Many years ago nutrition was actually the first certification I ever achieved, and since then as a trainer I’ve helped countless people lose scale weight along with getting stronger and healthier. I’ve got some stories that would be very hard for people to believe. Over that time, I have seen so many consistent facts come out with people that are both successful and unsuccessful, so that it’s pretty easy to narrow down the winning strategies.
I’ve come up with a list of my top five weight loss tips…facts…hacks. Whatever you want to call them. These honestly don’t have a lot to do with what you’re putting in your mouth, but more why or why not. Hopefully it can turn on the light bulb in your mind that will help you make progress in the right direction instead of constantly going back and forth battling yourself to achieve better health from a bodyweight perspective.
Calories in is the number one metric to track
The simple fact is, that the amount of energy you take in is what is going to get distributed to your body and used. Some people add calories out to this metric, but the way it works is that your body uses a certain amount of calories per day, and this can be based on a number of different factors. What’s the most important part of this equation is the energy balance, meaning that you take in a certain amount of calories and your weight either goes down, stays the same, or goes up. Finding out that number first before you worry about the amount of calories you’re expending is the most important metric.
It’s been proven in studies over and over again that you can even eat 1500 calories a day of terrible food, IE. McDonald’s, and still lose weight. Is it the healthiest thing in the world? Absolutely not, and the volume of food that you’ll be taking in might be significantly less because the items are much more calorie dense, however the energy balance equation still holds true.
So if you have no idea how many calories you’re actually taking in, sit down and actually track it honestly for a couple of weeks. The results may shock you, as I’ve had happen with many clients in the past. Some days you could be taking in 1500 calories, and other days you are taking in 3500 and what that will do is average out over time. Don’t kid yourself by saying you’re being good during the week, and then drinking two bottles of wine and going out for high calorie meals on the weekends. Once you find your average number, figure out what direction your weight is trending in and then adjust accordingly – and slowly.
Until you know the amount of energy you’re taking in you won’t be able to figure out the other parts of the equation.
You can’t out train your diet.
As you might imagine based on what I just explained, simply increasing your exercise output isn’t necessarily going to skew things enough to be able to see results in a timely manner. In fact, what often happens is that people will start exercising more intensely and then they will reward themselves with food thinking that they have accomplished more than they actually have. As an example, you can go and do a spinning class at your local gym for 45 minutes and burn 500 calories. That same gym (as a reward) will suddenly say, ‘here have a protein shake’ which is made with all sorts of high calorie things because then it will taste better. So 400 of that 500 calories just got replaced with that one protein shake, which they will claim is healthy for you. Net loss? 100 calories.
Another example might be, ‘OK I can go for a walk, David! Burn some calories!’ Again, just as an example a 200 pound person walking at a moderate pace for 30 minutes will burn 167 calories.. this type of thing is typically replaced with one yogurt or a couple of pieces of fruit.
Now, exercise has so many other benefits beyond weight loss. It’s healthy, it’s good for your joints, it increases your strength, it gives you more energy, it helps you sleep better. However, heading off to Orange Theory Fitness a couple of times a week won’t help you at all if you reward yourself with a frothy drink from Starbucks right after the class or have two extra slices of pizza when you’re out with your kids for movie night because you ‘deserve it’.
Again, exercise is GOOD. Do it. Just remember that for weight loss it is usually a small part of the equation.
Fad diets work because they drop your calories.
We all know about the different diets that are out there. Paleo, keto, vegan, carnivore. In terms of weight loss programs there are Weight Watchers, Atkins, Bernstein. Diets that will tell you to drink shakes twice a day and then have one regular meal. Diets that will tell you to eat cabbage soup all day.
The fundamental thing that all of these diets do is the lower the amount of calories you’re taking in, which is why you will see a substantial amount of weight and water loss at the beginning of a diet. Typically people who are overweight will have to eat at least 10 to 12 times the amount of their body weight in calories to maintain their weight. So at 250 pounds, one typically has to eat about 2500 to 3000 calories a day – average – in order to maintain that weight. Suddenly I go on a diet where I drop that amount to even 2000 calories (if you’re eating the right foods this can be a substantial amount) and suddenly my weight starts go down. Surprise, surprise.
