If you’ve struggled with your weight, I wrote this article for you. I’ve used the commandments below to bring dozens of people struggling with their weight out of the land of torment, and out of the house of weight bondage.
If you follow them, you will obtain the freedom you seek as well. Let’s begin our journey down the mountain.
Planning ahead is essential. You will not succeed without doing it. This may sound cliche and fluffy, but if you fail to do this, you will continue to spin your wheels. To understand why it’s so important, you first have to understand how your willpower works.
Willpower is the energy you expend to do something or restrain your impulses. Roy Baumeister is the Michael Jordan of willpower research. In his book, Willpower: Rediscovering The Greatest Human Strength, he explains that willpower works like a muscle. Have you ever run so much that your legs feel extremely wobbly at the end of the run? That’s how willpower works.
The more you use willpower, the less you have for your next decision. Your strength dissipates with every decision throughout the day. In one test Baumeister did, all participants where exposed to the tempting smell of freshly baked chocolate cookies, some of which got to actually eat them, while others had to eat rashishes. In subsequent exercises, where they had to solve geometry puzzles, radish eaters quit 12 minutes earlier on average. They had spent so much willpower fighting against the cookie smell, that they just couldn’t exercise as much self-control later on.
This means that throughout the day, and over a period of time, your willpower slowly depletes with every decision you make. So you have to structure and plan your days to minimize the number of decisions you make.
Oh and by the way, after just two weeks of exercising regularly, good decisions become much easier.
Her are a few tips I recommend for you to plan ahead:
1. Plan the days and times you are going to workout.
A lot of people get very vague with this. “I’ll go 4 times this week.” Saying you’ll go 4 times leaves too many decisions up in the air. Set your workout days and times in stone, not just for this week, but every week for the foreseeable future.
2. Exercise first thing in the morning.
Most people sleep until they have to get up and get ready for work. This means if you get up just a bit earlier than the rest of the world, you’ll be able to accomplish your most important tasks without distraction. If you can find a workout buddy to hold you accountable to your morning workout attendance, everything will become so much easier.
3. Pack your workout bag the night before.
There’s nothing worse than planning to workout then realizing you don’t have your clothes ready. Get in the habit of packing your workout bag the night before.
4. Know when you’re traveling and make plans.
I’ve seen traveling throw people off schedule, and it can take months for them to get back on schedule. You must have a “go-to” travel replacement workout that you can do from anywhere in a short period of time. Don’t become a victim of the travel bug.
5. Look at restaurant menus ahead of time
Don’t waste time looking at the menu when you get there. I hate it when people take 30 minutes looking for things to order instead of having conversation. This will also allow you to know what to order and have an understanding of the nutrients in what you’re ordering before you even go. You also won’t succumb to the hunger demons that urge you to order the worst thing on the menu.
No matter what you do, and no matter how much you plan ahead, willpower will run out. Everyone has ebbs and flows. Peaks and valleys. I have morning where I don’t think I can even get out of bed. Nevermind find the courage to drive to the gym.
The answer to times like this is accountability from someone you deeply do not want to disappoint. When you wake up early and you know there is someone already up and getting ready to meet them, it’s enough to put you over the hump and do something you won’t do without that extra push.
But there’s also psychological evidence suggesting other reasons you should do this also. People tend to follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts more so than anyone else. Physiotherapists, for example, are able to persuade more of their patients to comply with recommended exercise programs if they display their medical diplomas on the walls of their consulting rooms. People are more likely to give change for a parking meter to a complete stranger if that requester wears a uniform rather than casual clothes.
By hiring someone, it also forces you to make that initial commitment. Nothing ever happens without commitment first. I’ve never seen anyone do great things without first committing. Do you think Steve Jobs or Elon Musk would’ve accomplished anything if they didn’t commit first. The first step is commitment.
Any time you try to do anything worthwhile, there will be naysayers. Naysayers are more dangerous than haters because most often it comes from the people who love you. It’s important to control the diet vandals in your life.
Positive social support does two things:
1. It continues to fuel you when things get tough.
2. It makes your commitment public to people you care about.
It’s important to make your commitment public to your social support group because people like to be consistent with things they have previously said or done. This is why it’s hard to get someone to change their religion, or even change their mind about anything. For example, one recent study reduced missed appointments at health centers by 18% simply by asking the patients rather than the staff to write down appointment details on the future appointment card.
