Habits, And How To Handle Them

habitsMost of us don’t think of it this way, but having success with a weight management program really comes down to managing habits.  Specifically, removing bad ones and creating good ones.  Of course, having just read that it probably does make sense, even if you wouldn’t have put in those terms yourself.  It’s why I have a section on habits in my e-book, and it’s why it’s one of the fundamental keys to long term success.    To reinforce this, I recently got back from a vacation where I planned to relax my normal ‘rules’, which of course meant gaining a few pounds.  Now that I want to actually lose that weight, I have to change a few habits that I created while previously in ‘maintenance’ mode.  For example, while in maintenance mode, I don’t have to be as strict with starchy carbs, and I can afford to eat my favorite snack 2 times per week.  Since I now want to lose weight, I have to play with two different levers:  1) Create a calorie deficit, and 2) eat higher quality food.

To move both of those levers, I definitely have to change my twice a week snack habit.  They say that one way successfully change habits is to not omit the bad one completely, but rather, replace it with a good one.  So, this past weekend, rather than not snack at all (and deal with the frustration and deprivation that goes with it), I changed what I would normally eat, both in quality and volume.  Doing so dramatically eased the transition, and provided the added benefit of feeling really good, both mentally and physically.

The next lever was my workouts.  In maintenance mode, I can focus on strength training and do less cardio.  To help burn fat this week, I changed to a circuit weight training, where I could keep my heart rate up during strength training for added calorie burn.  I also increased my cardio time.  My total workouts were now burning over 400, rather than just north of 200 in maintenance mode.  Again, simply making changes to a habit, not making huge omissions or additions you can’t live with.

When you assess the habits that are acting as roadblocks for your ultimate weight management goals, consider this your new rule, it’s easier to replace a bad habit with a good when than to omit the bad habit altogether.

For more of an in-depth read on the topic, check out this article I came across earlier today.

For more info on personalized weight-loss plans, visit http://fitcoach99.net/personal-weight-loss-plan/

How We Complicate Weight-loss

weightloss

Sometimes we have a knack for making things more complicated than necessary. And, once in a while, we read things that make us think that just maybe things really are complicated.  I remember a time not too long ago when I struggled with weight-loss myself. I remember clearly thinking at one point in my mid-thirties “is keeping my weight down just simply out of my control”.  Without completely understanding how to do it properly I felt lost, confused, and very frustrated.

When I read through an article on Flipboard this morning, the bleak outlook that was painted triggered those old feelings, and made me empathize with anyone who is now caught in that all-to-familiar spiral.

You can read the full story here, but here’s a sample of the content

If you’re one of the millions of people struggling to lose weight, the latest news probably isn’t helping your motivation much. I’m talking about two recently published articles, both backed by rigorous research, that paint a grim picture around weight loss and exercise. But don’t throw in the towel just yet. They don’t tell the full story.

In case you’re not familiar with the articles I’m talking about, here’s a quick recap:

Article 1: The New York Times

The New York Times article looked at former contestants on “The Biggest Loser” and concluded that almost all of them regained the weight they’d lost on the show. The article reasons that after drastic weight loss, two things happen that make weight gain almost inevitable:

1.Resting metabolism decreases (so you burn fewer calories).

2.Hunger and cravings increase, thanks to plummeting levels of leptin, the hormone that controls hunger.

“As long as you are below your initial weight, your body is going to try to get you back,” says Dr. Michael Schwartz in the article.

Article 2: Vox

In the second article, writers at Vox claim that exercise does not work for weight loss. It concludes “exercise is excellent for health, but it’s not important for weight loss” by citing 60+ supporting studies. The article reads much like a compilation of what I’ve been writing about for years. It even includes some identical messages, such as why counting calories from exercise will sabotage your weight-loss goals and why you should focus on diet, not exercise.

Still, I found myself upset after reading both of these articles—not because of what they said, but because of what they didn’t say. They omit half of the story, leaving readers with only one conclusion to infer: We’re f*cked! Your exercise has been for naught. And if somehow you actually do lose weight, expect the pounds to creep back on, because you’re fighting a losing battle against biology.

Most people take away two really impactful “truths” from this. 1) Once you start losing weight, your body will work against you to get you back to where you started and 2) exercise is pointless with regard to weight-loss.

Like the author of the blog post that cited these articles, I, too, have lost 30 lbs. and kept it off. For 8 years now.  While I’ll agree that the longest route to weight-loss and the quickest one to frustration is to solely rely on steady state cardio as a means to stay thin, I can’t say that I identify AT ALL with the first statement.  In fact, I pay very close attention to cravings and food addictions, and I have no personal experience that simply losing weight had any impact on the frequency and intensity of cravings.  Now, I can’t dismiss that what was said was scientific fact, that’s certainly possible, I just didn’t notice is to any extent that I found it demoralizing in my own efforts.

In fact, I would argue that cravings are more a function of your eating habits and routines than your body screaming for nutrients.

So before you throw your hands in the air and order a large pizza in celebratory defeat, let’s check to see just how well you conform to the true principles of long term weight loss. Perhaps you’ll realize that your frustration comes from the wrong approach rather than your body working against you.

