For a minute, let’s forget all about the millions of workout programs, diets, and other variables in the fitness world. Each promises you’ll be looking great, feeling fantastic, and generally living the life you wanted if you incorporate (fill in the blank) into your life. Some of these claims are accurate, most are not. It can certainly be challenging to pick the right program; there is nothing more demoralizing than putting your time, effort, and sometimes money, into an exercise program that doesn’t work. The fitness industry is filled with contradictions abound; some people are so paralyzed by the fear of picking the wrong thing, they do nothing at all.
With that preface out of the way, let’s focus on some CONSTANTS. These things are tried and true, and have become habits of the most fit and healthy among us. Below, you will find 25 ways to start losing fat, building muscle, and developing the body you have always wanted. Most of these are incredibly easy to incorporate into your life TODAY. Read the points below, comprehend what you’re reading, and begin incorporating these simple, but profound, changes into your life.
Evenly Spaced Meals
Start spacing your meals evenly throughout the day. There is nothing worse than a next-to-nothing breakfast, followed by a huge lunch at noon, followed by nothing til a giant dinner at seven. Have snacks in regular intervals (every 3-4 hours) and avoid the huge meals. This will help control metabolism and help regulate fat storage.
Know Serving Sizes
It’s easy to run away with serving sizes and forget they are almost always smaller than what we are used to. Even healthy foods can start causing weight loss problems when over consumed. Read labels, measure things out if you must, but be keenly aware of how many servings you consume of each food you’re eating.
Know What Bad Foods Are
You’re fighting a losing battle if you are consuming things you think are healthy, but really aren’t. Understand the difference between wheat bread and whole wheat bread. Realize vitamin waters are nothing more than water plus a ton of sugar. Dressing is almost always fat, just because it’s on a “healthy” salad, doesn’t make it okay to eat. Avoid bad foods and avoid the excess calories that come with them.
Eat Enough Protein Protein is vital for building muscle, and the majority of exercising women, do not get enough of it. Further, taking a whey protein shake immediately following your workout is vital to maximizing the work you’re putting in. A protein shake or two a day, plus a chicken breast, plus some greek yogurt at night already has you consuming well over 100 grams of protein. It’s not hard to do, just make a conscious effort to do it.
Don’t Overdo It On Fruit
Fruit is healthy, it contains tons of anti-oxidants, vitamins, and phytochemicals that help your body function and fight off free-radicals. That said, some types of fruit are especially high in sugar. Limit consumption of highly sugary fruits, and don’t go on one of those “fruit only” diets. Aim for moderate consumption of high sugar fruits and a healthy (and larger) dose of low sugar fruits, like berries.
Forget Fad Diets
I’m not here to say certain fad diets won’t work. Of course, any diet that has you avoiding carbohydrates, consuming only liquid meals, or any number of other cheap tricks, will cause you to lose weight. Problem is, these fad diets are simply fads, because once you go off them, the weight comes right back. A few mindful dietary changes are all you need to realize slow and steady, but LASTING weight loss success.
This one’s nothing new. In fact, you’ve probably heard it a bunch over your lifetime. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast is the metabolism kick-starter which gets your body burning calories and out of its sluggish, sleep state it had been in for the previous 6-8 hours. Eat a nice-sized breakfast first thing in the morning. Be especially careful to stay away from simple carbs (bagels, white bread, etc.) and high-sugar options (cereal, danish, etc.) Preferably start with some complex carbs (oatmeal for instance) and a protein (egg whites, protein shake) to really start noticing changes in your waistline.
Don’t Buy Food You Know You Shouldn’t Have
Avoiding “cheat” foods is so much harder when they are right in front of you. Keep the things you know you shouldn’t be eating out of your house. When you don’t buy them, you don’t eat them. If you find you must have something around, make sure you buy the smallest portion possible so you aren’t snacking on bon bons Monday through Friday.
Eat With Chopsticks
It may sound silly, but this tried and true method has been working for dieters longer than you’ve been dieting. The idea is to slow down eating, thereby reducing the food you eat, while not reducing your satisfaction. Try eating all your meals with chopsticks and see how much food you REALLY need to feel satisfied from a meal.
Make Water Your Best Friend
Your body is made of H20. Make this life-giving substance your new best friend. Consuming water before meals has been shown to reduce caloric intake on a whole. Keep your body hydrated, help it function the way it was meant to, and the pounds will start dropping before your eyes.
Stop Late Night Eating
Even occasional light night eating can kill the most determined dieter. When you eat a high-fat, sugary, and/or heavy meal right before jumping into bed, it will most likely all be stored as fat. Your body goes into sleep mode, your metabolism drops, and the calories you just consumed are stored away for energy use later. Avoid eating later in the evening.
Try Not to Combine Alcohol with Food
I’m not talking about a glass of wine or two with dinner. I’m talking about hitting the bars on a Friday night then getting a burrito, slices of pizza, etc. on the way home. Your body uses alcohol as its first source of energy, leaving the food you consumed to be deposited around your waist, thighs, and butt as stored energy, i.e. fat.
