This post title pays homage to Baker’s “How NOT to Suck at Blogging” over at ManVsDebt.com. Baker’s the man, so make sure you check out his stuff!
So you want to lose weight.
You’ve finally hit that point where you’re ready to mix things up: you stepped on the scale and it was too damn high, you had to buy a bigger pair of pants, or you reached the top of the steps and you were exhausted. Whatever your reasons are for reading this, I’m glad to have ya – you need to start somewhere, right? Might as well make today the day.
When it comes to weight loss, I’ve heard every kind of story from people who have tried and eventually quit. The moral of each story is this: they sucked at losing weight – there was a fundamental flaw in their plan that doomed them from the start. I want to make sure that doesn’t happen to you so you’re not wasting your time. Before we start, please know that everything listed below is my personal opinion, based on my own research and my experiences with helping people lose weight. Take what works for you and ignore the rest of it.
Change your Mind
If I were a gambling man (which I DEFINITELY am), I’d wager that you’ve tried to lose weight before. Whether it was a specific diet, or a new fad, a weight loss challenge at work, or a diet pill that you saw on TV, you probably lost a few pounds and after two weeks you went on vacation, got sick, or found last year’s Halloween stash of Peanut M&M’s and gave up. What we need to figure out is why were you unsuccessful in the past, and what went wrong:
- How much did you REALLY want to lose that weight?
- Were you willing to cut back on drinking?
- Did you really give up fast food?
- Did you get lazy and start ordering pizza all the time?
- Did you half-ass it?
- Did you get sick and give up after you got healthy?
- Did you have one bad day and then not keep going?
It all starts with your mental attitude. I know that sounds lame (and it is lame), but it’s the truth. If you’re not committed to this whole weight loss thing for the right reasons with the right attitude, it ain’t gonna work. Some famous guy once said “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” Figure out what will make this time different, and recognize the old habits when they start to creep in - if you can stay away from these triggers, you’ll have a better chance of survival.
Your Diet is 80% of the Battle
You can’t outrun your fork, so just going to the gym isn’t going to solve your problems. Sure, exercise is a big part of being healthy, but it’s your diet that really takes that cake (which is better than you taking the cake. The cake is a lie!). I’m going to guess you probably didn’t want to spend five hours a day in the gym anyway, so this should come as good news.
I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again: if you exercise 10 hours a week (which is a considerable amount of exercise if you’re used to sitting on your ass), you still have 158 hours to screw things up. If you want to lose weight, you absolutely need to make changes to your diet. There’s no way around it. Just twenty to thirty minutes a day of physical activity to get your heart race pumping is enough to keep you healthy (along with a good diet). Find something you enjoy doing, and do it all the time.
Don’t Blame Your Genetics
So you have big bones, a thyroid issue, a slow metabolism, etc. Whatever your issue…and I’m going to put this as nicely as possible…”tough sh**.” That’s the hand you were dealt. If you asked for 150 less pounds, the big man upstairs would say “go fish.” You’re going to have to earn it.
Some people can lose weight quickly. Some people can look at a set of weights and get jacked. Ya know what? That’s how life works. Wherever your starting point is, whether it’s 20, 50, 100, 200, or 500 lbs. overweight, that’s all it is: a starting point. Some people get a head start, most don’t. Complainers and excuse-makers suck. The people that succeed are the ones that assess their situation, shut their mouths and get the job done.
Going on a diet sucks. It’s extremely restrictive, it forces you to deprive yourself of anything tasty, and once you’re done with it you balloon right back up to where you started. Why waste your time? A diet will not change your life; it’s a change in your lifestyle that will change your life. Today, you’re going to skip Taco Bell after work – not because you’re on a diet, but because the new you just doesn’t eat there. (I don’t care that they have new special black taco shells either; it’s just food coloring).
Now, it’s up to you to determine how different this new you really is. The more you try to change all at once, the higher chance you’ll have at giving up. You need to find a good balance of changes, slowly incorporating new things into your routine. This brings me to my next point:
Make Small Changes, Relish Small Victories
If you try to change everything at once, you’re going to get overwhelmed. If you generally make ten trips a week to McDonald’s and drink five cases of Mountain Dew, switching to all vegetables and water will probably drive you bonkers.
Instead, pick one thing a week and change it. Switch from white bread to wheat bread, white rice to brown rice, regular soda to diet soda, diet soda to water, give up one extra meal a week from the BK Lounge, stop going to the vending machine at your office, etc. Analyze your diet, find one thing a week to change, and eventually you’ll get to the point where you don’t even miss it anymore.
Remember: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I guarantee that first time one of your co-workers asks, “hey, did you lose weight?” it’s going to feel amazing. Build on that victory and keep the momentum going. A body in motion tends to stay in motion (thanks Mr. Wizard!) – once you get the ball rolling, keep it rolling. If this week’s weigh-in isn’t as low as you had hoped, don’t let it slow you down. Think big picture and keep doing what you’re doing.
Use Your Brain
3500 calories = 1 lb. of body fat.
If you consume 500 less calories per day (or burn 5oo extra calories per day with exercise), you will lose a pound per week. So what’s easier: saying no to a big gulp of Mountain Dew, or running 5 miles? Doing the Dew is 500 calories. Running five miles burns 500 calories. Why not skip the soda and skip the five miles? You stay even. If you skip the soda AND run the five miles, you’ll lose a pound. It’s really a numbers game.
