Eat less, exercise more.
Try High Intensity Interval Training.
Join a Crossfit gym.
Do a sugar detox!
Eat real food.
Cardio makes you fat!
There is no shortage of fat loss tips like these that you can find on the internet and in popular magazines and diet books. Unfortunately many of these tips aren’t practical, are overly simplistic or just flat out wrong. Many don’t take into account common struggles many of us face on a day-to-day basis. Furthermore, when this advice is written by health and fitness celebrities, these tips may be divorced from the daily realities many of us face.
With that said, here are some unconventional fat-loss tips that I suggest following for sustainable health and wellness. Some of them may not be sexy (and therefore won’t show up in a trendy meme on the internet anytime soon) and it may not necessarily be what you want to hear, but….
this is what individuals need to hear on a more consistent basis.
1. Exercise probably isn’t your biggest limiting factor
Finding your biggest limiting factor is key in making positive steps in getting closer to your goal. As counterintuitive as this may sound, exercise probably isn’t your biggest limiting factor if fat loss is your goal. If I had to take an educated guess, most people who be wise to clean up their diet and mental health first. Your mindset (how you approach health and yourself) is key in making sustainable changes, gaining better mental clarity, and in turn, setting realistic goals for yourself. Once you’re clear on where you would like to go and have the right mindset moving forward, then it is a good idea to put nutrition next because that will fuel not only your workouts but life as well. Mindset and in turn behavior change is the cornerstone of making sustainable changes. Simply put, you can’t outwork a bad mindset and diet. You can certainly make physical changes (i.e. lose body fat) with a bad mindset and diet, but more often than not they simply aren’t sustainable.
2. Chronic stress is a MAJOR problem
Stress doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Chronic stress has major effects on all aspects of your health. For instance, exercise is an acute (short-term) stress on the body. If you are chronically stressed out most of the day, your body thinks you are exercising, even though you aren’t physically exerting yourself at the gym. Guess what happens when you go to the gym and start working out? You are already tired and worn out from the ‘exercise’ your brain has been doing the other 23 hours of the day. It’s very possible your resting metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn calories throughout the day) will be depressed too because anytime the body is under chronic stress, your body slows down (slows calorie burning) because it thinks your life is in danger and wants to save energy (calories) even though you may want to burn it.
Some ideas to help control stress…
- Practice meditation/mindfulness
- Join a yoga or pilates class.
- Walk and hike more (bonus: walk or hike in the woods!)
- Don’t restrict foods you enjoy and aren’t allergic to
- Get social with people who share similar goals as you
- Surround yourself with supportive friends
3. Sleep matters a lot and has a profound effect on fat loss.
If you are having trouble getting at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night, start taking action now, or you fat loss efforts may suffer. Some ideas to get you started if you have trouble falling and staying asleep….
- Eliminate caffeine after 3pm.
- Sleep in a pitch black room (consider eye shades to help with this)
- If you have a partner that snores get ear plugs or have them try nose strips (or push them overboard 🙂
- Go to bed at a consistent time and wake up at a consistent time (i.e. sleep from 10:30 – 6:30am each night)
- Dinner should satisfy you and not have you craving food into the evening, which may affect stress levels and sleep quality (getting adequate protein is a good start)
4. Don’t restrict foods
It’s pretty popular to restrict foods that contain added sugar, gluten, grains, dairy etc. While certain people who are allergic to ingredients like gluten or dairy will need to eliminate them from their diet, most people do not. Any time you unnecessarily restrict a food you enjoy you could quite possibly be setting yourself up for failure in the long run. Yes, there are countless testimonies of people ‘successfully’ losing weight and feeling great on various diets, but those testimonies are just a snapshot in time. They don’t take into account the long-term effects and whether or not that person actually sustained that lifestyle beyond the arbitrary amount of days the diet lasted. Finally, the more you restrict foods you enjoy, the more likely you will crave them. While you may be able to hold out for a while (30 days for instance) ask yourself what your diet will look like on day 31? Day 60? Day 365?
5. Drink more water
It’s popular for health gurus to tell you what not to do eat and drink, but I like to flip this script and tell people what to eat and drink. For starters, start drinking more water. Water plays a vital role in your body and may help with staying satiated (feeling full). Next time you are craving a certain food, drink a tall glass of water FIRST. Give it about 20 minutes and see if you still crave that same food. This isn’t a fool proof way to beat cravings, but is a good start. Furthermore, next time you drink a calorie dense beverage, drink an equal amount of water in ounces BEFORE your drink. Add a lemon (or other fruit) to the water to make it more interesting!
Some individuals will feel overwhelmed about where to start with this list. In this instance simply pick one of the above tips and follow it for a month. It won’t necessarily ‘shed’ and ‘melt’ fat away, but it is a great way to start. Once you are comfortable you can move on and start applying more of these tips as you move forward and evaluate how you feel.
Stay tuned for the next blog post where I dive into more unconventional fat loss tips! your mind will be blown!