-Author Dan Sullivan
Although it may not feel like it at the moment, Spring is just around the corner. As I sit and write this I am pleasantly reminded that within the next 23 days we will see some rather pleasant changes in things. First we will turn the clocks forward on March 8th, adding one more hour of sunshine to our days. The air temperatures will gradually increase and the snow will melt. Finally, on March 20th we will celebrate the arrival of the Spring Equinox.
These changes will also coincide with an end to the winter “bulking” phase many of us may have been following. While some may have already switched gears and made a conscious effort to clean up their diet others have been enjoying theses last few weeks of indulgences. Either way, all good things must come to an end.
You will never feel every agonizing tick of the clock quite like you do when you are trying to lose bodyfat. It’s like the world stops turning as you wait for your body to transform. Results never seem to come as quickly as we want them to.
Even though some people will progress at lightning speed, they still frequently ask how they can speed up the already sped up. Seems fairly natural, after all, we live in a time where instant gratification is the name of the game. We want everything faster and quicker, and physique change is no different.
However, changing our body composition needs to be regarded as the exception to this now-now-now mentality. We can only push on the gas so hard until things go haywire, ruining our body and our metabolism, and rendering our fat loss completely unsustainable.
Everybody is searching for the magical missing link that will shift fat loss into overdrive and send us careening into Shredsville practically overnight. Crazy supplements that nearly send you into cardiac arrest, eating five grapefruits per day, drinking gallons of lemon water… the list goes on and on. Sadly, these so-called fat-blasting “secrets” never deliver the results that they tout.
There is no way to skirt around the truth. The keys to losing body fat (and keeping it off) aren’t glamorous or exciting. Regardless of what that 2:00am informercial tells you, there are no magic beans, nifty workout gizmos, or fat-melting creams you can slather onto yourself to accelerate things.
The truth is actually rather simple:
THE FOUNDATION OF FAT LOSS IS COMPRISED OF FOUR AREAS THAT MUST BE NAILED THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF THE TIME.
4) Stress control
Assuming that your metabolism is functioning the way it should be, and that you don’t have any health problems that you are dealing with, you will need to be in a deficit in order to lose weight. Do not necessarily look at counting calories here so much as tweaking your intake to meet your needs and demands without the excesses that will add to body fat. While these may sound like one in the same, they are quite different. No two calories are equal and the way in which our body uses the calories we consume is somewhat individual. While we must track what we eat and how much, more importantly we must track how our body responds to what we eat.
You should be eating plenty of protein, heaps of vegetables, and then filling in the gaps with dietary fat, fruit, and starch. Eat whole, nutrient dense foods most of the time. Indulge sometimes. Limit your alcohol intake. Makes sense right? Unfortunately it is not always so easy to put into action.
How do you iron out macros, timing, and the other details? It’s simple, you must experiment. Make one small change at a time, monitor the results, and tweak things as needed. Have you heard of Tim Ferris? He came to fame with his “Four Hour Work Week” concept and has since followed this with the “Four Hour Body” and the “Four Hour Chef.” Ferris has become the ultimate guinea pig and basically spends the vast majority of his time experimenting on himself. His goal is to find the Minimum Effective Dose (MED) of a given stimulus that is required to produce changes. This concept should be understood and applied as often as possible.
THE GOLDEN RULE IS TO DO WHATEVER WORKS FOR YOUR BODY AND LIFESTYLE.
It doesn’t matter what is working for Cathy at the ‘Y’, or what Timmy told you at the coffee shop. The right way is always whatever is best for you. Period.
Everybody needs to move their body in some way on a daily basis. This could be in the form of traditional exercise at the gym, a game of basketball, an outdoor circuit, or good old fashioned walking. Whatever it is, move your body. Expend some energy. Get your heart rate up a little, or a lot, depending on what you need that day.
The gym is not the end-all-be-all of fat loss. Far from it. Movement can happen anywhere. Please know that frequent attendance at the gym is not a prerequisite for results or, more importantly, a healthier body.
