January is here and along with it comes countless resolutions to drop some unwanted weight. This is always a great initiative, a logical chance for a fresh start, but most efforts fall far short of their ultimate goals. Many people opt for unsustainable fad diets while others completely overhaul their lives before quickly reaching a tipping point and falling back into the comfort of their well-engrained habits. Losing weight is a tough road but if approached the right way anyone can find success.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty however, we must accept that this process will take commitment, consistency, and patience; there is no such thing as a weight loss quick-fix. Secondly, and remind yourself of this question as you read the points below: Do you think you can elicit an important change in your life without putting in an important effort? It’s a rhetorical question, but consistently accepting this obvious answer will keep you on track towards your goals! Now to dig a bit deeper, here are some tips that will set you up for sustained progress!
Plan Your Path
Most people set themselves up for failure right from the get-go by setting an overambitious goal without considering the logistics of reality. It’s great to set lofty goals, but with lofty goals must come realistic timelines and exceptional effort. So before setting long-term goals, take a look at your lifestyle and analyze the things you’ll have to change in order to succeed. What will you sacrifice to make time for added grocery shopping and food prep? For the extra you plan to devote towards exercise? For the extra sleep that you’ll need? Work from your ultimate goal to determine the limiting factors that must change in order to get results. Write these down and figure out how to realistically implement these changes in your day-to-day life.
While planning your path, you may realize that there is more than one thing that you’ll need to change in order to achieve your goal (you may even realize that there are many things you need to change!) The key to sustainable success is to implement one change at a time, no matter how insignificant the change may be. It’s human nature to fall back into engrained habits when things get tough; taking on too much change at once is a surefire way to bury a well-laid plan. Instead of overwhelming yourself, take two weeks to implement one change and if successful for this period of time, start to work in another. It’s easy to envision change, but the real-life implementation can be much more challenging. Focus on one thing are a time, ingrain the habits individually, and you’ll have a pace that you can sustain.
Don’t Rely On Steady-State Cardio For Fat Loss
If you are obese and have a lot of fat to lose, adding nearly any kind of exercise while simultaneously eating slightly less food will have a positive effect. As we get leaner and have less overall fat to lose however, the process becomes more demanding. As I’ll mention again below, excessive steady-state exercise is a great way to damage your thyroid, which can actually lead to the body holding onto fat stores and can increase cravings for comfort foods. Resistance training, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT), is a far better option for anyone looking to lose fat and increase overall health. If you can read a book or pay close attention to a TV show while doing your exercise, I assure you that you are not working hard enough and you could actually be sabotaging your entire fat-loss plan. Once again: Do you actually think you’re making your body burn fat by going through the motions and not working very hard?
Gaining weight takes time, weight loss is no difference.
Encourage Your Metabolism To Thrive
As mentioned, a healthy metabolism is the ultimate key to fat loss. With this in mind, it’s imperative to do all the little things that can help increase thyroid health and keep your fat-burning engine humming along. Healthy habits include:
- Controlling carb intake
- Eating ample fats and protein
- Avoiding undereating
- Sleeping 8+ hours per night
- Ensuring adequate iodine levels (seafood is the best source but simple iodized table salt is an easy way to ensure iodine levels in the body)
- Avoiding excessive amounts of steady-state cardio
- Drinking coffee and green tea (without added carbs)
- Using spices in cooking (especially spicy foods)
Some of these habits are simpler than others, but if you can do the majority of these things on a consistent basis, your body will be primed to burn fat. Again, take change one step on a time, but these small habits can make a world of difference!
Be Consistent With Your Diet
People get into the bad habit of thinking they can have a treat now and make up for it later by doing some extra cardio or another sort of exercise. This is an extremely reactive mindset and will result in you constantly trying to catch your tail, leading to marginal results. Having one “good” eating day followed by one “bad” eating day will result in zero progress. If you want to achieve long-term results, you need consistency on a daily basis, for weeks. The best way to achieve this consistency is to plan your eating habits around your activity level. Instead of being reactive and trying to do more exercise to make up for poor food choices, be proactive by planning enjoyable food choices based around your exercise habits. If you have a good workout, your muscles will want some delicious carbs to replenish energy stores; take advantage of this natural system by planning your meals accordingly and this control will make consistency much easier!
Patience, Tiny Grasshopper
Nobody likes to wait, but fat loss is a marathon, not a sprint. If you follow the steps above, you’ll notice that this long-term plan will indeed take months and that there is no sustainable short-term fix. To recap:
1) Plan backwards from your ultimate goal in order to determine limiting factors
2) Implement changes one by one (no matter how small) every 2 weeks
3) Avoid harmful habits like excessive cardio and undereating
4) Rely on the staples of resistance training, a high fat diet and getting lots of sleep
5) Be proactive by planning enjoyable meals and snacks based on activity level
6) Be consistent, be patient, and keep your eyes on the ultimate goal
Setting a resolution to become healthier is always a good idea, but the implementation can be more difficult than anticipated. Be realistic, lay out a plan that can work for your individual lifestyle and take things slow. Don’t forget: gaining a lot of weight takes time, and losing it is no difference. No goal is too lofty and if the conditions are right, the human body can do incredible things. Stay positive, stay consistent and make your 2015 resolution one that sticks!