Keto is a perfect example of this. It will give people the impression that they can eat whatever the heck they want that’s delicious. Meat, butter, cheese, eggs, and they get to have all these keto snacks that they think are really healthy. Well if you pick up a package of dark chocolate keto nuggets from Costco, one 20 gram serving has 120 calories. That’s one nugget. And how many people eat just one nugget? Nobody. Is it a healthier snack than having an order of French fries? Possibly (three nuggets is the same as a regular order of fries by the way), but if you want to consider weight loss you could be sabotaging yourself quite a bit.
Extreme examples like Bernstein or the cabbage soup diet typically have people crashing their calories to 500 to 1000, and of course you’re going to lose weight at that level in an incredibly unhealthy way. I’m not going to get into the negative stress it places on your body, either. So don’t think it’s a magic pill, because the magic is just basic energy balance.
You don’t need to completely change your diet
What most people end up doing thanks to marketing hype, is they think that the newest diet is going to be the solution for them. Meanwhile, human beings are extremely habit oriented people. We do the same things, at the same time, in the same way for years. And when you try to change a habit, especially one that’s ingrained in physical and emotional reward patterns it is extremely difficult to stick to it.
Do you need to completely revamp your diet in order to achieve weight loss? Absolutely not. You don’t need to suddenly start eating things that you wouldn’t normally eat, or juicing everything, or starving yourself for 18 hours a day. You can still eat the same things that you would normally enjoy. But I have two little words for you: portion control.
Does your family all eat pasta on Friday nights and it’s a nice family event? Great, just figure out ways to make your portion of that meal a little bit less. Doesn’t even have to be a lot. If there’s a celebration like a birthday and you want to participate in cake, don’t deny yourself that, just have a smaller piece. If you’re out with friends having some drinks, make every other drink a glass of water or soda water instead of having another alcoholic beverage. Did you have a big meal at lunch because of reasons? Have a smaller dinner.
So many weight loss gurus will tell you that you need to completely change your entire lifestyle and human beings don’t work that way. In fact, your brain in your nervous system will resist change as much as possible because habits are comfortable and safe. Typically people who try to do this type of thing don’t sustain it for a period of time, and then wonder why they fail over and over again. Yes, there are certain fundamental things that you may need to eliminate, especially if you want to be a healthier human being (like extremely sugary foods, moderate alcohol, and large amounts of starchy carbohydrates), but making big changes all at once is a road to failure. Make small adjustments and maintain what you’re used to by either making your portion slightly smaller, or substituting lower calorie foods for higher calorie ones, and you will be much more successful over time.
Control your emotions when it comes to food
From a psychological standpoint, this is probably the number one thing that most people need to focus on if they truly want to change their habits and become healthier. We all have emotional connections to food, and to be completely blunt, food is an addiction for many people. We use it to soothe ourselves after a stressful day, we use it to reward ourselves for something we feel entitled to, and we even use it to show affection to our family members or even sabotage them because of our own feelings.
One way I always try to get my clients to think about food, is that food is simply converted into energy and used. If you’re using it for emotional reasons, then a small amount will have exactly the same effect as a big amount. What needs to happen is you need to adjust the emotional reasons that you eat certain foods, or adjust the priority for having that food.
A good example is a recent client who struggled for years with eating potato chips. It was a crunchy snack that brought her comfort in the evenings when she was watching television. Over the years the weight kept creeping up, and just like any addiction she would stop it for a period of time and then pick it back up again when a stressful situation happened in her life. The pleasure that eating the potato chips brought to her outweighed the fact that she was gaining weight. That was, until she went to her doctor and got some blood tests back that told her her cholesterol and triglycerides were at a high point. Getting back into a healthier state became more of a priority than comforting herself with food, and she was able to look at the chips as something that was hurting her and not helping her feel better. That simple mental change allowed her to drop 20 pounds and feel a ton better physically.
I have dozens of examples of this type of thing happening throughout the years, which is why I always bring it up. If you struggle with certain habits and feel like you are addicted to eating in certain ways, sometimes it helps to take a step back and really look at why you’re doing that from an emotional and mental standpoint rather than just thinking of it from a physical perspective. And then once you’ve figured out what your triggers and habits are, try to adjust them into a way that is more productive towards your weight loss goals. With any addiction, you will get urges. Your brain does not like change, but eventually over time if you dedicate yourself to the process you’ll find that it’s an adjustment in the right direction.
