Detox From Diets: The Truth About Why Diets Fail And What To Do About It
I know your type…
You’re just like our client. You want to create lasting change with your body and not have the yo-yo effect and frustration of losing and gaining weight, looking and feeling amazing only to fall off because you couldn’t sustain the changes.
You want to be empowered and OWN the change that you have created.
But you don’t have all day to dedicate to fitness and nutrition.
You don’t want to feel like you have to eat bland foods that are the same all the time and that your social life will get completely eliminated.
You want results and you don’t want to be sold B.S. You want the truth.
That’s why this post is for you.
Do you want to discover what our “secrets” for helping people get lasting body transformations are?
This post will reveal what happens with most New Years resolutions when it comes to nutrition – all dieting in general. The truth behind it all, and not just opinions without proof (both scientific and real world).
Reality is needed and awareness is needed – of what REALLY happens and works when it comes to transforming your body.
I’m talking about real change that lasts for good because the underlying foundation for you changes. The brain-circuitry that makes you do what you do becomes aligned with your goals and the lifestyle you want. The every day habits and behaviors support your goals (and your “why”) and don’t derail them.
In essence it’s not about what you do but who you become.
The question becomes what does it take for you to become the person with the body and life you want.
Find out what is true and what is stopping you from finally ending the ups and downs of “dieting.”
So only read this post if you are tired of where you are and want to step into the reality of body transformation rather than living in the Matrix of what media has you believe with celebrity diets, detoxes, unrealistic TV shows (that don’t show what happens “after”), etc.
Decide which pill you’ll take…
You’re still reading, aren’t you?
As a coach that helps people transform their bodies, I’ve been growing disturbed and frustrated by some of my observations. I noticed that people that work with us year round (or for longer periods of time) are having a much easier time getting in shape, keeping body fat off, and NOT living restricted and miserable (both with nutrition and training) – but rather having time for a social life, friends, treats, not training endless hours a week.
While those who hired us to help them drop their body fat over the course of 8 weeks, 12 weeks or even 16 weeks (or anything shorter deemed a “challenge”) to reach their goals and then went off on their own – struggled a great deal more. They would come back to “diet down” again, and it seemed like every time we’d go through another cycle we’d have to get more aggressive and restrictive (since there is a deadline to get results).
What I realized is those who didn’t work on their behavior change to make it sustainable and consistent (with habits that affect lifestyle and fat loss) OR those who dieted aggressively and didn’t have a plan in the post-diet period – would tend to regain body fat fast and didn’t recover their metabolic rate to the same extent as people who made consistent habit changes and/or gradually reintroduced calories after a dieting period.
On the other hand, clients who took it the sustainable habit route wouldn’t have the same issue.
** If you want the Vigor Ground Fitness 30-Day Success Blueprint Infographic that we hand out to new clients then click on the banner below (some of you may be antsy and don’t want to read through the whole article so here’s something that you could follow step-by-step and it’s super simple – and get some serious results! It’s based on the “habit change strategy”) **
To get access to the FULL Blueprint go HERE.
Also, clients who dieted hard and then gradually reintroduced calories took a bit longer to recover from the diet but ended up keeping off more fat that they lost and were able to have lower body fat with a recovered metabolic rate. So if they did want to diet down again, it would be easier as they had a faster metabolic rate and lower body fat (so there’s less to lose!).
In essence, I like to approach a transformation through two different avenues:
- Habit-Based (Behavior Change Nutrition) ** ie: protein with every meal, water, veggies with each meal, journaling, handful diet for measuring portion sizes, mindful eating, eat till 80% full…and so on.
- Reverse Dieting
Neither is right or wrong.
You’ll notice that I rarely talk about right or wrong in this article but rather what works best for a specific person with a specific goal, taking into considerations their history, lifestyle, habits, mindsets – as well as the facts of each type of approach.
I get asked all the time: “Luka, what is the fastest and easiest way to lose weight/fat?”
I’ll answer that question in a little bit but first.
Here’s a disturbing fact…
Research shows that we are very good at losing weight; this is clear since millions of people do it successfully every year (through all and any types of diets, detoxes, challenges, etc…even the “crazy” diets help people lose weight)
What we struggle with is keeping that weight off.
80% of people who lose weight regain it within a year, and up to two thirds of those people actually put on more body fat during the post diet period than they lose in the first place. Basically, they end up with more body fat then they started with.
Consider the way most competitors diet: crazy low calories and hours of steady state cardio. Then after they are done with their performance (whether show, photo shoot, or anything else they got ready for) they reintroduce food quickly (many times this will be binge eating). With the hard-core dieting and low calories they beat their metabolic rate down and with the huge influx of calories after the performance – there is a perfect platform for rapid weight/fat gain.
But this isn’t the case with just competitors; even the average person who has no interest in competing many times takes a similar diet approach.
That is my main focus, the person that just wants to finally change their body through nutrition and lifestyle change and is confused at what is what.
Can you relate to this?
Most of the diets that are “popular” and mainstream (especially one’s promoted by many of the celebrities) are low calorie. They produce weight loss at first, but what is the cost to that weight loss?
DIETS ARE NOT SUSTAINABLE – THEY FAIL.
So you see…
…the answer to the question above (“what is the fastest and easiest way to lose weight?”) is irrelevant because research shows with that approach the vast majority of people will gain all of the weight back and then some.
The question is how do you get the weight off and keep it off in a sustainable way without depriving yourself of LIFE.
When I say “life” I mean giving all energy and focus to food and worrying about it, letting it stress you out and feeling like you have to completely give up your social life, relationships, foods you love, etc. Many clients come to us believing that getting the body they want and taking control of their body means so much sacrifice and discipline that it’s almost impossible.
This is not true and something we’ll touch on a little later. Back to the point…
Staying on a diet year round? Nope.
Love to see someone pull that off and eat 1200, 1400 even 1500 calories per day and feel like they are “living.”
And for the person that may reply “I did it” – they’re not feeling great, their energy is not amazing and they are NOT crushing workouts and life on a daily basis. It’s also only a matter of time before it backfires.
In my humble and correct opinion.
As I mentioned before there are two ways to approach sustainable weight/fat loss.
Before we go there I want to break down why most dieting results in a post-diet weight/fat gain that can even overshoot the previous weight.
This article is not meant to be a “3 Ways To Boost Your Metabolism” or “The Secret To Extreme Weight Loss in 28 Days“, “The 5 Things To Guarantee You Lose Weight And Keep It Off In 8 Weeks“…or anything similar; it’s actually going to break things down for you and help you understand why you may have lost weight and gained it back in the past, and why it will keep happening if you do not take the science of the body and mind into account (along with what works in the real world).
THE PROBLEM: LET’S EXPLORE IT…
First let’s get clear that after low calorie dieting weight gain is normal. You may have experienced this after hitting a goal, then overeating for a while (or maybe even more than a while); it’s called a rebound; which is not metabolic damage because even though it may be unintentional, you’re putting yourself into a caloric surplus (eating more calories than you’re burning).
There’s also the reality that you may have been handed the short end of the generic – stick and have a slower metabolism than normal (this is not your fault). If this is the case then what would be a good recommendation for caloric deficit for one person, may not work for you and you’d have to cut calories some more to get the fat loss result you’re looking for.
I wanted to point those out before I go into what the issue is…
Metabolic Adaptation. This is the result of chronic dieting resulting in multiple weight loss and weight gain cycles.
If you have lost a good amount of weight in the past and regained it, have done that multiple times throughout your life, then you may very likely be experiencing the issues that come with it.
When you do this, your body can be very, VERY pissed of.
You may also get the feeling that no matter what you do your body just isn’t co-operating with you.
Is that where you are right now?
Some of the symptoms may include but aren’t limited to:
- Not able to lose weight even with constant low calorie diets
- No enthusiasm and motivation for training
- Lack of energy
- Under-active (or non-functioning) thyroid
- Loss of menstruation (for women)
Just to make it clear, a mild degree of metabolic adaptation happens with any fat loss program/process. This can be expected.
It’s when you begin to experience health complications and/or can’t seen to get any results even when cutting calories, training and everything in between.
At Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance Renton Gym, we’ve helped many, who had yo-yo dieted for years without success. People who hit their weight goal and then celebrate by easing off, having a slight binge (to reward themselves for the hard work) and going back to some old ways of eating, only to end up at the same or even higher weight than when they started. To attempt to fix the weight gain they would go back on a diet and realize their body doesn’t respond the same so she ends up cutting even more calories and doing more cardio and exercise.
The end result being?
Maybe a little weight-loss, many time’s nothing.
To be fair, it’s not entirely your fault that. We’ve got TV shows that promote dangerous crash diets, with people training hours and hours a day, crying, collapsing from exhaustion, getting publicly ridiculed, being shown food that they can’t have because it’s “bad” and they are “forbidden” from eating it…
…and to top it all off they are not doing great because they only lost 6 lbs that week (while they walk away with their head down in defeat).
Then we have celebrity trainers recommending 1,200 calories that will get you the body of your dreams, all you have to do is…
- Exercise 6 days a week
- Cut out ALL the carbs
- Cut the calories
- Commit to a life of Keto
- And drink/eat _______ (insert whatever they are promoting as the magic “metabolic” food/supplement/drink, etc…)
This is what is what we see all day every day and is main-stream, so I get it, what are you programmed to think?
The amount of times I hear a new client talk about expecting (and getting ready) to feel hungry, exhausted, grumpy, miserable, while dieting to their goals is sad. The expectation is that body transformation can only be done through suffering.
If it’s not insanely difficult then it must not be right.
Transformation can be challenging but the belief that if things are going smooth that something is wrong and you must make it harder and deprive yourself more – can be damaging in many ways.
Man or woman, young or old, if you crash diet long enough your body will get pissed off and fight back.
WEIGHT LOSS DIETS CAN MAKE YOU FAT
The obesity epidemic is worse than ever.
There’s more “quick fix” solutions and fad diets than ever – which in turn contribute to obesity. Obesity actually fuels this yo-yo of insanity effect.
How did we get here?
A lot of it is the opposite of the Guns N’ Roses song that I used to bump when I was a young’n…
We’ll have none of that.
Developed countries like the US have created cultures used to getting what they want right away.
Infomercials get you the thingy that glues everything together (which you absolutely don’t need but it sounds cool) by tomorrow with express shipping.
You want groceries to your door by today? No problem, just sit back and relaaaax.
Watch a movie that has barely made it to the theatres? Don’t even leave your sofa. 1-click buy!
It’s an instant gratification world and if we don’t get it NOW then it can’t be good.
With that thought process it’s no surprise that the most popular and used “diets” are the ones that promise fast results in a short amount of time with least work (effort).
Most of these diets are very restrictive (think 1,000 – 1,400 calories – or even less), eliminate all of something (junk food, carbs, fat, dairy, etc.) and have one thing in common – they are not sustainable.
The thing is that the diets work. Yep, I said it, they do.
Problem is they only work…until they don’t (I’ll also make a side note that even though they may work in helping you lose weight, most don’t work in making you healthier – and at Vigor Ground we believe nutrition should improve body composition, health, and performance all at the same time!)
Then you’re in serious metabolic crushing trouble.
As I mentioned earlier (and I’m doing it again so it gets ingrained like a constant silent whisper) the problem is not reaching the results as much as it is maintaining the fat loss and lifestyle.
The “cut out everything diet” may get you there.
The “1200-calorie diet” may get you there.
The “liquids only diet” may get you there.
The “super strict, eat exactly this at this time diet” may get you there.
______________ (fill in the blank of the promised mainstream diet) may get you there.
The results are always the same. Get to the, or close to desired weight, then gain it back or more.
It won’t change if you do it again, it just won’t.
Yo-yo dieting has many implications both physiological and emotional and once you go through one cycle, the body will fight harder to get the weight off next time, and then next time, and so on. I’m sure the first time you went on the fat loss/weight loss journey you probably responded to the nutrition training fast and then it became harder and harder – to a point where now you may be retaining the weight you gained after dieting even if you cut more calories and train more.
Hell yes! Of course it is! It’s infuriating.
But things like hormones and brain chemicals are partnering up to hang on to your body fat like Sly Stallone was hanging on to the rope in Cliffhanger (with everything they got! And if you haven’t seen Cliffhanger, shame on you).
There may be a number of different factors that have influenced what you’ve gone through in the past; relying on unrealistic and unsustainable methods to achieve goals as well as beating the body down and creating emotional and psychological patterns.
Let’s look at the psychological ones first.
Psychological Reasons You Fail
I’ll create some context by sharing examples of what we’ve helped clients with and helped them overcome along with the science of why it happens. You may be able to relate to these (I sure do as I’ve been through just about every one of these examples).
1. Your Story #1?
Have you ever been on a diet and started shining a light on how “bad” certain things are for the people eating with you (let’s say family in this instance); like telling them at dinner that the pasta is wrecking havoc on their insulin, while you weighed out your tilapia before you grilled it and chow down on your steamed broccoli. “Don’t they know anything and how can they be irresponsible?”
They should think and act like us right? At least that’s what you think. How did that work for you (both with your results and also with your relationship with your family and friends)?
This black and white mindset will get you in trouble. When you do the “good vs. bad” or “clean vs. unclean” foods mentality, you’re setting yourself up for failure. How come? When someone tells you that you can’t have something what happens? Your desire for it goes up even more and studies also prove this. As you fight the urge to munch on your favorite food, the more you deplete your will power reserves, and the more that happens the harder it is to resist.
