We’re rounding the corner to another January 1st and all the New Year’s resolutions that come with it. I can almost hear the determined cries of “I’m going to lose 20 pounds,” “…get rid of this gut,” and “…stop eating junk food!”
It’s no surprise it’s on your mind though. Year after year, health and fitness are at the top of my clients’ resolutions lists (in addition to reducing stress and sleeping better).1
As I always say, you never need to wait for New Year’s or another Monday to roll around to make changes. Every second of your day is another chance to begin your transformation. That said, since so many of you are ready to kiss 2020 goodbye, let me give you the same pep talk I give my clients so we can all start 2021 on the right foot.
The Problem with Fast Fixes
Before I dive in, I want to clarify that weight loss isn’t what you want here. The scale is just one piece of the metabolic puzzle. And not a very accurate one if you ask me. How do I know? In addition to being a health coach specializing in metabolic health, I spent a good chunk of my early adult years feeling fat, foggy, and fatigued. And I did all the usual quick fixes to try and overcome it.
Typical Fat Loss Tricks include:
I traded my sanity (obsessing over everything I ate and how many calories I burned) for a lower number on the scale. My strength was shot, my anxiety was through the roof, and I was grumpy AF, but I weighed less! Well, I did until I couldn’t keep up with the extreme restrictions I was holding myself to and, spoiler alert, I gained it all back.
Get off the Gain-Lose-Gain Rollercoaster
According to this study, up to two-thirds of the weight people lose on extreme diets is generally regained within one year and almost all is regained within five years.2 And about one-third of people actually gain back more than they originally lost.
On top of that, women who yo-yo as little as 10 pounds have a higher number of risk factors for heart disease than women who never make a get-thin-quick attempt.
And then there’s this studywhere researchers from Columbia University asked 485 women (with an average age of 37 and average BMI of 26), how many times they’d lost and regained at least 10 pounds in a year.3 Not surprisingly, yo-yo dieting was very common with 73% of women saying they were extremely familiar with losing and gaining, some cycling their weight up to 20 times over the course of their lifetime.
These women also scored lower on an American Heart Association questionnaire which featured lifestyle measures that the AHA deems being important to cardiac health, including eating better, being active, losing weight, quitting smoking, reducing blood sugar, controlling cholesterol, and managing blood pressure. Researchers ultimately found that the more times the women lost and gained weight, the worse they scored, and the more apt they were to develop heart-related diseases.
Not a victory in my book. And I’m assuming it’s not one for you either otherwise you wouldn’t still be here reading this. If you want to get off the gain-lose-gain rollercoaster for good, listen up, because I’m going to show you the secrets to reaching your goal for good.
How to Lose Fat and Keep It Off
So, if it’s not about fast fixes and flat out punishing yourself, what’s the trick? It’s about changing your behaviours and your mindset — and letting your body do the rest. If I haven’t reminded you lately, your body is a miraculous organism that knows exactly what to do when you give it the right tools and support. So, without further ado, follow along as I dissect the DOs and DON’Ts of long-term fat loss.
Do: Make it a lifestyle. Instead of starting with an end goal in mind, the typical diet mentality, start at the beginning. Decide from the get-go that you’re worth making changes that can lead to you feeling energized, un-bloated, and likely fitting into smaller pants, frankly for the rest of your life. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Even in my own journey, I’m “compliant” about 85% of the time. And it works!
Don’t: Make January the month you “get healthy.” The reason dry Januarys, sugar detoxes, elimination diets are so popular is that people find the need to keep doing them every year! They spend the first month in a strict, no-exceptions diet and the other 11 months picking up where they left off pre-New Year’s.
Do: Ditch the scale. Seriously, there are so many factors that contribute to the number on the scale – water retention, inflammation, and muscle mass to name a few. Even if the scale isn’t budging, you might still be losing fat. So, notice if your tops are easier to button, your pants are loser, or your face looks slimmer. And quit with the daily weigh-ins.
Don’t: Reply on a number to reflect your self-worth. Diet culture tells us that a smaller number on the scale somehow increases our value. This is total BS. If you struggle with self-esteem, diving into your stories and limiting beliefs about yourself is a great place to start.
Do: Always answer hunger with a meal. Intentionally ignoring your hunger or pacifying it with a light snack is one of the hallmarks of deprivation diets. And it’s disrespectful to your body’s elegant signaling systems. Want to lose fat for good? Start tuning in to what your body is telling you, sit down with a real meal, and eat until you’re satiated — regardless of what time of the day it is.
Don’t: Graze all day. When you feel a little hungry, forgo the snacks. Even healthy ones like yogurt, nuts, and fruit can set you up to absentmindedly overeating, especially at night.
Do: Build strength. Muscle makes everything better. Your clothes hang better on your frame, you feel more confident, and your metabolic function improves (hello, fat loss)! Lift heavy if you want, but even body weight exercises like pushups, squats, and planks help build lean body mass.
Don’t: Commit to chronic cardio. I see you, adding up the “calories burned” number on your cardio-machine-of-choice. But overdoing it (and overtraining in general) actually does the opposite of what you’d expect from a fat-loss perspective.
Do: Eat more protein and fat. I don’t care how many grams, (I’m not big into weighing, measuring, counting) just eat more. Prioritize protein and fat at every meal. Think rich cuts of meat with the skin on or marbling throughout. Eggs with the yolks. And nuts, seeds, and fermented dairy.
Don’t: Get fooled by fad diets. Juice cleanses, powders, and processed low-fat health foods promote fast weight loss because you’re consuming an extremely restricted number of calories. A number that will soon leave you feeling exhausted, grumpy, and headed for a binge session.
Do: Get clear on your why. Take some time to write down why this is important to you. I mean, really important. Are you sick of starting over again every single year? Buying bigger pants on the regular? Being obsessed with everything you put in your mouth? Use my Why-By-Five exercise to get help gain a little clarity.
Don’t: Do it because you gained a few pounds over the holidays. Not liking the number on the scale may get you motivated, but it won’t make it stick because once you lose those “few pounds” you’ll go back to your old habits and watch the lbs. creep back on as quickly as they fell off.
What’s the Real Secret?
There’s a reason the health industry is worth roughly $72 billion. Most people want the gratification of seeing instant results. Unfortunately, the faster it comes off the more likely you are to gain it all back (and then some). Follow these “DOs” and see how you do:
Make it a lifestyle
Ditch the scale
Always answer hunger with a meal
Eat more protein and fat
Get clear on your why
Do you agree with these strategies? What’s your secret for long-term fat loss?
Erin Power is an NBHWC board-certified health coach and the Coaching and Curriculum Director for Primal Health Coach Institute. She’s also the co-host of Health Coach Radio, the podcast by health coaches, for health coaches. Erin lives outside of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on a hobby farm in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.