Reducing Body Fat with Dietary Changes
1Opt for meals that are low-calorie. Low-calorie diets will help you lose weight and reduce body fat. Monitor how many calories you eat daily and reduce this number by around 500 calories each day. This will yield a 1 – 2 pound weight loss per week.
- Count how many calories you’re currently consuming. You can use a food journal, app or online calculator to help you do this accurately. Cut out about 500 calories from this number. Your end result should be what you aim for daily for slow and safe body fat loss.
- Do not try to follow a very low calorie diet or consume less than 1,200 calories daily. When you’re calories are too low, you may stop losing weight or lose lean muscle mass, not body fat.
- You may want to check with your physician or dietitian about the amount of calories you should be consuming in order to reduce body fat.
2Focus on lean protein. Protein is essential for your body’s metabolism. Focusing on lean protein at all meals and snacks can help support weight loss and body fat reduction.
- Lean protein should be included at all meals. This will help ensure you meet your daily recommended amount. Women should aim for 46 g daily and men should aim for 56 g.
- Lean protein sources include: poultry, lean beef, pork, legumes, tofu, low-fat dairy and seafood.
- Limit or avoid sources of protein that contain higher amounts of saturated fat. Some studies have shown that a diet rich in saturated fats may increase body fat — especially in your abdomen. Limit foods like: full-fat dairy, fatty cuts of meat, and butter.
3Make fruits and vegetables a priority in meals. In addition to lean protein, make a large part of your meals and snacks vegetables. You will also want to eat plenty of fruit. These foods are very nutritious and contain a lot of healthy nutrients your body needs.
- It’s generally recommended to consume about five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Aim for one to two servings of fruit and the rest should be vegetables.
- Also, when you’re choosing foods from these groups, try to choose items that are brightly colored or darkly colored. These foods are typically more nutrient-dense meaning they contain higher amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. For example, choose kale over iceberg lettuce.
- Try using vegetables creatively. Try them raw with a dip or in a salad, sauté them on the stove, cook them in a soup, roast them in the oven, grill them outside, or hide them in a smoothie or in spaghetti sauce and serve over spaghetti squash.
4Reduce the amount of grains you eat. One of the best ways to reduce your body fat is to reduce the amount of grains you eat each day. These carbohydrate-rich foods can slow the reduction of body fat.
- Foods that are high in carbohydrates include: bread, rice, pastries, sweets, pasta, crackers, chips, English muffins, and bagels. These highly processed grains contain little nutrition and can quickly raise blood sugar which often results in fat storage. 
- There are other foods that contain carbohydrates like fruits and legumes; however, these foods also contain a high amount of other essential nutrients and shouldn’t necessarily be limited.
5Make water your number one drink of choice. On a normal day, most people should drink about eight 8-oz glasses of water. Choose no-calorie, decaf beverages for the most hydrating fluids.
- Avoid sweetened, calorie filled beverages like sodas, juice or energy drinks as they will add calories to your diet and may increase body fat.
- This is a general recommendation. The amounts of fluids needed will differ for everyone depending on their size and amount of perspiration. For example, those participating in aerobic exercise will need to drink more to help them re-hydrate. Let thirst be your first guide.
7Avoid added sugars and artificial sweeteners. They can increase cravings and lead to overeating. There are over 60 names for added sugars, so it can sometimes be a challenge to identify them in an ingredient list. Some examples of added sugars are:
- Agave nectar
- Barley malt
- Cane juice
- Corn syrup
- Evaporated cane juice
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Maple syrup
- Rice syrup
Reducing Body Fat with Exercise
1Increase your aerobic activity level. Put together an aerobic exercise routine that will work in conjunction with your diet to cut body fat. Together, aerobic exercise and diet have been shown to be one of the best combinations to reduce body fat.
- In general, it’s recommended to include at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week — that’s just 20 minutes every day. To speed the reduction of body fat, it’s suggested to work out for longer — up to 60 minutes daily.
- Include a wide variety of aerobic exercises like: walking/jogging, running, biking, dancing, swimming, martial arts or boxing and using the elliptical. Choose activities you enjoy, as this will make you more likely to stick with it.
- If you’re just starting out with exercise, start by building upon your current activity regimen.
- Whether you opt for low impact exercises such as swimming or walking, or a more intense routine like kickboxing or weight training, aim to work out for at least 30 minutes.
2Add in high-intensity interval exercises. Some studies have shown that more vigorous intensity exercises that are done in intervals decrease body fat more efficiently than moderate-intensity exercise.
