Tag Archives: mindset

Fat loss isn’t easy. But you can make it easier.

scalegun

Fat loss is so easy: said no one ever.

Easy. Yeah, right. But we can make it easier, both physically and mentally. Both are important, don’t you think?

I’ve tinkered with fat loss like a mad scientist for the last few years. And my online and personal training clients have taught me just as much about what works (and bombs) for them when it comes to losing body fat. Here are a few of the biggies:

You have to create a favorable environment for reducing your calories.
For me, that’s always been tracking my calories. And at first, weighing and measuring food. At least for a while. There are non-tracking tricks that work too –like limiting the number of meals you eat or having general guidelines about how much and what kinds of food go on your plate.

Having some structure will give you valuable information, builds awareness of your eating patterns and possible saboteurs, and creates overall mindfulness with eating.

wine

Identify your biggest trigger. Then stomp it out.
One of my new clients noticed that red wine was becoming her bestie during the week. Sometimes habits creep in. But first ask yourself why? As it turns out, she just really, really loves red wine. Any other booze can sit around the house and not be problematic. But if she knows the vino is there, she’ll find it hard to pass up.

So she created a rule for herself to just not keep it in the house. She can still enjoy a glass on a night out. But for now, wine is off her grocery list.

Find the sweet spot for cardio.
I used to be the cardio bunny who did nothing else except run myself ragged. And we often over estimate how many calories we burn doing cardio.

But I also got lazy for a while too and only lifted weights. For body composition, strength training is incredibly effective. But most of us could stand to get out of our chairs and infuse more physical activity into our weeks. 3-4 strength sessions, 1-2 metabolic conditioning workouts, and regular, low intensity cardio that lets me recover for the other stuff is my own sweet spot.

Your own may look a little different, and that’s fine too. And most importantly? Do what you enjoy – you’ll be way more consistent.

farmermarketstands

Find foods you like with naturally low calorie counts.

These are your secret weapons for those days when you just want to eat all the things. Mine are celery, strawberries, a pickle, a small bowl of Greek yogurt with berries, and baby sweet peppers. These typically have either protein or filling fiber and will take the edge off without zapping your progress.

Take a break some times.

You know what women’s bodies hate? Being in a calorie deficit all the time. Our hormones give us the middle finger. They put up road blocks and make it harder. Yes, that sucks. It’s a bigger deal if you’re already fairly lean and less so if you have a lot of weight to lose. One way around this is to do calorie cycling: some days you’ll eat in a more aggressive deficit. And a few days out of the week you’ll eat closer to maintenance level calories. It gives your body (and brain) a breather.

And if you’ve been dieting a really long time, it might be time to take a full diet break for 2-4 weeks. When you return to working on fat loss again, your body will be in a better spot to handle it.

Create livable rules. 
Moderation sounds great in theory. But what does that actually mean? Maybe it means ditching rigid food rules like “no bread, ever.” God, that sounds awful huh? But sometimes temporarily we can create some rigidity where we need it, and be looser where we may need it.

I know I could never live without desserts. Saying “I’m banning sugar for a month” won’t work for me, because that would make me miserable. But “dessert every Saturday” seems doable, and yet encourages me to stop inhaling baked goods on the regular.

Photo credit: pixdaus

Photo credit: pixdaus

Play the long game.

For most of us, losing fat isn’t a six week process. It’s a six month or longer journey. It can be slow at times. It doesn’t always go as planned. But don’t let that discourage you. Because the best part about the long game is that you can allow yourself to see the big picture. Screwed up your plan last night? It’s no big deal – just get right back at it.

Because when you see that night in the bigger context of many days of healthy habits, it doesn’t even cause a ripple. Be kind and patient with yourself. Not because I’m trying to sound like a motivational meme. But because people who feel shame after perceived slip ups end up sabotaging themselves. That leads to days and weeks of going backwards.

You’ll have steps forward – and a few backward. And that’s normal. We’re human, after all. 

Why?
Ask yourself this. Why do you want to make a change? There’s no right or wrong. But unless you have a reason that matters, fat loss is going to feel harder.

Flip your internal dialogue.

I used to feel pissed off that at my size and age, I had so little wiggle room for fat loss. Unlike my 6’4” husband, who can demolish a bag of Doritos and not gain an ounce, I have no such luck. I whined a lot. Then I began to just be less emotional about it. Saying “I can have all the things, just not all at once” helped me chill out.

If you tell yourself something is going to suck, it will. Funny how that works? I’m not saying you need to chant “I freaking love celery” into the mirror. But a positive attitude about the process is going to help more than you’d think.

Find beauty in your inner strength.

Find beauty in your inner strength.

Finally, remember that you’re beautiful.

You matter. And your self-worth has absolutely nothing to do with your body composition. Keep that perspective.

That’s the tough one for me. I rationally understand this and yet am sometimes still so unkind to myself. Let’s knock that off, shall we?
One thing that has always helped is focusing on improving things that have nothing to do with my body’s appearance. Enter a race. Work on a new gym PR. Find that demonstrate how you’re getting stronger. Or faster. Sleeping better, or finding more energy for life. That you’re living a life that makes you happy and healthy.  Isn’t that what matters most?

Have your own tip for making fat loss feel a wee bit easier? Or a lot easier? Leave a comment and share!

5 Things That Prevent You From Being a Consistent Exerciser – And How to Fix Them

chickstrength

Have you ever heard the phrase “consistency is key”?