It’s not about will-power, it’s about skill-power.
And making something “bad” ultimately says you can’t have it. And we all know how that turns out.
You also have to remember that your willpower can get depleted in any area of your life. Work project with a deadline. Crying baby at home. Resisting the urge to jump on your social media and spend hours on it investigating the lives of others (or should I say perceived lives). Any of it can deplete it and affect your “dieting“. Here’s the kicker; willpower depletion doesn’t occur in people that are not dieting and on a mission to shed some fat.
Why? Because they know they have the freedom to indulge if they want to. If you’re a dieter and actively resisting the urge for those oh so delicious snacks – willpower juice gets depleted fast.
Yes, I called it willpower juice, a very technical term.
It’s a catch 22, the foods that are the cause of your extra weight, if you completely resist and cut them out end up depleting your willpower and then crashing, falling off the “plan“. You must restock your willpower and need glucose through food (not only keeping a smile on your face but strategically winning and tricking the brain).
2. Your Story #2?
You’ve been on a new restricted diet for weeks now but you’re finding it harder and harder to stay away from the treats you love the most.
Seeing them in a store.
In your pantry.
And it pisses you off when your significant other is ordering that delicious crust, cheese-melting pizza with your favorite toppings while you watch a movie.
After a stressful day at work a co-worker offers you her famous, notorious home-made cookies and the smell is irresistible, especially since you deserve it after the boss making your day a nightmare. Just one you tell yourself but once the sugar hits your tongue and there is a symphony of pleasure on your tongue, you think to yourself, [email protected]*k it I’m already off the diet. The rest of the day ends up being a massacre of “forbidden” foods and there’s no stopping you.
What experience can you think of that have derailed you in the past couple of months?
You see, the problem is you set up really strict rules for your dieting (whether yourself, following a book, a diet, a coach, etc.) with no flexibility if anything goes different than planned (and that happens – a lot). So as soon as you go off the plan even if just a bit, there are no other options, so you just went off limits completely. You don’t really see any way of making it right until “tomorrow” or starting “next week” and just chuck the day up as a loss.
All of this was demonstrated in a fascinating study that was focused on studying self-control, which is elusive even in amongst successful people.
In the study subjects were divided into two groups: one was given two large milkshakes while the other drank just one small milkshake. Afterwards they were asked to rate the flavor of some cookies and crackers, and encouraged to eat as many as needed to make a precise rating.
None of them were aware that researchers were monitoring their food intake and that the rating forms were a dud.
What they found in non-dieters isn’t really surprising: those who had two large milkshakes only tried small pieces of the snacks (they just nibbled on them), while those who had small milkshakes ate a little more.
With dieters, it was whole different result: The individuals that had guzzled the giant shakes where the ones that ended up consuming far more cookies and crackers than the other folks. It was the opposite of what you would expect. It’s stunning evidence of counter-regulatory eating.
The lack of wiggle room and having much wider boundaries is what can end up being devastating.
At Vigor Ground we have much wider boundaries when it comes to nutrition coaching – all in line with science and real world results. Think of it as a basketball court (I used to play pro basketball so this is an analogy I use ☺), you can dribble up and down and left and right you just can’t go out of bounds. Most diets are equivalent to walking on a tight-rope (where if you don’t go exactly according to plan you feel like there is no where to go and you’re falling off).
We have our clients pick the foods they enjoy eating and even have room for the one’s most people call “bad“. We also prepare them for obstacles with drills like the one below (when they set a goal we ask what the obstacle will be followed by helping them find ways to overcome it in ways they are confident with).
What will the obstacle be? How will you overcome it?
1. _______________________ _________________________
2. _______________________ _________________________
3. _______________________ _________________________
If you’re ready to discover the program that has helped hundreds achieve results while having only boundaries and plenty of room to live their life, be social and not lose it, all while getting serious lasting results, then find out about our 6 Week Challenge Introductory Program (it’s a catalyst to get your started the RIGHT way without crazy restrictive diets…)
3. Your Story #3?
Although you would call yourself someone who is dedicated and persistent in most areas of your life (home, work, etc.), you just can’t seem to stick to your diet without falling off. You find yourself having a small cheat meal only to end up looking back over the weekend full of binge eating. You feel like your self control is gone and you just can’t control this behavior.
The plan you downloaded from a nutrition site looks great in a PDF, maybe you even had an exact meal plan made, but since you can’t be consistent with compliance your weight keeps creeping up and you don’t know what to do as you don’t like what you see in the mirror and how you feel.
What do you feel when you notice that the stricter you are on yourself; the more you’re failing at your fat loss efforts?
You may have experienced the mentally and physically depleted state when dieting – it’s because the lack of glucose makes you cranky and feeling like you have the “itus” and it’s why you might be getting more emotional about every day things. This includes getting into your feelings and becoming more tempted by anything off limits in your “diet“.
Since typical diets are made up of a number of food restrictions, the “good and bad” list I mentioned before, along with the “you must eat this many meals a day” many times with a time requirement – regardless of what’s going on in your life.
Because of this focus on external cues people don’t have awareness for their internal cues such as:
- Hunger signals (when you feel hungry and your stomach is growling you may wait because “you’re not supposed to eat yet” based on your diet)
- Losing touch with your cravings – which also prevents you from stopping to eat once you’re full (this is the part that causes the weight gain)
Those are some of the main reasons of failure on diets from a psychological standpoint as well as environment, social pressure, social triggers, food triggers, stress, emotion – all things we help clients overcome to be empowered to succeed and keep their results for good.
Biological Reasons You Fail
Beyond the psychological reasons (which I believe are the catalyst and the reasons you must explore and become aware of if you want to eliminate them – check out the first 15 minutes of my Nutritional Seminar BELOW) we must explore the biological reasons too.
Let’s start with a scary fact first – dieting to lose weight is directly associated with future weight gain and obesity. The more times you diet throughout your lifetime the more weight you will eventually gain back.
^^^ Read that again. Scary fact!
So why is that? Why does the body do that?
I’m going to break it down in bullet points and explain (stick with me here):
- When you reduce calories (energy intake), even before you start losing weight the body kicks in the anti-starvation mechanisms, which in turn decreases thermogenesis to conserve energy (basically you end up burning less calories). Once you hit your goal weight and start eating more again, your bodyweight goes up much faster than your metabolism.
- The phase that follows the dieting is called the hyperphagic phase where the person has an increased appetite and because of that eats more food. What drives is, is the loss of lean muscle tissue (fat free mass) during the diet and the body wants to replace it. The problem with eating after a diet is that body fat is recovered faster than lean muscle! So you will put on fat much quicker than muscle. And the appetite will not slow down once you hit your previous weight, it will only slow down when you hit your previous lean muscle weight! This is called post-starvation weight/fat overshooting.
- The body doesn’t like to change and wants to stay in homeostasis. I’m sure you’ve heard that quite a few times. I get asked the question from my clients: “How come if the body has a hard time changing that as a country we keep putting on weight?“There’s the fact that the body will make adaptations based on the habits we have and over time people are consuming more and more calories as well as increasing stress levels, not moving as much – it all combines for a slow progression in putting on weigh. ALSO, the body has a bias toward storing energy vs. using it (as that is much more convenient for survival).
- When you are putting on weight the existing fat cells first grow to their maximum size then once the limit is reached new fat cells are created (the former is called adipocyte hypertrophy and the latter adipocyte hyperplasia) to be able to support the weight gain. With weight loss you can reduce the size of the cells but NOT the number (meaning the number of fat cells stay with you). This is another reason yo-yo dieting can be frustrating.
- The reduction in fat in the cells in turn also reduces leptin, a powerful hormone that plays a role in hunger, appetite, and metabolism. Since leptin is responsible for preventing starvation; and dropping below a certain threshold triggers a starvation response – it doesn’t look good for dieter (this happens even before you start dropping weight). The more fat you have the higher the threshold is for the mechanism to kick in (this means that the more body fat you have the less reduction in calories it takes to trigger that starvation mechanism).Many experts call leptin the King of fat loss hormones since low levels decrease physical activity and metabolic rate…when leptin is low fat loss is slow (nice little rhyme for you there).
- Weight loss also messes up the thyroid hormone T3, as it reduces the metabolic rate and increases fat storage.
- The hormone, which is also responsible for appetite – ghrelin; also gets affected in that it increases and makes you hungrier and decreases satiety.
- Then there are neural adaptations from the homeostatic system’s (driven mostly by the hypothalamus) response to dropping calories by making you eat more. The reward-related system is driven by a perceived value of food, which most of the time makes a brownie a higher perceived value than chicken and broccoli – this is what may drive you to reach for foods not in line with your goals. Then there is the inhibitory system (prefrontal cortex), which makes high calorie foods more enticing when you diet and the body perceives energy restriction; which is not necessary when you don’t diet.If you’re asking yourself: “Shouldn’t the inhibitory system stop you from stuffing your face?” – the answer is that the reward-related system wins here, which once again proves that there is a bias for us humans towards energy storage (and not restriction).
- When you diet there are also metabolic adaptations as we mentioned before. Your body slows down the use of energy to become more efficient as its predicting loss in lean mass (this happens within hour of restriction!).
As you can see there’s quite a few things that happen both psychologically and biologically that you can’t diet through.
I’ll repeat this –you cannot diet through it!
So don’t continue to diet.
Don’t try it “just one more time“.
Don’t diet, lose weight and then think that keeping your calories in a low state the whole time will work – you will actually just make things worse based on what I talked about above.
You cannot trick the system by pushing against it.
If you don’t think it will happen again then read through the post again and look at your past experiences to see if they match the pattern. I care about you and don’t want you to repeat the mistakes; it’s time to finally succeed.
I can’t make it clear enough that you cannot fix it by dieting through it and doing the same thing while expecting a different result.
If this is triggering you and you want to click away because it’s not what you want to hear; go right on ahead, but the denial won’t help.
I’d have you consider and think of not only short term, but also long term sustainable results and health – that’s the name of the game here. So even though you may not be “dieting” per se, you’re not just being lazy or not doing anything about it, you’re taking an approach where you’ll have a healthy metabolism and a body that stays lean even on a good amount of carbs – or would you rather have low, energy, low strength, be irritable and miserable while just waiting for the diet to end?
Here’s one way how to fix this…
REVERSE DIETING – THE HOW TO
I’m going to address this one first since it’s something most people aren’t familiar with. We used this with success although we use the habit route more often which is why I’ll finish of with lifestyle habits – as I want it to be the “closing speech“.
As I mentioned at the beginning, one of the ways to get your-self on the right track after bouts of dieting and gaining the weight back is reverse dieting.
Reverse dieting is a form of positively affecting the metabolism (adaptation) where we increase food intake in a controlled manner to prime you metabolically without having you gain excess body fat.
How does that sound?
This process helps counter all the negative things that start happening after a diet, which is why we would typically implement it afterwards.
The real goal here is to divert the metabolic rate to return back to normal – meaning, the way it was before you even started dieting (so essentially, be able to eat more, keep most the weight off and bring your metabolism back to normal).
I’m going to assume you have some baseline knowledge on what macronutrients are and how to count them.
If not then go back through some of the Vigor Ground nutrition blog posts as well as ask in the comments and we’ll give you the breakdown.
Setting the foundation for your macros
Where do you start?
The best way is to start with what you’re currently taking in and eating (macros and calories wise). If you haven’t been tracking it then start now for the next 4 days. Try not to change things up because you’re tracking (as in changing your eating to make it look better than it is), we want it to be accurate to where you are as that is going to be the picture of the current reality.
Remember, this is AFTER you have finished a diet and lost weight. If you’re looking to find out the calculations for setting your number then check out this post and infographic HERE.
Ok, now we got that out of the way and you can use that resource.
My favorite two apps for tracking that areMy Fitness Pal and My Macros +. You can also go the old school journal and write into it while finding all the nutritional info for foods online (there are tons of sites that do it, just use Google).
If you’re taking this route then I’d have you consider using a food scale. Eye balling your portions in this scenario isn’t the best choice, especially since we’re really trying to get accurate numbers of how much and what you’re eating. And also, most people are horrible at eye-balling portions, a matter of fact check out the picture below in how quickly calories add up by getting them “a little wrong“…
Picture courtesy of Precision Nutrition
From there you would increase your carb and fat numbers by 10-20% (I prefer 10%) and protein can stay the same as long as you’re protein intake is around 1g/lb bodyweight. If you’ve been real high on the protein end, such as 1.5g/lb of bodyweight or more, you may consider brining that down some too.
So let’s take an example of someone that has just finished their diet and lost weight/body fat and wants to reverse diet.
=> 175g protein
=> 150g carbs
=> 55g fat
As I mentioned before I like the 10% increase best (and adjust from there if necessary). So we’d go to…
=> 175g protein
=> 9(150 x 1.1) = 165g carbs
=> (55 x 1.1) = 61g fat
It may not seem like much and you may think it won’t change anything drastically; yet the whole point is to slowly up your levels of your metabolism to come back to where it was before you started the diet.
You can go make it more aggressive and ad 20% to the numbers above, we’ve found it best to do 10% and then adjust from there.
From there we course correct based on the results. Taking pictures and measurements every two weeks is crucial here (you can do it more often but I also don’t like clients tripping out here and worrying about it every day, the focus is on the process) – waist, hips thighs, chest and arm will work. The key is to stay centered on the numbers and pictures and try not being too emotional or objective, as that can make you take actions out of line with the goal.