If any of these tips have resonated with you, please comment and feel free to share this article. I’m always interested to hear and see who is being reached by my work. And as always, I’m here to help if you have any questions. I hope you all have a fantastic week!
A few evenings ago, I came back from my weekly soccer game and walked into a bit of a mess in my living room. For a couple of weeks my elderly dog has been a little restless, and when she’s restless she tends to get slightly destructive. She’s also 14 1/2 years old, so I usually just chalk it up to her being crotchety and it’s never gotten really bad. What I walked into on Tuesday was pretty bad. There were pieces of my couch all over the floor, and she’d chewed up three sections of it.
Of course, my first reaction is to get angry with her. I rescued this dog 12 years ago and I know her like the back of my hand, and it’s been just her and me since my divorce seven years ago. So usually we figure out a way to get along pretty well, but this was obviously something a little bit further than she’d done in the past.
The reason that I’m bringing this up is an example, is I want to illustrate the common themes of emotion and reactivity that people go through when they experience something unexpected or something that triggers them. As I said before, my first reaction was anger, mostly coming from frustration. A couch is an expensive piece of furniture to have to replace, especially when you’re not sure if you do replace it if the next one is just going to get destroyed again. Right now, times are tough and something like replacing a couch isn’t in my budget.
After I had that initial reaction of anger and frustration, the next day I suddenly started to explore the reasons WHY she would have done something like that. Whenever animals or humans have a reaction to something, it isn’t like it just comes out of nowhere. There is always a reason for it.
This concept applies to your body as well. Physical reactions are just a response to a stimulus from your nervous system. So that can come in the form of muscular contraction, it can come under the form of protection, it can even come in the form of pain if you’re doing something that your body wants to avoid. Your body is an incredibly intelligent mechanism that is constantly evaluating the stimulus around you, and providing a response to that stimulus.
Emotionally your brain reacts the same way. The instinct of your body is to protect you from things like trauma or physical situations that it perceives as something that might harm you. So when you’re having a reaction to something with an emotion such as anger, fear, or depression sometimes realizing that it is simply a physical response or an emotional response can really help you recognize the situation and be able to deal with it in a timely manner. Just a couple of weeks ago I was talking to a client about a massive amount of anxiety she was having, so I explained to her that anxiety is a perfectly normal nervous system reaction your body has in order to avoid a situation or protect you from something that it thinks might hurt it. She expressed that it was like a lightbulb going off in her head, and just simply knowing that her reaction was a normal reaction made all the difference towards being able to come down from her anxious feelings.
So as you go about your days and you’re dealing with stressful situations or possibly even having reactions to things that you don’t understand, remember that recognizing but your body has an innate instinct to protect you from things is part of the process. This can be something as mild as a gut feeling, road rage, or as severe as a full blown panic attack, and we all respond to these types of scenarios in different ways.
Going back to the original example, my dog was so worked up that the only way she could deal with her stress was to chew on something. Your reaction may be to grab food, distract yourself with social media, or even lash out at somebody like a partner or a child. I’m going to encourage you that the next time this happens, you take a deep breath and recognize where the reaction is coming from, and then if it’s somebody that is causing the problem try to understand where their thought process may come from. Sometimes it is completely unconscious, and the person is not doing it intentionally at all. My dog didn’t mean to eat my couch. She didn’t suddenly get up one day and say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna destroy Dad’s furniture!’ She simply needed an outlet, and it’s my job to figure out what that outlet is and how to redirect her energy toward something not destructive.
I hope that this gives you some new thought processes around stress and triggers. Whenever you’re feeling yourself getting upset, just do yourself a favor and even if you walk into a room with a torn apart couch, remember that sometimes your emotions are going to get the best of you and that’s OK. Recognizing WHY is part of the process to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
When most people think about changing their body, they think of weight loss. But there are a ton of other reasons that someone might want to create a change, both inside and out. Maybe you’re tired of lack of energy or your stomach feeling terrible. Maybe you’re tired of aches and pains when you kneel or bend over. Or maybe you want to see a different clothing size on your body. Whatever it is doesn’t matter.
