Fat loss Tips – 7 Simple (but not easy) steps

You can be forgiven for thinking this point is pretty self explanatory, we all know what crap is, right?

Chocolate, crisps, biscuits, pastries, donuts, cakes…the list goes on.

However, there are other forms of crap that are far more subtle in that they masquerade as ‘nutritious’ and ‘healthy’ (normally by proclaiming this loudly on their packaging) when they are anything but. I am referring here to the vast majority of ‘healthy’ processed food.

Those of you who pay attention to the nutritional information on food packaging will have picked up on this already, and are probably nodding sagely along. The sad truth is, we live in a world where the majority of processed food is energy-dense while being almost empty of any nutrition. Pasta sauce is a good example. Go to your cupboard now, and pull out a sauce and check out the calories on it – I guarantee if you haven’t looked before you will start to now. How many people does that serve? Oh that’s right, four, but you’ve been stretching it to one. All 600 calories for you – nice!

Cereal is another great example. While they do make a nod to adding iron and other vitamins, it’s not a lot and it’s certainly out of proportion to how many calories you get. Yet, most people start their day with breakfast cereal and wonder why they’re hungry by the time they get to work. Don’t get me started on breakfast biscuits.

The point is this. Crap, processed food is EVERYWHERE and unless you make a conscious decision and really plan out your meals, you’re going to have an unhealthy amount of it in your diet.  You should be aiming for a diet of at least 80% ‘whole’ foods (no, ‘wholegrain’ bread/cereal/biscuits are not whole foods) and as little processed foods as you can.

How do you know what’s a whole food? Well, any food that you have in its raw form is likely to be a whole food. So, rice, grains, vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat (not cooked/prepared meat), nuts and seeds are all whole foods. Anything put together with convenience in mind will be processed – which means for you to have the whole food/processed food balance the right way round, you will need to spend a little more time on your food prep and cooking beyond slinging something in a microwave, punching a few buttons and hoping for the best.

I’ll touch a little on balance here as well – I appreciate that you will occasionally indulge (we’re all human here) but the trick is to keep it occasional and not regular and to ensure that when you slip once, you don’t jump off the wagon with 2 pizzas, ice cream, chocolate and the neighbouring village. You’ve had your treat. Enjoy it, savor it and then get back onto the good stuff.

So how do you get here? Well, as with anything, going for wholesale, overnight change is an enormous task (and expensive). So I suggest doing it in stages: Identify the areas of your week where the most crap ends up on your plate and work on fixing that first. Once you’re comfortable with that, repeat the process until you hit the ideal split of your diet being 80/20 in favour of whole foods.

Sounds simple but it’s a tough process and something you need to commit to for the long game.

#2 Eat your Damn Vegetables

Just to clarify here what I mean by vegetables. As with above, these should be as whole and fresh as possible (so no, not out of a tin) and applies primarily to NON-starchy vegetables. This means I’m not referring to potatoes and other root vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, Potatoes and other root vegetables are great carb sources but in terms of nutrient density, you need to be prioritising leafy, Green vegetables with every meal rather than just a carb source in the form of potatoes. How much should you have? Well, hold your hands out and make two fists – that’s how much you should aim for as a MINIMUM with a meal.
  1. Some good examples are:
  2. Spinach
  3. Broccoli
  4. Kale
  5. Mange Tout
  6. Sugar Snap peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Green Beans

So how do these help with fat loss? Well, the nutrient:calorie ratio of these foods is very high and the more well nourished you are, the more efficient you will be at metabolising fat. These leafy greens will also provide you with some good fibre which will make you feel fuller for longer and aid in the digestion of everything else you eat. Bottom line, Green vegetables fill you up and have a ton of good nutrients in, so why are you not having them with every meal already? Oh right, because donuts taste AMAZING. And you have to leave room for dessert. Well, that’s just tough – get on the Green stuff.

#3 Makesure you use fat loss pills and supplements correctly – by putting them in the bin where they belong.

I see this all the time. The latest pill, juice, wrap, and hat that will make you INSTANTLY lose weight.

Watch the weight melt off as you are forced to run from strangers everywhere you go

While I don’t doubt that some of these magic fixes will have a positive impact on you (however small), this doesn’t mean you can keep rail-roading crap into your mouth while sitting on the couch and expect to lose weight. Almost all of these ‘magic’ fixes come with an advisory that they work best as part of a balanced diet and with regular exercise….so what does this magic fix do again? Oh right, pretty much nothing that eating right and exercising won’t already do.

There is NO substitute for hard-work and committing to the long game. You are not the shape you are today because of one bad day or weekend. It’s taken time to get where you are today; it’s going to take time to get where you want to be. Expecting fast results with a quick fix is a recipe for disappointment. Set a goal and a realistic timescale and be honest with yourself; ACCEPT that it’s going to be tough and that it’s not going to be quick. Fat loss is a process that has to be committed to as a sustainable change so don’t make the mistake of hitting your goal and then instantly regressing to all of the bad habits that made you want to lose weight in the first place.

