Weight loss- Made personal

Weight loss- Made personal

Spinning, running, strength training, calisthenics, yoga, HIIT, interval training, which one is best? Ooh wait, did I mention: low carb, high protein, ketogenic, intermittent fasting, 5:2, low fat diet, non-diet, flexible eating, and lets not forget intuitive eating. With this plethora of options before us it can be difficult to see the forest through the trees. There are simply too many options and so much conflicting information on the optimal method of eating, training and living our lives in order to achieve our fitness goals. So let’s start here. There is NO universal answer to these questions. There ARE guiding principles or ‘mechanisms’ that give us some answers however.

Let’s look at how we can provide context to one case study of a typical 30 year old office “Barbara” who would like to lose weight:

Let’s take a look at Barbara’s case

  • Typically the average woman will have a lower resting metabolic rate (the total number of calories burned when your body is completely at rest) than their male alternatives. This occurs for a number of reason but can more typically be for the following two reasons: Men have (on average) more muscle mass and are generally heavier and taller. This lower metabolic rate may give the impression that women have a more difficult time in losing weight when eating similar meals to their male counterparts. As Barbara is currently using only about 1500 calories to perform her daily tasks and engage in small amounts of exercise meal choices, dieting method, non- exercise activities as well as a sensible training programme become more apparently important to her successful weight loss.
  • As Barbara is working a 40-50 hour week and confined to her desk we can assume that her average step count is around 5000 steps per day. This level of activity only helps Barbara use approx. 200 extra calories on top of her minimum 1300 resulting in a total of 1500 per day. Should Barbara decide she could walk for 20 minutes on the way to work and back this would add 6000 steps onto her daily activity, that’s an extra 200 calories per day- about the same as a 30 minute spin class, minus the shaky legs! Use of Non exercise activities will be one of the cornerstone of Barbara’s success. She doesn’t have time to go to the gym multiple times per week, but can instead listen to a podcast or radio, talk to friends on her phone, catch up on the weekly news reports, enjoy the weather or whatever accommodates the inclusion of this walk into her lifestyle.
  • This has always been Barbara’s difficult area. She’s been told that she needs to strength train but she’s never really liked the gym or particularly the weights area of her local gym. She prefers to exercise with her friends in classes or jump onto a treadmill and walk. This will be make or break for Barbara. The secret to Barbara’s success here is enjoyment. No matter how effective the training programme, diet or schedule- if she doesn’t enjoy it, it WILL fail. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but any programme which is not guided by enjoyment of the participant is doomed to fail. Here we need to acknowledge Barbara’s goal is weight loss-NOT muscle gain. The goal of the exercise programme is to enhance the nutritional strategy which will result in weight loss. The average strength training session for a novice female lifter of Barbara’s weight, height and age is 100-150 calories per hour. Compare this to the average jog at 8km/h for 45 minutes is a whopping 300 calories. A programme that’s preferred time allocation to exercises Barbara is more comfortable with, like moderate cardiovascular exercise such as this while adding in 2-3 sets of 1-2 multi joint strength training exercises such as a leg press, chest press or seated row (8-12 reps @ 70% max effort) should allow Barbara not only focus on her immediate goal but also become more comfortable with strength training without taking over her program.
  • Weekly nights out are more often than not the biggest obstacle to overcome when it comes to weight loss. Avoiding these social engagements with friends, family or partners is not a sustainable way of living one’s life. With that said, we can be guilty of poor planning on this topic. The idea of “in for a penny, in for pound” or “well, I’ve messed up, I’ll start again next week” can be detrimental to the successful implementation of our plans. Damage limitation or forward planning more often significantly more realistic, sustainable and a more satisfying alternative. Using the idea of low hanging fruit, if drinking opting for a Gin & slimline tonic or sugar free alternative (60 calories) verses a glass of white wine (120 calories) or a pint of beer (180 calories) can dramatically change the impact it has on total calorie intake. These easier “swaps” can increase our rates of success while allowing indulgences. Other strategies like opting for a small breakfast when a meal out later that evening will give more flexibility to food choices later. Here I’ve suggested Barbara avoid starters and deserts, enjoy the main course she like to order and opt for lower calorie alcoholic drinks to avoid unnecessary calories.
  • Since Barbara has had a tumultuous past with “dieting”, tracking or avoidance based diets like Keto or Low carb I’ve advocated against insistent tracking on apps like myfitnesspal. Making a plan that is simple to stick to, we have navigated her diet based on her current eating habits to allow for as much normality as possible while keeping our “calorie deficit” at the forefront of our minds. For this reason we’ve given Barbara an approximate weekday calorie intake and divided it between 3 meals and 1 snack. As long as Barbara can stick to these 3 meals of 300-500 and a snack of 200 we should easily hit her weekday targets. These 3 meals importantly include grab and go options from her local supermarket and eateries like Pret, Leon and ITSU. The convenience of these meals makes it far easier for Barbara to stay on track mid-week during busy work periods. To combat the weekend we’ve agreed that having a light breakfast and a snack for lunch before a dinner night out is the easiest for her to adhere to her calories without feeling like she was missing out on any experiences with friends and family.


As is evident the strategy with Barbara has many facets that are intrinsically linked to her circumstances. A “one size fits all” approach is as doomed to fail as underdeveloped advise like “eat less and move more”. Understanding Barbara’s challenges midweek, food preferences and more relaxed weekend lifestyle and catering for them into a sustainable programme is the implicit responsibility of any capable coach.

Clint Kelly

A certified personal trainer, fitness educator and mentor with over 10 years of experience. Muscle, mind and movement enthusiast.

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