Fad diets and “lose 30 lbs in 30 days” pollute your news feed and magazine stands everywhere, claiming weight loss is easy if you just get on the next breakthrough diet.
But what do all of Wheat Belly, Atkin’s, Zone, Weight Watchers, South Beach and thousands more that came before them have in common? They all have the word “diet” as the focus of their marketing. That word is filled with perfection, shame and self-loathing.
To be fair, these diets do achieve the desired effect – weight loss – largely because no matter the way in which they do it, they all help you achieve a negative calorie balance on a daily, weekly and beyond basis.
Unfortunately, you have to be willing to stick to each diet’s structure and limitations forever. Is that doable for you? As you know, the success rates of restrictive diets is rather terrible. Eliminating a food group entirely (whether it’s carbs or fats) is going to reduce your daily calorie intake and lead to weight loss, but it’s not sustainable long-term for most (you’re going to want to have a piece of cake eventually).
But there’s an alternative. You can rid yourself of fad diets for good with a new approach – a well balanced approach in fact.
I’ve canvassed 15-20 (lost count) of the foremost fitness coaches in the industry today, finding common threads among their responses to pare down the essentials of weight loss into three key principles that don’t require a complete revamp of your lifestyle.
Weight loss is not easy, of course, but you already knew that. Before jumping on the next diet fad, though, these three weight loss ‘tricks’ (that word is a bit of an oxymoron, as they’re really quite simple) should form the focus of your efforts first and foremost.
First up is Calories (with an emphasis on protein). Most everyone agrees that to lose weight – be it fat or body weight overall – requires a negative energy balance. But if you aren’t sure of your daily calorie intake, how can you be sure you’re achieving that goal?
Also, fat loss should most often be emphasized over lean body loss for obvious reasons, especially if your goals revolve around getting fucking sexy, not just skinny.
For that to happen, most experts agree it takes a combination of calorie restriction (progressively over time) with the right foods (quality) and consistent protein intake to lose fat and maintain or even gain muscle (i.e. get fucking sexy).
John Meadows, mountaindogdiet.com
The first thing you need to do if you want to lose weight is figure out how much you are actually taking in calorically! Suck it up and record your caloric intake for a week. Assuming you have been exercising regularly and not starving yourself (driven your metabolism into the ground), then simply cut 10% of your calories out to start. This will get you moving in the right direction.
Mike Samuels, healthylivingheavylifting.com
If you’re not tracking your calorie intake, start. NOW! Too many people simply assume they’re not over-eating, and that by “eating clean” they’ll automatically lose fat, but this is rarely the case.
Tracking every day of the week is key too, as the weekends are where people often drop the ball, and grossly over-consume calories. It may be incredibly un-sexy, but counting calories works.
Bryan Krahn, bryankrahn.com
You need to establish a baseline and figure out your starting point. Something as simple as keeping a 3 day food log can be incredibly enlightening as it shows you exactly where your diet needs real work. So go buy a 99-cent notebook and a 10 cent pencil. You’re well on your way.From there, determine your weakest links in your day. Is it breakfast? Dinner? Lunches at work? Start at square one and make small improvements every week.
Sohee Walsh, soheefit.com
First, make sure you’re on a sound nutrition program. This means that you’re not excluding food groups, you’re not consuming dangerously low calories, and you’re eating in a way that suits your lifestyle. Then, instead of obsessing over whether or not the number on the scale is inching its way down, shift your attention to your dietary adherence: How many days have you been on point? What can you do this week to improve your adherence from last week? This change in focus from results, results, results, to your current behavior puts you in control of your own journey – because you can’t do much about how the finicky scale chooses to respond, but you can absolutely, absolutely control your everyday behaviors.
To kick-start fat loss, quit searching for the perfect diet for you – because they all work. The one you choose isn’t nearly as important as designing routines that allow you to automate your behavior. The first couple weeks of your plan should involve as little decision making as possible. Elite athletes and high performance CEO’s eat the same 20-30 food items – and repeat meals throughout the week. Here’s why: you’ll focus less on the details and more on taking consistent action – and there is no better way to kick-start your fat loss.
Nick Tumminello, nicktumminello.com
Most of the best tips are the ones that are too simple to be sexy! Eat veggies, drink plenty of water, get lots of protein, emphasize whole foods, minimize refined foods and limit alcohol. It doesn’t matter how much science comes out, the above will always be legitimate.
Dynamic Duo, Chris & Eric Martinez, dynamicduotraining.com
A common practice in weight management is that all calories are created equal, and calories in = calories out is the key to dietary balance. Some of this is true, and total energy balance is the number one factor in weight management, but what this model doesn’t take into consideration is the thermic effect of food, digestive differences, personal preferences, or metabolic cost.