Based on the feedback we make the following adjustments:
- If you’re down weight, measurements show dropped inches, and you’re looking leaner in your pictures, you can add 5-10% to your carbs and fat.
- If you’ve maintained and are looking the same (weight, measurements are roughly the same) then you can add on 5% to your carbs and fat.
- If the weight and measurements have gone up and the pictures show you’re carrying more fat, keep the numbers the same.
After this assessment keep going for another two weeks before another check in.
Stick to the changes, be diligent and consistent as you can and then assess and course correct.
Although these changes seem small, lets look at what can happen over a period of time:
You increase your carb intake 5% every 2 weeks over the course of a year. If you started at 150 grams of carbs per day, you’d be eating 330 grams per day by the end of the year. Imagine being able to do that and being lean, strong and have a healthy metabolism?
Obviously not everyone can do that at a consistent rate but an example from Vigor Ground that may resonate is Bonnie, who dropped a significant amount of weight and body fat and stayed low on the calories and had a tough time seeing results and had many symptoms of metabolic adaptation. After adjusting her calories and carbs and slowly building them up, she is feeling a lot better and stronger, while keeping the weight off and eating around 215 grams of carbs per day – and has a healthy metabolism!
When you do that gradually, 5% doesn’t seem so little does it?
So you may be asking what do you eat while reverse dieting.
We’re going to stick to the principles of what you’d eat based on healthy nutrition lifestyle:
- Eat 80% of your diet in whole and minimally processed foods that you like. “Whole” foods are the ones that look like they started out as: meat, fish, eggs, milk, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and beans. One exception: Protein powders are highly processed, but they’re still a great way to consume the protein you need to make the plan work.
- Eat 10% in whole and minimally processed foods that you don’t necessarily like but don’t hate. This is intended to expand the range of nutrients you’re eating. Maybe you’ll even learn to like a food, which means you’re less likely to suffer from “diet burnout”.
- Eat 10% in whatever the hell you want. Consider this your reward for faithfully embracing the two previous categories. Use this however you’d like: Have small indulgences every day, or save up for a bigger weekend junk-fest (we find it better to split this up but its up to you).
The reason we have that 80% + 10% in there is that you get all the micronutrients and quality macronutrients in, after that you can fill the space with whatever you want. Even if it is 15-20% of whatever you want, you may be fine depending on your goals and body type.
As with anything, the leaner you want to be the more compliant you’ll need to be and push closer to that 90% mark. At Vigor Ground we always talk with clients about goals, requirements and expectations. Our mission is to coach, support, and guide clients to the results they are working for but also give clear expectations of what it will take (for instance, getting “six pack” lean and being 70% compliant is NOT going to happen unless you have some amazing genetics or you train at a level of professional sports).
I digress, let me get back on track…
This is a solid (but not all inclusive) of your 80%:
- Egg whites
- Whole eggs
- Greek yogurt
- Chicken breast
- Turkey breast
- Pork tenderloin
- Canned tuna
- Cottage cheese
- Extra lean ground beef
- Top round steak
- Top sirloin steak
- Flank steak
- White fish (cod, halibut, tilapia, mah-mahi, etc.)
- Protein powder
- Old fashioned oatmeal
- Brown rice
- Jasmine rice
- Ezekiel bread
- Sweet potatoes/Yams
- Squash (all varieties)
- White/russet potatoes
- Fibrous vegetables
- Extra virgin olive
- Extra virgin coconut oil
- Fish oil
- Grass fed butter
- Natural almond butter
- Natural cashew butter
- Natural peanut butter
- Natural coconut butter
- Mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, cashews, etc.)
- Coconut milk
This is far from an end-all-be-all list but it’s a good place to start for your 80%.
I’ve talked about this before in my seminars, but we want to stay away from the “good food vs. bad food” mindset; no foods are off limits unless you have some type of allergy or intolerance. If it fits within your macros then you’re good to go (following the principles of getting whole minimally processed and unprocessed foods in first).
So that 10-20% could be chocolate, pizza, pastries, pop tarts, alcohol, cereal, (yep), pizza (may be harder to fit in but possibly an option for higher carb days).
The reason this way of approaching nutrition (in a way where you are not “restricted” that is) works is because it is sustainable. As we mentioned earlier, whenever we create a “you can’t eat this” mentality around food, it causes willpower to drain faster and it’s psychologically hard to keep fighting the urges.
Work with your psychology and biology and you get better results!
To say it again, keep 80-90% of your nutrition unprocessed and minimally processed foods that you like/love, and the rest can be whatever you want to fit the plan.
To finish the discussion here are some point to questions we get asked often about reverse dieting and will give you some more insights:
=> Alcohol is permitted but doesn’t mean you should be drinking it often. Make it part of your treat meal (I don’t like using the word cheat meal since it implies that its wrong, same as the “good vs. bad” food discussion). Having a beer or glass of wine a couple of times a week is realistic. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram so you can replace that with your carb or fat intake.
=> Make sure you get enough fiber, 25-55 grams per day, BUT know that more is not better here (I say this is a there is a tendency to load up on things like Quest Bars that have very high fiber and then you can get constipated).
=> Don’t worry about sugar too much (unless it’s a trigger food that creates a spiral of bad decisions – in that case check the habit section below), just make sure you get your 80% of foods from the list above.
=> Reverse dieting ends when you want it to end and yet I’d recommend you work your way up to maintenance macros before you started dieting (if you don’t know this then just keep working your way up). Optimally you’d push past that to a point where you max out your metabolic capacity (aka, eat as many calories as you can while maintaining your weight).
=> If you’re still in a phase that would be considered a “dieting” phase and you’re putting on weight with those numbers, keep going. You can slow it down and spend a whole month at those numbers so your body can adjust. The reality is that the longer you’ve been dieting and in a chronic deficit, you should spend about the same amount of time reverse dieting (so if you have been cutting calories short for 7 months, it’s a good idea to reverse diet for at least 7 months). Remember, think long-term, you’re working to finally get your body lean and healthy the right way.
If this sounds like, too much or too complex and/or overwhelming then feel free to slide down the page to the part on changing habits, which is our #1 approach at Vigor Ground and also the most successful one. Choose what works best for you – and I’d have you consider the habit route works for everyone (especially once you see the “habit hacks” I have outline for you).
=> Everyone responds differently to reverse dieting. Hyper-responders may take their carbs from 85g to 320g a day all while losing 15 lbs of fat. There’s also a chance you’ll put on some fat in the process, or you may fall in the middle, not losing or gaining. Everyone wants to be the former, and yet everyone’s metabolism isn’t as adaptive. Hyper-responders tend to be people that have never dieted in their life or they’re genetically blessed. Whichever it is you’re going to put on some muscle, feel stronger and you’re setting yourself up for success.
=> Remember that the purpose of reverse dieting is not to get you to get the best results in looking better right now, this very instant. The purpose is to get your body to a place where it’s primed for fat loss down the road. With that there comes some mindset adjustments as you may not see the exciting weekly improvements that get your friends to comment on you looking visibly leaner, etc. (unless you’re a hyper responder). Because of that reverse dieting is more difficult for most people than straight up fat loss, since many won’t be happy about putting on some weight – and if the weight goes up its hard to swallow your pride. But rather than the temporary departure of not seeing your abs, this is a proactive decision to embrace the process which will get you to be much leaner, healthier a year from now while eating much more carbs and not starving yourself.
Reverse dieting works.
It’s worked for our clients (the one’s it was the right fit for) and it works for some of the top coaches in the world with thousands of their clients.
It will work for you if you commit to it and if it’s the right fit for YOU.
Now here is where I switch gears and you may think I’m playing devils advocate when I’m really giving you the reality of how change works. It’s never the one size fits all. Ever!
For change to happen there has to be readiness. The action steps have to match the level of readiness for the client for it to be a successful strategy.
Have you ever known you needed to do something and were outlined a strategy that was overwhelming and freaked you out? How did that work out?
I’d guess not so well. It never has for me. Most times where I’ve worked on changing things in my life (sometimes for years) by taking the complex route; it’s rarely worked. When I hired coaches that helped me simplify things that weren’t overwhelming and fit into a long-term strategy, that’s when I saw results faster AND I didn’t think: “damn it, when is this going to be over?”
Actually, if you think of yourself as a “low compliance” person or someone else labeled you that because you don’t follow through with certain actions/strategies, I’d have you consider you need the following:
1. A clear understanding why change is important to you.
We never assume that changing their body is important to our clients; instead we ASK them. “On a scale of 1-10, how important is this to you?” If it’s anything less than a 9, we begin by helping the client find their own sense of purpose/meaning in the pursuit of health and fitness – otherwise its just a matter of time before they quit (because why wouldn’t someone go through a lot of resistance for something that isn’t meaningful to them?)
2. Confidence in their ability to do the required actions for success.
This is one of the big factors when it comes to non-compliance or people – they’re not confident in doing what is required/asked of them. Many coaches forget to ask (and if you don’t have a good coach then most people never ask themselves this).
So here is the magic question I ask clients when we outline any type of nutritional changes to help them get to their goals (short and long-term):
“On a scale of 1-10 (1 being completely unconfident, 10 being fully confident), how confident are you that you can follow this 90% of the time?”
If the answer is a 9 or a 10, we’ll keep whatever strategy and steps were outlined.
If the answer is 8, or especially if lower than 8, then it means the person is not confident in the strategy and its most likely overwhelming, which leads to not sticking to it. What this means is we’ll make it EASIER and SIMPLER until the client is a 9 or a 10 on that scale.
You see, one of the key factors in success of any lifestyle or nutrition change is that the person believes and has the confidence they can do it.
So no matter what you take on, ask yourself the above question and answer it with ruthless honesty, as that will determine your next steps. Also, make sure that you ask yourself whether the changes you’re making are a part of a long-term sustainable lifestyle.
3. Clear instructions for the tasks to avoid confusion/uncertainty.
We make no assumptions that our clients will understand what we’re asking them to do. “Take protein with every meal” may sound simple, but what type? If it’s as a supplement, what brand? With snacks too, and what if I’m Vegan? Any uncertainty and confusion in advice will lower confidence, and with that – compliance.
4. Simple, strategic habits you can feel successful doing.
Behavior change is not as easy as many books, online programs and even coaches can make it seem to be. All of them can assume their advice is easier to follow than it actually is and become judgmental when people can’t follow it. Advice like “just have healthy snacks” can mean a dozen changes in a client’s life such as shopping, preparation, maybe even when they wake up, etc.
What is part of the solution? Making it easier, too easy as a matter of fact. Advising the “minimal effective dose” approach that isn’t overwhelming is the key here and I love when clients say “That sounds easy” because then they feel confident they can do it which helps them self esteem to do more!
More about simple strategic habits a little bit later.
First I wanted to share that in point #2 above Reverse Dieting is too hard.
For most people Reverse Dieting falls into the 8 or below number when being asked the question “On a scale of 1-10 how confident are you that you can do this 90% of the time?“, while for some it doesn’t and they actually like it.
Whenever there are numbers and calculations in the process and you already feel like life has got so many things going on that you’re stressed out, adding more tracking, or adding anything for that matter, can push the overwhelm to a higher level (not good!).
And in the case of numbers, many people get trapped by feeling that if they’re not “hitting the numbers” that they’re wrong and failing – which is not the case (and the numbers don’t ad up many times, which I’ll explain why in a second).
So rather than adding, subtracting works much better, or just focusing on ONE thing, the next thing to change that will serve the clients goals and is NOT overwhelming.
Small hinges swing big doors, which is why doing something as seemingly small as drinking a half a gallon of water a day and adding a protein source to every meal may seem like not much change, but in reality it can create a cascade of changes.
Water hydrates you and keeps your body functioning optimally (among MANY other benefits), as well keeping you fuller and decreasing your appetite. Protein is a thermogenic macronutrient so you’re burning more calories digesting it, it’s more filling; and it’s the building block of protein (and most people don’t take in nearly enough).
Those seemingly small changes add up and they can be sustainable, manageable, and not overwhelming. Remember, it’s at your pace.
Small positive changes can create big results down the line as they compound like a snowball. The same goes for negative ones. That’s why changing strategic habits that are aligned with your goals and not overwhelming is so successful in long-term change.
I promised I’d educate you so that you can make better choices for yourself and know what work and why and that you have many options.
I don’t think calorie counting is evil, it works, some people like going the route of counting calories as it fits them and along the way they find out more about themselves and their behaviors (in many ways it’s a great tool to create awareness). I like to use tracking apps to track things to create awareness more so than the numbers part of it as it throws most people of and becomes overwhelming.
There’s also some other things that happen with calorie counting that most people don’t know and can get frustrated at times when focusing too much on the numbers rather than the habits…
WHY THE NUMBERS ON CALORIE COUNTING DON’T ALWAYS AD UP?
We know that the law of physics applies and the rules of energy balance are real – you need a certain amount of energy (calories) to stay alive, move around, and do whatever is that you do. This energy can come from food or stored energy (fat).
The formula is:
- If you eat less energy then you expend then you should lose weight
- If you eat more energy then you expend then you should gain weight
The formula is then:
Changes in body stores = Energy in – Energy out
Body stores means tissues available for breakdown, so everything from muscle, bone, organs, etc. and does NOT include water, which can change bodyweight independently of energy balance.