All of these things require one thing – change. And this article is all about the direct but effective way to create that change so that it lasts for a lifetime. Are you the type of person that has tried several times to change something and can’t figure out why the things you want to create never stick? Perhaps this insight will help.
I’ve been coaching people for over two decades and have managed to help hundreds of people create positive change. Through careful observation, tons of examples and lots of practical application I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on what solid change takes.
So here’s the three things I’ve identified that break down the basics of what you need to think about. I’ve called it the RAW method for a reason. Part of it is that you have to really get into the raw details of what you want and what you’re currently doing. Here’s the list:
One: Recognize your Patterns
Humans are creatures of habit. We tend to do the same things pretty much daily, and when that routine becomes disruptive it is actually instinctual that it will cause some discomfort. Examples might be snacking in front of the television at the same point in the evening after the kids go to bed. Or right after work thinking about how nicely that glass of wine is going to feel, even if you know it might make your stomach feel terrible.
There can be positive patterns as well. A good bedtime routine. A good morning routine. Comforting yourself with a decent coffee in the morning which makes you feel good before work. Walking outside during your lunch hour. These things make us feel better, and we should also recognize that side of it.
When you wake up in the morning feeling amazing because of a good nights’ sleep, think about the positive things you did to create that feeling. It helps reinforce in your brain that it was a good thing rather than an inconvenience. Repetition creates new connections in your nervous system that can sometimes change things for good – or bad – depending on how you feel about it.
My point here is if you want to make a change one way or the other you need to recognize what that pattern is and acknowledge it. Once you identify what it is, if it is a negative thing in your life you want to change you can apply something towards it. Adjust it to something positive and keep reinforcing why you’re doing the thing you have changed.
Two: Adjust Slowly
We are also filled with a society of Type A personalities. People who are all in on whatever they are going to do and give it 100% of their effort. This is often a good quality, unless you are trying to make a permanent change.
As much as we would like to think it does, your brain and nervous system do not adjust quickly. Yes, there are mechanisms in place so that if you have to make a sudden decision or move your body quickly then you are able to, but then there is always a recovery period where your nervous system needs to rest. Think of it like almost getting into an accident and the adrenaline rush, then the subsequent crash afterwards.
My advice to people is always to adjust one thing, make it a proper change and then adjust something else. Don’t try to do three or four things at once. It’s kind of like dating. If you are involved with three or four people at the same time it becomes an exhausting juggling act where you’re like the cat with paws on several mice. Then you go after one more and all the mice escape.
Instead, work on one thing for a period of time until you’re confident it is solid and you’re able to have it as a permanent part of your routine. Then find something else and add on. This should ideally be something small – not big. Something that you will barely even notice like adding in a good food to increase your fibre or making a point of going to bed and getting up at the same time daily.
As an example, I recently got a client to start consistently stretching. How? We started with five minutes per day accountable. Ten stretches for thirty seconds each. Once that was good, we expanded the SAME routine to forty and then forty-five seconds and added some more one stretch at a time. But this took a period of weeks, not days. Now it is a part of his lifestyle, stretching ten minutes a day. The next step is taking on ten minutes of exercise on his own once a week.
Whether it’s five minutes or half an hour, it doesn’t really matter. Positive change is positive change. But if I’d tried to give him ten minutes per day right away plus a workout on his own it wouldn’t have worked. Slower adjustments bring on consistency, which yields results every time. Let me repeat that: Consistency yields results. Find a way to adjust slowly so that you can maintain consistency.
Three: WAIT and be patient
I tell my kids all the time when they are learning something new, just be patient and keep practicing. As adults somehow we forget this philosophy. Blame can also fall on our instant gratification society of course where we are marketed to by people who claim we can change overnight and make a massive change.
Think about examples of failure with rapid change in the fitness world. Biggest Loser? 90% gain the weight back. Those ads in magazines where they claim you can be shredded in weeks. Diving into a Crossfit box or group exercise program? Most people injure themselves quickly and never go back. Starvation fad diets. Supplements that waste your money all in the name of trying to make things go faster.
