You say you want to lose fat, be healthier, or be a better role model for your kids, but do your actions and attitudes reflect that?
You can do those things without working out 24/7 or starving yourself, but you have to want it badly enough. Here are five basic things keeping you from getting there.
See what I mean by basic? A child could tell you vegetables are good for you. The research overwhelmingly concludes that they're great for fat loss (1). You didn't need me to quote the studies, though.
You knew that, yet most adults are too cool for vegetables. The general population's idea of eating veggies is a slice of tomato and that soggy sliver of iceberg lettuce in a burger.
If you have the palate of an un-spanked child, you're not ready to lose weight. You have to eat some vegetables or else your diet will lack volume from satiating lower-calorie foods, micronutrients, and fiber. Sustainable fat loss simply won't happen without eating your veggies. Sorry.
Healthy relationships involve honest communication, yet grown adults often hide their intentions from their loved ones... even while their anxiety secretly skyrockets. It's strange when you think about it.
There's nothing wrong with eating out and enjoying yourself with friends and family while dieting. But losing weight is, by definition, a sacrifice. Your body is sacrificing the calories it needs to maintain its current size.
If you're a social person, you can't lose weight while fully indulging at every event. Think about how many holidays, birthdays, brunches, weddings, anniversaries, baby showers, and get-togethers you have coming up. Now double that number because unexpected events happen all the time. You can't blow your calories on all those days.
At some point, you have to tell your loved ones, "Hey, I'm currently trying to lose fat. I'm serious about it, and here are my boundaries when it comes to food and alcohol." Be clear about where you're flexible and where you're not.
Don't downplay your intentions and efforts. Don't joke about it. I promise, your friends and family will respect your choices if you're unapologetically upfront. If they tease you, you can do one of the following:
- Not care... because why should you?
- Respond with witty remarks... 'cause why not?
- Truly assess if they're your friend because friends should be supporting each other.
Any dieting trick for social events can only work if it's based on being intentional with your friends and family. This should be common sense because, you know, normal people communicate their intentions.
One time, I had a new client tell me about how peanut M&M's cause him to blow through his calories. They're just so good he couldn't stop thinking about them, he said.
He tried everything: saving them for the end of the week as a reward, eating a little bit between meals, limiting them to just a handful every other day. But no matter the strategy, he'd inevitably binge on them.
So why not simply stop buying them?
That was the one strategy that worked. But we live in a IIFYM era where we're told you must find a way to fit your favorite foods into your macronutrient and calorie allotment, or else your diet is broken and you have an eating disorder.
Nearly every nutritional influencer is so politically correct nowadays that they won't tell you to leave trigger foods out of your diet. But if certain foods undoubtedly cause you to overeat, then it's time to rebel. This is how you actually keep a deficit going and train your brain to not be enslaved to that craving (2,3,4).
Many people have a trigger food. It's not an eating disorder; it's called being human. And if you're thinking logically instead of emotionally, you shouldn't invite temptation into your life. You should exterminate it.
Thinking you can bring trigger foods into your pantry when you're dieting is like a porn addict thinking he'll be fine if left alone with a laptop opened to Pornhub.
I've met many people who've kept gaining fat despite how hard they tried to lose it. Then when we worked together, and they began losing weight, an unfortunate thing would happen: They'd freak out because it was taking too long.
They'd begin making consistent progress but get disappointed because it wasn't more dramatic. Losing half to one pound per week was apparently too slow even though they were once part of the overwhelming statistic of adults on a continuous trajectory of weight gain.
I get it. It can feel like you're working so much harder than everyone else, yet everyone else is having these epic transformations. But you don't truly know the time and sacrifice someone else puts in... even if you think you do.
Furthermore, the fitness industry is filled with the promise of instant results. While marketing is partly to blame, you can't let your expectations develop into entitlement. Exercising and eating better are good for you. Pursuing fitness and setting goals are great too, but as my colleague Justin Parel puts it, "Fitness doesn't owe you anything."
If you have an entitled mindset, you're not ready for fat loss. You'll be focused on the wrong things and won't be able to sustain the habits necessary to make it last (5).
Make it your goal to eat well consistently and work out. Strive to make these two things habitual and enjoyable. Once you succeed, fat loss will come naturally. It might not be rapid, but it will be sustainable. And you won't be disappointed just because it didn't happen overnight.
Okay, YOU probably don't have this problem, but it's common amongst, well, common folks.
The belief that nutrition is more important than exercise has done more harm than good, especially when people attach arbitrary numbers to it, like, "Weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise."
Hearing this makes me want to face-palm myself repeatedly until I get mistaken for a bruised plum. You wouldn't believe how many people say they're going to get shredded by simply watching what they eat. Is it possible? Sure. Is it practical? No.
The whole "nutrition is more important than exercise" thing is supposed to mean that it's simply easier to create an energy deficit via food restriction. It doesn't mean exercise is pointless. You can't out-exercise a bad diet, but you practically must exercise alongside any diet.
Dieting requires you to restrict calories below the amount your body burns, otherwise known as an energy deficit. If you don't burn many calories – and most people don't due to desk jobs and low muscle mass – your deficit is going to be unsustainably low. Life will be miserable, you'll be starving, and you'll be deficient in key nutrients.
To be able to eat a more sustainable intake, you need to move. This means going for walks, ordering less Door Dash, and actually stepping foot in the gym a few times each week.
"But I'm too busy to work out."
You might be too busy to do a crazy workout routine, but you have time to do some exercise. You can find a couple 30-minute slots anywhere in your week. The time is there; you simply refuse to start small.
Make no mistake, some form of somewhat consistent movement is necessary for long-term fat loss.
You may tell everybody, year after year, that you're ready to lose fat once and for all. But before you say it again, reflect on this list. There's nothing here that's groundbreaking or unreasonable, but if any one of these struck a chord, you're not ready for fat loss.
That's okay because at least you're aware of what's holding you back. Let this be your wake-up call to get it straightened out. Maybe it's time to invest in a coach who will help you work through these things. But until all five are in check, don't expect to lose much weight, at least not for the long haul.
- M;, Arnotti. "Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Overweight or Obese Individuals: A Meta-Analysis." Western Journal of Nursing Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
- R;, Chao. "Food Cravings, Food Intake, and Weight Status in a Community-Based Sample." Eating Behaviors, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
- Hunter, Jennifer A, et al. "Effect of Snack-Food Proximity on Intake in General Population Samples with Higher and Lower Cognitive Resource." Appetite, Academic Press, 1 Feb. 2018.
- Mehl, Nora, et al. "Unhealthy Yet Avoidable-How Cognitive Bias Modification Alters Behavioral and Brain Responses to Food Cues in Individuals with Obesity." MDPI, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 18 Apr. 2019.
- C. Hindle. "An Exploration of the Experiences and Perceptions of People Who Have Maintained Weight Loss." Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics : the Official Journal of the British Dietetic Association, U.S. National Library of Medicine.