Losing weight can be a daunting task. How often should I go to the gym? What should I do while I'm there? For how long? What should I eat? Am I eating enough? Oh, hi Netflix, of course I'll share my popcorn with you!
Sound familiar? We've all been there -- and getting started really is the hardest part. With this in mind, I want to help simplify this overwhelming process. Instead of focusing on circumstances and desired outcomes, turn your focus to simple habits that will lead you to success. You can't sustainably lose weight by starting and stopping new diets and fitness plans because you'll continue to fall back into old unhealthy habits. Actions lead to outcomes. Feel free to plan your quantifiable weight loss goal, but don't let this become your focus. Instead, forge habits that will lead you to your goal. The list of healthy, productive habits is infinite, but below I've laid out five strategies that are sure to push you in the right direction.
Now, before moving on to the suggested strategies, I want to cover two points:
1) The rule of 90 per cent. We are all human, and life is short. It's one thing to strive to for a long, healthy, enjoyable life and another to strive for grueling, unattainable perfection. Welcome to the rule of 90 per cent: Enlist one, some, or all of the rules below, and follow-through 90 per cent of the time. You're allowed to slip-up every now and then. Out with friends? Have a drink. Stressful day? Enjoy a cupcake. People get all bent out of shape on diet plans which leads to negative thoughts of failure, which leads to scrapping the plan and going back to bad habits. Go into any plan knowing that you can "cheat" some of the time and the whole process will be less stressful and you'll be more likely to succeed... And once you're at 90 per cent, aiming for 100 per cent won't seem so crazy!
2) One habit at a time. Let's be honest -- it is difficult to change habits. For this reason, I always suggest people take things one step at a time. For example, pick just one of the strategies below and ingrain the habit into your daily activities. This could take one week, one month, or even longer, but if you can't change just one habit, how are you going to take on five at once and expect to succeed? Once you've adopted a strategy and are confident that you're following through 90 per cent of time (i.e., once you're applying the habit naturally without really thinking about it), pat yourself on the back, and tackle a new challenge!
Without further ado, here are five realistic strategies that you can employ to lose some fat and improve your overall health:
1) Don't consume liquid calories
By now, we've all heard this one, but it's something that cannot be overlooked. Cutting out calories from beverages essentially means that you're cutting out a good deal of sugar and/or alcohol from your diet (and we all know how I feel about sugar). Unfun? Perhaps. Effective? Incredibly. Stick to beverages like water, tea and coffee.
Note: I consider "diet" beverages to be as detrimental as their sugar-laced counterparts. Artificial sweeteners have been found to stimulate appetite and cravings and most also elicit a strong insulin response, which is something we all want to avoid.
2) Veggies and protein with every meal (even snacks!)
Vegetables contain the micronutrients that we need for a healthy mind and body, along with fibre to slow down digestion and improve gut-health. Protein is something that can be used by every cell in the human body and is the most thermogenic macronutrient -- meaning the body has to work harder and burn more calories when digesting protein, essentially making protein less caloric than carbs (and even less so than fats). Avoid common snack foods that pack a high carbohydrate punch and opt for something with a protein equivalent (hard boiled eggs, canned tuna snacks, protein smoothies, etc.)
3) Don't let your carbs hang out with your fats
Likely the most difficult strategy to employ, but arguably the most beneficial. Strive to eat meals of only protein/veggies/fat or protein/veggies/carbs and watch the pounds melt away. Fats are very important, but carbs can be a bad influence; keep them separated and pair them with protein to get the most out of your meals. Don't worry about trace carbs or fats sneaking into the wrong meal (this is an inevitability, real foods almost always contain a mix of macronutrients), but plan your meals with this strategy in mind and it can make a huge difference.
Bonus points: Eat your protein/fat meals in the morning and evenings and surround your physical activities with protein/carb meals. It works. Trust me.
4) Eat slowly
This might sound silly, but eating slowly is an incredibly easy strategy for fat loss. It takes 20 minutes from the first bite of a meal for the brain to respond with signals of satiety. In my experience most people eat quicker than this, which is why after 20 minutes people start to feel uncomfortably full and lethargic. Simply taking the time to think while eating -- about what you're eating, how it tastes, who you're with, where you are, etc. -- can slow down your pace and get you to this 20-minute mark without feeling like you're dragging your heels. It's also important to remember that the digestion of food starts in the mouth, and a lack of chewing can lead to indigestion and other issues (obesity, for example). Set a plan to eat slower -- set a minimum number of chews per bite, put your utensils down after every bite, drink water between each bite, etc. -- and you'll consume less calories at every meal.
5) Set a five-minute action
So simple it hurts: plan a five-minute action and execute the plan as many times as possible each day. This could mean going and eating some vegetables or could be a five-minute walk around the office. If you can do this once a day, perfect -- it's a healthy habit that will slowly serve to push you in the right direction. However, if you can do this multiple times a day, you can see how this strategy can be extremely effective (five minutes of walking + three times a workday = 75 minutes of additional exercise per week!).
There you have it -- five real-world strategies that can kick-start your fat loss goals. Keep your focus on your actions, ingrain one habit at a time, and believe in the process. We all lose fat at different rates, so be patient and the results will come!
For additional questions or insight, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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