Losing fat is pretty simple for the average person, but the amount of misinformation out there is astounding, so here is everything that I know from anecdotal evidence and research. I personally lost 45 lbs in the span of about four months. After weight training while bulking to 210 lbs, I lost another 25 lbs while retaining all my muscle mass (and even gaining on my lifts). People do ketogenic-type diets or intermittent fasting to get from mid-teens to single digits, but this is really unnecessary for 95% of people. I, personally, find that eating higher fats gives me better results, but that’s something that you’ll have to figure out for yourself.
(1) Record everything that you eat. It’s a little bit of an inconvenience, but a digital scale goes a long way. Eye-balling portions can throw everything off (at least, until you start getting used to guessing portions accurately). Input your values into great online resources, such as http://www.livestrong.com/thedailyplate/ or http://www.fitday.com/ to get your total daily calories and macronutrient breakdowns. Don’t cheat.
(2) Eat at least 0.75 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass daily if you don’t do regular weight training. I made the mistake of ignoring this on my first body-fat cut, and I ended up skinny-fat (lean but pudgy, no muscle). Eat 1-1.3 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass if you are doing weight training. To get your lean body mass, you will need an estimation of your body fat percentage (i.e. with calipers, electrostatic testing, or guessing). You’ll lose weight a bit faster with more muscle… and you’ll look a hell of a lot better naked when you get to your goal body fat percentage. It’s a win-win.
lean body mass = total weight – (total weight*body fat %)
(3) Set your daily calorie goal about 500 calories less than your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) x your activity level constant. You can calculate that here: http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/
If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2
If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375
If you are moderatetely active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55
If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725
If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9
So if you have a BMR of 2000 calories (from the website) and are lightly active, your calorie goal would be 20001.375 = 2750 *- 500** = 2275 calories per day.
It’s okay to eat more one day and then less another.
(4) Lose about 1-2 lbs a week. If you aren’t losing weight, you may be gaining muscle too, so take measurements and/or test your body fat with calipers. If you stall for more than two weeks, lower your calories by a few hundred daily. People with more body fat (25%+) may lose weight at a higher rate. Don’t starve yourselves – losing weight slowly will preserve muscle mass and make your journey much easier in the long run.
(5) Exercise. Do some form of it at least 3x a week; I highly recommend weight training as it tends to burn more calories than straight cardio (the protein synthesis is very energy-intensive and will help you out a lot) and it will do very positive things for your body composition. Weight training will not make you bulky (ESPECIALLY if you’re female). It will make you “toned” (though I hate to use the term). Get on a good program like Starting Strength or Stronglifts.
(6) Start cooking/preparing most of your meals. It’ll be much healthier and you’ll know exactly what’s in it. Pack lunches. Keep desserts/nights out a once-every-week kind of thing if you need to keep sane. Don’t go insane with it though!
(7) Try and keep processed sugar at 0. Fruits are great in moderation, but make sure to record them along with everything else. There is no “free” food that you can gorge on. Eat some essential fatty acids and lots of green veggies too. The darker the vegetable, the better.
(8) Keep it up for at least ten days. Make it a habit. You’ll thank yourself in 87 days.
(9) Fat-burners are not magic pills. Unnecessary in my opinion.