This Energy Balance Equation is what has been the most accepted way of calculating and “predicting” how much weight someone will lose (or gain) over time. What the Energy Balance Equation doesn’t tell us is about our body composition, which is heavily influenced by hormones, macronutrients, training style/frequency, genetics, age, meds, etc.
That is why so many times there is frustration and confusion when the numbers don’t add up and match expectations.
And since most of the time the numbers DON’T add up, the frustration is fair.
The gap between expectations and reality is not because the Energy Balance Equation is off, or wrong, the laws of physics still apply in this case.
Energy “in and out” is just a little more complicated.
Here’s a number of reasons why the numbers don’t add up…
1. The labels of the food and actual calories don’t match
The way companies estimate calories and nutrients is complex, but more importantly very old school and imprecise, which ends up making the food labels as much as 25% off.
2. We don’t necessarily absorb, store and/or use all the energy the food contains
Our bodies are unique and have to digest, process, absorb and store the food/energy, which involves a plethora of steps (yes, I said plethora, it’s serious like that), along with the individual physiological makeup – these all change the energy balance.
=> You absorb less energy from minimally processed carbohydrates and fats because they’re harder to digest.
=> We absorb more energy from highly processed carbohydrates and fats, since they are easier to digest (the “processing” of the food has already done some of the digestion work for you).
Here’s a powerful example since we all love peanut butter (at least I sure hope so); research shows that we absorb a lot more fat from peanut butter than whole peanuts. How much? Almost 38% of the fat in peanuts was excreted through poop and not absorbed by the body while with peanut butter almost all of the fat was absorbed.
With that said, we also absorb more energy from foods that have been cooked, chopped, soaked, blended, because this breaks down plant and animal cells and makes it easier for the digestive system to absorb. Here’s a pretty good example – when eating raw sweet potatoes you absorb three times less calories then if we cook them (and if we let them cool down again we get less absorption again).
But wait, there’s more…
You may absorb more or less based on the bacteria in your gut. Some people have more bacteria that is better at extracting calories from tough plant cells.
An example of this is people eating walnuts for 3 weeks in a study only absorbed 79% of the calories that were listed on the label. Some people absorbed more while some less – all because of different types of bacteria in the gut.
So, eating food that is rich in whole, minimally processed foods, requires more calories to digest and what you absorb can be significantly less than what is expected.
On the other end, you will absorb more calories by eating lots of highly processed foods and burn fewer calories in the digestive process, not to mention these foods are less filling, more energy dense, and more likely to make you reach for another bite.
The 25% off number means that what you carefully planned to be 2,000 calories per day ended up being either 1,500 calories or 2,500 calories! This is the reason why some people will be very frustrated just tracking numbers and getting stuck even when the numbers are looking good.
So really what we are saying is that between #1 and #2:
Energy in = Actual calories eaten – Calories not absorbed
This doesn’t mean that the equation is wrong it just means that to be accurate you’d have to be plugged into a lab 24/7 to actually see what really happens. I’m sure
This is one of the big reasons why we like to go the route of Precision Nutrition’s recommendation of hand based measuring.
3. Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)
You may have heard of this one before, it’s the number of calories you burn each day just to breathe, think and live (at rest with no movement). This is 60% of all the energy you burn per day and its influenced by your weight, body composition, sex, age, genes, and like I mentioned before, the bacterial population of your gut.
A bigger body most likely has a higher RMR. For example…
=> 150lb man might have an RMR of 1583 calories.
=> 200lb man might have an RMR of 1905 calories.
=> 250lb man might have an RMR of 2164 calories.
But even RMR varies by 15% from person to person. Since I’m around 200lbs, if I’m the guy burning 1905 calories just living, the guy next to me may be burning 286 fewer calories than me, while another may be burning that many more – all with no more or less effort.
4. Thermic Effect Of Eating (TEE)
TEE is the number of calories you burn by eating, digesting and processing your food. This represents around 5-10% of “energy out”.
This is another reason why when working to lose body fat you’ll hear the importance of eating more protein. In general you’ll burn more calories in your effort to digest and absorb protein (around 20-30% of its calories) and carbs (5-6%) than you do fats (3%).
This combined with the stats that I shared before; you’ll burn more calories digesting minimally processed whole foods compared to highly processed foods.
5. Physical Activity
This is the calories you burn from any activities/exercise such as walking, running, training in the gym, bike riding, gardening, or anything else for that matter that constitutes movement.
How much you expend is also influenced by the intensity of any of the activities.
6. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
This is the calories you burn through fidgeting, staying upright, and all other activities that are not purposeful exercise. This also varies on a daily basis and person to person. One thing I know is that I definitely burn extra calories because I fidget like crazy, something you can spot in the videos I do ☺
So that means on the “Energy Out” (parts #1, #2, #3, #4) part there are a number of components and each of them can be highly variable as we explained above. To break it down, this is the simple way to look at it.
When talking about it, people will just say “well, you just have to eat less calories than you consume” and make it sound simple, but when we look at all the variables then it becomes a little more complicated; specifically with knowing how much energy you’re taking in, absorbing, burning, and storing.
Here’s the full equation courtesy of Precision Nutrition:
So as you can see even if the variables in the equation were static the Energy Balance Equation is quite complex, let alone if you alter any of the variables, which then causes adjustments in seemingly unrelated variable.
And this is why the numbers game can become very frustrating for many people and thinking that just crunching numbers will be able to outsmart the body is not the best strategy for many people looking to create body and lifestyle change.
[Below I’m revisiting the science from above but I know the importance of gently reminding you things that we all tend to forget]
The complex variables are not there to make us frustrated, they are there because our metabolisms evolved to keep us alive and functioning when food was scarce. This is a good thing but one of the consequences became:
When “energy in” goes down, “energy out” goes down to match it (you burn fewer calories in response to eating less).
It’s not perfect and it doesn’t always work like that for everyone but that’s how our system is supposed to work so our bodies avoid unwanted weight loss and starvation. It fights to maintain homeostasis.
Likewise, when “energy in” goes up, “energy out” tends to go up too. (You burn more calories in response to eating more).
To show you how this works when you take in less energy to lose weight, this is how your body tries to keep the weight steady:
=> Thermic effect of eating goes down because you’re eating less.
=> Resting metabolic rate goes down because you weigh less.
=> Calories burned through physical activity go down since you weigh less.
=> Non-exercise activity thermogenesis goes down as you eat less.
=> Calories not absorbed goes down and you absorb more of what you eat.
This is not that bad when there are small changes but it really ramps up as you lose more weight or when you’re leaning out and trying to get super lean.
This is what it looks like:
Picture courtesy of Precision Nutrition
And earlier in this article we talked about the hormonal changes that happen, such as the reduction in calories causing hunger signals to increase, causing us to crave (and maybe eat) more.
This effect leads to a much lower rate of weight loss than you might expect. As I mentioned earlier, it can cause regaining weight.
Let’s be real, most strict diets also cause a lot of stress, along with all the stress you’re already experiencing in your life, which then make our bodies hold onto more water and has us feeling less lean and softer than we really are (ever wondered how sometimes in a matter of days you’re looking and feeling different and you don’t know how that is? Check how much stress you had around those times).
Above in the formula I give just one example of what happens if you change a variable. You can imagine how many different variations there are, such as if you train more (physical activity going up), your gut health is off, etc.
On top of all of that, how your metabolism reacts to the changes will be unique to you; everything from age, genes, sex, body fat, medications you may be taking, and a bunch of factors we don’t even know about yet.
So when people give you the simple calculation of eat 500 calories less a day and you’ll lose a pound of what a week (since a pound of fat is 3,500 calories), it would mean that on average a person would lose 52 lbs a year doing that. But we know it doesn’t really work like that in real life.
When you drop weight things change and your body needs less energy to operate. We don’t know how long this lowered energy expenditure lasts but studies have shown up to 7 years after weight loss (maybe even longer but this is how long the studies went). This means it’s likely permanent or at least persistent.
This is very relevant for people who have repeatedly dieted!
So what this all means is…
Changing your body is going to be harder for some people and easier for others.
This is why we are such big believers in the habit change route when it comes to getting leaner, losing weight (or gaining muscle or any other body composition goal for that matter).
What are you feeling right now reading all this?
I get it. I’ve been there. The first step is knowing why things happen and being aware of it, otherwise you can keep making the same mistakes; now that can take you down the proverbial cul-de-sac spinning in circles getting the same or worse results and thinking there is something wrong with you.
Maybe even starting to believe you can’t change.
Even though you are unique and you will have your own journey with your transformation, you can change and keep that change.
This leads us to what most people have success with when it comes to their body and life transformation, along with sustainable strategies that stick for good.
Drum roll please…
THE HABIT CHANGE WAY & CHOOSING HABIT HACKS THAT FIT YOU
I’ll start with answering the question and giving guidelines for “What to do next…?”
So here’s tips from us at Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance on habits and perspectives you can implement now, one at a time, or a couple – to start changing your lifestyle and body. This list is not necessarily by order of importance and you can do/choose whatever you feel you can tackle first (this could be low hanging fruit and easiest, or even the toughest one that would make the biggest change – we usually determine this with our clients). Below you’ll see the strategies and hacks we outline with our clients at Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance.
If you love video coaching, here is how I strategically break down nutrition and lifestyle concepts you can use right away:
1. Plan, Prepare and Cook
One of my favorite sayings is:
“When there is no path or plan, the default is struggle.“
Many of the current habits you have are the default and they are leading you to your current results. Most people worry more about their training than preparing for week when it comes to their food. It may be as simple as prepping a smoothie for the am so that you can take it on your way to work and not
a). skip breakfast all together
b). get something on the way or a quick snack when you get to work
Our recommendation is doing your planning, preparing and cooking on Sunday’s or Monday’s. We even recommend skipping a workout if it means you can use the time to do this!
I’d have you consider that just planning and preparing for situations where you default to bad habits and creating an environment where you eat foods you love that are in line with your goals – will produce some serious results short-term and even more importantly long-term.
But before you think you have to do this…
Although being so diligent is great and it can be excellent for results, it can also be very overwhelming for someone just starting to make changes. You DON’T have to make that much of a change at first.
What is ONE meal you can plan, prepare and get ready for the week where you usually default to bad habits? Just one.
This is the way I have slowly gone about making changes and stacking habits.
- Preparing a Power Smoothie in the morning.
- Going to my favorite breakfast spot as a ritual around brunch time (and having an omelet that fits in with the goals I want to achieve)
- Preparing snacks to carry with me for the week on Sunday.
- Ordering prepared meals for lunch (so I’ll be getting 5 meals a week – everyone can find multiple food services doing this in their area)
I’m going to help you out some more here as I think many times people make things too complicated when it comes to planning.
First, if you’re doing more than last week and preparing more than you have; you’re already winning. You don’t have to be perfect, you just need to improve and do more than you have.
So here’s a couple of examples.
Or something like this. It doesn’t have to be complex. I’d go further and say I’d have you consider to make it as simple as possible.
When creating your meals I love the template idea where you get to choose your meals from categories (rather than being told exactly what to eat).
I love how Precision Nutrition does this in this template where you’d choose from what you like/love and what’s available and choose one ingredient from each column (check how much below or based on calories in the above info I posted):
Now, there’s obviously many more options for each of the categories, which allows you so much wiggle room for preparing things that you love rather than something you feel forced to eat to get results. You can pick and choose the amount of meals you prefer per day and then plug them in (whether you want snacks or not, etc.).
You choose your own adventure and what you like as far as meal frequency goes and food goes. This way you’re more likely to stick to it since you pick it, right?
You may say but what if I want to go lower carb, or cycle my carbs throughout the day or week. You can simply adjust and still use this template and, for instance, not add any healthy carbs in certain meals of the day only to add them after training. This is very effective for making adjustments but I’d have you consider starting with sticking to the simple outline and as you master skill-sets, progressing from there.
Ok, here are the handful measurements you’d use to pick the portions at least to give you a starting point.
That should help you have a baseline for meal prep.
Your turn; what are you going to prepare?
2. (Food) Journal
Journaling, whether through an app like My Fitness Pal, My Macros+, etc. or an old school journal, is a very important tool and habit when working to break free of old habits. One of the main reasons is that it creates awareness, and awareness precedes change.
What I realized is that food journals where really an insight into our clients food habits and it became clear that most people didn’t have a plan for the day ahead, which is the habit above (#1). Essentially you’re your own coach many times so a journal shows you what happened so you can course correct and make changes for the week ahead.
Think of personal finances; your budget is your plan, and your checkbook is your food journal.
The people that have most success do daily plans. They make it the night before. Think of these 4 steps:
- Plan: What’s the plan for tomorrow?
- Action: What am I eating today? Is that plan I made yesterday happening right now?
- Food Journal: Did I follow the plan yesterday?
- Course Correct: What can I do different to prepare for what happened and be successful?
Note: People don’t always follow the plan 100%, but they have a plan and this makes them more successful than they were before!
Having a plan is like seeing into the future, being able to look at the obstacles and handling them ahead of time. Rather than relying on willpower, you’ll be relying on strategy and facing reality; and preparing for obstacles that you know may come up.
Once again, I repeat this because it’s that important and it can save you a lot of frustration (if you make a plan and its based on a perfect day with no hick ups, you’re not preparing for reality). So here goes again, ask yourself this:
What are the three biggest obstacles I’m going to run into with food?
