Check out Part 1 (A-M) here…
N is for Napping
Napping means sleeping. And sleeping means better fat loss.
When you don’t get enough sleep – probably because you’re flicking between every social media app in search of your latest dopamine hit instead of turning the light off – a lot of bad things happen.
These include fat gain, poor decision making, greater risk of heart disease, decreases in cognitive function, decreases in gym performance, and a whole host of other things you’d rather not happen.
Sleep has been touted to be just as important for overall health – and in this case fat loss – as diet and exercise.
It can help with headaches, cravings, negative thoughts, sore joints, appetite, and maintaining strength.
Executing a suitable sleeping strategy, therefore, needs to be part of your daily routine should you wish to succeed at the fat loss game. Not, an afterthought or something you pay attention to when you feel like it.
Ensuring you keep a relatively consistent bedtime and wake time, you keep your bedroom pitch black at night, you keep noise to a minimum, your room temperature is kept cool, you develop a pre-bed routine that relaxes you, and you avoid the bright lights of your TV and smartphone just before you attempt to doze off, will ensure you sleep, and feel, better.
The benefits of additional sleep don’t surface straight away, which is why most people tend to ignore it; however, overlooking the advantages of ensuring you sleep well, and for long enough, will hurt you in the long run.
O is for Ourselves
Do you ever drop a dress size, congratulate yourself, take your foot off the gas, and subsequently reward yourself with a nice big piece of chocolate cake because ‘you’ve been so good’?
It’s a common occurrence.
Yet, an occurrence that commonly undermines you and your previous success with attempting to shed a few pounds.
Our ‘future selves’ can often get distracted easily, and while we know gorging on a big piece of chocolate cake is going to go some way in ruining all that hard work you’ve just put in, we’ll often find ourselves rebel against our previous intentions.
External incentives are often very important in priming new behaviours, and failing to reward ourselves whatsoever, won’t get us anywhere.
The key, therefore, lies in the type of reward.
If we consciously design a healthy reward that won’t necessarily sabotage our hard work, we won’t be stuck in the constant cycle of progress-regress.
Successful incentives may include purchasing a new clothing item you want, or going out a day trip with the family, or treating yourself to a new haircut.
Rewards don’t always have to be food, and the sooner we can grasp that fact, the sooner we’ll be able to not let ourselves down and stay on track.
Once we’ve practiced rewarding ourselves differently, we’ll soon be able to turn that enthusiasm into intrinsic motivation, meaning we won’t have to rely on external ‘prizes’ for our hard work.
Once we’ve reached this stage – doing this for ourselves and not just the incentive at the end – we know we’re on the ultimate path to success.
P is for Patience
The people who don’t ever see fat loss results can’t grasp the concept of patience. They want results yesterday.
Those who do, however, appreciate fat loss takes time. They’re not quick to throw in the towel when things haven’t gone their way after a few days of eating ‘healthily’, nor are they impatiently waiting for the scales to drop by 2lbs every week.
Hofstadter’s Law states:
‘It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.’
Allowing yourself more time than you originally planned and potentially even more time than that, therefore, will put you in a better position to keep going.
In order to succeed, you must realise you’re in this for the long haul.
You have to recognise there’ll be fat loss plateaus and moments of exasperation throughout your journey. You can’t expect to see long-lasting results in a matter of weeks.
You have to concentrate on crafting long-term changes, and not just view your next fat loss journey as another six-week crash diet that’ll end up in the bin with all the others.
Plugging away through the tough times and displaying persistent bouts of relentlessness will eventually see you through as a winner.
Q is for Quitting
Everyone will slip-up at some point throughout their fat loss journey. It’s unavoidable.
There’ll be some days when you end up consuming double the number of calories you’re supposed to and days when all you can think about is chocolate, crisps, and cake.
Instead of thinking you’ve ruined all your hard work and proceed to quit like the hundreds of other times you’ve done before, you must jump straight back onto the wagon.
The quicker you can sweep your slip-up under the carpet and get back on track, the faster you’ll see results.
Falling off your plan isn’t a bad thing; it’s simply an alarm that tells you to rethink your actions and reignite your efforts in a different way.
