Today, I'd like to talk about the very first goal that we are going to work on. We have already discussed the fact that there are quite a few goals that are simply unrealistic in a short run or unachievable in general. I believe that at this moment when you are just about to start your journey it is important not only to set your ultimate goal but also to set certain milestones that you will achieve as you progressively move towards it.
I truly believe that at the very beginning of the body transformation process the initial goal should be to lose body fat. With rare exceptions (to be mentioned below)
So, I will make some more assumptions here. First of all, the majority of people who are going to read this and who are researching their body transformation options are simply overweight or just unhappy with excessive body fat. I don't hear a lot about being too skinny these days, but I will say that yes, definitely, some people will want to start with gaining weight instead of losing. But first, these people are really a minority, and I will make a special guidance for them too, and, second, we have to understand that almost everyone will need to gain some muscle to look stunning. Again, I believe that this muscle gaining goal should not be the initial one. To illustrate it, I'll go over some scenarios based on what people want to achieve in the end:
Scenario 1: You feel embarrassed by the way you look, and you would simply like to lose some pounds or some inches off your waist. That's a very common goal, and I definitely was in your shoes - I had quite a few clothes that I couldn't wear because of gaining weight, and I postponed my vacations as I didn't feel like going to a beach at the moment because I knew I wouldn't look good there. I was also quite unhappy when I had to speak publicly, and none of the pictures was good enough for me as I looked chubby and simply didn't like myself.
Scenario 2: You just want to be healthy, and you don't care much about your looks. Usually, these two goals go hand in hand, but some people would really like to focus on their health rather than looks. In this case, excessive weight becomes one of the major factors reducing your life expectancy and increasing your chances of having cardiovascular and other problems. Yes, light-to-moderate physical exercise would be beneficial, but let's be honest - you can't even work out properly if you have a lot of adipose tissue to lose, so making weight loss your priority should seem to be the best choice.
Scenario 3: You want to be very fit, and you want to look like a fitness model. An absolutely glorious goal! Again, my recommendation is to start with weight loss. Why? Actually, for several reasons: first, it's hard to work out when you are overweight. Second, if you are overweight and you start intensive workouts, you are prone to injury. Third, your performance will be lower - simple things like chin-ups will be way more difficult to do when carrying extra 20-30-50 pounds. It's physics. Last, but definitely not the least - no matter how fit you are, no one will see it. You can be able to do 200 crunches in a row, do 500 jumping jacks etc. but no one will see your muscle when they are covered by a thick layer of subcutaneous fat. No one will see your abs unless you have around 8-10% of body fat for men and around 15% or so for women. So, weight loss is the way to go, but of course keeping in mind your ultimate goal of a super fit body.
Scenario 4: You want to achieve a certain level of athletic performance. Again, I hope that you do understand that it requires years of practice to begin with and as in the previous scenario, you pretty much cannot achieve a really high-performance level unless you manage to decrease your body fat percentage. Both aesthetically and functionally. So again, keeping in mind your ultimate goal, I would start with weight loss and gradual introduction of physical exercise that would be a start of your physical preparation to achieve your athletic goals.
Scenario 5: You are so skinny that you feel like you need to gain weight. That's the exception I've been talking about earlier. There are not too many people who have such a goal - majority of us are overweight in modern society, but these people still exist. I will make a special post for these individuals on how to gain weight (and I will show you how wrong some weight loss programs are in the process).
So, as you can see in the majority of cases you either need to lose a certain amount of weight or you need to both lose weight and to gain more muscle or achieve your performance goals. We have one exception, which we will discuss later on, but as a general rule, your best investment at the moment would be losing weight so that you either simply achieve your goal or become significantly closer to it. In either case, you must focus on your diet, and we will talk about specific changes in nutrition you need to make to achieve your goals. They will actually be fundamentally the same no matter what scenario looks like yours at this moment - you will need a sufficient amount of nutrients to ensure that you maintain healthy functioning of your body and can adapt to your workout routine if you have one, and you will have to create an energy deficit that your body will cover by burning fat (yes, it is THAT simple!).
Some people will argue that you must workout a lot, and I think that these people would be wrong. You can achieve a lot with diet alone, especially if your goal is to simply lose weight. If your ultimate goal is also to build a specific physique, to strengthen your cardiovascular system, or to achieve some performance goals, you would definitely need at least some exercise (depending on the goal) and still at least half of your success will depend on your nutrition, so diet is the way to go!