Workout hard and get your sweat on a few times a week, and walk on all other days for at least 20 – 30 minutes. If you are blessed to have two healthy legs, you have access to walking. Open your front door, and go. Take your kids. Grab the dog. Yes, it’s chilly right now for many of us, but you can bundle up. No excuses.
The benefits of walking are vast, ranging from basic energy expenditure to reducing cortisol, enhancing recovery, and reducing stress levels, just to name a few. Walk daily.
If only I had a dollar for every person that told me that they don’t need more than six hours of sleep per night. Ironically, it’s these same people that are the ones that tell me about their crazy sugar cravings, afternoon energy slumps, and forgetfulness.
Look, we are all busy. Between job(s), kids, after-school activities, the gym, cooking dinner, and showering, it’s all many people can do to melt into the couch at 10pm for a few hours of television to unwind each night.
Nothing will fire up cravings for carbohydrates and sugar, and hinder your gym performance and recovery, quite like a chronic sleep deficit. A consistent lack of shut-eye is a progress killer, plain and simple. You may be able to get away with it for awhile, but if you notice your results starting to plateau, the first thing I advise clients to do is to take a couple of weeks and focus on getting more high-quality sleep before we change their nutrition or exercise plans. 90% of the time, we see improvement once we prioritize rest.
It’s tough to get into bed at a decent time each night, because it’s tempting to linger on the computer, the phone, or in front of the tube, but you need to give yourself a little talking-to. “Do I want to make tomorrow more difficult on myself than it needs to be?” Of course you don’t. Go to bed. Nothing that the Kardashians are doing is important as your precious restoration time.
Turn off electronics a couple hours before bed, and this includes your phone! Dim the lights. Take a bath or hot shower. Then go to bed. You’ll thank me in the morning when you are bouncing off the walls with energy. Sugar-covered-what? No, thanks.
DECREASE CHRONIC STRESS
Of all the things we have discussed so far, this is admittedly the toughest for many of us. Some stress is not only good, but necessary. However, it’s the constant mind-racing, nerve-frazzling, heart-palpitation-having kind of stress that is problematic. Since it’s unlikely that you can eliminate all of the triggers from your life completely, the best thing we can do is slow our roll a bit, and do a few simple things each day that can center us and bring us some peace.
Perhaps one of the best things you can do is meditate for 10 – 20 minutes per day. Shut the office door or slip away to a private and quiet place, lay down on the floor, or kick back in your chair and put your feet on the desk, close your eyes, and breathe. It’s truly that simple.
If you have a monkey mind that keeps wandering on you, there are a few things you can do:
Develop a mantra, which is something you will silently say to yourself over and over again. It can be something as simple as “inhale” (while you inhale, obviously), and “exhale” (you got it – while you exhale). Other ones that I like are “surrender”, “relax”, and “let go”. Use whatever is appropriate for yourself that day. Maybe it’s “patience”, perhaps it’s “melt”. Go with what comes naturally. (“I want to strangle my boss” is probably not a good choice.)
Another idea is to count your breath cycles. Each inhale and exhale is one breath cycle.
If neither of those things suits your fancy, try counting during each inhalation, and then making your exhalation just a touch longer. I like to count to five during the inhale, and to seven during the exhale. Again, do what feels right for you.
Mediation doesn’t have to be sitting cross-legged, with your fingers in a mudra. Just get comfortable, close your eyes, and breathe. You’ll be amazed at what just 5 – 10 minutes per day can do for you.
Slow and steady may be hard to deal with with, but it is the approach that provides sustainable results. Think about everybody that you know that has suddenly dropped a swift amount of weight in an alarmingly quick time period. I’d bet my bottom dollar that they have gained that weight back, and probably some more. These “Lose weight fast!” scams neglect to tell you that the results that they provide are temporary.
Stay consistent with the four items mentioned above, and be patient. Find peace in the fact that you are doing your best, and these things take time. Find ways to enjoy the process!