As Dr Kyra Bobinet, founder of the principle ‘Design Thinking’ says: ‘Just as Apple have different iterations of their iPhones, whereby they’re constantly looking to improve their product, people who succeed at changing their behaviours think like these designers.
Which means they practice or experiment with something, and if that’s something that fails them at some point, instead of thinking they failed, they iterate, they tweak it, they tinker with it, and that’s what sets them apart.’
Fat loss isn’t always so black and white.
Adapting, experimenting, and thinking for yourself is often the game-changer people can look to in order to ensure they last well beyond the customary three weeks they’re used to dieting for.
Quitters never get this opportunity. They’re so focused on everything that has gone wrong, they fail to see what they can do to improve next time around.
R is for Refeeds
Refeeds are periods of deliberate overeating during a dieting phase, typically found through increased carbohydrate intake.
When people find themselves in a calorie deficit for a prolonged period of time, they often find decreases in strength and hormone levels as well as other metabolic adaptations. Most importantly, they struggle psychologically.
Refeeds are periods where you strategically and purposely eat more than you have been, to ‘reverse’ the negative effects of dieting.
They’ve been found to increase muscle glycogen, increase thyroid and leptin levels, and help mentally with the struggles of trying to lose body fat.
They seem, for the most part, to make sense.
There’s one issue, however: for the majority of people, refeeds are a waste of time.
The majority of the general population trying to lose body fat haven’t dieted long or hard enough to warrant a refeed.
Not only have they not reached a certain body fat level that their metabolism has effectively dropped, but they haven’t stuck to their diet long enough to justify a few days of increased carbohydrate intake.
Add to that, people think the word ‘refeed’ is a signal to go all out and splurge on all the food they can come across. Subsequently, all that hard work they’ve put in over the last few days can be undone by a sudden cookie and cake-fest that overrides any caloric deficit they’ve incurred.
Refeeds are typically designed for bodybuilders or physique competitors who never go ‘off plan’; not those who’ve dieted for a couple of weeks and feel as if they need a ‘cheat meal’.
For the most part, you don’t need to worry about implementing a refeed or diet break. Life – social events, parties, meals out etc. – will inevitably provide refeeds for you.
S is for Starvation Mode
Starvation mode is the well-touted proposal that if you cut your calories too low for an extended period of time your body decides to hate you and stop burning fat.
Some people state it then proceeds to achieve the opposite and causes you to gain weight.
Except it’s all BS. For several reasons:
The first being, you can’t defy the laws of thermodynamics. The heavier you are, the more energy, and therefore more calories, you’ll require to function. As you start to lose fat your body will require fewer calories, meaning to continue losing body fat, you’ll have to place yourself in a deficit again to see fat loss occur.
Even if you think you’re defying the laws of energy in vs energy out, I can assure you, you’re not.
Secondly, as we’ve already established, people are terrible at estimating how many calories they consume.
So, even if you swear to the Gods you’re consuming 1200 calories, you’re not losing body fat, and you’re engulfed in the deadly confines of starvation mode, you’re probably just consuming more food than you think are, and aren’t in that deficit required for fat loss to occur.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that your metabolism is a complex and dynamic system that reacts to alterations in its environment.
When you attempt to lose body fat there are a number of factors that influence the number of calories you consume.
Hormones that regulate your appetite increase, meaning things such as cravings increase, hormones that regulate satiety decrease, meaning you find it harder to feel satisfied after a meal, and hormones that influence your metabolic rate can also decrease.
A planned 500-calorie deficit can quickly be reduced to 300 or 200, meaning you’ll find it harder to lose body fat.
If you’re not losing body fat the answer isn’t starvation mode; it means you’re simply not in the required deficit for fat loss to occur.
T is for Training
While you should seldom use exercise as your main method for shedding fat, utilising your time spent in the gym focusing on the correct principles will go a long way in aiding your chances of winning the fat loss game.
While a calorie deficit is catabolic, strength training is anabolic.
Hence why the main goal of any fat loss training programme should be to lose body fat, while building and preserving as much muscle mass as possible. The best way of accomplishing this is to lift weights.
The lean look many people aspire to flaunt ultimately boils down to how much muscle, and how little body fat, they possess. You’ll improve body composition far more with lifting weights than you will with cardio alone.