#4 Workout hard at least 3 times a week

I make reference here to jogging/running around being a warm-up. I will stand by that for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, your body adapts very quickly to running/jogging which means it has a limited impact on energy expenditure. That is, unless you plan on using sprint training (which is another thing entirely).

Secondly and perhaps more importantly, there are many more methods that will use more energy in shorter periods of time, commonly referred to as ‘more bang for your buck’. For those of you who struggle to find the time to workout each week, take this advice – leave running the hell alone and focus on resistance training with weights or kettlebells. Research has shown time and time again that when resistance training is used over cardio focused methods, the overall energy expenditure in a 24 hour period is much greater. Once you stop cardio, the energy expenditure slows immediately and a very short time later,stops completely as your body returns to normal operation. Resistance training keeps the ‘burn’ going long after you stop and takes far longer for your body to adapt to. As a result, the fat metabolisation in resistance training is way, WAY more effective.

So what do I mean when I say workout ‘hard’?Well, for starters you need to be out of your comfort zone for your workout. Not the whole thing, but at least 70% of it needs to be spent in the zone where it feels hard and you’re havingto push yourself to keep going. If you’re idly wondering what’s on TV later or what else you have to do today, your mind isn’t focused on what you’re doing. What I think about people who fiddle with their phones during training is unprintable.

But what about overtraining? Ignore that crap. That applies to elite athletes and sports people – individuals who train more than once a day, pretty much 6-7 days a week. It doesn’t apply to those who are going from low/sedentary activity to 3 times a week. The only time ‘overtraining’ may apply to the everyday population is when you are overstressing a joint/muscle/tendon to the point of causing injury or pain. Just to make my position on pain clear, there is a difference between ‘pain’ and discomfort. If you feel pain, stop. If you feel discomfort, then suck it up as it’s par for the course. The trick is making sure you know the difference so you don’t cause yourself an injury.

#5 Reduce alcohol intake and cut out fizzy drinks completely. Hydrate with at least 2 litres of water a day

I know plenty of stories (both people I know personally and stories on the net) of individuals who have shed pounds and pounds of weight, just from dropping the fizzy drinks.

The caveat being that these people were drinking upwards of 2 litres a DAY. Just think about that for a second, a whole large bottle of Pop DAILY.

Wow.

Fizzy drinks are generally loaded with sugar (not to mention untold amounts of chemicals but I’m not going into that here) and a whole bottle just becomes a direct source of empty calories pumped into your body every day.  See below one of many terrifying infographics you can find online which should scare the shit out of you:

Most people don’t drink quite as much as 2 litres. But, if you’re a regular consumer, think about this for a second. Do you drink because you’re actually thirsty? Or is it because you’re craving the taste of sugar?

There’s a big difference; you drink water when you’re thirsty, not fizzy drinks. With the calories and sugars in the fizzy stuff, whenever you’re reaching for a can/bottle/glass of pop this is actually just another form of snacking. As with Tip #1, cut out the crap and don’t indulge that craving.

When it comes to water intake, this is a no brainer. We’re made up of 60%+ water so we need to stay hydrated just to survive. However, most people will struggle to hit the 2 litre mark on a daily basis. Not only is water essential for the health of your organs (including skin) but it’s a great way of fending off hunger pangs and reducing your tendency to snack.  Getting sufficient water intake is a double whammy, both for general health and to cut down on unnecessary snacking.

#6 Strive for balance in your diet, not extreme limitation. You are not a monk.

This is probably the most difficult concept to get your head around. If you’re like 90% of people out there, you will have gone on some form of Diet and almost certainly, this would have involved some restriction on what you can and can’t eat. Garfield tells it like it is:

Cast your mind back when you were on a ‘diet’ and remember how it felt. The psychology of being on a restrictive diet is one of self-punishment, of denying yourself things that taste great and make you feel good. As a result, as soon as you set foot in good ol’ off-the-diet-ville, you’re straight into your favourite chow to ram it in as fast as possible with rapturous exclamations of: ‘Oh how I’ve missed this!’ ‘Bacon! Delicious fatty bacon!’ and ‘I’m so glad I’m not on a Diet anymore!’

Yes, quite.

The eventual result of course is for you to pile the weight back on and eventually (as the frenzy continues past a day, into weeks) back to where you started. This is known as the ‘yo-yo effect’ of dieting and the vast majority of those unhappy with their weight have experienced this and some will be currently going through this RIGHT NOW.

Why? Because the majority of people unhappy with their body composition sit in one state or the other. They’re either not thinking too much about what they consume and just living life to ‘enjoy’ themselves, (excluding feeling good about how they look) or are in a state of privation, living like a 15th century pauper or a modern-day zen monk.

You are neither of these things. Your nature will eventually break these characterisations and it won’t be a gentle movement from one state to the other. You will avalanche from being a starving orphan into being the individual who put all that unwanted weight on. Up and down, up and down, round and round.

