With the ‘Little Black Dress’ season about to kick off, and the endless offerings of booze and rich foods coming our way, it’s a difficult time of year to keep your weight in check. That’s why I’m a big fan of spending the first 2-3 weeks of December being super disciplined with your nutrition and exercise to counter some of the inevitable indulgence. Without sounding like a massive bore, I’m aware this may prove difficult with all of the Christmas parties and socials, but it pays massive dividends when it comes to Christmas week, meaning you can really let your hair down, guilt free. Most people wait until January before starting to chip away at the body fat, but a month of overindulging can leave you with a tough gig come the first week of 2019, feeling less motivated than ever.
Create a calorie deficit
No amount of exercise will ever help you lose fat from any part of your body- unless you are in a calorie deficit. I sound like a broken record when I tell people this, but it is literally impossible to lose body fat without burning off more calories than you consume on a consistent basis.
The easiest way to achieve this is by lowering your food intake. Set yourself a calorie target and focus on eating nutrient rich whole foods – consisting of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish, and some complex carbohydrates around workouts. Also aim to avoid drinking too many calories, dodge the lattes, smoothies and booze where possible as they are prime candidates for pushing you over your calorie target with very little nutritional value.
Note: the above does not apply on Christmas day – indulge, you deserve it.
Increase your NEAT
NEAT stands for; Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. It’s the activity you complete each day that is not performed as exercise. This is forgotten key to getting in shape and boosting your overall calorie burn. Some simple examples include:
• Parking your car further away from work and walking the rest
• Cycling instead of driving
• Taking the stairs instead of the lift
• Stretching whilst watching TV
• Standing for five minutes every hour
• Taking the kids to the park
• Washing the car
Remember, we are looking to create a consistent calorie deficit so anything that chips away at that calorie intake is going to help shift more fat. The more NEAT the better!
Lift some Weights
On the hierarchy of fat loss, resistance training sits at the very top. By that, I mean you should prioritise your strength training as the most important part of your weekly exercise plan.
At this point a lot of people- particularly women- are concerned that lifting weights will cause them to bulk up. The good news is that this is certainly not the case. Women possess a fraction of the testosterone of their male counterparts, and as such will find it much harder to get ‘big’. What’s more, if you are training in a calorie deficit it’s even harder to bulk up. lifting heavy weights is the quickest way to achieve the toned physique you are looking for. So do more of it.
Aim to train with a resistance that causes fatigue between 8-12 reps. If you can do more than 15 reps with a weight, it’s simply not heavy enough!
Also include exercises that hit every muscle group rather than just smashing the abs every session.
Other compound lifts such as squats, pull ups, deadlifts and lunges will help boost overall calorie burn, increase total fat free mass, and improve your resting metabolic rate.
Whilst it’s true that you cannot choose where you lose your fat from, it’s still wise to focus on working the areas you wish to improve on with a variety of exercises 2-3 times per week as part of your overall training plan.
Try something new and find an activity you enjoy
With so much misinformation in the health and fitness industry it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the endless workout crazes and nutrition plans out there. The best exercise for you is the one you enjoy the most because that way you are far more likely to stick to it.
Cycling, hiking, or even salsa dancing all count towards your targets so pick one you think you might like and give it a go. Remember, all activity counts towards your calorie deficit, the more you move, the more fat you will lose.
Include a daily home workout into your morning routine
Adding a short workout to your morning routine is a great way to fire up your central nervous system, boost resting metabolic rate and start burning some calories before breakfast. For those short on time (most of us) it’s also a great way to ensure you get at least some exercise completed before life throws an unexpected spanner in the works.
The aim here is to work as many muscle groups as possible, whilst challenging the heart and lungs. The workout should last no more than 20 minutes and can be done with no equipment, perfect to do at home, so no excuses.
Combined with a calorie restricted nutrition plan, this interval workout will help you drop some serious body fat whilst improving the shape of your arms, shoulders, legs, and abs. Perfect for rocking that little black dress in time for the Christmas party!
Speaking from experience, the Christmas period will be so much more enjoyable if you can go into it feeling like you deserve to treat yourself. Stick to these rules and you will not only enjoy those extra quality street without guilt, you will also head into 2019 feeling fitter and more motivated than ever.
• Chris Wharton is a Director and Fitness Instructor at The Better Body Group in Sevenoaks. For more tips and advice on fat loss and weight management, feel free to contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.