To build and maintain this muscle, you need to place greater and greater stress on your working musculature. This comes in the form of resistance from an external force i.e. weights. Traditional, steady-state cardio simply cannot provide enough of a stimulus to lead to appreciable muscle gains, if any.
How much muscle you have, therefore, is predicated on whether you lift weights and, subsequently, are getting stronger or not.
Prioritising cardio will only lead to that soft, ‘squidgy’ look people possess; lifting weights will lead to that hard, ‘defined’ look.
The Rules Of Lifting Weights For Fat Loss
- The main premise of your training programme should always centre around the principle of progressive overload – the concept of continually increasing the amount of stress placed on the body, allowing it to adapt along the way.
- Avoid falling into the trap of exclusively lifting lighter weights for more repetitions in order to ‘tone’; this is an outdated means of attempting to lose body fat and will only serve to remove that sought-after high-tension stimulus required for muscle growth.
Attempt to work in a variety of repetition ranges – 6-8, 10-12, 12-15, for example – but ensure you’re lifting as heavy as possible within those particular ranges.
- Increasing the number of exercises or time spent in the gym won’t necessarily equate to more fat loss. More of everything won’t help you burn more body fat.
Namely, because a lower calorie intake will limit the amount of work your body will be able to cope with. It will also become more challenging to continue providing your body with new, and harder, stimuli to adjust to. Start by following a programme that keeps things as simple and minimalistic as possible.
- Just as tracking your food is imperative to measuring progress, logging each training session with the weights you used for each exercise, the number of sets and reps you completed, and how you felt after each session, is a prerequisite for a successful training programme.
U is for Understanding Your Roadblocks
Not everyone’s fat loss journey is going to be obstacle-free.
There’s always going to be life events, social gatherings, holidays, weddings, unexpected work drinks, and other roadblocks that jump out from nowhere, with the main aim of making your attempts at shedding a few pounds even harder.
The best thing you can do is pre-empt these roadblocks and put diversions in place to overcome them.
What’s more, you can allocate these roadblocks into different time frames.
Big events, such as weddings or holidays, will be planned months in advance. You can mark these out on your calendar and fit your training and nutrition plan around these obstacles to ensure you are still making progress while being able to enjoy yourself.
On a weekly level, you may have work drinks or a friend’s birthday party coming up. Similarly, by anticipating what you need to do to work around these barriers, you’ll be able to stay ‘on the wagon’ and not fall off unexpectedly.
And finally, on a daily level, you may have a work meeting booked in the for afternoon suddenly or someone brings in cookies without warning. By prepping yourself with a plan of action should these obstacles arise, you won’t be thrown off course and can stay on track.
The trick is to plan for these roadblocks and fashion appropriate plans to combat them. Because they will happen.
The better you can get at fashioning solutions for each ‘time frame’, the better set you’ll be to continue making progress and not succumbing to the inevitable complications that will inevitably arise on your fat loss expedition.
V is for Vegetables
If ever there was an underrated fat loss tool, it’s the vegetable.
Those leafy, colourful, crunchy sources of vitamins and minerals are not only low calorie and high micro-nutrient dense but are often incredibly high in volume, meaning you can eat a lot for little calorie return.
A diet that contains a plethora of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients are not only going to be beneficial for optimum health but also aid in any fat loss endeavours.
Peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, peas, carrots etc. should be a staple part of your diet. And if they’re not, change that now.
As I always say: no one got fat from eating more vegetables.
W is for Walking
There is a part of our daily calorie expenditure identified as ‘fidgeting’ and is all the spontaneous activities we perform that aren’t labelled as ‘exercise’.
Behaviours such as walking, playing with your dog, twiddling your thumbs, cleaning, shopping, gardening etc. all burn calories.
The little gem that is ‘NEAT’ can account for as little as 15% of energy expenditure in sedentary individuals and up to 50% in very active individuals.
Basically, the more you move, the more calories you burn throughout the day.
As movement throughout the day equates to greater daily energy expenditure, it’s important to note that NEAT actually accounts for more calories burned throughout each day than a single bout of exercise. 3-5 hours of intentional exercise is considerably less than 163-165 hours of unintentional movement.
