Do you really want to lose that last bit of weight?

If you’ve been on diets before, you may have felt like you’ve made good progress, but that one last bit won’t seem to budge. Why can’t you see your abs? What makes this bit of fat so difficult to lose? Well, the answer is nothing.  There’s nothing special about the last bit of fat.  It’s the same as all your other fat cells. What it takes to lose the last bit is the same as what it took to lose the first bit.

What makes it so hard is the fact that you’ve already been on a calorie deficit for some time.  Carrying on with it is just a difficult thing to do. You’re not in starvation mode, but for various reasons discussed in a previous blog post, things get harder. Getting ab definition is no mean feat.  A lot of people think they want abs but are not actually prepared to do what needs to be done to get them.  And that’s completely fine!

You’re not unfit, or fat just because you can’t see your ab muscles.

Somewhere along the line with the rise in social media, and beefed up on-screen super heroes, having abs is seen as the holy grail of fitness.  In fact, in most cases, the opposite is true. Striving for that level of leanness can lead to poor sports performance and health complications.  Think about how many people you know who walk around all day with washboard abs…Not many.  Ab definition is not something most people can easily achieve, or arguably, should, strive for.  Although a quick look on social media would make you think it is.

People who have abs don’t even have abs. On the most extreme end of the spectrum are bodybuilders and physique athletes.  They have dedicated their lifestyles to achieving a certain physique. And even they may not have obviously visible abs until towards the end of their prep.  And that’s with years and years of dedicated consistent training, and months and months of dieting. Many of those photos you see online are taken when they had perfectly timed their nutrition to look as lean as possible, under the help of good lighting, a tan, and at a good angle.  That’s not even considering photoshop and filters.

The reality of chronic low-calorie intake

Your social life takes a hit

It’s likely you have already made some changes to your social life.  If you were used to going out a couple of times a week and having a drink and a restaurant meal, you’ve probably cut this down.  Well if you want to continue losing fat or maintaining a leaner physique, you’re going to have to keep it up, or even opt for some more sober nights out eating chicken salads.

It hinders your athletic performance

If you regularly participate in sports and want to improve your fitness, strength or speed; it’s going to be extremely difficult, and at some point, your progress will stall or even get worse.  To train at your best, you need to have enough calories to a) Have enough energy to get you through your training sessions, and b) Have an enough protein and calories to support muscle growth.

Professional athletes don’t even have abs to the extent that bodybuilders do.  Just a quick look at photos of some world class athletes should give you an indication that extremely low body fat percentage and being the strongest and fittest you can be are not necessarily correlated.

Your reproductive health can be negatively impacted

Maintaining a leaner physique can even be detrimental to your health, particularly for women who need to maintain a higher body fat percentage than men.

Women on very few calories combined with high energy expenditure could put themselves at risk of losing their periods (amenorrhea) and low bone mineral density.  This is known as the female athlete tridad.  This is mostly apparent in endurance or physique athletes at very low body fat percentages.

But it’s not just women that are affected.  Restricting calories negatively affects your sex hormones,  resulting in less free testosterone availability which is associated with infertility, a decreased sex drive, and erectile dysfunction.

Nutrient deficiencies

If you are a smaller, or a very lean individual and are already on very low calories, you could potentially have insufficient room within that calorie allowance to include enough foods to get the recommended intake of fibre and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).  This could lead to fatigue, constipation or increased susceptibility to catching illness.

Is it worth it?

So, if being happy to you means staying healthy, having a good sex life, enjoying time with your friends and family, going out enjoying delicious food and drink, excelling at your chosen sport or just progressing in the gym, then lifelong abs may not be for you.  Maybe instead of looking at yourself and just seeing excess fat, you look at it and understand that yes, you might not be the slimmest you could possibly be, but your body is strong, fit, and allows you time with those you love to do the things you enjoy.  And unless your job and livelihood depend on you looking a certain way, then you shouldn’t feel obliged to get leaner just because of some photo you saw on the internet.

Strategies for carrying on

Still here? Not put off by all of that? Great, then as long as you’re aware of what the potential risks are, and you feel that you would be able to lose that last bit in way that wouldn’t negatively impact your health and life too much, then let’s go ahead.

The strategies for losing that last bit are no different from what you have hopefully already been doing; consistent progressive weight training, a moderate calorie deficit, and staying active in your everyday life, maybe with the addition of a couple of cardio sessions a week (if your fat loss has completely stalled for a few weeks already). The only “trick” you need is perseverance to carry on and be patient.

Diet breaks

Another strategy to ensure you continue progressing and don’t give up all together is a diet break.  Although this is usually used for physique athletes, the principles are still useful for those who have already been dieting for quite some time.  This is basically where you bring your calories back up to maintenance to give yourself a mental break, time to enjoy yourself, socialise a bit more, and perform better in your training.  This can last as long as you feel you need before starting to diet again.  You may even find that the extra calories mean you are able to be much more active which creates a net negative energy balance, and you then end up losing weight anyway.

Make new friends, do new things

One of the hardest things to do is to find ways to socialise that don’t involve lots of food or alcohol.  One way to manage this is to find a group of like-minded individuals, who you can train with, or cook with.  Alternatively finding other activities to do with your loved ones could also make the process easier, such as going for a walk, visiting galleries, or going to the cinema.

So, there are your choices. Suck it up and carry on. Or realise enjoying the finer things in life is more important to you than having a six pack.

Anoula
info@freegym.co

FreeGym Blogger Legend. Personal Trainer at Fitology. Powerlifting Level 1 Coach.



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