Eating fewer calories doesn’t always translate into healthy, high quality weight loss. Anybody can starve someone and have them lose weight, but this will evidently lead to negative changes in metabolism, hormones, body composition, and training performance.
Take Home Message: There is no “perfect” diet for changing your body composition, it’s a matter of creating a negative energy balance, including the right kinds of foods, and then finding a plan you can adhere to over the long haul that will induce high-quality weight loss and support training performance.
One study challenged the long-held adage that significant muscle loss is unavoidable when losing weight through exercise and diet. In the report, scientists show that consuming twice the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein while adhering to a diet and exercise plan prevents the loss of muscle mass and promotes fat loss.
“This study essentially confirms what body builders have shown us for a long time — a high protein diet helps prevent muscle loss when trying to lose fat,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “Although eating a well balanced diet is still necessary for health and weight maintenance, upping one’s protein intake when dieting might be a useful tool in the short term.”
The experts’ opinions on protein intake:
Menno Henselmans, bayesianbodybuilding.com
Consume a high protein diet to prevent muscle loss and keep you satiated. However, there’s no need to consume protein shakes and eat a monotonous diet consisting mostly of protein. 0.82 g / lg (1.8 g / kg) of protein per day is sufficient to maximize progress.
Bret Contreras, bretcontreras.com
I’ve been trying to convince one of my clients to consume more protein for the past six months. She weighs around 120 lbs and probably consumes 30-50 grams of protein per day. She couldn’t perform the same workouts as the other ladies because she would experience nausea and excessive fatigue; I had to scale back the volume in her sessions dramatically. Two weeks ago, she finally gave in and started supplementing her diet with an additional 30 grams of whey protein.
She’s still not consuming optimal protein levels, but since this time, her stamina and strength have increased dramatically and her nausea has diminished. She’s now able to complete the same workouts as the other girls, she’s now setting PR’s every session, and I expect her physique to start making rapid improvements. Read the post on his Facebook page.
Kris Gunnars, authoritynutrition.com
Eating more protein is the single easiest and most effective way to lose weight. Studies show that protein at 25-30% of calories boosts your metabolism, reduces your hunger significantly, and can cut cravings and desire for late-night snacking by more than half. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, consider making a permanent increase in your protein intake.
The second piece of the puzzle is an emphasis on high intensity resistance training (and interval cardio). Training with progressively higher volume as many times per week as your recovery allows, while incorporating metabolic techniques such as drop sets, supersets, complexes and interval cardio is essential for fat loss. Again, we want to look sexy as fuck, not skinny as fuck. High intensity training helps accomplish that goal.
Here are some ways to do that, courtesy the experts:
Jason Ferruggia, jasonferruggia.com
Find a steep grass hill that’s at least 30 yards long. Warm up thoroughly. Sprint up it. Walk back down. Catch your breath and repeat. Do this for 15-20 minutes twice per week. But please, start slowly and ease your way into it. Done properly, nothing will be more effective for fat loss.
Eric Bach, bachperformance.com
By now, you already know fat loss is simple in formula, but difficult in execution. A caloric deficit, provided the body and metabolism are healthy, will cause weight loss.
Problem is, without proper training and dietary protocol, hard-earned muscle is stripped away, along with body fat, minimizing the improvements in body composition and potentially dropping your metabolism—unless you lift to prevent that from happening.
Instead of endlessly plodding on the treadmill and bangin’out high rep resistance training, place an emphasis on heavy strength training.
Lifting heavy with sets between one and eight difficult reps will increase testosterone levels and stimulate fast-twitch muscle fibers, offsetting the catabolism of muscle tissue and preserving muscle mass when calories are low.
In other words, to look your best and optimize body composition it’s vital to lift heavy when dieting down. Pick two or three exercises per week during “cut” phases and build strength numbers. Not only will you retain strength, you’ll also hold onto muscle while unveiling a shredded body.
Jason Maxwell, jmaxfitness.com
Try S.H.I.I.T. training. They’re similar to windgate sprints, but allow you to do them at your local gym. Jump on a stationary bike and start pedaling as fast as possible after your warmup. Once you get to top speed, increase the resistance level immediately to a pretty high level. Try to keep pedaling at the same speed. After about 10-20 seconds, this should be impossible and you’ll slow down tremendously. Rest 2 minutes and repeat for a total of 2 to 10 rounds (this is harder than it sounds).
Menno Henselmans, bayesianbodybuilding.com
Prioritize high intensity training, even if your goal is fat loss. In the long run, strength training is generally more effective than cardio for fat loss, because the extra muscle mass improves your metabolism and nutrient partitioning (how your body uses nutrients).
The third and final piece, and arguably most important, is mindset. Until you get your mind on the right track, you’ll never succeed. It’s as simple as that. The greatest barrier to success lies in your own mind. As my friend Jeremy Scott references in his book Make Success Mandatory, you need to alter your perspective on fitness from a “should” to a “must”.