What are the three strategies I can put into place to overcome the above obstacles?
So if you know your significant other isn’t going to eat on the plan, that isn’t a surprise to you. Then you are faced with a strategy of finding a list of things you both like that fit your plan, or find out how you both eat different foods and be cool with it.
If you eat out for work (which many of our clients do), a strategy can be looking at the menu ahead of time and picking what you want and fits your goals ahead of time – before you arrive hungry.
If you have events to go to you can think those through ahead of time.
Maybe you have dinner with friends at an amazing restaurant tomorrow and you can make that your 10% meal.
The examples are endless but you can see where I’m going with this. Things seen ahead of time can be changed and be prepared for.
Assessment precedes awareness and awareness precedes change.
I know I re-directed you to a blog post that talked about calories but to also keep it all in the same post, here’s some basic guidelines if you choose to go the calorie -tracking route (like I said, this is a starting point, not a set in stone rule – we always adjust based on assessment and tracking).
3. Eat whole unprocessed foods (majority of the time)
We live in a time of abundance and we no longer have to raise, harvest, process, and make all our foods from scratch. Conveniently, tasty, shelf stable processed and refined foods are cheap and easily available year round.
On one hand this makes life much easier. For instance…
- We can buy bread instead of having to grow, gather, grind, and bake the grains.
- We can open a bag of peas that have been harvested, shelled, and frozen for us.
- We can keep tomatoes on shelves for months.
Some minimally processed foods such as frozen vegetables, canned tomatoes, cold pressed olive oil, or yogurt can be convenient and nutritious.
On the other hand…
Most foods don’t add value to your health and body.
Most foods are high in calories and low in nutrients. They usually have a lot of sugar, salt, and/or industrially processed fats (not to mention colors and preservatives).
=> Make it hard for you to know when you’re physically hungry or full. It’s easy to over eat and want more – it’s how they are designed.
=> They are readily available and heavily promoted (they make from 50-75% of an average Americans intake). Most people eat most of their food highly processed.
=> People who eat a lot of processed food typically: have trouble regulating their appetite and hunger cues, are not well nourished, have slower metabolism, and a body composition they want to change.
So the goal for this habit is to fill up on the “good stuff” so there’s less room for junk. So my recommendation is not to get overwhelmed and cut out all the processed food, but rather work on adding nutritious foods. You don’t have to give up all the “bad stuff” (the secret here is this helps people have less resistance to change).
Here are a number of examples of how you can start improving and doing “a little more, a little better“:
- Have a salad or some cut up veggies before you eat your dinner
- Before you have that croissant for lunch (I love croissants!), eat some fruit first and then go ahead and eat the croissant if you still want it
- Eat the burger you were going to have but have a side salad or steamed veggies instead of the fries
- An orange instead of orange juice
- Steel cut rolled oats (even better if with a scoop of protein and some blueberries) rather than sugary breakfast cereal
- High fiber noodles rather than plain pasta
- Natural peanut butter rather than sugary one
- Regular coffee rather than flavored (or my favorite, espresso with some vanilla protein)
As you can see there are many way to start eating more unprocessed whole foods and make better choices towards your goals without having to overhaul everything and be overwhelmed.
If you notice I said “a little more and a little better” – if you take this approach you can look back and see yourself improving and feel empowered, rather than creating really tight “rules” and feeling like a failure if you didn’t stick to them exactly (which most of us can’t do).
Something I love that we have up on the board at the Fit Bar Café inside of Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance is…
What if your food loved you as much as you love it?
When eating whole unprocessed foods, the food loves you back.
4. Eat plenty of protein
This is essential for many reasons especially when working to lose weight/fat. Here’s why:
- Protein helps you keep your lean body mass (including muscles, organs, connective tissue, and bone)
- Protein significantly increases satiety, which means you feel fuller while eating less (eating more protein helps people eat less overall)
- Just by eating more protein you burn more calories because of the thermic effect of eating
Since I like real world examples, let’s look at what happens with the rough average US adult diet, which consists of 2,500 calories of which 15 percent is protein, 50 percent carbs and 35 percent fat. In this case you’re burning 185 calories through digestion.
If you maintain your calorie intake but increase your protein intake to 30 percent, drop carbs to 40 percent, and keep fat around 30 percent, and your TEE goes up to 265 calories per day.
You can see how just a minor shift can create quite a difference over time, not to mention you’re fuller and would most likely eat a little less because you’re fuller.
Small hinges swing big doors!
Simple recommendation, add protein to every meal, even if that means just one more meal than what you’ve been doing. How much?
- For most active men: 6-8 palm sized servings of protein per day
- For most active women: 4-6 palm-sized servings per day
And if you like numbers, then focus on 0.75 – 1.0 grams of protein per pound of your bodyweight (if you weight 150 lbs that would mean 113 -150 grams of protein per day).
5. Drink more water
Water does 7 main things in our body, which include: transporting nutrients and oxygen, dissolving, cleaning, reacting, padding and regulating temperature. We’re talking about things we need to live.
I think we can all agree that’s very important.
Talking about all the negative effects of being dehydrated and not drinking enough water on the regular could be a long article in and of itself so I’d rather keep in the context of water for weight loss.
In studies it showed that people who drank 500ml of water before they ate, over the course of 12 weeks, lost 4x more body fat than the ones that didn’t (all other factors being the same).
Water makes you feel fuller, so you eat less, it replaces energy-containing drinks like juice, soda, vitamin water, etc. (people in the US drink 400cal/day on average!). Water may even increase your metabolism (researchers found that you would use 24% more calories for 60 minutes after drinking 500ml – this happens because of changes in osmolarity and brining things back to balance, if knowing geeky things like this tickles your fancy ☺).
So you’ll feel better, feel fuller and boost your metabolism for a while. Make a habit of drinking two cups of water before your meal.
6. Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits
Vegetables are filled with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, water, and fiber to help you fill up during meals, stay full between meals, keep you healthy, and recover from your workouts.
- We recommend 6-8 fist sized servings for active men
- And 4-6 fist sized servings for active women
Maybe you’re far from that but all that really matters that you start doing more than you are now.
What meal could you ad some vegetables and fruits to that you aren’t right now?
By the way, I’m a fan of the 5:1 ratio for veggies and fruits (for instance, if you’re having a salad and adding fruit).
I’m a big fan of positive addictions so one of the ways that I helped incorporate more veggies and fruits in my life, along with coaching clients on this strategy too, is to get a Vitamix (or something similar, you can go with a Magic Bullet or Ninja on the lower end of the price spectrum) and create…
The Super Shake.
Maybe you need a quick breakfast (that’s me!), or an energy replenishing lunch you can eat on your way from the gym, or maybe it’s delicious and filling with protein, fruits, vegetables, packed full of nutrients meal that doesn’t require you to drag it around in a “six pack bag“.
Either one, enter the Super Shake.
Even though this is a point to include more fruits and vegetables in your day, I believe one of the best ways is to do in it in a Super Shake.
So here is the formula… (to download the infographic, click here.)
STEP 1: PICK A LIQUID (4-8 oz is a good start for each serving)
Less liquid = thick shakes
More liquid = thin shakes
- Almond milk (unsweetened)
- Cow’s milk
- Soy milk (unsweetened)
- Hemp milk (unsweetened)
- Iced green tea (or other herbal teas)
STEP 2: PICK A PROTEIN POWDER (25-50 g is a good measure, 1-2 scoops)
- Whey protein
- Casein protein
- Rice protein
- Pea protein
- Hemp protein
- Other proteins or protein blend (I use Greek Yogurt and Cottage Cheese, too)
**Find a protein supplement that tastes good and digests well.
STEP 3: PICK A VEGGIE (1-2 handfuls, raw or roasted)
- Dark leafy greens: Spinach/Swiss chard/Kale
- Pumpkin/sweet potato
- Beets/beet greens
- Powdered greens supplement (I like Onnit’s ENG and/or Athletic Greens brand)
**Spinach works well in any Super Shake since you can barely taste it. Pair canned or roasted pumpkin with vanilla, pair peeled roasted beets with chocolate. If you do celery/cucumber, don’t add as much liquid.
STEP 4: PICK A FRUIT (1-2 handfuls, fresh or frozen fruit)
- Berries (my favorite!)
- Powdered fruit supplement
**Toss in half a banana to give shake a great texture.
STEP 5: PICK A HEALTHY FAT (1-2 thumb sized portions)
- Flax, hemp, chia seeds
- Peanut and nut butters
**When blended well, nuts and seeds offer a nice, rich consistency.
STEP 6: PICK A TOPPER
- Cacao nibs/dark chocolate
- Ice (if using fresh fruit)
**Try cinnamon with vanilla and pumpkin, oats if you need extra carbs, yogurt if you want smoother texture and extra protein. A little toppers goes a long way.
Here’s and example of one I’ve been making for a while now:
- ½ cup of greek yogurt
- 2 thumb sized portions of mixed nuts
- 1 cupped handful of frozen mixed berries
- 1 handful of spinach and 1 scoop Onnit ENG greens drink
- 2 scoops of vanilla whey powder
- 4 ounces of water
Remember that not all the steps are mandatory and you can play around as much as you want (this is great for making with your kids and getting them hooked on Super Smoothies). Don’t want a topper? Leave it out. Want extra veggies? Add them. Want to cut some calories? Reduce portion size. Extra protein? Sure. Have fun with this and make it a “positive addiction“.
Other ways to get more veggies and fruits into your daily meals is by doing things like adding a greens drink that tastes good into your morning routine. The two best quality and tastes for me are Onnit ENG and Athletic Greens. These pack a punch as far as having the daily nutritional needs for active people (like having multiple servings of veggies and fruits, etc.)
I also like making things like Kale chips in batches that last the whole week. They taste great, are easy to make, while they have a lot of nutrients and low calories.
You can see how these are all different habits you can pick from and just add whatever is the most feasible to pull off. Chip away at it little by little rather than trying to add too much at once. Make things enjoyable and fun, do it with the family, or if it’s stressful – outsource. There is no golden rule or something that works for everyone.
7. Make smart carb choices
The fundamental process of digestion is the same, but people differ in their tolerance and handling of carbohydrates. Let’s get something straight though, the carb type plays a very important role.
The American diet consists of a lot of simple sugars and refined carbs (which the body breaks down fast), which may elevate blood triglyceride levels, bad cholesterol, and insulin resistance; something you want to certainly avoid.
What you want to consider is carbohydrates that are digested more slowly, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, which can help control insulin response, energy levels, and body composition. Such unrefined, unprocessed, complex carbohydrate sources may reduce triglycerides, improve cholesterol as well as other benefits like increase vitamin and mineral intake, increased fiber intake, feeling fuller, higher thermic effect of feeding, and blood sugar control.
To break it down and some pointers for carbs…
=> Almost everyone benefits from having carbohydrates in their diet
=> “Smart carbs” are slower digesting, higher fiber, nutrient-rich. These include such foods as:
- Whole grains (e.g. brown rice, wil rice quinoa, buckwheat, etc.)
- Beans and legumes
- Fruits and starchy vegetables (e.g. potatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas and platains, etc.)
=> For most people “low carb” is not ideal (and what is low carb anyway? This differs for different individuals which is why it’s important to assess the persons lifestyle and goals); most people look, feel, perform better with some carbs in their diet, even if they’re trying to lose weight/fat.
=> Not all carbs are created equal; slow digesting, high fiber, nutrient rich “smart carbs” are a great nutritional choice and not the same thing as processed sugars.
=> Have a shopping list of smart carbs you like/love when you go to the store, especially when you’re starting this habit – preparation helps you stay on track.
=> Make sure you’re able to buy, prepare, and have smart carbs on hand, easily available – otherwise it’s easy to slip into having processed, refined, sugary carbs.
=> A good start for an average serving size of every meal is:
- Women: 1 cupped handful per meal
- Men: 1-2 cupped handfuls
You can adjust those later based on need and activity levels.
Like we discussed earlier, it’s not that you shouldn’t eat any processed, sugary carbs. It’s that first you want to get the majority of your nutrients and calories from quality protein, fats, and smart carbs. The last part 5-15% of your calories can come from other things (we talked about this earlier in this post).
8. Eat healthy fats daily
Eating too much fat is still a stigma and something many are afraid of and yet not getting enough “good” fat may also cause health problems.
You need adequate fat to support metabolism, hormone production, the health of body tissues, the immune system, cell signaling, and the absorption of many nutrients (ex: vitamin A, D).
There’s strong evidence to prove it has the benefit of cardiovascular protection, improving body composition, alleviating depression, as well as average evidence in preventing cancer, preserving memory, preserving eye health, reducing incidence of aggressive behavior, ADHD and ADD symptoms.
I’d say that’s more than enough reasons to be serious about it.
Also, getting enough fat will help keep you full between meals.
To keep it simple, get a mix of fat types from whole, unprocessed, high quality foods that include nuts, seeds (hemp, flax, chia, etc.), fish, seaweed, pasture-raised/grass fed animals/eggs, olives, avocado, coconut and cacoa nibs.
Avoid industrially processed, artificially created, and factory farmed foods, which contain unhealthy fats.
When you add this as a habit don’t worry too much about exact percentages and grams but do think about supplementing with algae or fish oil daily. I’d recommend 1-2 grams of algae oil and 3-6 grams of fish oil each day.
