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!
Over the years I’ve dealt with probably several hundred people and helped guide them towards their fitness goals. What many people don’t know is that my background is in psychology, and I’m fascinated with how people think.
One aspect of goal setting that many people forget about when it comes to creating a goal is really digging deep into their personality type. We all have different aspects to our personality depending on several factors. These personality traits can either set you up for success in life or take away from it because you’ll always feel like you’re forcing a square peg into a round hole if you don’t.
As an example, three years ago I was offered an office job temporarily during the federal election. I found quickly after a couple of weeks that sitting at a desk all day in an office environment made me want to dig my eyes out of my head with a rusty fork. The work was easy for me, but I much prefer being on my feet, teaching and coaching different situations and people and having a fluid schedule. This is just part of who I am. The temporary job just reinforced it to me.
As an aside, I’ve never understood people who are miserable at their jobs just to take a paycheck home. If you don’t like your situation, just change it – it’s not as hard as you think. But I digress…
So how does this apply to fitness? There’s a few ways you can analyze your personality and make it work for you fitness wise as well. Here’s a couple of key questions to ask yourself when it comes to creating a strategy towards fitness:
Are you a Group Person or an Individual?
What sports did you play as a kid? Were you a hockey or basketball star or did you prefer golf or racquet sports? Most people are either team sports oriented or individual sport oriented. Someone who is team sport oriented likes meshing with and depending on other people to perform their activity. An individual person might be part of a team still, but prefer that their performance relies on their own effort and skill.
This tends to also work in adulthood. Individual sport people usually will prefer the same environment. This might mean you join a running group, golf with a couple of others, play a racquet sport or cycle alone. Team sport people will be more likely to join a league or team for things that require multiple people.
Let’s translate that to the gym. An individual person likely would prefer something like simply lifting weights alone – even at home. They don’t have to have another person relying on them to get things done. A team person would likely prefer showing up to a yoga class with a bunch of people they know or doing anything with a bunch of others.
Can you Focus or are you a Multi-Tasker?
Some people can sit down and complete a grueling task that takes all day and enjoy it, checking off a list one thing at a time. Others (like me) prefer constant changes and stimulation and can have several projects on the go at the same time.
The former person will prefer to walk into a gym with a defined plan. Something to follow and check off parts as they go and likely not adjust it. The latter will be more of a type that will adjust a plan on the fly if they have one, or try different types of classes in the same week for variety even if they might not be guiding towards anything specific.
A focused person would set one or two goals in a year and work diligently towards them like a marathon or a large event like a tournament or championship. A multi-tasker might have ten goals and only accomplish five of them and be fine with that.
Your most successful champion athletes are typically the focused ones who can work on one goal for long periods of time and follow a plan – but it’s okay to admit that you aren’t that type of person. If you find that you can’t follow a focused plan for more than a couple of months, admit that to yourself and find a way to tweak things so that you are working on a couple of things at once. Triathletes are excellent multi-taskers (which is probably why I liked it too!).
Do you Want to Show Off or are you Self-Fulfilled?
This is where I might get criticized a bit but hear me out. We all have a certain amount of narcissism within us. Some more than others. When you are digging deep you really need to ask yourself if you’re doing the event to be able to brag to your friends or show off to others, or simply for accomplishing a goal and feeling good about it yourself.
Making an amazing golf shot brings a good feeling to people – but you’re by yourself, as does making an amazing play on a soccer field so people will cheer for you. Ask yourself if you don’t care about a trophy but want to have an amazing sense of accomplishment like a long adventure race or a marathon – or if you want to be carried off the field on the shoulders of your team mates or have your picture in a magazine so you can display it all over social media.
Again, how does this translate to the gym? Maybe someone who wants to show their skills would be a great group fitness instructor. Or join a Crossfit gym where they can write their accomplishments on a board and have people cheering them on at competitions. Self-fulfilled people might not even need a gym and be happy just working out at home.
Ask Yourself These Questions
This process will go a long way towards making sure that you are doing something that you will continue with in the fitness world. As we all know, the key to success is one main thing – consistency. Creating an environment where you will feel your best and keep going constantly will bring you the greatest success with your goals.
Be honest with yourself as well. It is easy to program things based on what we think others might think of us. Get over it. Focus on what you enjoy and really stay true to yourself – and this can apply to many areas of life, not just fitness.
