by John Stone, Personal Trainer
It’s that time of year again, when people flock to the gym and clean out the diet aisle of the nearest supplement stores. The holidays are past us, and the foods and drinks we indulged in over the past few months have taken a toll on our waist, our blood pressure and our wardrobe.
For many people, making the resolution to lose weight can be a challenging struggle. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed by the endless stream of dieting info and tips on the internet and around the water cooler at work, or at the gym. Sometimes, the most effective solution to a problem is the simplest one, and that’s why we are going to share with you the top three secrets to dieting success in the new year. Take these three proven, and effective tips to heart and you’ll be ready for swimsuit season in short order.
1. Throw away your scale!
At the very least tuck it away right after you place a note on it that says “don’t use for 30 days from now!”. One of the easiest ways to get frustrated and burn out on a diet is to watch the scale too closely. There are a few reasons why using a scale to measure your progress is a lesson in futility. First of all, our bodies are made of 70% water. A slight change in the food we eat or the hormones in our body can throw off our water balance and add or subtract several pounds of water! Secondly, using the scale to monitor progress shifts the focus away from losing FAT and instead focuses purely on WEIGHT. The problem is, muscle weighs quite a bit, and starving yourself on a diet is a sure-fire way to burn precious muscle tissue. So you may step on the scale and notice you have lost five pounds, but how much of that is fat and how much is water and or muscle? Plus, it can simply be a frustrating experience checking your weight several times a week. It is like watching water boil.
You will be much better off scheduling your weigh-ins at 30 day intervals. That’s a long stretch, but we have a tool that will help you track your progress as you move forward toward your goal. That tool is a simple tape measure. The kind of tape measure you need is one used for tailoring and sewing clothing. They are cheap and incredibly effective at helping you to track your changes. It’s best to have a friend assist you with this step because it can be a bit tricky. Simply measure your waist, right across your belly button, your hips (at the widest point) and measure your chest (this is where that friend or family member will come in handy but it can be done solo with a bit of practice).
If you’d like to step things up a bit, head to your gym and ask a trainer to do a body fat assessment. There is a caveat to this, and the most important one is that you use the exact same trainer each time you measure. Every person tends to have their own unique, but consistent methods and applications. Seeing the same trainer each time will ensure consistency each time. And remember, what matters most is not the actual number, but the change in that number. Don’t be frustrated if your body fat is high, simply measure your progress every two weeks and you will be surprised how quickly the changes happen!
Also, save your money on those expensive bodyfat calculator scales they sell for a mint. The science just hasn’t caught up with the demand yet, and the variations in those numbers can be obscene. Simply use a measuring tape or find a qualified trainer who can use calipers to more accurately measure your body fat.
2. Don’t be afraid of Fat!
While many of us look in the mirror and see ugly fat deposits in not so flattering places on our bodies, what we fail to realize is, from a nutritional standpoint, fat is a perfectly acceptable form of energy, and is essential to our survival. Consuming fats during a diet, at the right times, in the right amount and mixed with protein and fiber, will lead to greater feelings of fullness, and can even promote fat loss!
Coconut Oil for instance, is loaded with Medium Chain Triglycerides, which is a special form of saturated fat. It’s unique in that the body will prefer to burn MCT’s as energy rather than store it as fat. Other fats, such as Omega-3’s, are essential not only to the success of your diet, but your long term health and vitality as well!
So what should you try to avoid during a diet in order to transform that belly into a six-pack? Recent scientific evidence is pointing back to a realization that people actually had a long time ago, before the anti-cholesterol myth surfaced in the mid 1900’s. Sugar is by far a bigger promoter of fat storage than fat itself! And sugars can take many different forms. They can be in our condiments like Ketchup, we can consume too many sugary fruits (a few servings of citrus fruit everyday is awesome, however), and we can also consume too many processed grains and starches, causing a huge spike in Insulin, which is the primary fat-storage hormone. Eating less sugar and starch will also even out your appetite, due to steadier blood sugar levels. And don’t be seduced into believing that just because something is whole grain, that it is free from the metabolic consequences of any other sugar source. The bottom line is that if it doesn’t look like a seed anymore, it isn’t truly whole grain!
3. Move your body!
Many people make a commitment to eating right and losing weight during the new year. One of the best ways you can maximize your diet efforts is to engage in physical exercise at least three times a week for at least 60 minutes at a time. But if you have a really busy schedule that doesn’t permit you to get that 60 minutes in at one time, don’t just throw away your gym membership! Many people are finding that brief but intense 30 minute workouts done more often throughout the week, are just as effective as a few 60 minute workouts.
There is no way to train yourself out of a bad diet. In other words, if you are overeating and you are eating foods that promote fat gain, then all the exercise in the world will not undo that damage. But what physical exercise does is very crucial to the success of any diet. It primes the muscles to soak up extra calories and store them as glycogen(stored sugar) rather than fat. It also helps to maintain muscle tissue, so as you melt away pounds of fat, you will be left with a lean and beautiful body, rather than a soft but smaller, skinny-fat type of frame.
Last but not least, try and find something you ENJOY doing! Science has discovered that regular aerobic exercise greatly increases certain chemicals in the brain that alleviate depression and heal the brain from stressful events. But the key, the researchers found, is that the exercise has to be voluntary. Researchers forced mice to run in an exercise wheel and then allowed another set of mice to do it when they wanted to. The mice that were forced to exercise, even though they got just as much exercise as the mice that chose when to exercise, had little to no increases in those precious brain chemicals! So make physical fitness fun, find something you enjoy and make it a part of your routine that is pleasurable, even if it means getting over the initial hump of pain and discomfort that usually comes with beginning a new physical fitness program. Better yet, find a friend to train with and make it something that you both always look forward to!
As we move forward over the next few months, it can be really easy to get sidetracked by life, give in to indulgences from coworkers or family members, and it can be particularly difficult to stay with what you are doing long enough to let it work. Instead of just jumping to the next piece of advice you read on the internet, or see on the local news, we urge you to bookmark this article and come back to read it every time you need a reminder that sometimes the simplest of solutions can bring the most results!
John Stone is a certified personal trainer by the American Fitness and Aerobics Association with an extensive knowledge of health supplements, diet and nutrition, as well as hormone replacement and ergogenic aids. He is the author of the blog Metabolic Alchemy, and a regular contributor on several popular discussion forums. You can contact John Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.metabolicalchemy.com to read more information on tips and tricks to enhance your metabolism and outsmart your genetic code.