Rather than “I should start working out” it’s re-framed as “I must start working out”. Make a list of your “musts” – those that’ll help you reach the goals you’ve set – and watch your life change. No longer will procrastination and apprehensiveness rule your daily rituals.
A point recently made by Dr. Mike Joyner emphasizes the importance of behavioral changes first and foremost:
The key to successful long term weight loss appears to be related to developing the skills and behavioral strategies needed to effect long term changes in diet, exercise and overall physical activity.
One such behavioral strategy, known as a forcing function, i.e. any task, activity or event that forces you to take action and produce a result, was recently outlined on the Early to Rise blog by Dan Martell.
One day I was meeting with my younger brother Moe at a coffee shop and we were talking about his property management company. He was having a hard time finding and getting introduced to new building owners to grow his business. He had set a goal to have 100 units under management within 3 month but he didn’t feel like he was on target to hit his goal. That’s when I introduced him to this concept.
I asked him “Who’s the person you love most in the world”, his wife he replied. Then I asked him to play a game with me. I asked him based on todays understanding of the work involved, etc how likely are you to hit your goal in 3 months?
“Hmmmm, probably 60-70% I would guess” he answered.
This is where things get a bit intense, but I do this for the purpose of my example. I then asked him to visualize a person with a gun to the head of his wife, and he knew – 100,000% that if he didn’t hit his goal within 3 months that the guy would pull the trigger. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that the trigger would be pulled.
“How likely are you to hit your goal?” I ask.
“100%, there isn’t a doubt I could do it” he said.
So what changed?
That’s it. Most of the time, we don’t fail to achieve our goals because of lack of knowledge and how-to, it’s because we haven’t associated the right level of motivation to the outcome.
The experts’ opinions on mindset:
Adam Bornstein, bornfitness.com
Outsource your most difficult task. A real problem with weight loss is psychological fatigue. Everyone focuses on the best foods or the ideal diet, but the reality is most people know how to eat well. It’s executing that plan that’s tough. We all have limited willpower and it comes from the same source. The willpower you need to do your job can sap the willpower you need to avoid pillaging your fridge late at night. Your solution? Find the aspects of your diet that require too much willpower and don’t leave it up to you. That could be removing certain foods from your home or paying for a healthy meal service to provide lunch–if you know your at-work meal is your problem point. Realizing you can’t do everything might be the best diet decision you ever make, and have a bigger impact on your goals than endlessly searching for the dietary magic bullet.
Jon Goodman, theptdc.com
Work backwards. Close your eyes and imagine where you want to be 3 months from now. Find 3 friends and speak to them as if the change has already occurred. The brain cannot plan, it can only work in reverse. You must convince it that the change has already happened. Only then can it identify the specific steps that you must take to get there.
John Romaniello, romanfitnesssystems.com
Create and foster accountability. Accountability, simply, is having someone to answer to, on some level. In general, you’re a lot less likely to screw up if there’s someone to see you do it, or you know there will be a negative consequence.
For example, if you fall off your diet and no one knows about it, it’s easy to get in the habit of falling off your diet. But if you tell the entire world you’re going on a diet, and then post pictures on your Facebook page — either of your meals or of yourself — you’ll be more likely to stick with that diet.
There are lots of ways to foster accountability: workout partners keep you accountable; friends keep you accountable; and coaches keep you accountable. In fact, accountability is by far the greatest benefit of coaching; or, at least, it’s the primary reason the coaching model works so well.
When you know someone is counting on you, you show up–both physically, and metaphorically. Hiring a coach gives you multiple types of accountability. If you hire a trainer, you’re paying for it and therefore a LOT more likely to work hard, a lot LESS likely to skip workouts, and are more compliant overall. As for non-financial accountability, the simple fact that someone is investing time in your success obligates you (emotionally) to strive to perform and achieve. We’re people pleasers, and when we place people in a position of authority (trainer) we are hard-wired to want to please them even more.
Ultimately, knowing we have to report our actions, and those actions are being examined or evaluated makes us want to be on our best behavior at all times.
If you truly want to kick start your fat loss find a way to foster accountability.
Nia Shanks, niashanks.com
Stop focusing on fat loss. Yes, I’m serious. Put the focus instead on what your body can do, and strive to improve your performance (e.g. add more weight to the bar, perform an extra rep or two, complete the workout in less time) each time you repeat a workout. By putting the focus on what you CAN DO and gradually improving when possible, you’ll not only achieve fat loss but you’ll also gain self-confidence and a better body image.
Jordan Syatt, syattfitness.com
Successful fat loss begins not with food restriction but the addition of various habits. Add more to your diet and lifestyle through the incorporation of more protein, more vegetables, more fluids, more sleep, and more self awareness.
Focus on adding to your lifestyle rather than restricting and your mindset and results will change for the better.
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