Some of the ways I add fat into my daily nutrition is:
- Nut butters and MCT powder into my Super Shake’s
- Fish oil/algae oil with my lunch (in pill form)
- Avocados in my salads and shakes (as well as something I REALLY love – toasted Ezekiel bread with cottage cheese spread covered with avocado, it’s delicious!)
- Flax and chia seeds in my greek yogurt (I’ll also add blueberries and a scoop of vanilla whey protein)
- Goat cheese in my salad
- Whole egg omelets and scrambles
- At least 3 meals a week with fish and a couple with grass fed beef
- Spreading coconut oil on Ezekiel bread when I eat certain meals
There are plenty of great, simple choices to start implementing into your daily routine.
9. Eat to 80% full (eat mindfully)
Eating when hungry and stopping when satisfied is something that nearly all mammals are programmed to do from birth. Yet in the U.S. (and honestly, many more countries now), we tend to “unlearn” this and stop eating when we are “full.” Many cultures discourage this.
In India tradition advises eating until 75% full
In Japan they practice hari hachi bum eating until 80% full.
The Chinese specify eating until 70% full.
The prophet Muhammad described a full belly as 1/3 food, 1/3 liquid, 1/3 air (nothing).
When I’d go to Germany (which I did quite often as its so close to Slovenia and I also played basketball there) they’d say “tie off the sack before it gets completely full” (I’ll refrain from writing this in German ☺).
And countries outside the U.S. emphasize that eating should be pleasurable and done in the company of others. In Slovenia I was raised with this and something I miss as some of my favorite memories are long lunches and/or dinners with family and friends.
These are just some examples. The point is that most people think that stuffed is actually full. When that is really over-eating.
80% full is the new full. Trust me, this will make a huge difference for you.
And we discussed before how dieting and cognitive control of food intake may actually lead to weight gain, disease and disordered eating patterns.
Here are some tips for intuitive/mindful eating (eating to 80% full):
- Slowing down the pace of eating (e.g., break during bites, chewing slowly, etc.).
- Eating away from distractions (e.g., television, books, magazines, work, computer, driving).
- Becoming aware of the body’s hunger and fullness cues and utilizing these cues to guide the decision to begin and end eating as opposed to following a regimented diet plan.
- Choosing to eat food that is both pleasing and nourishing, and using all of the senses while eating.
- Being aware of and reflecting on the effects caused by non-mindful eating (e.g., eating when bored or lonely or sad, eating until overly full).
- Meditation practice as a part of life (if you have followed us you’ll know I’m a big fan of using meditation for “exercising the brain”).
The goal of a meal is to finish feeling:
- Better than when you started
- Able to move on (not think about food until you are hungry again)
- Energy to exercise and stay active
- Mental focus
Eating too much or too little will result in variations of the normal responses mentioned above. This may include:
- Anxiety or jitters
- Low or nervous energy
- Food cravings, even when physically full
- Mentally sluggish
- Heavy gut
- Extremely thirsty
Becoming more aware and mindful of your eating is a conscious habit that you can take on starting today.
10. Take 15 minutes to eat a meal
This habit actually goes in line with the one before since eating slower helps the satiety kick in, and help you feel full before you over-eat.
This is a habit for people that are working to lose weight as they over-eat (if the goal is putting on muscle I’d actually recommend distraction to get extra calories in).
Many studies show that people who eat faster are heavier than people who eat slowly. People who trained themselves to eat more slowly, ate less and lost more weight.
As I mentioned earlier, assessment precedes awareness and awareness precedes change. So time how long it takes you to eat a meal and you could also focus on how many bites you take every minute.
At Vigor Ground we just keep it simple and ask to set a timer for your meals to see how fast you eat and start working toward spending at least 15 minutes finishing a meal.
My friend Nate Green has a great method where after every bite you put the fork down, chew and pick it back up again when you’re finished as this automatically slows you down but also helps you enjoy your food more.
Mindfulness and eating slower go hand-in-hand, start somewhere and pick one of them.
11. Being grateful
You may be giving me a crooked eye for this habit when we’re talking about fat loss and getting lean but hear me out.
I can’t remember where I heard this but it has stuck with me (and I consistently share it with our clients)…
“It’s hard to make good choices when you feel bad.”
When you’re stressed, frustrated, sad, or agitated, isn’t it much harder to go to the gym and eat in line with your goals?
How about when you’re feeling good, are those things much more effortless?
Just like Mike Tyson said “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”; stress, frustration, sadness, etc. are the punches in the face to your plan to stay on point throughout the day.
Gratitude can be an antidote to that, a shortcut to feeling good. You don’t have to wait until all things improve, you can be grateful right now.
Because of this gratitude can make it easier to achieve your body transformation goals.
Gratitude can truly be a shortcut for staying positive and happy with yourself, both of which have been shown to aid in the weight loss process. A 2005 Swedish study showed that participants in a cognitive-therapy treatment program — which encourages positive responses — not only lost more weight than those who didn’t, but also kept it off. Additionally, a 2003 study published in the Journal of The American Dietetic Association, found that when using methods to increase their belief in their ability to reach their goals, participants’ eating habits improved and so did their weight loss.
Gratitude gives you perspective.
How many times have you freaked out about balancing work and family commitments while sticking to what you set out for your fitness and lifestyle goals?
Gratitude pulls you out of the overwhelmed moment and helps you see what’s really important. It helps you focus on the options you have and be thankful for them — even if they aren’t the “perfect kale salad” and your favorite training session at your gym Vigor Ground Fitness.
Then there is also the research that shows people who love their bodies are more intrinsically motivated to work out and eat well. They workout and eat well consistently, and for their lifetime. They have an easier time getting back on their program when they fall off.
People who love their body workout and eat well because they love their body. Hating your body and trying to improve makes it much, much harder on yourself, and is much less effective. Hating your body is correlated with starting and stopping workouts and food programs. It might drive action in the short term, but it stops action in the long term.
Will simply being grateful help you lose ____ lbs?
Not overnight, but yes, it can be one of the driving factors to help you get there. It’s a powerful weapon on your journey.
3 tips for getting more gratitude into your life:
=> At the end the day, or even morning, throughout the day, write out 5 things you’re grateful for in your journal. This really does change how you feel and makes an impact, and even on the crap days you can find five things you’re grateful for. I love the 5 Minute Journal for this.
=> Here we’ll work specifically on relationship with food and to your body and implementing gratitude. Think about how many times you talk to yourself about hating parts of your body, comparing yourself to others, trying to use your body as a tool for acceptance, or being resentful about eating healthy food, feeding negative thoughts of missing out because of not eating crap, justifying being lazy about healthy food, talking about how hard it is to eat healthy, complaining about how healthy food isn’t what you really want, etc.
Enough of that, time to change it. Mostly you have a bunch of really negative preprogrammed thoughts and ideas about food and body image, and we need to purposefully cu ourselves from those and practice new thoughts.
So with your body start by…
Appreciating all your body does, focusing on your favorite body parts, practicing gratitude for your body, being proud of your body, and being inspired by what your body can do. Every day finish your gratitude journal with one thing you really love about your body. It can be anything but really do the work on this one. Think of something. It could be the way you got your hair done that day, or you’re happy you can do a new exercise at the gym, or that you have eyes to watch the beautiful sunset that day. Gratitude about your body is going to become one of the most important disciplines.
When it comes to food start…
Appreciating how healthy food makes you feel, focusing on your favorite healthy foods, being proud of eating in a way that fuels a strong and healthy body, and being inspired by what eating good food does for you. So besides daily tracking write down how you felt – if eating that way made you feel better or worse in terms of things like energy and fullness. You can also journal any other feelings you had about food each day.
One of the things we’ve seen related to this is emotional eating. It’s something that doesn’t get talked about and yet very important in breaking the cycle of over-eating. I shot a video about “12 Steps To Overcoming Emotional Eating” which you can check out below.
=> And finally, if you’re stuck in a moment of stress or frustration, forget the schedule and do what DMX does with a minor tweak…
Stop, drop and (don’t open up shop but) be grateful. This is a tool you can use anywhere.
Growing up DMX was one of favorite rappers who I couldn’t stop myself from referencing
One last thing: Keep in mind that loving/hating your body isn’t totally binary. Everyone has moments and feelings and daily fluctuations in how they feel about everything.
Just think that every time that you add more gratitude and are more loving to your body, you’re adding one little extra charge to your intrinsic motivation battery.
12. Adjust your intake (when you plateau or to prevent it)
As your weight loss progresses, you will need to lower your calorie intake to continue to see progress, as your smaller body will burn fewer calories, and your body is adapting to the changes.
Now, this may not be the case if you’re under-eating and have created metabolic adaptations in which case we’d slowly bring you up closer to where you should be (with calories), and then start brining you back down.
General recommendations here are to adjust portion sizes by removing 1-2 handfuls of carbs and/or 1-2 thumbs of fat from your daily intake. Then re-asses and continue to adjust as needed.
Studies show that most weight loss plateaus have less to do with metabolic adaptations and more to do with sticking to a nutrition plan consistently a.k.a. we usually think we are eating less and exercising more than we usually are.
So start with point #2 – journaling to get an objective view of what’s really going on.
13. It’s complicated
What I’m really saying it’s complex. And with that said it’s not the end of the world.
Reality is that what, why and when we choose to eat are influenced by many different factors.
I know that the Meme’s on social media usually blame being overweight or obese on:
- Lack of knowledge
- Lack of willpower/discipline
In reality, a mix of physiological, psychological, social, economic and lifestyle influences along with individual knowledge and beliefs influences what you eat and how you look.
One of the keys is to create an environment that encourages better food choices and discourages choices that take you away from your goal. This may mean making changes to your daily routine, who you spend time with, where you spend time and what food is available to you (more on environment in the next point).
I’m a fan of steady and relatively slower weight loss that is sustainable and where you can maintain results. Around 0.5-1% of bodyweight per week.
Faster weight loss tends to result in more muscle loss without extra fat loss and creates a bigger adaptive response that we talked about earlier where taking the steadier route maintains muscle mass and minimizes the metabolic response.
14. Change your environment
I mentioned this in a previous point and yet this is so important I’m bringing it up again.
Many times when we bring up the topic of food we realized that the people weren’t succeeding despite “knowing” what to do. You may have read a bunch of books and blogs about what’s the better choice and route to take to achieve your goals and yet you’re not doing it. The problem might not be how much you know…it might be what’s around you.
At Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance we believe that when it comes to making life changes, the importance of “mindset” can’t be taken lightly – it’s actually one of THE most important factors.
Because the way we view the world will influence and shape how we approach problems, struggles and challenges and since this happens consciously and unconsciously (and many of our world views and assumptions are unconscious), it can lead us way from what we want.
For example, if your unconscious thoughts are:
=> I don’t deserve to look and feel great
=> Looking good is for vain people
=> Eating “bad” food makes me feel good
=> I don’t like being social so I’ll stay overweight
=> I don’t want people to notice me
This can be a force that pulls you back and can take time to overcome. Self-awareness and self-analysis is a crucial project that takes time and is on-going. Sometimes it can take months or years to change thoughts about yourself, health and nutrition.
Don’t let the above bring you down as recognizing it is a powerful thing and great start that leads down to the road to success.
But I get it, you want to change NOW so what else can you do other than working on your subconscious beliefs?
Change your environment. I’m talking about…
- The people you are around
- Your daily rituals (routine)
- The resources you have available to you
- The foods and drinks you surround yourself with (or remove)
- The places you go that trigger positive habits
This is another reason why we partnered with Fit Bar Café and put one inside of Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance, as we changed the environment and inserted delicious healthy alternatives for smoothies, snacks, coffee, tea, while encouraging people to make positive changes.
Fit Bar Café inside of Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance
If you know that after a stressful day of work you reach for cookie, ice cream, chips, wine, or whatever else and can’t kick the routine – remove them from the house.
If you keep staying up late and not having quality sleep because of social medial on your computer – block the internet at certain times (yes you can do that).
Not getting enough veggies in? Buy greens drinks/powder, get veggies at the grocery store and bring them home to put in shakes, meals, etc.
Are your friends always taking you out for a burger and some beer? Talk to them about your goals and find other ways to socialize (hikes, you make dinner at your place, other activities that support your goals). Also, look for opportunities to develop new friends [most of our awesome #VigorFamily never knew each other before meeting at Vigor and now they constantly do things together, have fun, support each other, all while moving towards their goals].
Just because you know something and plan for it doesn’t mean it happens.
Control your environment before it controls you.
No matter how much you know the environment will affect you. This has been proven with studies of people eating however big the portion they received was (the bigger the popcorn or meal, people would finish it off regardless. It’s also a culprit of putting on weight – over the years the portion sizes keep getting bigger).
On the other hand, have you ever been stuck on a delayed flight that offers no food? In that moment no matter how much you know about food you’re not getting any.
Environment is your foundation and affects all the other point I talked about above. Check out the pyramid below…
If you look at your body composition change as a pyramid it should look like the above. And yet most people are thinking they should start with the top. Maybe its what the “experts” are telling you but the reality is that is the last piece to happen after the foundation is built. Jumping to the top without a solid foundation can be a recipe for failure and yo-yo dieting.
If you look at the base of the pyramid its built on environment, your kitchen, grocery habits, your rituals, people you surround yourself with.
Changing your thinking IS essential, but changing your environment will get you results much faster.