You overachieving readers are already wondering: “If 500 calories less per day will make me lose one pound, then 1000 calories will make me lose two pounds, and 1500 will help me lose three pounds…” This is true, sorta. You really shouldn’t aim to lose more than 1% of your body weight per week. If you weight 200 pounds and you want to weigh 150, aim two pound loss per week. Don’t get too greedy, or things might backfire.
Don’t Starve Yourself
If you plan on cutting your food intake to 600 calories a day to lose weight, it won’t work. When you start to deprive your body of food, your body’s genetics kick in and decide to revert back to caveman times when food wasn’t abundant. It flips on the “starvation switch” and starts to horde every calorie that comes through your system. Thus, you stop losing weight. Then, when you start eating normally again your body is still in starvation mode and all of THOSE extra calories get stored too.
Suddenly, you’re bigger than you were before. Suck. 1-2 pounds a week is a safe, obtainable, sustainable goal. Don’t get too crazy, or your plan will backfire.
How to Lose Weight
Okay, so now you understand how it works. You did your reading, and you want to know what to eat to lose weight. You really have two options:
- Keep eating what you’re eating now, but eat less of it.
- Change what you’re eating.
If you want to keep eating what you’re eating now: you’ll need to count calories. Yeah, I know…it blows. Well, you’re the one that wants to keep eating Firehouse Subs, Lucky Charms, and Papa John’s. Here’s what you do: sign up for a free account at Gyminee.com and spend a few days keeping track of EVERYTHING you eat and drink. A half a can of Coke counts, a handful of your kid’s Goldfish count. The two light beers after work definitely count. I guarantee you eat more calories than you think. After a few days, you can start pinpointing places where you can cut stuff out or reduce your portions. At this point, it’s up to you to stick with it.
If you don’t want to keep track of what you’re eating: You’re going to need to make some changes to your diet. First and foremost, dump the soda. Switch to diet soda if you must, but know that it might be making you fat too. Next, you need to recognize that it’s not the fat content in foods that is making you fat, it’s all of the processed carbs and starches in your foods. What do I mean by that? READ ON!
Eat Real Food
Stop loading your system with junk food. Eat real foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean meats. GET RID of simple carbs and starches, which can be found in: cookies, soda, crackers, rice, pasta, bread, candy, cereals, bagels, french fries, juice drinks, Gatorade, sweet Tea, and so on. No matter the calorie and “fat content” of these things, it’s the carbs and sugar content that jack up your system and make you fat.
Although I’m actually trying to bulk up, switching to a more natural Paleo Diet (which I explain here) has caused me to lose close to 10 pounds in the past three months. I haven’t lost any muscle, I’ve just dropped my body fat % WAY down. If it can work for me, and it can work for tens of thousands of people across the country, it can certainly work for you.
Give up the low-fat meals from the freezer section (they’re made in a lab with chemicals and loaded with sugar), and eat all the vegetables and lean meats and fruits you want. If you switch to all fruits, veggies, and lean meats, you WILL lose weight. I explain my take on the Paleo Diet in my free E-book (hey shameless slug!), but it makes a lot of sense, and it works. As I said at the beginning, this is the lifestyle that works for me and has worked for many of my readers.
This is a must. If you skip breakfast, you’re way more likely to be starving by the time lunch rolls around and eat something stupid. This is the most common change I see in people who have turned their lives around. DON’T SKIP BREAKFAST. I’m not talking donuts, bagels, or sugary cereal either. Eat a good, high protein breakfast and you’ll have a much better day.
Don’t Use Supplements
This is non-negotiable. Every single day, there’s a new ad for a weight loss supplement that promises incredible results in a short amount of time without having to do any diet or exercise change. When something seems too good to be true, it’s because it is.
These weight loss supplements don’t work and they can cause some serious damage to your insides. Remember Hydroxycut? It was on the market for like 8 years before it was pulled from the shelves for being linked to liver damage. Think about all the junk out there now. I guarantee eight years from now some of it will have caused a few deaths. Why risk it!
Better safe than sorry. Losing weight should be important to you, but not at the expensive your overall health. My advice: keep your money, spend it on a session with a dietitian or personal trainer, and thank me later.
Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself
It’s okay to slip up. So you drank a case of Bud Light and watched 10 hours of football on Saturday while eating an entire box of Girl Scout cookies. Who gives a ****! You can’t do too much damage to yourself in a weekend (unless you decide to start snorting Drain-O or something), so take it easy with your food consumption for the few days after that and get back on the train. One or two days isn’t terrible; it’s when you let that one day snowball into a few days/a week/a month that things quickly go to hell. Never give up, never surrender! Buzz Lightyear would be proud.
Make Yourself Accountable
Tell everybody you know that you’re losing weight. It’s one thing to let yourself down when you skip a workout and pig out every other day, it’s another when you have to tell everybody around you that you’re slacking. Be like Tyler, who started a blog back in January to keep himself accountable and has since lost 120+ pounds.
“But I tried that last time and then I failed, nobody is going to believe me this time.” That should make you want to tell everybody even more to prove the doubters wrong when you are successful this time. Accountability is a really powerful motivational tool, and it’s completely free.
What Did I Miss? What is Your Change for This Week?
I’m sure there are a few things I left out, which need to be in here to keep people from sucking. What did I forget? Leave in the comments and I’ll edit them into the article for future readers.
What’s the one change you’re going to make this week?
In case you missed it, here’s the other “how not to suck” post: How to NOT Suck at Working Out.