Re-Program Your Taste Buds
This may be the most difficult to accomplish on this list, but can easily become the most powerful. If you’re used to taking three teaspoons of sugar in your coffee, slowly cut it down to two. Once you can manage that, slowly cut it down to one. You get the idea. Your taste buds and brain can easily be re-programmed to not only tolerate, but enjoy specific tastes. While you may hate the taste of greek yogurt without a quarter-cup of honey at first, you will slowly learn to like the taste, and no longer need the excess sugar, salt, fat, etc. on your foods.
Stop Taking the Elevator, Parking Close, Etc.
The little things most certainly add up. Get a little extra fitness in your life wherever you can. By skipping the elevator, parking a couple hundred feet further away, or standing when you could be sitting, you’ll burn more calories. Burn just an extra 100 calories a day, and you’ve lost an additional 10 pounds a year (1 pound = 3,500 calories).
Utilize Body Diversity TrainingBody Diversity Training is the exercise methodology that involves training yourself with a variety of disciplines, instead of just one or two. Instead of only doing the treadmill or bike for cardio, or only taking yoga classes, Body Diversity Training would have you doing HIIT sprints on Monday, Vinyasa Flow Yoga on Tuesday, a compound lift circuit on Wednesday, mat pilates on Thursday, and a plyometric/weight combo workout on Friday. Cross-training your body using this format will help achieve far better results than sticking to a couple staples and never changing things up.
Exercise With Music
Study after study has shown exercising with music will help boost your intensity, increase the length of your workout, and ultimately, increase your total calories burned. Find high-tempo music you enjoy, put your headphones in, and get moving!
Sign Up For a CSAHow does organic produce, that is cheaper than the non-organic stuff you’d find at your grocery store, and is delivered right to your door, sound? Too good to be true? Nope. Join a CSA and get a healthy and hearty delivery of vegetables weekly or bi-weekly. Simple as that. CSA’s are a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet on the cheap.
Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal to document what you’ve been eating, as well as what you’ve been doing in the gym has been shown to improve performance in the long-term. Hold yourself accountable, know exactly what it’s time to bump the challenge, and stop leaving yourself in the dark as to what you’ve been eating. Knowledge is power; give yourself the power to make a change.
Go Extra Hard on the Weekends
Nothing feels better than waking up early on a Saturday morning, getting an insane workout in, going home and having a healthy breakfast, going about your day, then later on when things are getting lazy, hitting the gym for a second session. Use the weekends and/or your time off to really put in work. Two serious weekend workouts can have you burning a combined 2,000 calories, which will give you a great start on the week ahead.
Get Great Fitting Workout Clothes
This may sound stupid, but when you feel good about what you’re wearing to the gym, you’ll be more likely to go AND stay longer. Studies have shown those who are comfortable and perhaps feeling even a bit fashionable are able to workout with a higher frequency and intensity. Who cares what others think. If spending 100 bucks on a pair of Lululemon yoga pants will make you hit the gym more regularly, why not?
Stop Reading Fitness Magazines, Celebrity Trainers, Trend-Setters
These people are all in the business of making money. It’s common knowledge that fitness magazines simply regurgitate the same articles over in different ways over and over. Think about it; how many times have you seen a “Lose your belly now!” article or off-shoot on the cover a fitness magazine? It’s the same story told a million times. Watch out for fad workouts (just like their diet counterparts) and use the internet to find your information. With the rise of the digital medium, there are many dedicated fitness bloggers who simply enjoy spreading their knowledge and improving lives. They want to gain nothing from you, nor have a sale quota to make. Trust your gut and you’ll find the best information is right in front of you.
Buy a Half Size Smaller
This is an old trick that’s been used by many for motivation. When you’re out shopping and find something you absolutely love, buy a size that’s half too small for you. Use this as your motivation to lose the pounds/tone up, so you can not only fit into your new purchase. but look GREAT in it.
Surround Yourself with Healthy People
The company you keep can have a significant effect on your own personal well-being and health. This can of course be positive or negative. Hanging around people who eat fast food on the regular, don’t value exercise, and are content to sit around, drink beer, and generally do nothing while they wait to die are no good. This goes for friends and/or significant others. Personally, I could never date, let alone marry someone who didn’t value health and fitness. I’m not telling you to dump your couch potato boyfriend or girlfriend, but consider getting them involved and keeping company with friends who share some of the same values you do. You’ll find the hardcore fitness community is a very tight-knit group and are extremely welcoming to others with a healthy mindset.
It’s no secret, stress kills. While it’s not always easy, find a way to de-stress, and do it regularly. Contrary to popular opinion, those under a great deal of stress often hold on to their fat, and even end up gaining weight. De-stress yourself, let go of what you cannot change, and realize all things will pass. From a strictly philosophical standpoint, learning about Buddhism is a fantastic way to deal with the stressors of life. Consider reading a book or two and move towards a calmed mentality and life. I’m not suggesting you replace your current religion with Buddhism, simply look at some of the principles behind the teachings and incorporate what you feel is compatible with your current faith.
I’d like to leave you with one final quote from the Dalai Lama which I think is profoundly enlightening and relevent….
When asked what surprises him the most, the Dalai Lama responded:
Man, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices his money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.