So how to stop? Well, small steps first of all. You want a lifestyle, nutritional intake and exercise regime that WORKS FOR YOU and that you can continue without feeling you’re being punished or are missing out. It’s ok to indulge, occasionally, really it is. Just know when to stop.

Similarly, its more than ok to eat well and watch what you consume. But know when to relax a little and enjoy yourself.

Build it up brick by brick. More exercise, more vegetables, less shit, more water – doesn’t happen overnight and cant be applied as a cure-all plaster that will magic everything the way you want it to be. It takes time, effort, patience and the mental realisation that you have to work at it gradually and change things in your life gradually as your life changes and your body composition goals with it. Take the above tips and apply them, bit-by-bit, month by month to your life.

What do you notice more? A jump into an icy-cold bath, or when the bath gets gradually colder over time?I could make reference to this study that applied the same principle to frogs in hot water…. Gross.

The same principle (however disgusting) is true of making holistic change in your life. Bit by bit, while enjoying the finer things (Food, drink, inactivity and relaxation etc).

#7 Geta solid 8+ hours of sleep every night

Rare are the people who can go to bed, fall asleep instantly and wake up fresh and ready precisely 8 hours later. If you’re reading this and are one of those people: I hate you and so does everyone else.

However, if you’re in the majority and likely you snorted in derision at tip #7, please bear with me.

While sleep can be a struggle for many, and a whole 8 hours a pipe-dream for many more (young children anyone?) there are things you can do to ensure you’re getting the most out of the hours available to you.

First off, put down the phone/tablet/laptop up to an hour before you plan on going to bed. Ever heard of Blue light? Its in all electronic devices these days and stimulates certain parts of the brain, keeping them alert and active. As you can imagine, this is less than ideal for sleep and will attribute heavily to tossing and turning for that first hour before eventually finding sleep.

The next big culprits are box sets and on demand TV. As with electronic devices, TV sets will also be sending out blue light but that’s not the main issue here. It’s the ‘Just one more episode!’ trap that people fall into when watching the latest boxset. One moment you’re saying to yourself: ‘I’ll watch one then go to bed’ - the next you’re blearily looking at the clock halfway through your 5th episode of the night and realizing you have to be up and fully functional for work in 5 hours, generally followed by an exclamation of ‘Urgh I’ve done it AGAIN!’

Now think for a second. You want to give your eyes and brain a rest for up to an hour before bed but you’re watching a boxset to the last possible moment that you can. You watch into the night messing with yourself, knowing you’re up past when you should be but you can’t start an episode and not watch the rest of it, can you? That’s crazy talk!

No, crazy talk is sacrificing your sleep for something you can watch at any time, and doing this on a depressingly regular basis. As with point #6 – aim for balance. It’s okay to watch one episode. It’s okay to not watch ANY TV that evening. The Episode isn’t going anywhere; it’ll be waiting for you when you have the time to watch it while getting to bed at a reasonable hour. Seriously, stop being an idiot and plan for bed at a decent time, the latest episode can wait.

So, why is sleep important? Well, when you sleep is when your body will produce a good chunk of the hormones that your body needs. To do that, it will utilise your fat and metabolise it both to produce the hormones you require and to fuel any repairs to be undertaken when you sleep. If you don’t sleep well, you wont metabolise fat well. Not just that, you’ll be woolly-headed and tired the next day so when you attempt any physical exercise you wont be at your best and wont be getting as much out of it as you can. You’ll also be irritable and grouchy, likely to reach for comfort foods and well, screw that healthy eating crap anyway, you feel like hell and want to feel better today.

See? Poor sleeping patterns attack from all angles and it has a serious ripple effect on your daily life which will then in turn negatively impact any strides you’re making for points #1 - #6. Prioritise your sleep; you’re not an infant anymore, so nobody is going to be bundling you into bed when they become sick of your shit.

Conclusion.

Laid out as it is, it looks simple. The theory is; the application is anything but.

So how to make use of all the tips above?

Start small. Take one tip at a time and draw out what you can do to help yourself achieve it, however small. Some good examples: swapping out sugar in your tea for sweeteners, dropping cereal for breakfast and having some eggs instead, cutting out half of your total fizzy drink/alcohol intake etc. Steps don’t have to be drastic or sweeping in their application, small steps are easier to achieve and easier to stick to.

Now have a look at these steps and think about how much ‘pain’ or discomfort it will cause you to apply these to your lifestyle both individually and all at once. If it feels like a huge sacrifice to take any of these steps in a meaningful way, then it’s either:

1) You’re not ready to change and are not motivated enough to do so. Come back and read this again when you think you will be. Seriously. It’s okay to take a mulligan and try when you are actually ready and committed. Nothing will put you off trying something faster than trying something and failing spectacularly as you weren’t prepared for it.

2) You’re not applying tip #6 and are imposing something too strict on yourself. If it feels like a hardship or punishment, you will treat it as such and your level of compliance will be low to zero.

If you think you still need further help, reach out to a professional. For the most part, consultations are free and this a definite route to take if you struggle with starting any of the above steps. Visit my another Blog...

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