Making big changes to your body is sometimes confusing, but it doesn’t need to be. If you want to lose fat and keep it off or add lean muscle, there are a number of things that you just have to do.
#1 Drop the Excuses
You know the saying, ‘Excuses are like arseholes, everyone’s got one and they’re all full of shit’. If you say you can’t get a session in then something had better be on fire.
Saying and believing that you can’t do something is defining your limitations and if you argue hard enough for them then you will have those limitations.
Say what you mean. Can’t means you cannot. Won’t means you will not. Watch what you say and you’ll realize that most of the time it’s not fate that’s stopping you, it’s you. Surround yourself with the best kind of people, those who will let you know when you’re just whining and tell you to get on with it. Peer pressure can be a force for good, too.
#2 ABC – Always Be Counting
Fat loss comes from eating less, strength comes from lifting more. You absolutely must quantify what you’re doing or you’re wasting your time. What gets measured, gets managed.
Record the calorie contents of your favourite meals. We are creatures of habit. You probably don’t eat more than 20 different meals in a year outside of restaurants. It’s probably significantly less than 20. Once you know what’s in a meal, you can scale the calorie content. You don’t need to count them again.
Record Your Training
If you want to get stronger then you need to do more reps, more weight, more sets or more something. How are you going to do that if you can’t remember what your last workout looked like? Write out your sessions and write out your sets as you do them. Better still, get a programme and start crossing off sets or writing in your numbers as you go.
#3 Do More
If you’re doing nothing in the way of exercise, you should do something. It can be anything. If you’re doing a little bit of something then do a little more. Often we get caught up thinking that we need the perfect programme to improve ourselves. What you need is to improve on what you’re doing right now.
- If you do nothing then go for a half hour walk each day.
- If you walk, go for a run a few times per week.
- If you walk and run and want more, try bodyweight exercises.
- If you still want more, join a gym and definitely sign up for coaching with me. It’s 100% guaranteed and ridiculously good value for money.
#4 Take Pictures
Progress photographs are just about the best way to measure your improvements or lack thereof. Every two weeks, take a picture of yourself from the front, back and one (or both) side(s). Wear as little as possible for your photos so you can track changes more easily.
Scales are useful. Progress pictures are powerful. You can lie to yourself about a number, “It’s just water weight” or “I gained ten pounds but I’m sure six of them are muscle!”. When you see a picture of yourself that looks more flabby when next to last months photo, you recognize it and you take action. It’s like they say, the camera doesn’t lie! (Well it didn’t until instagram)
Make sure your posture is similar from picture to picture. If your posture is crappy, that doesn’t mean that you have to go back into bad posture in the future when your posture is better, just that you shouldn’t tense in one and not in another. Similarly you shouldn’t slump your shoulders in one and hold them back in another. You’re looking for an objective comparison so aim to start and continue in a neutral, relaxed posture.
#5 Eat Real Food
You can get fat from eating a diet of good foods but it is harder to do. If your diet contains lots of vegetables and protein sources, you are much less likely to be fat. Fibre and protein will keep hunger locked up much better than a bowl of shreddies. You’ll also get more essential fats, more minerals, more vitamins, more fibre, better health, better skin and you’ll feel better too.
Buy The Right Foods
The first thing you need to do is buy real food, I can’t emphasize this enough. Buying the food you need is the logical first step because you can’t eat the food you didn’t buy. Exercise your willpower in the supermarket once so you don’t need to use it every day in the kitchen.
Fill your basket with chicken, turkey, lean beef, eggs, fish, cottage cheese, rocket leaves, rice, egg noodles, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, onions, peanuts. See if you can fail to lose weight now.
Get rid of all but your favourite junk food. Food is something to be enjoyed but most of us eat unhealthy foods that really aren’t worth it. Learn How To Eat!
Learn to cook!
Cooking doesn’t have to be hard. In fact most of it is stupidly easy. Egg noodles take 4 minutes to cook. Tomatoes take less. Rocket gives you a good tasting salad straight out of the bag. Cottage cheese can be used as a snack or as part of a meal with zero preparation. Even the meats don’t take that long. Fast food can be good food.
