doing it, especially in the beginning. Don’t stop. Keep going and you’ll notice that the feeling will pass. Sometimes it takes a day, sometimes it might take a month. But it will pass.

Is this all there for a beginner to jump starting their fat loss?

Can we make fat loss more complicated than this? Absolutely. And when you get to a certain point (usually a low body fat number) there might be a good reason to look at more advanced actions to keep progressing. But you are just starting out and struggling with fat loss, right? How about focusing on simple actions in the beginning. Because if there is an easy way to lose fat, it might be this.

You can follow ICON’s fitness expert, Jono Castanoacero on instagram @jonocastanoacero