A few weeks ago I asked on Facebook what people struggled with more: finding motivation to exercise (or even knowing what to do in the gym) or their diets.
The answer was a resounding: DIET!
So I’ve been working hard on creating The Food Fix, a FREE 5-day coaching course that I hope will help with that.
What it won’t do: Tell you specifically what to eat and when to eat it.
What it will do: Help you find out what best works for YOU, your life and your goals.
Best yet, it will be delivered to your email box every day for the next five days.
You can sign up on the sidebar to the right of the page (or scroll down if you’re on a mobile device), or click this link to check it out:
Heck ya! Sign me up now!
Do you have just a couple extra pounds you want to lose?
You know, those last couple pounds that will give you six-pack abs or make you feel comfy in a bikini, or will send your former classmates into fits of jealousy at the class reunion this summer?
Well, I’m here to tell you: those are the hardest pounds to peel off. They’ll require more attention and focus than weight loss for health/wellness/energy/general fitness.
That extra attention and focus is exactly why I had to write this post today, even though the sun is out and I’d rather be sitting on my deck enjoying the fresh air.
What? How does this blog being written TODAY have anything to do with losing vanity weight?
Because here is the deal: I have specific goal related to writing and my blog. It’s the kind of goal that requires consistency of specific, targeted actions. Deciding to laze around doing nothing just because it’s nice out will not get me to my goal.
Likewise, if you have vanity weight to lose — weight that has nothing at all to do with health, wellness or general fitness but is all about an aesthetic goal — you also have to be consistent and tactical.
There’s less wiggle room the less weight you have to lose.
What a week!
So, yes, this is the blog post that almost didn’t happen. I’ve had a week! Nothing singularly terrible occurred, but a lot of stupid things popped up to derail me.
First, my website was apparently hacked and my host company took it offline, which meant I had to figure out how to fix it (I am *not* an sql database wizard; in fact, what even IS that?). Then I had to figure out how to prevent a recurrence. Second, my modem/router died and I had to make several phone calls to my internet service provider to prove to them that, in fact, it was dead. Third, my offline training business is a little crazy right now.
There’s quite a list of other things, too, but I will spare you.
In the midst of the chaos I started to write a different, politically correct post but then this one decided it wanted to be written, TODAY.
When this happens, I know someone needs to hear the message. (cue the woo woo music!)
Side note: maybe I’m the one who needs to hear this message. 🙂 Hello, my name is Wendy, and I’m a donut hole addict with a cute new bikini I want to wear, who also committed to writing a blog post every week.
The last 5 to 10 pounds
In my eyes there are two different types of weight loss and they require dramatically different approaches.
The good news is that if weight loss for health and general wellness is your goal, you’ll never have to worry about the second type.
What am I talking about?
Weight loss for health/wellness/energy/ease of movement vs. weight loss for vanity.
Why do you want to lose weight?
The numbers I’m using here are related to women. For men, depending on your size, add 5 to 15 pounds to these numbers.
The first type of weight loss occurs when you have more than 10-15 pounds to lose. This is when you want to bring down your BMI/body fat percentage to within a normal or healthy range.
The second type of weight loss is purely aesthetic. This is when you want to attain a “cut” or defined look, six-pack abs, reduce cellulite, or “get shredded.” This is that last 5 to 10 pounds that take you from healthy and fit to lean and ripped.
Bottom line: it’s far less complicated to get to the healthy/fit level than it is to get to the lean/ripped look.
The more weight you have to lose, the less “fancy” you have to get with the approach. Basically, it boils down to moving more and eating less. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy — it means eliminating some habits, relearning portion sizes, changing your mindset and building new habits over time.
In fact, I’d wager that the more rules/habits/”fanciness” you try to introduce to the equation right out of the gate when you’re losing weight for health/wellness, the harder it’ll be to stick with the plan.
I know that in the past when I’ve wanted to peel off a winter fluff layer it’s been a lot easier by just cutting out/changing some of my diet extras, paying more attention to my portion sizes and ramping up my exercise a bit.
But a lot of times, when we start a “diet” to lose weight for health/wellness reasons, we jump right into the advanced “vanity” program — diets aimed at giving you a six-pack or an ultra-lean look.
Don’t do that to yourself.
Dieting for the ultra-lean look often means we have to get tricky with things like managing our body’s hormones/blood sugar levels/more. And that definitely falls into the “fancy” category — there are more guidelines to follow, and it requires more will and focus.