#6 Learn From Failure
No matter how good you are, you’re going to mess up from time to time. You have two ways in which you can respond to this little drama.
Option one is for you to dwell on your shortcomings while eating a pie, two tubs or ice cream and a 5 pack of bagels (I exaggerate for effect).
Option two is to look at what went wrong, learn from it and decrease the chances of it happening in the future. Make a note of the circumstances and why you feel you made the decision to go off track.
Failure is a vital part of the learning process so don’t fear it. Guilt and self-pity are not productive, pick yourself up and move on.
#7 Play Your Cards Well
We have better circumstances than some and worse circumstances than others. That’s life. There are some circumstances that make fat loss a lot more difficult such as a sedentary job, overweight peers who see it as normal, lack of control over our diet or injuries that prevent exercise. All of these things may be disadvantages but they will only stop you if you let them.
Health problems do not care what your back story is. Neither does anyone around you. Whether you’re gaining weight because you’re working your butt off at work or because you sit at home watching Jeremy Kyle and eating crisps, it doesn’t matter. Do the best you can with what you have right now. Play the cards you’re dealt.
#8 Define Your Priorities
Define your priorities to make everything else a ton easier. Often we have too many things battling for our attention and we have no way to organise it all. Taking the time to prioritise certain areas of your life and allocate time to the most important will give you a real sense of clarity to how you spend your time each day. For more on this check out How To Live a Non-Stop Life Without Burning Out.
#9 Define Your Goals
Goals are good, they provide direction. Have a general outcome-based goal such as ‘ I want to lose 2kg in the next 8 weeks’ but also have process goals that you have complete control over, such as ‘I will eat vegetables and a lean protein at each meal and I won’t snack in between meals’.
I could have the goal that 100% of UHP members get great results (I actually do have that goal) but I don’t have complete control over it, it’s a performance goal. What I do have complete control over is the process, I can provide the best programmes and approaches for each person, teach them the skills they need to develop and give them the support and motivation they need. By achieving my process goal consistently I can strongly influence the outcome of my performance goal. I can’t control it completely but I can stack the odds in favour of success.
By developing the right habits and doing the right things in the process, you will find that your performance goals are more easily achieved.
#10 Cut Out Liquid Calories (For Fat Loss)
Sugary drinks like coke and orange juice have two characteristics that make them bad for losing fat. They are full of calories and they are easy to consume in large amounts. If you’re serious about losing fat then this is something that you’re just doing to have to do. Switch to diet drinks or water while you are losing fat. This is standard practice for fat loss. Protein shakes are an exception, and isotonic drinks maybe be another in the case of an endurance athlete trying to lose fat without their performance suffering but not for the majority.
Alcoholic drinks should be enjoyed in moderation. A few beers at the end of the day can literally undo your days work if unless you have a large calorie deficit. Even if you’re still at a slight deficit, you’re going from fast results to slow results for those beers. I’ve got nothing against alcohol in any other sense but when you’re losing fat, moderate your intake.
Caramel lattes and other high calorie coffee beverages are out too. If you have one of these every day and you cut it out for your diet, you may lose about half a pound each week from just that change!
#11 Spend Less Time Sitting In Traffic
If you don’t need to drive to work, then I strongly advise that you cycle or walk instead. This is a major factor in activity level and a predictor of how fat you’re going to get if left to your own devices. If you work a desk job, you could spend up to 12 hours a day sitting down. Add this to the 6-8 hours you spend lying down and perhaps another few spent in front of the TV. It’s not ideal for any measure of health.
If you can break the chain of inactivity, it will do you the world of good. If you live a few miles from where you work then you could burn up to half a kilogram per week just from your commute. In some areas it may even get you to work faster. One the biggest benefits to getting your blood flowing before going to work is that you’ll be on the ball when you get there. If you’ve just got out of a car then you’re likely to be more sluggish as you get started on the work day ahead of you.