15. Improving your sleep
I have clients and people from outside of the gym go to great lengths to find out what the most optimal, smart, effective training program, nutrition plan and supplementation is.
I barely ever get asked about how to improve their sleep and sleep quality.
Most people do not know how important sleep REALLY is.
I discovered this by hitting the wall very, very hard after many years of busting my butt working all day, training hard and only getting 3-4 hours of sleep a night and believing that because I was part of #teamnosleep that I was hustling and that it was a badge of honor worth it.
Well, I learned a painful and valuable lesson. It wasn’t!
Sleep is just as important as exercise and nutrition when it comes to improving your health, performance and the way your body looks and feels. It helps our bodies and minds recover, keeping us happy, lean, healthy and mentally focused.
Sleep suffers from a PR problem and desperately needs rebranding. Sleep isn’t sexy. Sleep is a necessary part of life, though most scrape by with as little as possible. Most physicians and public health officials ignore it as a cornerstone of optimal health. Sleep just seems like a no-brainer, so few people have paid attention; until now. It turns out that sleep can make or break your ability to lose weight, prevent cancer, perform at a high level, be happier and improve relationships among other things. ~ Sara Gottfried, MD
If you have chronically bad sleep you can expect for it to screw up your hormones, make you age faster, ad body fat, increase change of illness and drains your IQ and mojo.
Matter of fact studies suggest that people who sleep fewer than 6 hours per night gain almost twice as much weight over a 6-year period as people who sleep 7-8 hours per night (but excessive sleep can be just as bad, just giving you a heads up if you’re smiling because you lay around over 9 hours every day).
Lack of sleep creates a perfect storm for path to obesity:
=> Lowered glucose tolerance
=> Increases sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight)
=> Increased evening and nocturnal cortisol levels
=> Lowered leptin (hunger hormone)
=> Insufficient thyroid stimulating hormone
More time not sleeping means more time to eat.
Less sleep means lower levels of leptin and higher levels of ghrelin, which both stimulate hunger and appetite (people in studies reported higher overall hunger ratings, especially cravings for energy dense, processed foods like sweets, baked goods and bread).
Less sleep doesn’t just potentially mean more body fat thought, it means greater risk of heart attack, stroke, sudden cardiac arrest, than people that get enough snooze time.
Less sleep that leads to weight gain also likely leads to insulin resistance (IR), glucose intolerance and type-2 diabetes.
Then to top it all off, lack of sleep really affects life from a daily function standpoint; your mood, cognition, and memory. It showed that 24 hours without sleep is similar to performing with a blood alcohol level of 0.10%. I can confirm this as when I was sleeping little and working a ton I felt like I was always forgetting things and felt completely out of it.
“People just don’t realize how important sleep is, and what the health consequences are of not getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis…sleep is just as important for overall health as diet and exercise.” ~ Carl Hunt, MD director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the NIH
There is so much research to support the negative effects of lack of quality sleep and I could go on and on about studies.
From personal experience I can say that fixing my sleep patterns was something that helped me more than just about anything in feeling better, getting leaner, improving my energy levels, hormones, mood, and getting my cognitive abilities back to normal.
Sleep debt is cumulative, meaning that the less we sleep over time, the greater the likelihood of negative effects. The great news is that you can catch up with just a few consecutive nights of adequate sleep. Experts say that each hour of sleep debt needs to be repaid eventually.
Ok, so how do you start improving your sleep?
What’s very important is the awareness that lack of sleep usually reflects priorities rather than real constraints. There are so many opportunities to do things other than sleep from…
- Netflix, 24 hour cable TV, etc.
- Internet, e-mail
- Extended work shifts
- Family commitments
- 24 hour shopping
- Staying out late (drinks, caffeine…)
- Phones while in bed
If after reading this you’re worried about your sleep quality and quantity, start by figuring out if you have adequate sleep. I recommend you have a “sleep diary” where you write how much you slept, when you went to sleep, when you woke up, how you feel (rested or tired upon waking, etc.).
Are you getting 7-9 hours each night?
If not, why?
Is it poor sleep hygiene, medications, or another negative habit?
Get to the cause of the problem and start working on eliminating them one by one.
And because this is such an important habit I’m going to give you a list of habits you can work on to improve your sleep.
1. Keep a regular schedule. One of the first crucial steps to improving your sleep is creating a nigh time routine that tells your body that its prepping to go to sleep. When you do this consistently over time, the body will start the process automatically.
Our bodies like a regular schedule so going to bed and waking up at the same time are important. I get it, if you have kids and a busy schedule you may not be able to do that 7 days a week, but work on being as on point as you can. When you’re consistent your body will start releasing calming hormones before bed, and stimulating hormones when you wake up (basically you’ll feel at night and refreshed without an alarm in the am).
2. Keep caffeine and alcohol moderate. Now I wouldn’t tell you to completely eliminate it (I had a bad caffeine addiction and significantly cutting it down changed my sleep) but here’s the truth, the body truly regenerates with deep sleep.
More than 1-2 drinks before sleep can mess up your deep sleep, just as caffeine after 3pm can too. You may feel like alcohol helps to “chill you out” and you’ll sleep for 7 hours, but it won’t high quality or help you recover.
3. Get it all out of your head. If you’re anything like me (and many people we coach) and think about all the things you have to do, and stare at the ceiling, while you get anxious, then try something that has helped me significantly…
In the evening write out a list of to do’s for the next day, e-mails to send, calls to make, projects to finish, ideas, thoughts, and anything you may be struggling with.
Whatever is in that head of your put it on paper (or in an app) – this will clear your mind and help you relax. I like these resources that I use daily now…
- 5 Minute Journal (find it on Amazon)
- LeanKit (LeanKit.com)
- Wunderlist (wunderlist.com)
- The Perfect Day (Google “Craig Ballantyne The Perfect Day”)
4. Do something relaxing before bed. Is there something you know calms you down? Do that.
At Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance we recommend some of these:
– this can be mobility drills, yoga, flow movements, or even just a walk in a relaxing setting. Even just 5-10 mins can calm you down and get rid of tension. I like to do 5-15 minute flows and work on things that are weaknesses, which knocks out two birds with one stone. I’ll put together exercises, check out some you can use below:
=> Meditation, breathing, etc. – I’ve talked a lot about meditation and breathing before and its benefits (for stress and the brain). For now let’s I’d recommend into guided meditation apps like Headspace, Calm, 10% Happier…or just lay down and focus on breathing for 5-10 mins (exhaling fully through the mouth and inhaling through the nose fully).
=> Reading – We’ve all heard reading will put you to sleep. It does help and calm you down (much better than TV) but make sure it’s not too engaging for the brain as it will keep you up. I like to read fiction as it doesn’t make me start thinking about training, business, marketing or giving me too many ideas ☺
5. Get to bed before midnight. The first time I heard this was many years ago from my friend Eric Cressey. I didn’t listen then as I was too much of a workaholic but it caught up with me and then checked out and found out sleep experts every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after.
Not sure if that’s true but I’ve heard enough times from people I respect and trust that there is something to it (pretty much we should snooze when it gets dark and get up when its light).
6. Sleep at least 7 hours. This should be your foundation.
Yes, I have a confession here. While building my businesses and dealing with life and taking on a lot; I slept very little. I almost embarrassed to say how little (3-4 hours average for years). I was able to make a lot of things happen but it also crushed my health and was far from helpful with relationships in my life. I was preaching “the hustle” and when I look back I realize I could have done just as much if not more if I slept and had a clear mind and better health and less stress (because of it).
Some people will shine a light on people like The Rock, Diddy, etc. who sleep very little and get a lot of shit done; but they are Outliers. And I’d have you consider they may do better with some more sleep. I did that for a decade and it took its toll and science and real world results continue to show the affects of lack of sleep.
Back to the subject at hand, if you know you have to wake up at 6am, then you should be in bed by 10:30pm and sleep by 11pm. There’s a transition time in falling asleep, you’re not going to lay down at 10:59pm and be snoozing a minute later.
7. Make working out a part of your lifestyle. I know you saw this one coming ☺ Apart from helping with an incredible amount of other things (one being looking great naked and improving all areas of your life), working out helps normalize circadian rhythms, tone down sympathetic nervous system, and improve endocrine function.
Working out too late may not be the best fit as it can keep you up BUT I recommend that you make it a part of your life whenever you can. Rather than talking about optimal, just find a way to get it in that works for your life right now. Remember, we want to get it started or improve it and not worry about perfect.
8. Shower, bath…or Russian bath house. Ok, so the last one is somewhat a personal preference, which I’ll mention at the end. This may not be your ritual right now but consider taking a warm shower late at night as it can de-stress you and help you fall asleep. If you take a bath throw in some Epsom salts with magnesium as it is known to help with sleep.
For some, including my brother, they like to take cold showers in the evening. The theory behind it is that after the shock of the cold water the body will start a strong parasympathetic nervous system response to help you go into “recovery” mode. It can be short and quick, no need for punishment.
Personally, I go to a Russian bath-house called Banya 5 that is in Seattle a couple of times a week. My ritual there is to hit the hot sauna (very hot), then jump in the cold plunge pool for a couple of minutes, then go upstairs to the chill area and read a chapter. I repeat this 3-4x. Afterwards I sleep like a baby. And it’s the same theory that your body kicks into recovery mode after the high and low temperatures (there are also other health benefits to this).
9. Keep your room as dark as possible. Most people don’t realize their room is quite bright. Melatonin is the hormone produced by your brain that signals that its time to go to sleep. If you’re on screens (white light) and have a light room whether from lights, lights from streets and no blinds, etc. Here’s some things you can do:
=> Dim lights at night an hour before bedtime.
=> Cover windows well and possibly replace blinds for ones that keep room completely dark
=> Put your phone in another room or flip it face down
=> If you use a computer download f.lux software as it changes tone of the screen after sunset and will help with reducing blue light
=> Get a sleep mask. This was a game changer for me and made everything pitch black and there is no discomfort.
10. Make your room/sleep area chill and clutter free. Where you sleep should be peaceful. Let’s just put it this way, if you walk in your room and things are all over the place, you’ll automatically feel some tension and it won’t be the most chill space – which it should be considering you spend a quarter of your life there (minimum).
Spend an hour or two making your room more chill, organized and peaceful (I’m bringing someone in to do it because this has been my weakness).
11. Make your room the right temperature. Experts say the perfect sleep temperature is around 67 F. I like my room cool, while some like it more neutral. Find what works for you and keep the temperature steady each night.
There are more “strategies” but the above are a great foundational start and can really improve your sleep. Make sleep a priority! I spent a lot of time laying out this specific part because it is that important.
16. Do a mix of strength training, cardio, and recovery/fun activities
Strength training helps you build and maintain important muscle mass, burn calories and improve glucose tolerance. Cardio improves health of your cardiovascular system, helps you expend energy, and improves recovery. Most people don’t realize how important cardio is and if you have 50 minutes you can listen to the interview I did on the Vigor Life podcast with the worlds leading cardio expert, my friend, Joel Jamieson:
Just like anything else, you can overdo one or the other.
Recovery work such as foam rolling, mobility, yoga, walking, etc. can help you with the consistency with strength and cardio training, making it more effective, not to mention reducing stress (lowering cortisol) – helping you lose body fat and keeping it off.
Your goal should be 3-5 hours of purposeful activity per week.
One recommendation I give to clients is building an “activity team“. While some people thrive on solo activity, most people find it more motivating to have some kind of “activity relationships” that give them accountability and social support. For instance:
- Walking the dog
- Playing basketball with friends
- Walking or running with a friend or neighbor
- Joining a running, hiking, or other activity group
- Doing activities as a family
- Doing a group fitness class; and
- Joining a result based gym like Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance
When you can build some of those into your life and make them fun and become accountable to a group that offers social support, you’ll become more active, happier and build relationships that support your goals.
When I play basketball I forget that it’s “cardio” or “working
out”, it’s just fun and I enjoy it (and yet it burns hundreds of calories).
17. Find Ways To Increase NEAT
I talked about NEAT earlier in the “calories out” formula, as it represents Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis and its calories you burn through fidgeting, staying upright, and all other physical activities besides purposeful exercise.
Seemingly small, mundane things can compound to make a big difference over time. For instance, get a stand up desk at work, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away from where you are going, walk and listen to a podcast every morning, walking to a place 10 minutes away to get lunch, walking the dog (this one has proven to get people healthier, both because of increased activity, as well as lower stress levels), etc.
Over the course of weeks and months and making any of the above “activities” a part of your day can make a big difference.
I shared 17 skill-sets and we help our clients build to get them sustainable results and take control of their nutrition and body. Looking at that can be overwhelming but in reality all you have to do is pick one at a time and start working on implementing it with consistency before adding the next (trying to take on more than you can chew is a recipe for failure. Pun intended).
Don’t try to boil the ocean all at once.
Remember success comes from “succession”, which means “the next step”. As long as you’re progressing, no matter the size of the steps – you’re winning.
Build on your WINS and build confidence rather than taking on huge or complex tasks and getting frustrated with not succeeding. You’ll be surprised at how small hinges can swing big doors and strategic habit changes can help you transform (and not be overwhelmed with your days, which can happen with complex nutrition changes).
To make things easier and see some of the sequences of how to stack the habits with success, I shot a video that touches on some strategies we use at Vigor Ground to implement from the above habits.