As a trainer who works with bodybuilders and physique athletes, I am here to tell you: you do NOT have to diet like they do to get to your wellness-related weight-loss goals.
And thank goodness! You don’t have to eat six times a day, you don’t have to cart around a jug of water and you don’t have to eat six egg whites at a sitting. (Neither do they, really, but it’s part of the culture, so we let that sh*t slide.)
However, if you want to lose that last bit of vanity weight, you might borrow a few tricks from the bodybuilding nutrition book.
Your meal plans might be a little more stringent. Your off-plan eating might not be as “off” as normal, or maybe it goes away for a while. Your meal design might become more important — you have to look beyond the calories your meal contains to also looking at specifically what is IN your meal.
It becomes a balancing act.
The thing about dieting away the vanity weight? I have met very few people who didn’t immediately put it back on when they went off their eating program.
It’s work. There also is some going-without (buh-bye, donut holes! TTFN!).
But the results can be really fun. Fitting into that VS bikini? Wearing short shorts? Doing a photo shoot? Yes!
But those results are only for a while. Just like those cute 6-inch heels you saw at the mall, keeping off the vanity weight isn’t practical for regular everyday life. At least not for most of us who don’t have DNA programmed for flat abs.
So that being said: we are on the brink of summer. If you want the six-pack or the bikini butt, you gotta lean into it pretty hard and get tactical. (I am also talking to myself here.)
For some of us, vanity has its place …. for a little while. But be sure to bring it back to a healthy balance.
And for me, for now, the blog post is done. That means I am going to go enjoy some of the fresh air on this late-May day. I’m saving the donut holes for another day, though.
We spend an awful lot of time thinking about food.
I mean, a lot. And by a lot, I mean: A LOT.
Mention anything having to do with recipes or “clean eating” or diets in the women’s locker room and all conversation stops, because everyone wants to hear what’s being said.
We think and worry about food and diets so much that we get confused. Or we create a lot of conflict/drama surrounding food because we feel overwhelmed.
We forget what we already know and start to second-guess ourselves: What should I eat? When should I eat it? And how much should I eat? We worry about the minutiae – are carrots okay? Should I be eating fruit at night? – instead of the bigger picture.
Maybe it’s the fact that it is spring and we’re focused on getting ready for swimsuit season, but lately I’m getting a lot of questions via email, social media, text, in person and more. The bottom line is: HELP!
“Perfect” doesn’t exist
It is the rare client who doesn’t make a confession to me:
- “My number one problem is my diet.”
- “I eat too much.”
- “I was so bad this past weekend.”
- “I’m good all day but then at night, watch out!”
- “I do great for a couple days and then it falls apart.”
- “Sometimes when no one is looking I’ll sneak some candy at work.”
- “I gotta get control of this thing.”
- “I am so confused. I can’t get the hang of it.”
- “Wine.” (Yes, generally these are one-word confessions). “Beer.” “Cookies.” “Ice cream.” “Chips.” “Pizza.” Or sometimes it’s just: “Carbs.”
Coaching clients about their diets is the single most confounding aspect of my gig as a personal trainer – and it’s also the single most important aspect of body transformation and overall wellness.
No one eats “perfectly” all the time. What does that even mean? Sometimes I feel guilty when I tell clients about my own occasional dietary “treats,” when I eat something like pizza or donuts. It’s as if I’m telling them the truth about the Easter Bunny – I’m letting them down and/or bursting their bubbles.
But for real: perfect does not exist. In fact, being “perfect” is an eating disorder and it’s called orthorexia.
Don’t eat this
Why do we get so confused? Because everyone has an opinion about what “works.” About what’s “right.” And they seem so adamant about those opinions.
I can pretty much guarantee you that no matter what you eat on any given day, there is someone out there who would find fault with it.
Our food beliefs can come from our family, religion and our culture. Many of us have control issues dating back to childhood (oh the stories my brother and I could share about dinnertime rules at our house!). Some of us are picky eaters, and others are used to the souped-up flavors found in restaurant food and also in fast food/takeout, and the very thought of eating fresh/whole foods/vegetables makes them gag.
And then you get the gurus who tell you to cut out all sugar, or animal products, or gluten, or fruit, or they say that you have to go low-carb, or that you need to eat for your blood type, or maybe you have food sensitivities, or you should eat 6 times a day, or they say that intermittent fasting is the way to go, and suddenly you don’t dare to eat anything.
