Another year, another chance at a new you!
Except not really – every single day is a chance at a new you. In fact, you don’t even have to wait until you wake up. Start right now – stop eating sugar from this point forward. Start running right now, even if it’s only for a few blocks, then do it again tomorrow. Every meal is a choice, every bit of free time you have is a chance at creating something fantastic.
That said, this piece is about making a fat loss resolution stick, but still keep that first bit in mind; that first bit is gold. That mentality will be part of keeping you on track to making your goals a reality this year, that and these other things.
Part 1: Diet
And in this sense, I don’t mean diet as in some kind of fad where you eat in tune with your blood type, or you only eat certain colors of vegetables or when the moon is in a certain phase. That’s all woo-woo. I also don’t mean “diet” in a deprivation sense. You will need to cut calories to lose weight of course, that’s how it works, but I’m not talking about only eating plain potatoes and celery every day. I’m referring to everything you eat, what makes up your way of eating.
1 – Fat loss is about 20% exercise and 80% diet. There’s an old adage “bodies are made in the kitchen, not the gym”. That’s because you really can’t “earn” calories by exercising them off, and most machines or apps that estimate how many calories you burn doing any given activity are pretty bad at their job. So many things go into how many calories you expend and what fuel your body uses for that energy that saying “running for 1 hour burns X amount of calories if you weight Y” is pretty useless.
2 – Sugar is in everything AND it’s pretty bad for you, so cut it out. Modern nutritional research has pretty conclusive evidence that fat – demonized for years as the cause of heart disease and obesity-related diseases like diabetes and PCOS – is actually pretty healthy for you. It’s the sugar we were pushed to instead of fat that wreaks havoc on our hormones and bodies. In addition to restricting calories to lose fat, cutting out added sugar should be another primary concern.
3 – Choose a way of eating that works for you. For me, keto was the way of eating that stuck. It keeps you full, prevents blood sugar swings that cause ravenous hunger, and helps retain muscle when you’re losing weight. Other people though might not be able to swing bacon, cheese, and eggs all the time. The good news is you can still lose weight! Veganism, vegetarianism, paleo, etc – there’s a million ways to cut fat without compromising your way of eating or filling yourself with garbage food, or wasting money on stupid food gimmick shakes. The keys are cutting calories, cutting out/drastically reducing added sugar, and eating whole foods as much as possible. Following those guidelines, it’s pretty simple to lose fat.
Part 2: Exercise
1 – Pick a physical activity you love, and do that everyday. You want to be aiming for at least 30 minutes a day of activity above-and-beyond whatever your normal life is. Make sure this added activity is something you actually enjoy, otherwise it’s not going to stick. If you love hockey, practice drills or skating. If you like lifting weights, do that, but no matter what, don’t pick something you hate just because it’s supposed to be awesome or burn a ton of calories.
2 – That said, make sure you’re doing some strength-training. Studies show that weight training provides the best increase of insulin sensitivity of nearly all exercises. In addition, added muscle mass improves your metabolism, protects against injury, and makes you look better (ok, so that last one is subjective).
3 – Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see weight fly off. In fact, weight should be one of the last indicators of success you look at, though predictably it will probably be the first. Be sure to take measurements of your body: neck, chest, waist, hips, thighs, calf, bicep, and forearm. Measure these weekly. Take frequent pictures as well – these non-weight measurements might change far faster than the scale budges, due to a complex interaction of hormones, fluids, and other factors. Two weeks of dedicated healthy eating and exercise might not move the scale much but you could find clothes fitting better, inches gone from your waist, and a decrease in fluid retention.
Part 3: Mindset
1 – Don’t take on too much at once. Rigorous exercise plan, drastic dietary change, cutting caffeine, soda, cigarettes. People tend to see the new year as a time that they will turn into saints and give up their vices. Though this is a noble thought, doing it all at once will almost certainly fail, and worse yet, you’ll be miserable. Start with one thing, or small bites of several (changing your diet and adding in some simple, fun exercise is a great place to start for instance), and diligently stick to them until they’re habit. After that, look forward to your next goal to tackle.
2 – Recruit. Friends, family, strangers – it doesn’t matter. There is substantial evidence that making a goal vocal, even if it’s simply stating it to a close friend, makes you more likely to stick with it. Perhaps its the fear of public failure, or the desire to prove to yourself and others that you can succeed, but regardless, recruit people into your changes, even if it’s only as spectators. Join some weight loss Facebook groups, start tagging your progress pics on Instagram with trending hashtags, or start a blog about your journey and share it with anyone who will listen. Having a cheering section does wonders for your motivation.
3 – You only fail if you give up. Platitudes aside, this is one I’ve struggled with because of my binge eating. The number of times that I’d started a diet, or an exercise routine, and then went off target and then said “screw it” and binged is difficult to count. People derail all the time – parties, holidays, birthdays – all tempt us to eat bad food, drink booze to excess, or stop exercising. The worst thing we can do after this is to say “well, I’ve already screwed up, I’ll just screw up some more”. In these cases, you need to regain your senses, cut your losses, dust yourself off, and get back on the path. I mean, if we’re being literal and you are on a path and you go off the path, just, you know, get back on that path. It’s right there, just go back. Don’t go into the forest, no matter how many pizzas and beers are there.
4 – Plan. Exercise routines, meal plans, grocery lists, and contingencies for hiccups. If you start a low carb diet and you’ve got a beautiful meal plan worked out, but your daughter suddenly has banjo practice, are you going to hit a drive thru? No! Have some chicken or burgers cooked up. Wake up late and no time to exercise? Have a quick, 10 minute routine worked out for those occasions and skip the coffee shop that morning. Always have a back-up plan because life is full of detours and side quests.
Make 2017 your year for sure, but make tonight your night, and make tomorrow morning your morning. Stick to your resolutions because life isn’t about the broad strokes until you’ve passed those moments by and can look back at the painting. Life is about the little choices, the nuances of colors made up by your decisions with your time. Every meal is a choice, every second of leisure time unspent until you choose to allocate them someplace, and choice is the keyword here. Go, you crazy chooser. Go choose good things.