If you have any questions or enjoyed this please like, share and retweet away! I appreciate any and all feedback and hope that you continue in the best way towards your fitness journey.
Jill Miller, who is the inventor of a program called Yoga Tune Up, recently revealed on her blog about a month ago that she needs a total hip replacement. At the age of 45. Now, she has been absolutely instrumental in helping many, many people discover a modality that can really help irritated tissue and brought it to the main stream. The story, however is what I want to bring your attention to today.
What was telling about her first blog post, which you can find HERE (and I’ll link to the second part HERE) is that she felt nagging pain not only for most of her life but for the past seven years. Until recently she didn’t bother to have it looked at because she was worried about surgery for personal reasons. That’s fine.
This is one of the most respected and knowledgeable (from an anatomy standpoint) body teachers IN THE WORLD and even she ignored her symptoms. We all do it, from your fellow office worker to high level athletes who want to keep competing.
“I’m okay, I just need to stretch.” “I’ll start using my therapy ball.” “I’ll take a couple of weeks off from running and everything will be fine.” And then we go back to doing the same thing that caused the problem in the first place and are suddenly surprised when the issue comes back – and worse.
Just this week another client of mine’s husband after almost a year of pain finally decided to go to the doctor and get checked because his knee wouldn’t stop failing and buckling. My prediction is either a torn ACL or a severely torn meniscus (or both). The problem is that he’s been walking around on it for the better part of a year without any treatment or attention, and likely it’s gotten a lot worse. This might mean that something that could have been helped with therapy before might need surgery now.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
Your body isn’t stupid.
Pain, collapse, restricted range is a signal that something is wrong.
The sooner you figure it out and fix it the better off long term you will be.
If you have water coming into your basement, you figure out where it is coming from and plug the leak. You don’t sit there and wait for it to subside, clean it up and then wait for it to happen again. Mold sets in. The leak might get bigger. Other things can come into play that make a simple leak a catastrophe. Your body is no different.
When your body is subjected to stress, it responds to it. This can result in either stronger muscles, or deterioration and loss of integrity. A large part of my job is finding out the perfect balance between just enough and too much load, stress or torque on joints. You need to consider your body as a whole and what loads it is being subjected to daily, weekly and annually to really figure this out.
And in case you’re wondering, sitting is a load. Driving is a load. Weight training is a load. Yoga is a load. I remember when I sat through the Yoga Tune Up course (I did not certify because I have no desire to be a yoga instructor) and a room full of body practitioners looked at me like I had two heads when I suggested that yoga poses – especially extreme ones – are still heavy forces through joints. They are, in case you’re wondering. Jill Miller says that herself in her articles. Years ago I wrote a post about why a downward dog is downright dangerous for most people. It’s HERE.
One big fundamental rule I teach my clients is that they should walk out of a workout feeling better – not worse. This means they are far more likely to have had an appropriate level of stimulus and will have a better long-term response. They won’t get worse, they will get better. Isn’t that the whole idea?
The point of this is that nobody is invulnerable to the rules of the body, even people who have spent their whole life practicing something that is supposedly therapeutic. Don’t assume that if you have a problem that things like stretching and pounding yourself with a yoga ball is the answer. It might just make things worse over time. Seek out someone who knows the rules of the body and can identify a proper strategy to bring your body back into balance and stop overloading tissue.
So the next time you work out, try taking a step back. Are you pushing through pain? Have you had a problem for a while and have been ignoring it? Take a really close stock and tell yourself that you should probably get that taken care of before subjecting your body to even more stress.
Because nobody wants a hip replacement at the age of 45. At least I don’t.
Feel free to message me or find me on social media if you have something you would like to identify or a question. Injuries and providing solutions are what I deal with every day.
When I’m driving my kids to school and heading to work, I see a ton of people out in the mornings for a walk. Sometimes with an animal, and sometimes holding a set of Nordic poles. Enjoying nature, and getting in a great workout, right? Well, as with anything – it depends.
The top thing I hear from potential clients who are overweight and want to lose weight and get more active is “well, I walk.” The invention of the FitBit and devices like it have made getting in 10,000 steps a day a bit of a craze. And I’m all for people getting more active and healthier, but for the majority of people who really want results like weight loss, more strength and pain reduction, simply going for a walk isn’t going to get you there very quickly, and here’s why:
Walking Isn’t Intense Enough
To change the body, you need to provide a stimulus that is beyond what you normally do. Now, most people will think walking for 20 minutes is great – and if it’s more than you normally do it might be. However, most people simply go for a stroll at lunch and expect to lose weight. Simple math will tell you that this walk burns 140 calories, which is replaced as soon as you eat an apple. Even five days a week the calorie equivalent is basically one good solid hour long workout of high intensity. This is again, better than nothing, but please don’t expect any miracle weight loss.
