It's already well into January which means that most people's "healhty" resolutions have already met a few bumps in the road. In Part 1 of this article I gave you a few solid tips to help make your New Year’s Weight Loss and Fitness resolutions actually stick. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find it right here.
In this article I’m going to continue from where I left off in Part 1 and give you a few more tips that will help you make this the last year you ever need to make a resolution to get the body your want. Let's get right into it.
7. Become a Creature of Habit
Habits and routines get a bad rap (mostly from people who never even genuinely try to maintain them) but they are one of the most solid ways of sticking to behaviour changes. Just like an exercise routine where you usually know what you’re going to do before you do it, you should follow a similar pattern with your food.
Have a set time for meals (with a certain amount of flexibility, obviously) and stick to it. Know what foods you’re going to eat or prepare and fit them into whatever allowances you have on your particular diet. Repeating regular but varied meals throughout the week can actually make sticking to your diet much easier and you can learn more about making your diet more habitual and easy to follow, here.
If you’re having snacks, know what they’re going to be and have them with you so you don’t have to go looking for an unhealthy alternative. The same goes for your lunch at work.
Try and maintain a regular sleep cycle too. This is an incredibly important yet often overlooked factor for weight loss but the truth is that a lack of sleep can actually make losing weight (and building muscle) harder.
8. Measure Your Progress
This is a great way to keep yourself motivated. It’s much easier to stick with a diet when you can actually see the progress that you’ve already made on it.
There are a few ways to do this, with some better than others. A lot of people like to use their weight, which is fine at the start if you have a particularly large amount of weight to lose. It’s easy to measure and a good indication of progress.
However, measuring your weight alone is probably not the best policy. The reason is that your weight varies according to both your muscle mass and body fat. Muscle weighs a little more than fat and if you’re lifting weights as part of your regime to lose weight, it’s possible to gain muscle, lose fat and still maintain the same weight (especially if you’re new to weight training). In this case the scales would tell you that you haven’t made any progress when in fact you probably look a lot better.
Which brings me to some other, more reliable methods for measuring your progress. One is taking body measurements at a number of places around your body. I usually recommend measuring around the waist, hip, chest, thighs and arms with a tailors measuring tape. Seeing these measurements go down as you lose weight can be seriously encouraging, especially if the scales isn’t changing much.
This leaves us with what I consider to be the easiest and most relevant method... selfies... yup, taking photographs of yourself in a mirror. Ideally you should take a picture of yourself in a bikini/swimsuit or in your underwear as you want to be able to see as much of yourself as possible. I think it’s great to do this on a weekly basis for consistency but the real changes are seen on more of a monthly interval. Keep the photos (and other measurements) in a file on your computer and look at them regularly to show yourself just how much progress you’ve made.
9. Prepare and Cook more Food at Home.
Following a particular diet often means you have to prepare your own food and this is where a lot of people often falter. How many times have you been on your way home from work and decided to pick up a less than healthy take-away meal on the way instead of preparing something that you know is healthy when you get home? The most successful and prolific dieters (physique and figure competitors) don't allow themselves to fall into this trap as they know that the more they prepare and eat at home, the more successful their diet will be.
The problem many people find with cooking is that it’s time consuming and it can get monotonous if you have to prepare the same thing every day. Add to that the clean-up afterward and the fact that you might not always have the ingredients you need in the house and it’s no wonder most people just grab a sandwich and a chocolate bar (or 3) at the local supermarket.
However if you’re Super-OCD like myself, there is a way around this. I prepare the vast majority of my food in advance, in bulk and then divide it into portions and freeze it, ready for whenever I need it. My freezer is full of Ziploc bags that are flattened out to make them easy to store/stack in the freezer and it makes defrosting/cooking them a whole lot faster too.
The great thing about this is, because I’ve cooked these myself, I know exactly how many calories and how much fat, protein and carbohydrate is in each portion. This takes all of the guess work out of preparing my dinner so I have no excuses for not eating healthy.