If you actively recruit a positive social support group, you will dramatically increase your chances of success. Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
The incentive will take some digging. It may be deep inside of you. Something you think about that gets you emotional even when you’re sitting on the couch about to fall asleep. You have to find that one focal point that drives you to action through emotion when you think about it.
For me, it’s my parents and my daughter. I’m on of seven children, and I grew up with extremely hardworking mother and father. I remember a 10 year stretch where my father worked three jobs and slept 2 hours each night in order for us to have a normal life. Even right now writing this, it drives me to another level of focus. I want to give things to my parents as they age in order to say thank you. And I want to provide a life for my daughter that I know was created from the hard work I was shown as a kid.
You must find your incentive, you “why”. What moves you to action? What gets you emotionally involved in your tasks?
There needs to be two sides to this incentive:
1. A positive side
For me, the reason I take care of my health is so I can run and play with my daughter even as I cross certain age barriers.
Here are some things for you to think about on the positive side:
2. A negative side
What happens if you don’t accomplish this? Sticking with my example, I wouldn’t be able to be the father I want to be if I’m not healthy. I wouldn’t be the highlight of my daughter’s life. I wouldn’t have the energy to accomplish things that I want to accomplish. I might die bedridden, with a low quality of life in my later years.
Here are some things for you to think about on the negative side:
Make sure you take time to think about these things. There must be a meaningful incentive for this goal that is clearly defined otherwise you will lose sight of it and it will be much easier to slip back into the old way of life.
Human psychology is funny. You simply won’t act on something until you absolutely have to. Or at least feel like you have to. In order to get started and have follow through on your weight loss goals, it’s important to create a sense of urgency to avoid putting you goals off into the future… again.
It’s the basic principle of supply and demand – the less there is of something, the more the desire for that thing is. If you can create a scarcity of time to complete your goal, your focus and attention will shift from a “I’ll get to that someday” mindset, to a “I better get started now” mindset.
Just like when the bartender screams, “last call” and the line suddenly becomes endless even though people have had enough to drink. Or when the store down the street have a “Limited Time Only” sale, and their revenue skyrockets. It’s time to put the artificial “Limited Time Only” sign on your weight loss goals.
A few examples might be:
Pick an event. Set a date. Commit.
In order to lose weight, you need to regularly feed your body less energy than it burns. This is called a “calorie deficit”.
Most people are sick of hearing about calories and want something else to cling to. Supplement and magazine companies take full advantage of this, and steal billions of dollars from citizens trying to get in better shape every year.
They talk about how a single hormone is making you fat (insulin). They convince you to stop eating sugar, carbs, etc…These restrictive diets can help you lose weight, but restriction of certain foods isn’t what causes the weight loss. Burning more calories than you eat is what causes weight loss.
The more restrictive your diet, the harder it is to maintain long term. A diet you can’t adhere to long term is not one worth starting or attempting. Weight loss happens with changes over time, not overnight.
In order to avoid being too low in calories, I recommend eating about 75% of your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). This is simply the total number of calories you burn in a day. A number of studies have shown this number to be effective.
If you go any lower than this, it can be hard to maintain over time, and you’ll start compensating by being less active and therefore burning less calories than you typically would. To estimate what your personal TDEE is, use this Katch McArdle calculator and multiply the number calculated by 1.2. This will give you a decent estimate of what your TDEE is.
Based on the most recent literature, you need at least .54-.73 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day to optimize your health. You need even more than that if you are trying to put on muscle. And you need even more than that if you are trying to preserve muscle while on a diet (in a caloric deficit).
So how deficient are most people? Only about 16% of men’s daily caloric intake consists of protein, while it’s only about 15.5% for women on average. Based on data from NHANES, that means men are only eating 98 grams of protein per day, and women are only eating about 67 grams of protein per day.
That means men are eating on average of only .5 g/lb of bodyweight daily which is 32% below where they need to be to optimize health. Women are in an even worse situation, eating only .41 g/lb of bodyweight daily which is 44% below where they need to be to optimize health. So the claim you may have heard that “most people consume enough protein or over consume protein” is 100% false.
