The Seven Rules of Fat Loss
If burning fat – or losing weight, leaning (or ‘toning’) out, gaining muscle, going ‘on a diet’, or achieving a particular body fat percentage – is one of your New Year’s resolutions, then this post is for you. It’s designed to make your journey enjoyable so that you arrive at your destination painlessly – in a kind of ‘Whoa! Here already?! Yeah baby!’
The post itself was inspired by an article that once appeared at heyjoob.com, a blog written by my friend Juliet that died two years ago (the blog did, she’s very much alive and kicking). I didn’t save the article but I hope she did so I can share it with you guys because I remember loving its basic premise, particularly in relation to Rule 7 below.
So yeah. I hope you find this post helpful in sailing through 2015 and destroying those resolutions with the power and vigour of a bona fide superhero!
For there to be fat loss, there must be a caloric deficit involved. You can’t burn fat if you’re eating more than you’re burning – it’s that simple. But to achieve actual lasting fat loss (as opposed to general weight loss which includes muscle loss) you need to deficit smartly. You can’t, for example, just go on a massive caloric deficit and expect that to be sustainable or in any way conducive to you feeling and performing your best. To me, non-aggressive deficits are the way to go (i.a. slow and steady) because they’re easier to carry out and more compatible with maintaining an active lifestyle while still enjoying a satisfying volume of food. They’re also far less likely to impinge on one’s social life and overall sense of wellbeing. How much of a deficit you need, of course, depends on your individual circumstances (your activity level, height, weight, age, etc).
What I mean by ‘outmanoeuvring’ your future self is that you need to know yourself, know what your weaknesses are, and expect yourself to want to give in to them. Once you do that, you can lay out a strategy to dissuade your future self from derailing whatever path you’ve set out for yourself. It may seem straight-forward and basic but it’s a very important tool because, far too often, we expect our future self to be different from our present self – we imagine that, ‘in the future’, we will be a perfect version of ourselves. But if one thing is for certain, it is that people seldom change. Well, they do… but in terms of their weaknesses, soft-spots, and limitations, they’re always susceptible to giving in to them and must be aware of this fact when planning to overcome them. I actually ran into this idea when reading a book on habit formation which basically talked about how people who who procrastinate, for example, must be made aware of the fact that their future self will probably still be tempted to procrastinate. So they can’t just say ‘in the future I will not procrastinate’ without knowing that tomorrow, much like today, they’ll want to procrastinate. It’s a habit; part of that person’s routine, and to break it they need to lay out a plan. So, let’s say you have a habit of eating Pringles by the tube-full. To break this habit, you don’t just say ‘this year, I will not eat Pringles by the tube-full’ thinking that your future self will be able to resist them, no. What you do is you plan ahead and just not buy them – or buy them and eat them with company so you end up eating, say, a handful instead of the whole tube. The same goes for cake or brownies. Imagine you have a tendency to eat too many of them in one sitting. What do you do? You have a slice and freeze the rest, that way when your future self is ready to much an entire batch, there’ll be none for that to happen – you will have successfully outmanoeuvred yourself. So, to reach your goals, you MUST come up with a plan that accounts for your weaknesses as they are today – not as you wish they would be tomorrow.
‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’ is one of my favorite sayings because it’s absolutely true. If you don’t actually plan your journey, then you’re pretty much setting yourself up to fail. Think about preparing to go on a hike in some new territory you’ve never explored before. Failing to take a map with you and planning your route is pretty much planning to get lost!
And Plan to Take it One Step at a Time!
To set out on a journey with a particular destination, you can’t just draw an X on your starting point and an X on your destination without drawing a line between them or at least considering how you’re going to get to where you want to be. Imagine yourself standing in front of a huge stairway too – where your goal sits right on top and you’re staring at it from below where it looks daunting, far away, and in many ways insurmountable. You may start off climbing the steps with your gaze fixed on your destination but far too soon you’ll become tired and your tiredness starts to feed thoughts like ‘I can’t do this,’ ‘where I want to go is too far from here,’ ‘this climb is hopeless,’ ‘I have so long to go still,’ etc. At this stage, you may just turn around and call it quits! This happens a lot in the context of health and fitness: come the end of January, people burn their resolutions, begin ignoring their gym memberships, bid their diet goals farewell, and walk away from the whole thing believing they were incapable of getting to where they once wanted to be. The reason for this? They did not plan, they were unrealistic on who their future self would be (so they could not outmaneuvre themselves), and they did not take it one step at a time. When you take it one step at a time, your gaze is ahead but you sometimes look behind you. You celebrate small victories. You focus on today – on the particular step of the ladder you’re standing on instead of the whole stairway.
This is one of my favorite rules because it’s one seldom considered. What I mean by ‘burning the bandwagon’ is that you should do away with the idea that you can ever ‘fall off’ the bandwagon. You should instead embrace the idea of failing and any and all drawbacks you may have. They’re an essential part of the journey! If you think about our hiking analogy, imagine you’re halfway through and accidentally take a step in the wrong direction. You don’t just throw your map to the wind and forget the whole thing. You just retrace your steps and keep going forward! We’re all human at the end of the day and if we don’t embrace our tendency to sometimes run out of steam, give in to temptation, or have ‘off’ days, then we’re setting ourselves up for total failure. That’s why burning the idea of the bandwagon is good, because then you can’t fall ‘off’ it and watch it move away as you lay on the ground wounded. There’s no falling to begin with!
Dieting sucks. Pardon my language but there’s no other way of saying it. Most diets out there are overly prescriptive, ridiculously strict, and consequently unsustainable because they make people miserable and fail to adapt to people’s lifestyles. Most diets are designed to be temporary anyways and, in my view, diets should never be temporary. Why? Because, it means people will go off them and when people go off them, their feeling of self-worth and self-control plummets and, once they return to their usual habits, BAM! back are all the pounds – and then some. What I invite you to do is to therefore kill the diet. Kill it by changing it from something with a start and a finish date into something you can live with day in and day out.
Rule 6: Don’t Restrict
Don’t draw up a diet that’s restrictive of the things you love to eat. Instead, adapt those things and make them part of your life. That’s what’s at the core of the recipes here at Protein Pow! They’re created so you can live without sugar and nutritionally-void ingredients yet never feel an ounce of deprivation. So, you like pizza and cake and have a weakness for them? Make nutritionally-dense and macro-balanced versions of them and enjoy as often as you like!
This is actually the golden rule of fat loss and the one that Juliet focused on the most in her article at heyjoob. The main rule of fat loss, she wrote, is to not think about fat loss. To not focus on it at all. To not focus on shedding, losing, taking away, or subtracting; to, instead, focus on adding. Focus on adding healthy food to your diet. Focus on strengthening your body and loving your exercise routine. Make getting stronger a priority instead of burning fat, losing weight, etc. You will enjoy yourself far more and end up where you wanted to be to begin with, without having had to struggle to get there. Focus on loving yourself and your body at every stage – now, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow. Focus on nurturing your body with nutritious food, with movement, and with power. Focus on the positives instead of whatever negatives you think you need to do away with because, at the end of the day, change that comes from love is far superior to that which comes from dislike or hate. So embrace your body now, even with whatever imperfections you think it has (which, I am willing to bet, those who love you seldom notice). Embrace your body’s ability to move, to run, to lift, and to jump! Embrace your body and its capacity to draw nutrients from food and make your body stronger, healthier and more powerful. Focus on what you can add instead of what you want to take away. This applies to diet too – don’t follow a plan that starts with a giant list of ‘foods to avoid.’ Instead, follow a plan that gives you a list – a BIG list – of foods to incorporate and fall in love with first.