- Interval training combines both very high- and moderate-intensity exercise. These workouts are usually done for shorter periods of time. An example of interval training is: 1 minute of sprinting followed by 3 minutes of jogging. This cycle would be repeated several times, for about 20 minutes total (not including your warm up and cool down).
- Interval training is great for body fat reduction as it has been shown to burn more calories from fat and keeps your metabolism elevated up to 24 hours after you’ve completed the workout.
3Include regular resistance training. Strength training does not burn high levels of fat when you’re performing the exercises; however, over time, strength training can help you build lean muscle mass which can help you increase your metabolism and your body’s ability to burn calories.
- It’s recommended to include strength training two to three days a week for at least 30 minutes. It’s important to work all large muscle groups throughout the week.
- Always include at least two days of rest and recovery between strength training routines. Your body and muscles need time for adequate recovery, otherwise performance may suffer over time.
4Increase your lifestyle activity. In addition to cardio and strength training, you can increase your daily lifestyle activity. Studies have shown that, in general, people who are more active tend to be healthier.
- Think about how much you move or how many steps you take in a day. How can you increase that?
- A few ways to increase movement in your day include: do leg lifts while you sit at your desk or stand or do knee raises during commercial breaks.
- Add more steps to your day by: taking a walk break during lunch, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away from your destination, and walk to places that are close to you (like the grocery store or pharmacy).
Making Other Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Body Fat
1Manage stress levels. Studies have shown that long-term, low-grade, chronic stress increases cortisol levels in the body. When this occurs, not only can it be difficult to lose weight, you may even gain more body fat.
- Exercising regularly can help manage stress levels. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or overly stressed, take a 10 minute walk to help yourself calm down and unwind. Try yoga, which can be meditative.
- Engage in other activities that will also help you relax. You can listen to music, read a good book or magazine, journaling, get together with friends, or watch a movie. Try meditation, deep breathing, positive visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation.
- If you’re having trouble managing stress levels, consider talking to a therapist or behavior specialist. These health professionals will be able to coach and guide you to better stress management.
- Avoid relying on tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, or other drugs.
2Go to bed earlier. Many people do not get adequate rest each night. Sleep is important for a variety of bodily functions including weight management. Go bed to earlier to get more sleep to help reduce your body fat levels.
- It’s recommended to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. You may need to go to bed earlier and wake up a little later (if possible) to help you increase the amount you sleep each night.
- Adequate rest also helps improve athletic performance in addition to helping you manage your hunger signals throughout the day.
3Ensure that you are eating healthy portions. Portion control is necessary if you want to reduce body fat. Portion controlling will help you reduce your overall calorie intake and body fat.
- In general, average healthy adults adults should consume no more than 3 – 4 oz of protein, 1/2 cup of grains, 1/2 cup of fruit and 1 cup of vegetables per serving.
- Use measuring cups or a food scale to help keep you on track with your portions.
- You can also use smaller plates, bowls and cups to physically limit how much food you can serve yourself at one sitting.
- Consuming more than the recommended portions of foods may increase your risk for gaining weight and increasing total body fat.
4Eat mindfully. Turn off your TV, put away your phone or book, and pay attention when you are eating. Eat slowly, chew well, and savor your food. Eating while distracted or when you are feeling emotional can cause you to overeat. Try to be present when you eat your food, noticing the tastes, smells, and textures.
Measuring Your Progress
1Start a journal or log. Whenever you’re trying to lose weight or reduce your body fat, it’s a good idea to start a journal. You can include a variety of information, but this log will help you see and measure your success.
- Start a journal prior to making any changes. You might make notes about what you plan to change, your timeline and any other ideas or thoughts you have.
- Think about keeping track of your foods and beverages. Logging what you eat has been shown to help people stay on track. It will also allow you to see any slip ups or help you determine if what you’re eating is affecting your success.
- Also keep track of any measurements you take like your weight.
2Get on the scale weekly. When you’re trying to lose weight and reduce your overall body fat, it’s important to monitor your progress. One way to check in is by weighing yourself weekly.
- Studies have shown that weekly weigh-ins help people stay on track and on target. You’re more likely to be successful long-term if you continue to self monitor and check-in with your weight.
- Ideally, weigh yourself about one to two times a week. It might be harder to see accurate progress if you’re weighing yourself daily due to normal fluctuations in body weight.