If people would just be patient and adjust things as I’ve discussed, you can see a big change. It just takes time. Another client recently eliminated the cream and sugar from his coffee and dropped seven pounds in a couple of months. I’ve had people lose ten pounds in the same time just by cutting out alcohol. Increasing your bench press is done two pounds at a time, not twenty all at once. Trying to do things fast is a road to either setback or failure.
When I first talk to someone, I try to get them to think long term. Like a year long term, and where they want to try to be. Not six weeks. Not two months. I’m not saying you can’t make a change in six weeks – you can make a massive one – but if you are only thinking about that six weeks you’re missing the bigger picture. Then plan accordingly for whatever goal you have. This should be broken down into smaller chunks to make it manageable with smaller goals along the way.
This process is why people hire professional coaches. To have someone else think about the big picture and what they are doing in broad strokes, then dialing down to explain small steps that will work. And it should be someone who has examples of people they have successfully helped, not just themselves.
And again, give it time. Make note of the little changes that you see or feel, or even comments that people make around you. Think about how much better you’re sleeping, feeling inside or moving. Every marathon runner I’ve ever met began with a run around the block.
I hope this article gives you some perspective and tools towards lasting change. If you truly want to do something positive, take the time to recognize, adjust slowly and wait. The RAW method works if you implement it properly. Just take it one step at a time.
If you’d like to talk further about what it takes to change, feel free to reach out and have a conversation with me. I’ve been helping people for years find out what it takes and put together a proper plan to achieve positive things.
Until next time!
Recently because I’m a football fan I’ve been reading about recovery of the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts. His name is Andrew Luck and he’s a professional athlete who was the next up and coming superstar in the league.
That is, until he badly tore the labrum in his shoulder and had to have surgery. The whole thing was mismanaged by his medical staff and it’s a long story, but the point of the whole thing is this: He did not take a snap last football season and has been out of football for over a year due to rehab.
This is a professional athlete with access to daily physio, the best surgeons in the game and things like stem cell treatments, and he still has not thrown a football in over a year. A year. This is a guy who throws a football for a living and he’s not doing it to let his injury recover for a YEAR.
I’ll ask you a simple question: if he’s taking that long to recover with access to all of those resources, what makes you think that you can recover from an injury any faster?
Typical labrum tear surgery recovery is 3-4 months but can easily stretch into 6-9 months if things aren’t dealt with properly.
Over the years I’ve dealt with hundreds of injuries. One thing that I really try to get across to my clients is that if you are hurt, you need to give your body time to heal and recover from whatever it is. This takes TIME. Usually a period of weeks if not months. For some reason my Type A people seem to think that if they just baby a problem for a couple of weeks and then go right back into doing whatever they were doing before they will be fine.
Or even worse, they do physio but keep on doing the same activity that caused the injury in the first place and expect to recover. I had an example of that just last week and when I pointed it out to my client that not stopping the activity meant it would just get worse again she was for some reason completely dumbfounded.
Does this make sense?
The general guidelines for minor injuries is 4-6 weeks. More severe ones are 6-12 weeks. Surgery is anywhere from 3-6 months at LEAST depending on the issue.
My main point is this: we need to exercise patience as a society when it comes to our bodies.
Whether it comes to recovering from an injury, things like weight loss or achieving a goal like running a marathon, you need to exercise patience to succeed.
Setting a goal for recovery is just like any other goal – there is a timeline and a process involved. Sometimes it means not moving anything for a couple of weeks. Sometimes it is moving just a little bit as much as you can as frequently as you can to help the healing process. It can be frustrating and feel like it’s taking forever. But you have a long time to achieve whatever it is you’re trying to do.
If you want to be active and healthy for a lifetime, then taking six months to recover from an injury might represent less than 1% of your athletic or active life over a span of fifty years. You’re not missing anything by taking that time to make sure that whatever happened doesn’t happen again.
Be patient now, be consistent and give it time and you will succeed in your recovery. Rush back into activity and have a setback or make the situation worse and suddenly a six-week process becomes six months.
If an NFL player can not touch a football for a year, you can wait three months to rehab from surgery. Don’t think that your body or recovery process is any different. Patience and consistency wil get you results every time.
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