Or maybe you decide to eat everything. Who could blame you?
(Seriously, I get at least 10 emails a day from various gurus telling me what/how/when to eat – or not eat. I don’t know why I don’t unsubscribe from their lists, but the truth is I kinda like knowing all the stuff that’s being shoveled online.)
Chew on this
What if instead of focusing on losing weight (or fat) you started thinking about something more positive – eating to improve how you feel? How is that for a controversial plan?
It’s a heck of a lot more motivating than grabbing your muffin top (if you have one) with disdain and viewing diet as a punitive method of correcting something you don’t love about yourself.
Beyond any fat-loss/muscle-gaining goals you might have, your nutritional intake has a major impact on your mood, energy, pain levels, your hunger and more.
We tend to have a major disconnect about what happens after we put food into our mouths. It’s like we expect a salad or sandwich to fuel us the same way an Oreo Blizzard or a meat/potatoes/veggie square-meal would.
Take a sec and think about you feel after eating each one of those things. I know I feel a heck of a lot better an hour after eating a salad than I do eating a Blizzard. And a square meal – protein, starch and veggie? That really makes me happy. (For more on this, check out this article.)
If you eat like sh*t you feel like sh*t
I know that to be a fact because I’ve experimented on myself numerous times. I’ve goofed up an otherwise energetic day by eating a big slice of frosting-slathered cake – it made me feel sluggish and bloated, and I needed a nap an hour later, and then I woke up feeling like I had been hit by a truck. Or how about eating too much while on vacation and needing almost a week back home before feeling strong and energetic again? Ugh.
I’ve also woken up feeling like I had a hangover because of eating too much before going to bed the night before. Blah.
And I’ve also had periods when I felt amazing, when I could jump high and run, felt positive about life, and had a ton of energy — and those times correlate with when I’m fueling my body with stuff it loves.
I know I’m not alone.
The magic formula
There is, in fact, a one-size-fits-all formula for weight loss. It’s really simple. If you create a calorie deficit – if you burn more calories than you take in – you will lose weight. Even if you eat crappy foods.
That’s how Weight Watchers and other calorie restriction programs work. They don’t restrict WHAT you eat, necessarily, and they do encourage healthy eating, but mostly they control your overall fuel (calorie) intake.
And that works for weight loss, pretty much every time.
I know a lot of people tell you that all calories are not created equal. And they are correct. But still, you will lose weight if you eat crappy foods as long as the overall intake is less fuel than you burn.
Maybe it’s not politically correct to write this, but think about the terrible ordeals suffered by people held in prison camps. They are stressed and starved – they clearly do not eat a vegan/paleo/pegan/40-30-30/macro/whatever buzzword you want diet. And they definitely lose weight.
But yes, they feel terrible and their weight loss isn’t the kind you would wish on anyone.
So what do you eat to lose fat healthfully? What diet will make you feel – and look – great?
This is where it gets kinda tricky and confusing. There is good (and evolving) science surrounding optimal diets, and we are learning new things all the time. Every time something new is uncovered, people start espousing why it’s so awesome, even as other people (coughTheGovernmentcough) push diets based on old science and beliefs.
That’s why it’s so confusing.
For instance, they used to say that to optimize your metabolism you should eat 5 to 6 times a day. Now, they are saying that might not be the case and for some of us, eating once a day is, in fact, enough.
But there are some basic truths about a healthy diet, and I am guessing if we sat down to talk about this you would outline for me the following as key points. And maybe you’d add a few other nuggets, too.
- Eat less sugar.
- Stay away from processed foods.
- Eat protein at every meal.
- Eat vegetables.
- Get enough fiber.
- Drink 8-10 glasses of water a day.
- Take a good quality multivitamin to fill in any nutrition gaps.
And then if you wanted to lose weight, you would figure out how much you’re currently eating every day (keeping a food journal) and then calculating how many calories you need, and then eat slightly less – say 500 to 750 calories a day – than you burn.
That’s really not so tricky, is it? And you pretty much already knew all that, right? Imagine taking back the power over your diet! Actually listening to your own body and finding out what works best for YOU.
I’m working on a few projects right now to help people stick with their plans, which I know can be tough until you find the groove that works for you (and that, for some of us, is a moving target). But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m really excited about helping people make that connection!
What’s your take on “diets”? Does it all confuse you, or have you found a plan that works for you? Let me know! I want to hear your thoughts.