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There are many conflicting views in the world of health, fitness and wellbeing regarding the best ways to burn fat or lose weight. This is partly due to the continual evolvement of science, as well as there being so many so-called ‘experts' on this topic, and perhaps largely because there is not one magic formula that works for everyone. We keep learning more and more about how to make our bodies optimally healthy and during this process new ideas are formed. Some embrace the new ideas, e.g., methods of training; some stick to the old-school ways, and some seemingly new ideas come about, which in fact take us back to doing things the way they were done 20 years ago or even 2000 years ago!

Although it may be near impossible to obtain a unanimous agreement on the best training method for this or that, there is a general murmur of consensus in the health and fitness industry when talking about the emphasis that needs to be placed on exercise versus nutrition, where fat loss is the primary objective. That consensus is as follows. For best results in fat loss:


It is true that your exercise efforts will not produce the fat loss results that you desire unless a significant emphasis is placed on nutrition. Your efforts would not be wasted in that there are so many benefits associated with exercise alone. For example, decreased risk of disease, increased muscle strength and endurance, increased bone mineral density, increased energy levels, improved distribution of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, improved functioning for activities of daily living…the list goes on. However, should your primary objective be fat loss, very few people will achieve this goal through exercise alone.

I propose a few changes to the areas of focus that are required in order to achieve sustained fat loss for the majority of people. You may already have one or two of these areas in check so therefore you can focus on those that require the biggest improvements. The focus is as follows:

  • Nutrition 40 percent
  • Exercise 20 percent
  • Sleep 10 percent
  • Stress 10 percent
  • Thoughts 10 percent
  • Relationships 10 percent

You might be wondering how on earth your stress levels or thoughts are going to affect your ability to burn fat? The reasons why and the details about how they do are subjects for future articles, but for now just believe me that they do.

Complete the following exercise.

Rate each section of the circle from 2–10, with two being terrible and 10 being excellent/optimal. Rate yourself as you are now and shade in each section as appropriate. An example has been done for you:

Your Chart:
The Wheel concept has been used before in numerous ways as a representation of balance within one's life or within a particular area of one's life. The wheels here focus specifically on the balance of one's health, fitness and wellbeing. Take a look at the example wheel. This person has paid attention to some areas of their health, fitness and wellbeing, and has neglected others, thus resulting in a strangely shaped wheel.

The translation into real life is that although the person is doing reasonably well on the big chunks of the wheel (nutrition and exercise), they are missing out on the benefits of optimal sleep, positive thoughts and great relationships. In this case their mental and physical performance will be impaired and ultimately their fat burning results will be limited.

Your body is essentially a safety first, satisfaction second machine, so if it's needing to work hard just to keep you functioning throughout the day, do you think it's going to be concerned with turning you into the fat burning machine you long to be? Compare the example wheel to the wheel on a bicycle: without pumping up the areas that have been neglected (or are flat), you're in for an awfully uncomfortable journey.

Now look at your own wheel. Which area(s) came up with the lowest score? Focus on making changes to these ones first.

A final point of emphasis regarding the wheel; although some sections have been assigned a smaller percentage of importance on the wheel, do not underestimate the power of the 10 or 20 percent they represent. The wheel functions as a whole and if any one area is completely neglected, long-term results will not be achieved. So always focus on the area(s) with the lowest score first. Pump a little bit into this area, ensuring it's something small enough to sustain long term, and then move on to improving the other areas bit by bit.

Now print out your wheel or cut it out and stick it up on the wall as a reminder of where to focus. If you'd like a version of the wheel that you can blow up in size before printing out, just email TotalHealth with your request and I'll send it through to you.

Injecting adequate knowledge, skills and desire into each section of the wheel will turn you into the fat burning machine you are striving to be. For further information on my approach to sustainable fat loss, you can check out my book “Burning Fat for Good.”

Elly McGuinness, B PhEd, B Com, ACSM

Elly has been inspiring people to make sustainable changes to their health, fitness and lifestyle for the past 15 years. She offers online solutions for people who are looking to get started on, or improve their health and fitness. She blogs regularly, writes for a number of health and wellbeing publications and is the published author of a holistic weight loss book.

Elly is mum to a spirited three year old girl, and along with her partner Colin they embrace a digital nomad, world schooling lifestyle.

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