It’s true. Especially when it comes to improving your body composition, your performance, and your health. It may seem like no big deal to blow off your workouts, but over time, those who reliably put in the time do far better than those who are, well, all over the place. I’d even go so far as to say that WHAT you do matters less than how well you stick to it. Let’s take two workout programs: one really excellent, and one mediocre;  the mediocre one done on a regular basis will likely bring better benefits than the perfect plan that only gets done sometimes.

OK – so you know that it’s important, but you still keep struggling to get ‘er done? I feel you. The hardest part when you’re doing something new is sticking with it long enough to see some benefits that would actually make you feel excited to keep going. It’s those early hurdles that are the biggest. I tripped over them about a million times, by the way. But just like I did, you’ll get over them too.

What I first want you to do is read through these scenarios: you may see your own situation in one or more of them:

  1. Accept that you must practice. You’ll also have to reshuffle and rebuild the life you now lead. Knowing this with your eyes open helps. Makes sense, right? You’ve been going about your life. Now you’re asking yourself to squeeze in a new thing. You’re not accustomed to having to accommodate things like meal prep, calorie logging, or weight lifting sessions several times a week. So first of all, be kind to yourself. But then start building that ritual.

The fix: take a cue from Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. Let’s take building the workout ritual as an example. You can tie the things you need to do to things you already do.

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  • Every morning after you drink your coffee, you put on your gym shoes. That’s one step toward getting out the door.
  • Every evening after you brush your teeth you set out your workout clothes and put together your gym bag. This takes away barriers that may make it feel harder to get to your gym session.
  • You can also try making an appointment for it that holds as much weight as any other commitment. If someone wants to meet, it had better be *really* important to bump the gym meeting you set for yourself.
  • Other tricks include tracking your gym workouts in a log or an app – it feels great to see your progress right in front of you, which in turn helps you keep going.

2. Stop hitting the reset button. We often say “I’ll start next week.” Or Monday. Or even tomorrow. Instead, do something sooner. Maybe it’s improving your next meal. Missed your gym workout? We all have 2 minutes to do a set of pushups at home. When you do something positive for yourself, you reinforce the fact that it’s what we do repeatedly, over time, that makes the biggest impact.

photo credit: Sujan Patel

photo credit: Sujan Patel

The fix: ditch the guilt. Instead, learn from this – ask yourself what got in your way, and what might make that not happen next time. But today is not a loss. Action begets more action.

3. Don’t let perfect become the enemy of good. When we set very high standards for ourselves, excellence can happen. But there’s a difference between striving to be our best and crashing and burning because we fall short of unrealistic expectations.

If you’re skipping workouts because you don’t have time to get in a full session, it wipes out your movement for the day. If you’re setting goals that overwhelm instead of inspire, you may be shortchanging yourself of the opportunity to improve your body, your mind, and your health.

You can train to be awesome without nearly ending yourself.

You can train to be awesome without nearly ending yourself.

The fix: Sometimes when you ease a little pressure off of yourself it can feel way more fun to do those things that will bring you success. When you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll be more consistent. And when you become consistent… well, we talked about how awesome that’ll make you. Scale back with some challenging yet realistic goals that enable you to take pleasure in achievement yet don’t set you up for near certain failure.

4. Ask yourself if you feel confident about what you’re doing. In a study of employee motivation, researchers Nohria, Grohnsberg, and Lee found that people are driven by four central needs. 1 One of them is the desire to comprehend. I’ve found that my clients who skip gym sessions regularly are often not too busy to get them done: instead, they either lack confidence or enthusiasm. Often, the enthusiasm comes once they feel like they know what they’re doing.

Log enough time with your new skills and you too will walk like swagger cat.

Log enough time with your new skills and you too will walk like Swagger Cat.

The fix: scale back to tackle what you can absorb right now. Master one workout. Or one new skill, like meal planning, finding new protein sources, or even getting in regular walks or eating an extra veggie per day. Those small successes give you a boost of success and make you physically and mentally feel the benefit of doing good things for your body.

5. Enlist support. At the Strong Fit Pro Summit in Toronto recently, Mark Fisher of Mark Fisher Fitness said “change happens within the context of community”.

Another basic drive we have is one of bonding with others. We want to connect; to be able to get ideas, support, affirmation, and a feeling like people get what we’re trying to do. Besides the bonding of a fitness community, you’ll find accountability. Knowing that people will wonder where you’ve been may make you more likely to get to your regular class or meeting.

Most importantly, when we go to a gym or participate in a program where we feel like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves, we take pride in that. We cherish it. And it helps form our new identity that includes our new actions.

my gym family <3

my gym family <3

The fix: find your people. They may be at a physical gym that embraces newcomers. You may find them in a running club or on a powerlifting team. Or you might even find them in a Facebook group filled with people who are into what you hope to get into more. For me, I find my support, caring, and accountability from my team gym as well as from my coach. My communities have made a gigantic improvement in my commitment to my workouts.

Some might say “you just have to suck it up stop making excuses. But I’ve never much liked that advice. Because as you can see, usually when we make excuses there are underlying needs we have that just aren’t being met. If you’re struggling with building consistency in your fitness routines, take a moment to find your underlying reason – and then start working toward change from a more informed, positive place.

I hope these help you. My fixes are by no means the only useful ones, but they’re some of the “biggies” that I’ve found really make a difference in helping people over those hurdles. The hurdles, which, by the way, you’ll be sailing over in time if you give yourself the opportunity to learn.

Want to get the skills to pay the bills (and make this year your fittest ever?) Sign up below for my newletter to get workouts, recipes, and insider fitness info to help you rock your fit goals. 

 

Notes:

  1. Nohria, Nitin, Boris Groysberg, and Linda-Eling Lee. “Employee motivation.”Harvard Business Review 86.7/8 (2008): 78-84.