Nordic walking at 4 MPH (which is quite fast for most people) burns 220 calories in 30 minutes. This is with the added pole movement. It feels great – and can be excellent for your mental health – but for fitness it is a bit lacking.
Walking will make you better at – walking. Unless you’re getting your heart rate up significantly you’re not getting any cardiovascular improvement. Unless you’re performing some body weight movements along the way (which is very easy to do) you’re not getting any strength improvements. So, what’s the benefit? One might be getting away from a seated position for a little while and destressing in the outdoors, but this again won’t give you any benefits for strength or weight loss.
People Use It To Justify Overeating
The amount of times I’ve heard “well, I went for a walk” at Starbucks while a person digs into a caramel latte could fill ten books. It’s the equivalent of the ladies who do Zumba or Aquafit at the gym and then promptly order a sugar loaded smoothie at the juice bar (often because they think it’s healthy – thanks, smoothie bar owners), instantly replacing every calorie they just burned. Plus, because they went to the gym that day I’m sure an extra glass of wine is fine at dinner. And then they wonder why they aren’t losing weight. Unless you’re paying attention to your nutrition weight loss simply isn’t going to happen. It’s a massive part of the equation.
This does not mean that you need to severely restrict your diet! There are simple changes you can make to support your new healthy habits (read my article HERE if you want some tips). You can still enjoy social time with friends and drink green tea or something that isn’t loaded with calories.
It’s Easy to Overdo It
I deal with overuse injuries on a daily basis. In fact, just because I spent the past weekend in Toronto and walked everywhere even my joints are a bit stiff today. If you suddenly take yourself from zero to a hundred without any progression then it’s easy to run into problems in your hips, knees and feet and ankles quite quickly. Then you get discouraged and stop. Many people join a group or start walking way too far way too soon because “it’s just walking”. It’s still loaded movement and repetition. The last thing we want is for you to get discouraged or injured before you even start, and walking is one of the chief culprits for this. Don’t even get me started on running.
So What are your Solutions? Again, there are some easy ways to ramp up something as simple as a walk and it doesn’t mean you have to run, enter an idiotic boot camp or kill yourself. In fact, for beginning exercisers this is a recipe for disaster.
It’s fairly simple to increase the intensity of a simple walk into something that will provide some results:
Get Your Heart Rate High, Even For Short Intervals
Studies show that increasing your heart rate to over 83% of your maximum for even four minutes can have a remarkable effect on your heart and lungs. This doesn’t mean you need to run – simply walk faster and with deliberate speed. It won’t take long for your heart rate to increase to the point where you are getting out of breath and you feel your muscles burning. Then stay there. Use the timer on your phone or other device and hold onto that level for 3-5 minutes. Even one minute has an effect, you just have to do more intervals. This is called interval training and it’s been proven to be the most effective method for increasing heart and lung capacity.
Add Some Strength Work
People seem to think that strength training is this horrible thing you need to do in a gym. Almost daily I provide simple isometric exercises for people they can do literally anywhere against a wall. In your office, at home or even at the gym with zero equipment required you can still generate strength. Do me a favour right now and find a wall. Stand with your back to it, rotate your foot out and left the side of your foot into the wall. Feel your butt fire? Great – push a bit harder and hold it for 30 seconds. Hang onto something if you need to for balance. You just gave your glute a workout. Most people while walking barely use their glutes at all because of the motion they are doing – so do this simple isometric (and a few others) in between those interval bouts – and give yourself some strength work at the same time.
All day long you’re going to pick things up, put them down, rotate your trunk, sit, sprint for the bus and many other things that need joint strength. It’s easy to add this into your daily walk with isometrics or bodyweight movements.
This may seem like a simple breakdown – because it is! Taking something like walking as a healthy habit and turning it into something much more effective over time isn’t difficult. If you’re trying to introduce this into your life, feel free to reach out for more detailed suggestions. I have an entire isometric at home system that I can share with you.
And, as always feel free to comment, tweet, add me to Facebook and reach out if you need anything!