How many times have you tried to get rid of that stubborn fat around your waist or other areas of your body? Many people, even clients of mine before hiring me would find a diet they think will help them, jump into it with the biggest commitment, change all habits, restrict numerous foods and see results. At least at the beginning. Then as their motivation fades or life comes into play they start slacking, the process plateaus or even worse and they give up and fall back into their old habits.
A meta-analysis of 26 obesity and weight loss related studies and researches on PubMed concluded that there isn’t one single diet solution for weight management and fat loss. Literature recommends low-carb, low-GI and moderate fat consumption but it’s still not proven that they prevent weight gain. On the other hand, they suggest that the key to fat loss is keeping a calorie deficit, in other words to eat fewer calories than your body burns.
This shows how much the “diet” industry is making up when talking science so you would choose their product or method. I believe that if you’re looking for a long-term change and would like to become leaner, fitter and also healthier for the rest of your life, you need a better strategy than a short-term, way too much restrictive diet that you won’t be able to maintain. Here are 5 steps to stay consistent with your fat loss.
1. One change at a time in small steps
How long did it take to build your current habits? It doesn’t matter that they weren’t the result of conscious decisions but if you’ve been practicing unhealthy habits for years, even decades, be patient to yourself. It will take longer than 6 weeks to replace those habits with ones that will promote fat loss and health.
So, set the goal, figure out what changes you need to make to achieve it and write them all down to create a list. Organize them into priority order depending on which change will make the biggest impact on your life. Start with #1 and if it still seems too big of a change, break it down into smaller steps. Progress from there till you worked your way through your list.
Example: Do you need to increase your water consumption? Try having one extra glass every day for a few days, once it’s not a chore to do it, increase by one more and so on until you drink the desired amount without having to force yourself.
2. Cook for yourself
Everybody has a different level of confidence in the kitchen. If you have never cooked for anybody, or just not fond of it, this might be the hardest to master. Refer back to step 1 and take it in small steps. The benefit of making your own meals are:
If you always eat out or someone else is cooking for you, start small. Pick your favorite meal, find a recipe and on a day when you have a few hours, make it for yourself. If you cook more than one portion, box the leftover and take them with you for lunch in the week or your dinner is sorted for one or two nights in.
3. Get into food prep
This is a step up from cooking your meals: organized planning and cooking for a few days or a week ahead. Once you became confident in cooking, dedicate an hour every week to create your meal plan. The best is to tie it in with other scheduling habits around work, so you can create your weekly plan for work and for your meals at the same time.
Look at your schedule ahead and decide what a realistic approach is in terms of food. Wherever possible, have a home-made meal, if you know in advance that you’ll be out all day, take your food with you in a Tupperware box. You can even buy specific backpacks and shoulder bags to accommodate a number of meals so you don’t need to think about it, just eat when the time is right.
4. Stay consistent with your habits
This is one of the most important steps. Consistency wins over perfection over time. It’s better if you can maintain 90% (or 85%, whatever works for you) for the rest of your life than burning at 100% for a few weeks and falling back to as low as 40% for another four weeks.
Be realistic. What are the foods you like and you think you couldn’t live your life not having them? Eat those, just make sure you have them in the right portion sizes and frequency. Focusing on portion sizes and healthier macronutrient ratios will already make an impact on fat loss. Once you mastered the basic habits, you can start working on cleaning your meals, finding new ingredients you like and you will realize how a balanced diet can support your training goals.
5. Never underestimate the power of sleep
Any positive changes you make to your lifestyle will be pointless if you only get 4-6 hours of sleep on average. Sleep is the most undervalued lifestyle habit and has a very important role in our lives, especially if your goal is to lose fat. All recovery processes are being done while you’re asleep. That’s when your body builds your muscles, anything you learnt during the day will be engraved at night while asleep too.
When you are sleep deprived your body may struggle with glucose metabolism and can alter the hormones involved in regulating your metabolism: leptin levels decrease, gherlin levels increase. This means you will be more likely to have cravings and feel hungrier, not to mention you can become more irritable. Make sure you get 8 hours of sleep every night and make it a priority above all other habits.
These are the 5 initial steps I take all my transformation clients through when they start with me. Some people need longer time, others can progress faster. The pace depends fully on you and on your goals.
If your plan is to prep for a competition, we’ll dig into the nitty gritty straight away, but if the goal is to reveal those muscles and build a healthier life we’ll take the journey at your pace.
Have you got questions on any of the above steps? Feel free to get in touch!
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Tobias Young is an IFBB pro and top tier online fitness coach with over 19 years of fitness industry experience.