These are some recommendations and templates that have worked for us and that I learned from Josh Hillis (and his book Fat Loss Happens on Monday: Habit Based Diet & Workout Hacks) and yet they are not the end all be all. I say this so you can feel confident in making your own choice in the change, and anything that takes you in the direction of your goals is the RIGHT choice.
This is how it looks like in a simple chart that I used to present in a seminar we did inside of Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance. Depending on what you feel you struggle with most or what you like the most, you’d choose one of the strategies presented below.
I’ll write a little bit about each strategy before presenting the sequence of the strategy.
In this post I’m sharing a lot of choices, it’s not rigid, and you found out why as you’ve read through this post.
I wanted this article to truly help you, essentially coach you the best I can through this writing based on science backed by studies and real world results.
See, we know that when the client comes up with the plan, it massively increases their follow through. Our job as coaches is essentially to consult—to give clients habit choices that work, and coach/guide/support on implementation.
The client – you – get to choose the next step. You’re the expert on what is going to make a difference in your life.
In Self-Determination Theory, autonomy (choice) is one of the three psychological needs people have to motivate themselves. It means you have a feeling of self-directedness; some choice and a feeling of taking actions in line with your values and will.
Randomized controlled trials have shown that autonomy-supportive coaching increased weight loss results at 18 months. On the flip-side, directive coaching (telling people what to do) hindered weight loss results.
This means to be successful long-term YOU have to choose, not someone telling you what to do.
Making a difference is when the client puts together a plan that they can win at for a next/new habit.
So really before you go further, know the process of coaching we’d go through and how you may want to consider approaching this.
- Review last week
- Look into the habit options and choose the one you want to attack (maybe the same one you’ve been on)
- Choose how much of that habit you will do
Assess what was hard for you. Shine a light on what you did well. Ask yourself what you learned about the habit you were working on.
Be real with what you need help with. If you had a great week you may look at a progression. If you had a hard week you may look into a different habit you have more confidence in. If you’re doing well you may also take a week or two more to improve the current habit/skill.
You come up with the plan, for a new action, that you can win at.
That’s you crush the plan—it’s your plan.
That’s how to approach the below strategies and habit sequences. If you’re ready for a coach to guide, support and help you finally win as you know that is what you need, reach out to us HERE.
By The Numbers Strategy
If you’re a number person and you do well with tracking, then this may be the strategy for you. But just like anything else there is a sequence to it. The first sequence includes keeping and reviewing a food journal (whether it’s a written journal or online applications). This journaling is for awareness first and not to judge yourself on where you are. Knowing your current reality is empowering because you can do something about it.
From there you will focus on adding protein to every meal of the day. After that you add reviewing your week to see how you are doing and make adjustments.
This is the first block. The mistake many people make is to give themselves a strict deadline to get this sequence in place. It’s going to be different for everyone and you just want to focus on getting each one of the habits consistent (our recommendation is doing it with 80% consistency before you move on to adding another habit).
Once you are doing the first three habits (that make up of the first sequence) 80% of the time then you can move to sequence number 2, which is made up of the habits: adding healthy fats and quality carbs.
Even just staying consistent with sequence 1 can dramatically change the way you look, feel and perform.
This strategy is one of the most successful ones for most clients because the majority doesn’t prepare food and the result of not being prepared is often going to your default, which in many cases is struggle.
Preparing food especially for times where you usually fall off is a major key (DJ Khaled voice) to success. Preparing, in my eyes, is both prepping your own food as well as ordering meal delivery to stay compliant, or even preparing on going to a different lunch spot that has healthier choices you like.
As you can see in sequence one, the foundation is planning, shopping then cooking, as well as keeping a journal. I’d much rather see someone spend an extra hour and a half shopping and cooking every week than getting in an “extra workout”, which is why you have the suggestion of cooking on a Monday too.
After the first sequence (which you work on until you’re 80% compliant), then you’d address protein per meal, total calories, healthy fats and smart carbs.
These strategies are called habit stacking. Once you have control of one habit we stack another one on top of it. The great thing here is that when you master one habit, many times you’ll unintentionally build other good habits around it.
I’d have you consider that if it took you a whole year to be 80% compliant with the habits in sequence 1 and 2 of this strategy, your body, energy levels, performance, confidence and lifestyle would be completely different.
Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going.
The last thing I’ll add to this strategy is some questions that will help you determine whether the day of preparing was a success and to improve the next one, as well as a structure we use with clients to prepare them for the obstacles (because they will always arise).
The Win One Meal At A Time Strategy
One of my favorite strategies is breaking up the day and focusing on winning just one meal at a time. It can be the meal that is giving you the most issues, or the one that feels the easiest to change (this depends on what doesn’t feel too overwhelming).
If you want to go the route of the “Eat The Frog” approach then working on the most troublesome meal is a good idea.
In the first sequence you see that you’re addressing just breakfast (or whatever meal you choose first in this case), and you plan, shop, and cook for that meal, as well as adding journaling to it.
From there you add the second sequence of adding protein to the meal, tracking calories, then adding healthy fats and smart carbs.
Once again, this is NOT the only way, it’s a sequence that has been tested and works with many clients and gives you a framework. You can choose to attack any habit that will help you get to your goals and that you feel confident in taking on at this point in time.
I love this strategy and many times people want to jump to changing many meals and end up coming back to changing one at a time with much more success and much less stress (which is the goal, right?). Feed your success by knocking out one meal at a time and solidifying that habit.
The Fullness Leads To Fat Loss Strategy
This is a strategy for someone that has issues with hunger signals and knowing when to stop eating. The strategy revolves around habits that help you feel fuller and take control of cravings.
It takes 20 minutes for the physical signals of fullness to reach our brain. That means that if we eat three servings in 15 minutes, we’ll feel uncomfortably full in 20 minutes, but we won’t really notice while we are eating. That’s why the habit of simply slowing down our eating can be so powerful.
The trick with eating slowly is simply how do you do it? If you’ve tried just setting a timer for 15 minutes and then white knuckling it, you know that plan usually doesn’t really work.
This is where it really helps to have a strategy. Here are some tactics our clients at Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance have used successfully:
- Take a sip of water between bites
- Put your fork down between bites
- Don’t take another bite while you still have food in your mouth from the previous bite
- Talk more
- Use a bite timer app
You can be creative from there. I’ve heard some real splicy ones—like eating with your non-dominant hand. It doesn’t matter what strategy you use. The important part is to have a strategy.
As with everything else, we become compliant with one habit, stabilize it and feel confident with it, then move on by stacking on the next one – strategically.
Something that is very helpful here is becoming aware of what foods you eat that makes you full, or that make you hungrier. Also, what times of day you tend to get very hungry, etc. We talked about awareness preceding change and so journaling the below questions can give you a lot of insight into what is happening and what things to change.
Look for a few things in the journal:
- Do I feel more full with meals that have more protein?
- Do I feel more full with healthy fats?
- Do I fell more full when I have lots of vegetables?
- Do I feel more full after quality carbohydrates?
- Do I feel extra hungry when I don’t get protein?
- Do I feel extra hungry when I don’t get healthy fats?
- Do I feel extra hungry after refined carbohydrates?
- Do I feel extra hungry after eating sugar?
- Do I feel extra hungry after drinking juice and soda?
- Do I feel extra hungry after missing a meal or afternoon snack?
The Mindfulness Strategy
The book “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think” goes deep into how we eat much more than we think we do and most of it comes down to environments, distraction, and essentially mindlessly eating, not to mention emotional eating and how we deal with work, stress, and relationships (amongst other things).
This has been a great approach to some of our coaching client’s nutrition and another one where we don’t focus on counting calories and yet see great results.
Just like I mentioned in the above habits section, having a gratitude journal and shifting focus away from comparing and beating yourself up, shining a light on the positives both of your body as well as the food you get to eat to fuel and nourish your body, rather than focusing on what you can’t do and what is wrong.
You can see in this sequence that it has a lot in common with the previous strategy of fullness leads to fat loss. So I’ll piggyback and share some more tactics to help you here:
3 tactics/habits that help you feel full:
- Eat protein
- Eat vegetables
- Pre-portion your meals
I’m sure you may have heard of these before, they’re not rocker science. Thing is in real life, I find most clients still aren’t planning their meals this way. They tend to dabble with mostly carbohydrates for breakfast, and then can’t figure out why they are starving before lunch.
Protein + Vegetables = Low Calorie Fullness
The trick is to plan every meal in that order:
- What protein am I going to have?
- What vegetables am I going to have?
Starting with protein and vegetables is going to massively increase how filling any meal is. You can hit it with some carbohydrates and fat afterwards. Simple and effective, when you approach it that way.
re-portioning your food ahead of time is a “magic secret” for getting the calories right, without having to count them. There’s many ways to do this, we love the handful methods while another option is getting smaller plates and then divide up the plate.
Some of the most popular include:
- A portion of protein: The palm of your hand
- A portion of carbohydrates: Your fist
- A portion of vegetables: Two fists
- A portion of fat: Your thumb
The above is for women, and you’d double it for men. Remember both are rough estimates and you adjust based on activity level, age, muscle mass, etc. – essentially you make adjustments based on assessment.
The plate method usually looks like:
- A portion of protein: ¼ plate
- A portion of carbohydrates: ¼ plate
- A portion of vegetables: ½ plate
- A portion of fat: A tablespoon (or two)
- They usually recommend getting smaller plates
Which method you go with is somewhat irrelevant. It’s about starting to pay attention to the portions you serve yourself and being mindful of how you eat.
So you can see how you can take different approaches based on what works for you. You get to choose your adventure while sticking to the principles of building on habits/skill sets.
One thing I like for our clients to do is fill out a behavior map when they choose a “next habit” or sequence of habits. This way they (and you) can create a action plan for ______ weeks/months.
With this type of structure:
- You know what you need to do right now. They can focus on what is immediately in front of them: doing your single assigned task, today.
- You know why you’re doing each behavior, but you’re not overwhelmed by the information.
- Both you and your coach (if you have one) know clearly what needs to be “done” and how to track progress and consistency.
- If someone is keeping you accountable (coach or support group), they know what’s coming next.
- All the behaviors support the goal.
Behavior Map: What do I want to do ________
I know, I know, an example would be nice. Good thing I prepared one for you ☺
Behavior Map: What do I want to do – Get Leaner (Lose Fat)
I gave 3 examples of habits with a goal and you can see how that looks like in the behavior map.
Doing this doesn’t just give you some random work; it creates a path and a plan as I mentioned before – without a path and a plan the default is struggle (which usually leads you back to why you were frustrated with results in the first place).
Transforming your body for good is a science and an art but remember at the end of the day, it’s not about “white knuckling” your way to results.
It’s not about will power, it’s about skill-power.
With that said, one of my favorite quotes truly defines the foundation of success and excellence:
“We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle
I realize that I started writing this blog post last year and forgot about it, remembered again, kept coming back to write more and more until finishing it (I started by saying to myself it will be a 3,000 word blog – so much for that). The reality is that I thought about sitting across from you and coaching you so that is why I kept adding things as I’m really passionate about helping people transform for good.
Here’s the reality. Some people start showing up and doing the things above, some even memorize shopping lists, calorie counts, and meal-plans.
Despite all of that, they sometimes don’t get the results they’re looking for.
Some believe that pushing harder during the workouts, eating less food, doing more cardio, cycling calories, finding better supplements is the way. They do some of that and get frustrated because things don’t change.
People say the only logical explanation is that they are lying about what they are doing or they may think its genetics and they can’t change.
Some people never get as far as putting in all that work at all.
Some people show up for workouts but never listen to any advice about habit and lifestyle change.
Why do I bring this up? I’m not judging, far from it. As a matter of fact, I’ve found this to be normal and something I’ve gone through in different areas of my life.
I don’t see us as just educators, we’re coaches. While some people throw their hands up at “people like that” and there’s places that will say they gave the client all the info and then it’s on them to do the rest. Right?
Well, not exactly.
Over the last 10 years we’ve coached over 2,600 clients to transformations and take control of their body – inside the walls of Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance (that doesn’t count our location in Slovenia, which would put us well over 5,500 clients).
We’ve also spent immeasurable hours learning subjects that traditionally go beyond the boundaries of exercise and nutrition, such as change psychology, environments, coaching theory, neuroscience, social and emotional behaviors.
After working with all these clients and tracking their progress, learning lessons, getting introspection, while using the latest exercise, nutrition, and coaching strategies backed by science and results, we have come to a conclusion.
Helping clients change – using the best applications of behavior change – is the only way to have long term success.
Real world coaching and change requires a mix of physiology and psychology. The latter being more important of the two.
For most clients their biggest stumbling block is compliance: the ability to do what they know they should do. Understanding how to help them overcome their limiting factors is the most important skill and that’s what we do at Vigor Ground.
I hope the value in this post helps you move forward, make change and see results.
If you feel like you’re finally ready to make a change and you know that a coach with knowledge, experience, and most importantly one that gives a damn (and has the results to prove it) can help support and guide you, understands and listens to you, and is by your side till you get to your goal, then fill out the application form below by clicking on the banner picture or HERE.
Although I may not greet you in a suit, I’ll certainly greet you with a smile and excited to help you finally achieve the body transformation you deserve.
P.S. If you’d like to see me speaking on some of the above topics and digging deeper into the mindset of transformation as well as the science of fat loss, then I’d like to share two of my live seminars from Vigor Ground below.