#12 Lift Weights
If you want to get bigger and more muscular then I’ll assume you’re already doing this but if you’re trying to lose fat then you should also do this. It helps your body to build and maintain muscle which gives your body a more toned look.
#13 Do What You Want To Do
If you don’t like running then it’s a fair bet that your running programme isn’t going to last very long, If you’re forced to do it, there’s a fair chance you’ll stop as soon as the opportunity arises. Sometimes you have to do things that you don’t like but if you don’t have to, then why do it?
If you don’t like bodybuilding routines for retaining muscle while dieting but you really want to try olympic lifting, try olympic lifting! Enjoying exercise is really one of the greatest things you can have going for you. You not going to have that battle without yourself every time it’s time to go to the gym if you enjoy it. You’re going to be looking forward to it. It’s going to make you happy and it’s going to become a part of you.
#14 Celebrate Success
Life is too short not to celebrate our successes and positive reinforcement is too strong for us to not take advantage of. This is something that is often lacking in hard-working individuals. Some of us just need a kick up the arse to get things done, others work hard but find themselves lacking motivation after some time.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with rewarding yourself for your achievements. Perhaps a new pair of jeans or shirt. This works in the same way as when you give a dog a treat for good behaviour except you are both the dog and the owner.
Your ideal body is the real reward but you might as well get some new clothes to show it off.
#15 Buy Decent Supplements
Supplements can help with your fitness goals. Most don’t provide anything for that food can’t, but they provide what food provides in a more convenient form for those who are on the move a lot. I use them, UHP members use them. I don’t remember what it’s like to not be busy, I don’t think many people do. Given that you can get the protein products at a similar price to food sources and they’re very convenient, I’d definitely recommend at least trying out supplementation.
If you’re gaining weight, buy some creatine. It’s cheap and about as good as supplements get so go and buy some. Plus, you can’t get decent amounts of creatine from food sources.
As for the best place to get supplements, I’ve used myprotein for about 8 years and I’ve recommended them for almost that long as I know of nowhere else to provide the value that they do.
#16 Network With Others
This is something that is important for long-term results. We become the company that we keep so surround yourself with people with similar ambitions to yourself and reduce the amount of time you spend with people who engage in activities that are detrimental to your efforts. This isn’t looking down your nose at others, I can’t emphasize that enough. It also doesn’t mean that you never hang around with people who see things differently but if your friends persuade you into going out drinking every weekend and missing your gym sessions and play down the importance of your goal then they are likely going to have a detrimental effect to your success. You will have to exercise strength and willpower around them to avoid slipping into bad habits.
On the other hand, you will gain strength and willpower by learning from people who are further along the path than you are. Their good habits will rub off on you and they will probably help to keep you accountable too. This is one of the reasons that having coaches, trainers and fitness communities is so helpful. Not only do you learn consciously, but you subconsciously emulate a number of subtle behaviours that do you a lot of good in the long run.
Chances are that you have a friend who loves the gym and trains a lot. Ask them if you could be their training partner for a while. The chances are that they would enjoy the company and the chance to share their knowledge and you would benefit greatly from being taught and motivated by them.
Join a fitness community. The are hundreds, if not thousands of online fitness communities ranging from open forums to paid personalised services. You can join some of them anonymously if you’re not yet comfortable with sharing your efforts with others and many people are very kind and generous in sharing their knowledge and encouragement with others. I personally help out www.fitnessandlifestyle.co.uk when I have time to but there are many others too.
#17 Commit to improvement
I want to leave you with something that can really help you commit to improvement. It doesn’t cost much and it works.
Buy a big annual calendar and cross off every day that you do something to improve your health and fitness level. Whether it is sticking to your diet or getting in your session for that day.
Your first target is to get 5 crosses in a row, then 10 and then a whole month and then next month and next month and just don’t stop. Commit to improvement to get the results you always wanted.
Do you have any good tips? Let me know in the comments section!