In this article, we will tackle the issue of adjusting the diet to lose more stomach fat and of course fat in general. This is a supplemental article to my previous one about how and why to track your fitness progress. It might be a good idea to read that one first just to give you some baseline for this post.
I’ve mentioned stomach fat specifically because it’s the place where most people want to lose fat the most and it’s also the place where the “stubborn fat” resides. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to reduce fat specifically from one area of the body. The following diet adjustments work for breaking fat loss plateaus in general which includes losing the stomach fat.
First, let’s look at reasons why we need to make some adjustments to our diets to continue losing fat and then we will look into how to make these adjustments. We’ll finish with a short recap.
Why Do We Need To Make Adjustments
There are basically three reasons why we need to modify our diets to continue our fat loss:
- our original caloric calculations are only estimations
- metabolic adaptation
- energy needs decrease with weight loss
Let’s look at them in more detail.
Initial Caloric Calculations Are Estimations
The first step in a diet setup is to estimate our caloric needs using Harris-Benedict or Katch-McArdle formulas. These formulas are based on an average metabolism of a guy/gal that is the same size as you. This is a generalization and your metabolism could be a lot faster or a lot slower.
If you’ve used Katch-McArdle formula you had to estimate your body fat percentage. I’ve recommended simple estimation using the Navy method which isn’t the most exact one but is cheap and good enough. But even if you’ve had it measured using the most advanced methods it’ would be still an estimation, although it could be more precise.
When your body detects that you don’t have enough food to sustain your current weight various hormones start doing their work and they will start to downregulate some bodily systems to decrease the energy expenditure. Your body does this because it can’t tell if you want to lose weight or you’re slowly starving to death. This metabolic slowdown was measured in the Minnesota Semi-starvation study and was measured to be about 15%.
Decreased Energy Needs
As we lose weight our energy needs decrease because we are getting smaller and lighter so our bodies need less energy to just exist – BMR (how to calculate BMR). Next reason is that as we lose weight and become lighter and lighter, our body burns less energy to move us around. This is true for all activity from sitting at a desk in the office to a hard training.
The third reason for the decrease in energy needs is that in order to lose fat we have to eat less food, which means that also the energy needed to digest this smaller amount of food is a little lower compared to normal intake. And the last point that comes to mind, when we are in caloric deficit we are less likely to move in a day to day life. A good example is the decision to take the elevator instead of the stairs.
When To Make Adjustments
What to do when things don’t go as planned? Should we cut calories immediately after the first week we haven’t lost the calculated amount of weight? My advice is a resounding NO. What should we do then? I would say wait.
If you’ve just started your diet it’s recommended to dismiss the data for the first week because the weight you’ve lost will most likely be water caused by lower carb intake. Then wait for another 3 to 4 weeks and calculate your average weight for each week and compare week to week (as written in “tracking” article).
If you’re past the first 5 weeks and your weight loss slows down don’t adjust anything and wait another 2 weeks. It’s possible that you’re just retaining water. If your weight loss doesn’t start again it’s probably time to make an adjustment. But to be sure check your log with body measurements. If your weight stalls but your stomach measurements go down, wait another week and see what happens.
Above recommendation are valid only if you haven’t cheated on your diet. I don’t mean cheating like eating a whole pizza and not counting it:) But taking one or two bites of your loved one’s burger, few fries with it and then a bite of his/hers desert can add up over time. This can effectively mitigate your caloric deficit. Since you most likely won’t calculate these small amounts of food, your food log will look good. So be strong and resist the temptation or just log everything. And if you really can’t help yourself you might be ready for a diet break but that is a topic for another article.
And the last thing to consider is stress. If your stress levels increase, work, family or just lack of sleep, it can have an impact on your weight loss efforts. If this is the case just wait until the stressful period is over. It might be a good idea to consider raising the calories to maintenance while the stressful period lasts and resuming the weight loss once your stress levels return to normal.
If you’re not cheating on your diet, don’t experience unusual stress and your weight and body measurements stopped decreasing you’re ready for a diet adjustment.
How To Make The Adjustments
So you’ve started the diet and all is going well for a few weeks and then your weight loss slows down or stalls. You’ve waited 2 or 3 weeks but your weight doesn’t move down, body measurements don’t move down, you’re not cheating on your diet and you’re not experiencing unusual stress – you need to adjust your caloric intake to continue losing fat. There are basically two methods:
Let’s say that your average weight loss for the last three weeks was 0.6 lbs but you wanted to lose 1 lbs. If you’ve read one of my first my post regarding the diet, initial caloric calculations, you know that to lose 1 lbs (0.5 kg) per week we need to create a daily caloric deficit of around 500 kcal. We can use these two values, your actual rate of weight loss and calculate the necessary adjustments needed to continue losing weight at a planned rate:
lbs (your actual weight loss / planned weight loss) x 500 = (0.6 / 1) x 500 = 300 kcal
kgs (your actual weight loss / planned weight loss) x 1100 = (0.3 / 1) x 1100 = 330 kcal
This calculation tells us that you need to decrease your caloric intake by 300 kcal per day to again achieve the planned rate of weight loss.
This one is great for everyone – simply decrease the caloric intake by 5 % which can be around 100 to 200 kcal depending on your size and caloric intake.
Whichever method you choose make sure to wait 2 or 3 weeks before you’ll re-evaluate your progress again.
In the previous article we’ve covered why and how to track your progress and in today article we’ve covered how to use this information to adjust your diet if the weight loss progress slows down. Let’s summarize the basics:
Before adjusting your diet wait 2 or 3 weeks and go through this checklist:
- body measurements (especially stomach) don’t decrease
- you’re not cheating on your diet
- you’re not under an unusual amount of stress
If you’ve made sure that all of the above is true then you’re ready to make an adjustment:
- precise – calculate necessary adjustments as written above
- simple – decrease your intake by 5% which can be around 100 – 200 kcal
That is all for now, I hope you’ve like the article. If you did please like and share it with anyone who might find it helpful. And as always, if you have any questions or suggestions be sure to leave a comment below. Thank’s for reading:)