- For the most accurate measure of your progress, weigh yourself on the same day of the week, at the same time and in the same clothes. First thing in the morning, before eating or drinking, before dressing, but after using the restroom is best.
3Take your measurements. As you continue to lose weight and reduce your overall body fat, you’ll notice that it’s not only the scale that’s changing. If you’re losing body fat, you should also notice the size and shape of your body also changes.
- Prior to starting your diet and exercise program, take a variety of measurements. These will help you see where you’re losing the most fat.
- Typical places to measure and track are: waist, hips, bust, thighs and upper arms. Keep these measurements in a journal. Every month, re-measure yourself to help you track your progress.
- If your weight is staying the same, but your measurements are smaller and you have been working out, you are likely gaining muscle and losing fat, which is a healthy improvement.
4Get a body fat percentage test. If you’re able, get your body fat percentage tested and evaluated. This is the percentage of your body that is made up from fat. As you continue to diet and exercise, this percentage should decrease over time.
- Many gyms offer body fat percentage as a free service to their members. Ask a staff member or trainer at your local gym for more information.
- You may also ask your doctor or physician if they have the equipment in office to evaluate your body fat percentage.
- There are devices you can purchase for home use, but these typically take a lot of experience and practice using. Your margin of error will most likely be much larger compared to a health or fitness professional doing the tests for you.
I am getting fatter every day. What can I do?
1. Take a look at side effects of medications you are taking; many can cause weight gain. Be sure to discuss this with the MD who prescribed them; do not stop any medications on your own as many need to be tapered gradually.
2. Consider removing all processed food from your diet. Eat only vegetables, pasture raised meat, healthy fats (such as coconut oil, olive oil, avocado), and some fruit. It is possible that you have developed food intolerances to some processed foods, especially wheat, corn, or dairy.
3. Remove toxins from your environment, such as plastic water bottles & food containers, harsh chemicals for cleaning, cosmetics and lotions. All can contain chemicals which may disrupt your hormones which can cause weight gain.
What are some low-calorie food suggestions?
Fruits and vegetables are both great low-calorie foods. Some crackers and plain popcorn are a good option too, as are smoothies with fresh fruits, veggies, and a low-calorie milk like almond milk.
Should I do cardio after or before weight training?
Either, unless you are doing leg strengthening. Then you should do cardio before, so your legs are not exhausted when you try to do free weights.
If I am trying to tone up, should I do more reps with less weight or more weight with fewer reps?
If you do more reps with less weight, you will have harder muscles, but not necessarily bigger. Fewer reps with more weight will result in larger muscles. If your goal is toning but not building muscle, stick with less weight and more reps.
How can I increase my sprint speed?
When jogging, try some high-knees and butt-kicks and tangos to make your legs work harder. Then, when it comes to a sprint, the body will think it is easier, so it will be.
Will I get fat if I eat after working out?
No, and it is actually important to eat a well-balanced meal after working out.
Is it possible to lose my body fat in a month or less?
You can reduce your body fat in one month, but it is not possible or healthy to lose all of it.
I don’t eat much, but I get fatter everyday. What’s the course?
You may not think you eat much, but what you eat might add up to a lot of calories. Try to figure out and count the calories in everything you eat in a day to get a clearer idea of how much you’re actually eating. Alternatively, just change your diet to a healthy one, which should help by itself. That means focus on eating a lot of fruits and vegetables; lean proteins like fish, chicken breast (not fried), nuts, seeds, and beans; healthy fats like coconut oil and olive oil; and whole grains and yogurt in moderation. And it’s certainly a good idea to add a little more exercise to your life if you can.
Should I eat before or after exercising?
Either, but there should be at least an hour’s gap between your food and workout. If that’s not possible, then eat afterward because it’s not good to exercise immediately after eating.
What can cause weight gain after going to the gym?
It’s important to also maintain a balanced diet so you’re not undoing all of your hard work. If you’re doing that, exercising will build up your muscle mass and muscles are actually heavier than fat. Another possibility is an increase in fluid due to minor inflammation, this is a normal and temporary bodily reaction to exercise.
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- Take photos of yourself at the beginning and every two or three months to help you see progress.
- Donate clothes to charity as they become too big for you. This may help you maintain your smaller size.
- Food intolerances such as gluten, dairy, soy, corn, etc can make weight loss difficult.
- Be kind to yourself. Slip-ups will happen, and that’s totally okay. Don’t give up or get angry at yourself if you break your diet or miss a workout. Just keep doing your best.
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