Losing fat is in some ways very simple, just a matter or mathematics. Use more energy than you consume, consistently, and you will burn off fat.

But in a lot of other ways it is very complex.

In our modern industrialised society we don’t often eat because we are hungry. We eat mainly out of habit, and social expectation.

We also eat for a bunch of emotional reasons. We eat to celebrate, out of politeness, because we are bored, sad or happy. We sometimes eat when we are stressed. We sometimes eat to punish ourselves. We are basically a pretty weird mob.

We all have our own emotional triggers for eating and food choices, and they are all individual. 

So here are a bunch of tried and tested tricks for helping complex people do a simple maths problem:

Diet AND Exercise

It has been shown through research that you can losing fat is possible by diet OR by exercise, but far and away the most effective method is diet AND exercise. Working out 2 or 3 times a week will build muscle and fitness and make you feel great, but your best bet for losing fat is to eat sensibly as well.

Weights AND cardio

Get your heart rate up running, riding, swimming or whatever you choose and you will burn energy. But research has again shown that lifting weights (resistance training) will help you build muscle mass and reduce body fat.

And if you’d like some pointers on what to eat before, during and after exercise, you can read more here.

Eat your carbs

So you need to both eat sensibly and exercise to lose body fat. That means you should be fueling your body for exercise, and that means carbohydrates, our body’s preferred fuel. 

It is possible to lose weight by a low carb diet, but there are a few problems. A lot of the initial weight loss is water, not fat. Your body won’t be fuelled properly for exercise, so you may feel lethargic and perform poorly.

Low carb means higher proportions of other food types, usually protein, which can have problems when done to excess.

Eat your breakfast

Eat your cereal. And your toast. And some fruit. Go on. It’s the most important meal of the day, and can stop you over eating and snacking for the rest of the day. It is almost impossible to have too much for breakfast if you are exercising regularly.

A bowl of healthy breakfast - chia pudding with fresh strawberries and blueberries - perfect for setting you up for the day and to help you in losing fat

Eat small amounts regularly

Have five meals a day and start losing fat! Really! The trick is to make morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner all of the same size and importance.

Small, regular food intake will keep your metabolism humming along and burning energy, and will help avoid those low blood sugar moments when you crave a snickers bar or a packet of chips.

Eat small amounts

Yes, I’m repeating myself but it is important. A great way to control energy intake is to put smaller amounts of food in front of us. Most of us are programmed to eat everything on the plate (thanks Mum), so get around the problem by using a smaller plate. 

You can always have a second serve if you need to, but then at least you are consciously choosing to take in extra energy.

Drink lots

Of water, not alcohol. Sorry.

A lot of people suffer chronic dehydration from under drinking and don’t realise. Drink more and you will have more energy, and be more inclined to exercise, and work hard.

Drinking adequately can also help reduce hunger sensations.

Drink less

Alcohol, not water, sorry.

It is truly amazing the number of people who manage to lose body fat by cutting down on alcohol. The main reason alcohol is bad is it is high in energy, and we tend to drink in addition to what we eat, and not instead of.

Extra energy makes the maths problem harder to get right.

Alcohol also reduces your inhibitions, and in addition to photocopying your bum you are more likely to make bad food choices while drinking. And have you ever tried to get up and exercise in the morning with a hangover?

If you’d like a more in-depth rundown on the relationship between alcohol and weight gain, please see here.

Be prepared to be hungry

Not ravenous, or starvation hungry, but a little bit hungry. Losing fat requires running an energy deficit consistently for prolonged period.

Your body will interpret the energy deficit as hunger at times, so be ready for it. But we hate being hungry all the time, and will revert to old ways so…..

Be patient

Sustainable reduction in body fat takes time. You can take it off quick, but you won’t keep it off.

Do it slow, and it won’t be painful, won’t require drastic methods, will give you time to establish good habits and you will keep it off.