Here is the third and final part to our unconventional fat loss tips. Today we are talking about how you can tailor your fat loss goals to your individual needs. Fat loss isn't a one-size-fits-all template. There are some universal principals that are helpful, but we are all unique snowflakes with individual challenges and priorities. Don't fall into the trap of "my friend did this cleanse and lost 20 pounds". Just because it worked for your friend doesn't mean its right for you. Be honest about where you are, what you need, and what you can commit to.
7. Healthy Habits Beget Healthy Habits
We've covered multiple lifestyle tips that can help with fat loss. For the absolute best results, you want to improve all of these different lifestyle components (quality sleep, stress management, healthy nutrition, mindful movement). However, going from zero to 100 many times isn't realistic. If you are carrying more fat than you would like, then most likely each of these areas is a little out of whack. Unhealthy habits tend to feed off of each other in a downward spiral. It might look something like this: you're stressed at work, you don't have as much time to go to the gym, you're not prioritizing rest and relaxation, you're drinking more than usual (if you’re over 21), which leads to eating unhealthy food and interrupts your quality sleep, which makes you worse at dealing with stress....and all of these habits lead to fat gain. Sound familiar? I think everyone can relate to the pattern of under-prioritizing health until it gets a little out of control.
The good news is in the same way unhealthy habits lead to more unhealthy habits, healthy habits lead to more healthy habits. If you approach getting healthy by taking one step at a time, eventually you'll arrive at your desired destination. The important thing is that you continue to make forward progress. Maybe you're not ready to change your diet yet…BUT you can find time to go to the gym twice a week. Start there! Don't wait until life perfectly falls in line. Full disclosure, if you want the greatest fat loss results nutrition adjustments are going to be necessary. But that doesn't mean they have to happen immediately. Do what you can where you're at with what you have.
After making a healthy decision like working out, you're more likely to make a healthier food choice. Instead of something you need to force, it will actually be what sounds good to you. And a little exercise during the day helps reduce stress and makes your sleep more restful. So just by directly improving this one component of health, other components are indirectly getting improved as well. Before you know it healthy living becomes second nature and the pounds start flying off. The important thing is that you START somewhere and don't listen to all of the excuses about why you can't do it perfectly. Perfection is a myth. We're all doing the best we can and hopefully our best is getting better over time.
8. Learn When It's Wise To Strictly Follow The Plan and When It's Wise To Relax and Allow Deviation
There's a time for strict adherence and a time to allow yourself grace to deviate from the plan. Most people take a very black and white approach when it comes to nutrition. They will either eat a perfect diet or they will eat whatever they want whenever they want, because "Hey you only live once". Neither approach is entirely right. If you want to change something about yourself, like lose fat, then you have to change what you're doing. The behaviors that caused you to gain fat are NOT the behaviors that will help you lose fat. Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, right?
Behavior change takes time and focus, especially in the beginning. The goal is to create a new habit, where you say things like "this is the way I eat" instead of "I'm on a diet to lose 15 pounds". For this reason, in the beginning strict adherence is many times necessary. For example, if you have a sweet tooth and you continue to allow daily desserts or dessert substitutes, you never get a chance to TRULY break the habit. Many times that "sweet tooth" is actually poor blood sugar control, and it will take getting your blood sugar under control to kick the cravings. This takes time and a little focused attention. This scenario is where I see a 21 or 30 day challenge to be beneficial. It takes roughly 3-4 weeks on average to regulate blood sugar. After those 3-4 weeks without sugar, your body is better able to process the sugar that you do give it. And again, it will be more routine for you to make healthy good choices.
However, there is also a time to be a little more lax with your diet. I don't mean completely throw it out the window and eat McDonald's every day. In fact, that's EXACTLY what I'm trying to avoid. Many times people feel so guilty about any little cheat that they either have to change their behavior (become even more strict) or change their belief (healthy eating is no longer a priority). I would like to propose a third option. This option has been termed the "80/20 rule". The majority of what you're eating is still healthy, but about 20% of what you're eating isn't in line with your goals. Sometimes the stress of trying to eat perfectly could actually be hindering your fat loss. Remember that stress hormone cortisol we talked about in part 2 of this blog? If you are fretting over every piece of food you're putting in your mouth that's very stressful, and will cause a rise in cortisol. I would rather you eat IMPERFECT food with the RIGHT mindset than PERFECT food with the W
RONG mindset. If keeping something imperfect in your diet saves your sanity and allows you to adhere to healthy eating over the long haul, then this might be the right approach for you.
This tip requires a lot of self-awareness. For most people, there will be times where strict adherence is the right answer and times when relaxing the rules is the right answer. The key is being honest about when it's time for each one. If you've let things go off the rails a little too much, it might be time for a period of strict adherence. If trying to eat perfectly is turning you into a neurotic mess, then maybe it's time for a more moderate approach.
9. It's Not Always Time To Lose Weight
Sometimes there are other ducks you need to get in line before you dedicate the time and effort to weight loss. This might be getting your health in line, like lowering your BP, improving your digestion, or balancing your hormones. You might need to get rid of joint pain before you really can focus on fat loss. Or sometimes you need focus on other areas of your life that are totally unrelated to your fitness. This could be a family crisis, improving a relationship, focusing on a work project, or dealing with anxiety or depression. It's ok if it's unrealistic for weight loss to be your main focus. Just be honest with yourself what the true #1 priority is in your life right now. Deep down no one wants to lose weight just for the sake of losing weight. People make this a goal because they think it will make them happier, improve their relationships, improve their performance, make them healthier etc. If your pursuit of weight loss detracts from what is truly most important to you, for example if it's taking away from time spent in meaningful relationships, then it might not be time for fat loss to be your sole focus. And the good news is improving these other areas of life have been proven to improve fat loss as well. Sometimes shifting your focus away from fat loss is exactly what you need to actually lose fat.