Sufficient protein intake makes a big difference in weight loss and body composition. One study showed that a difference of 5% or more increase in protein consumption was associated with a 300% greater reduction in fat mass than less than a 5% increase in protein consumption was. Eating enough protein makes a big difference in weight loss. Although you should tailor your diet to fit your taste preferences, it will inevitably need to prescribe a substantial increase in protein consumption in order to be optimal.
That’s right, you must lift weights too, Ladies.
When you say you want to lose weight, what you really mean is you want to lose fat. The problem is, when you’re in a caloric deficit (on a diet) your body is primed to lose both fat and muscle. You want to make sure to lose as much fat as possible, while preserving muscle instead.
The reason you want to preserve muscle is because it is one of the primary contributors to your metabolism (number of calories you burn each day). If you don’t do everything you can to preserve your muscle while you’re losing weight, you will in turn be doing damage to your metabolism.
If you damage your metabolism, then go back to eating like normal when you’re no longer on a diet, you will put weight back on even faster than you did the first time. No bueno.
The solution to this? A solid resistance training program. Ladies, if you’re worried about getting bulky, don’t be. When you are in a caloric deficit it’s impossible to build muscle at the same time. You will be lucky if you can preserve most of the muscle you already have. You will not get bulky. It’s impossible when in a caloric deficit and losing weight.
You should only do as much cardio as you need to achieve your goals and no more. The amount of cardio you do should not impair your recovery from resistance training, affect resistance training performance, and negatively impact your health.
Once again. When most people say they want to lose weight, they’re really saying “I want to lose fat.” Cardio can be counterproductive to this. Cardio alone will cause you to lose muscle and become “skinny fat”.
Endurance training and excessive cardio isn’t as good for your health as you might imagine. Endurance athletes actually have a higher risk of heart dysfunction, and the problem worsens as endurance athletes get older and log more miles. Research shows that marathoners develop more arterial plaque than sedentary non-runners, which increases the risk of stroke and dementia.
The bottom line is that more cardio is not always better. The more cardio you do, the more you stress your body, and if you take it too far, you can wind up in a state of chronic stress where your body can’t recover adequately from your workouts. Moderate amounts can improve your health, but too much impairs it.
If you do too much cardio, your body will begin to adapt and become more efficient with the calories it burns. This means that over time, the more cardio you do, the less calories you’ll burn. The the cardio becomes less effective for weight loss over time.
The net effect is people often think they’re burning more calories doing cardio than they actually are, eat more than they should to maintain an adequate calorie deficit, and then wonder if their metabolisms are just busted or if calorie counting simply doesn’t work. Unwilling to give up, many then try to fight fire with fire by doing even more cardio, which does increase overall caloric expenditure but also brings the various health risks discussed earlier into play.
Only use cardio as needed. Refer to Commandment #8 for direction on what the meat of your program should be.
In Commandment #7, I told you the importance of eating a sufficient amount of protein. But after you’ve met your protein requirements, what should you do with the rest of your calories?
When calories and protein are equated, you can choose what to do with the rest of your calories based on what you prefer to eat. That’s right, low carb diets do not help you lose fat any better than high carb diets as long as calories and protein are accounted for.
As long as you consume enough protein, and stay within your caloric deficit limits, eat whatever you want to satisfy your taste buds. Am I recommending that you fill the rest of your calories with junk food? Absolutely not.
Eating healthy foods the majority of the time is important for your long term health and longevity.
So here’s my general recommendation: eat 80%+ of your calories from unprocessed nutritious foods.
Just because you can eat a bunch of junk food and “fit your macros” doesn’t mean you should. Remember that your body needs adequate fiber and a wide spectrum of vitamins and minerals to functional optimally and unfortunately ice cream, Fruity Pebbles, and Pop Tarts won’t get you there.
Here’s a handy list of tasty, nutrient-dense foods to get your wheels spinning:
If I wanted even more variety, that list could go on and on. And your list may look totally different. But you get the idea.
If you follow the 10 commandments of weight loss to a T, you will be successful in your sojourn. Please let the people congregate in the comments below to discuss!
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