People will also complement you on how well organized your freezer is .
10. Make better Shopping Choices
As important as preparing and cooking your own food is for helping you achieve your weight loss goals, your ability to prepare healthy meals depends on the ingredients you have in the home. That means that the makings of healthy diet start in the supermarket.
Making a few simple, smart decisions in the supermarket can actually make a pretty big impact on your health. Stock up on plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and remember that even frozen produce is as good as if not better than its fresh version. Switch from refined grain products to their wholegrain counterparts like brown rice, wholegrain bread and pasta. Switch to lower fat dairy like reduced fat cheeses instead of the full fat versions.
You can also stock up on pre-prepared but healthy ingredients like cooked beans and lentils, low calorie sauces (most common tomato sauces are great choices) and ready-made soups. In fact, a lot of “processed” food can be added to an otherwise healthy diet to make it more enjoyable without taking away from the health benefits. You can learn a lot more about how to use processed food for a healthier diet, here.
Remember, the more convenient and healthy food you have on hand in the home, the more likely you are to eat it and stick to your diet.
11. Don't Dread Exercise
Your exercise routine shouldn’t fill you with dread! If it does, then you won’t stick to it for long. Exercise, even when it’s hard should be enjoyable and it’s up to you to either make it enjoyable or find a type of exercise that you enjoy doing.
I have a lot of clients who, before working with me, had never lifted a weight in their life and were actually quite reluctant to get into the gym. Those same clients are now addicted to lifting weights. When I give clients a workout program, the goal is to regularly increase either the reps or the amount of weight lifted for a given exercise... basic progressive overload. That way, every workout becomes like a competition with yourself to get stronger. That type of “self challenge” makes the workouts addictive and my clients now look forward to hitting them gym and trying to hit some new “Personal Bests”.
As for cardio, find a type that you enjoy. You’re not alone if you feel that spending half an hour on a treadmill is akin to torture... so don’t do it. Jog outside, cycle to and from work, play football regularly with your friends, take up social dancing like salsa, have vigorous sex with your partner... whatever it is, just make sure you enjoy because if you enjoy it, you’ll do it regularly.
12. Remove your Temptation
There is NO EXCUSE for having unhealthy “trigger foods” in your house.
Do you think that drug rehab centers leave small bags of heroin or cocaine lying around in the common area? Hell no! As the great Oscar Wilde once said, “I can resist everything but temptation”. If temptation is staring you in the face, in your own home, chances are you're going to eventually fold like tissue paper.
The only way to eliminate temptation is to... well... eliminate temptation. This is what I like to think of as a “controllable variable”. You control what you keep in your house so make sure you don’t have any trigger foods (foods that you can’t control yourself from eating/overeating) or drinks lying around. You don’t need that kind of pressure and strain on your limited willpower. No chocolate bars in the cupboard, no sugar-laden soft-drinks in the fridge, no cookies in the cookie-jar. I’m not saying that you’re never going to have these foods again but I am saying that if you can’t control yourself with them then you shouldn’t have them in your home. You shouldn’t have to feel the burden of temptation in a place where you’re supposed to feel relaxed and safe.
You can do a big symbolic clean-out and remove all the unhealthy trigger foods from your house. Either give it to a neighbor or a homeless shelter or just throw it out. It will genuinely feel amazing to “get that monkey off your back” while you’re at home.
Control what you can and stop worrying about what you can't
I really believe that in order for us to be happy we have to “take control of the controllable variables” in our lives. What I mean by “controllable variables” are the things that we can change ourselves; exercise, the people we spend time with, our food, use of our free time etc. Taking control of your food and exercise habits is a fundamental step towards a healthier and happier you.
This article may be aimed at people who are trying to make healthy eating and exercise a part of their lives in the New Year but the tips I’ve laid out can be used by anyone, whenever they make that life changing decission to lose weight, get fit and be healthy.
I wish you the best of luck on your own journey to health.
Eat well, folks.
Have you been working out? You're looking good!
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