Not only can everyone increase daily movement with consummate ease, but including more low-intensity activities, such as walking, in their daily routine will augment that required calorie deficit without increasing hunger or fatigue; two of the biggest demons in the fat loss game.
X is for Xcuses
Look, it took me till ‘X’ to sneak in an obscure one so cut me some slack OK?
Sometimes calories, treats, and secret snacks don’t count. That’s what I’ve heard anyway.
‘I’m on holiday so it doesn’t really matter what I eat’
‘I don’t usually have dessert, so this one time doesn’t count’
‘I’ve got so many other things on my plate right now, I can’t expect to concentrate on eating right as well’
Everything counts. Every minuscule bite, dessert, and decision you make with regards to food matters. That’s why the ‘this doesn’t count fallacy’ creeps up behind people and hits them around the head when they least expect it.
We’re able to mindfully make an exception to any rules we set ourselves, but there are no freebies or get-out-of-jail-free cards when it comes to trying to lose body fat.
This mindset fallacy is linked to feelings of being externally controlled; when we see ourselves as a helpless victim of fate. In this case, there’s seemingly nothing we can do to avoid eating badly.
Telling yourself that for some reason this particular circumstance doesn’t count, however, isn’t going to do you any favours.
You have to constantly be aware that everything pertaining to fat loss counts. Everything you eat, every time you miss the gym, every time you eat out, and every fat loss decision you make.
There are no free passes or times when things don’t count.
So the next time you feel yourself rationalising that this time ‘doesn’t matter’ or ‘there’s nothing you can do’, stop and ask yourself if that really is the case.
You’ll soon be aware of all the times you push an eating decision to the back of your head and realise they quickly add up.
Y is for Your Reverse Diet
We don’t have a weight loss problem; we have a weight maintenance problem.
Reverse Dieting is a controlled and strategic linear increase in calorie intake following a period of ‘dieting’ or ‘weight loss’. It’s implemented to mollifying the negative metabolic adaptations that arise from being in a calorie deficit.
How Does Reverse Dieting Work?
Every time we diet and rebound again, we not only have greater potential to store more body fat due to that increased number of fat cells, but we make that the process of losing body fat even harder each time.
This is also, in part, due to metabolic adaptation. The process in which numerous bodily functions are ‘activated’ to prevent this loss of body fat.
When reverse dieting is implemented properly it will provide several metabolic benefits, including, increased metabolic rate, NEAT, and calories burned during exercise.
How To Plan Your Reverse Diet
Re-calculate new calorie maintenance intake and increase calories just below this point, coming from fats and carbs.
Depending on how fast you want to reverse diet, thereafter, raise calories further by 5-10% every two weeks, providing that bodyweight is kept within approximately 1kg.
Continue to track your data as closely as possible to allow for adjustments you’ll need to make along the way.
Continue this process for as long as you feel comfortable, without putting back on all that body fat you’ve lost.
Z is for Zone of Fat-Burning
Spending your time in the gym working in the ‘fat-burning zone’ is about as helpful as the guy serving the hog roast at the Vegan and Gluten-Free Annual Convention.
The theory behind the concept of this seemingly magical and wondrous ‘zone’ is that activities performed at a lower intensity will burn a greater percentage of fat.
While the body does indeed burn a greater percentage of fat at lower intensities, the total amount of calories burned – not the percentage of calories from fat – will be greater the higher the intensity you are working at.
And remember, the more calories you burn over a longer period of time, the more fat you’ll lose.
This is why things like high-intensity exercise, metabolic conditioning, and lifting weights – concepts that will burn calories long after exercise has stopped – will always be better than spending hours upon hours trudging away in the much eulogised ‘fat burning zone’.
How To Win At Fat Loss
Download my FREE eBook on How To Win At Fat Loss and you’ll learn…
- Why everyone usually fails when it comes to trying to shed body fat
- Why you should be lifting weights
- Why calories are so important
- Why weighing yourself is a no-no
- Why mastering nutritional habits are the key to success
All so you can…
- Finally stop failing and start winning at fat loss
- Finally shed inches, drop dress sizes, and actually see a change for once
- Finally transform your body and mind so you’re not constantly battling those dieting demons
- Finally figure out how to lose the fat, keep it off, and flaunt the figure you’ve always dreamt of displaying