  1. Do you strength train? – if you have any history with my blog you know I’m a staunch supporter of strength training. To the extent that it’s worth repeating that if I could only do one form of exercise, it would win out over cardio every day of the week.
  2. Do you do HIIT training? – I’m not sure why this hasn’t taken root in our society since ‘time’ is seemingly our most precious commodity, but to get outstanding results, a tremendous sense of accomplishment, a feeling of total exhaustion, and get it in only a fraction of the time? I don’t know how this is the bestselling idea since indoor plumbing.
  3. Are you eating clean? – You want to ratchet up your cravings? Eat exclusively processed, sugar-laden pre-packed foods. See if your brain doesn’t go nuts trying to get you to repeat that behavior. Similarly, want to crush your cravings, give your body clean, whole foods. Your body doesn’t raise the cravings flag when it’s getting the nutrients it needs to run efficiently.
  4. Do you say “no”? – Let’s face, life can be a succession of mine fields when you’re trying to eat a clean diet, especially now that the warmer weather is here (well, almost). You can’t go a day without someone shoving delicious treats and high fat animal protein in your face. If you’re not saying no with regularity, you’re giving your brain a reason to light up like a Christmas tree with all the fat and sugar, not only leading to a whole sack of calories, but subsequent cravings.
  5. Are you monitoring? – We at FC99 are huge proponents of living mindfully and tracking what we do. What we eat, how much eat, how often we move, how our weight changes, etc. If you’re not mindful of these things, it’s almost impossible to progress. You need to know what you’re doing each week and getting feedback from it. That’s how you make the necessary course corrections.

I’ve said this in the past.  Permanent weight-loss, in theory, is very easy. In application, it’s difficult because it requires significant changes in habits that are deeply rooted in our lives and culture.  However, all of that is simply habitual and can be changed, we just have to know how to do and to give it enough time to take root in place of the poor habits we’ve built.

For more info on personalized weight-loss plans, visit http://fitcoach99.net/personal-weight-loss-plan/

Don’t want to make major changes? Check out our Mindful Living Program. The easiest weight-loss program you’ll ever need.

Excuses, and Being More Mindful

When I wrote the Mindful Living Program earlier this year (which is now on sale on Amazon, see below), I didn’t realize that simply being more mindful would help in so many different areas.  To wit, this morning I came across an article on how to achieve a great chest workout in 10 minutes. Before reading the prescribed routine, I quickly thought of how I would approach it.  Not only for chest, but thinking through an effective 10 minute workout for every day of the week.  I always play this little game that if my life suddenly became extraordinarily busy, how would I still sneak in effective workouts while juggling the demands of every day life.

That train of thought got me thinking about excuses.  Quite possibly the most oft-heard excuse by clients is that they just don’t have the time.  And while I will certainly concede that life with kids and careers and familial obligations is painstakingly time consuming, I think those that live a life of fitness make the time regardless.  When we’re in a time in our lives where there just aren’t enough hours in the day, we default to doing things by process of priority.  Very simply, some of us have fitness higher on that priority list than others.  As it stands now, I get up an hour earlier than I have to each day so that I can fit in my gym routine.  And if that time was somehow usurped by unforeseen responsibilities, I would find other ways to get in a workout, even if I had to resort to 10 minute tabatas.

And so what does this have to do with being mindful?  It got me thinking how often we toss out excuses for not accomplishing the things we know we probably should.  I started to think of the psychology of excuses, and that we likely use excuses for our own piece of mind.  Saying “I just don’t have the time” makes not exercising so much more palatable than saying “I’d really rather sit and watch TV with the free hour I do have”.  So, being mindful in this case means looking past the excuse and being honest with yourself.  Possibly, with seeing it for the way it really is, we can recognize that the excuse is paper thin and actually make a positive change.  There’s also no reason to think that you have to jump right into hour long workouts, or even leave the house.  Starting with short, higher intensity home workouts just 4 to 5 days a week will barely register an hour of your time in a 7 day cycle, but have a positive impact on your health.  Your excuse then, is gone, and I’m willing to be that when you start to see its positive effects, it will become a higher priority, and you’ll likely want to work harder.  Results drive motivation.

So, the next time you try to con yourself with an excuse, regardless of its nature, really think about (be mindful) what you’re actually saying and whether or not it’s just a line you’re feeding yourself to justify not doing whatever it is you’re avoiding.

Don’t want to make major changes? Check out our Mindful Living Program. The easiest weight-loss program you’ll ever need.

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5 Ways To Increase Your Motivation

motivation

One of the most common weight-loss questions is “how to stay motivated?”.  It definitely makes the top 3 list and is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle.  Sure, most of us can white knuckle through a week of clean eating and working out, but long term success comes from translating that into a life-long commitment.

To help satisfy this oft-asked question, here are the top 5 sources of motivation for me.

  • Calorie Tracking – I don’t know why so many weight loss programs are so quick to advertise “no counting calories!” It’s as if this simple and impactful activity is time-consuming and tedious. While this may have been the case a decade or two ago, using a free app on your smartphone has reduced it to child’s play.  I literally spend 1 minute a day logging what I eat and the payback is phenomenal.  It holds you accountable to your target, it opens your eyes to what you’re eating, and it makes it snap to recognize easy swaps that can make a big impact on your intake
  • Activity Tracking – For the same basic awareness principle as calorie tracking, understanding how many calories you’re burning each week is the other side of the puzzle (the calories out vs. the calories in above). Quite simply, it will make you aware of your intensity and your total calorie expenditure both of which will make you more aware of how long it takes to burn off a simple 20oz bottle of soda.  Knowing that will make you want to skip it.  Again, it’s about awareness
  • A well-constructed plan – Sadly, it’s entirely too common for people to have no plan at all. Instead, trying to live by the concept of moderation, which is not only imprecise, but completely underestimated.  A well-constructed plan (which will count calories, track workouts, have goals, consider macronutrient ratios, food quality, and many other elements) will keep you motivated by not only keeping you accountable, but by providing you with a specific road-map rather than wandering blindly without results.  A plan of simple moderation will allow you to have birthday cake at an office party on a whim.  A well-constructed plan will have a time when that’s allowed, but will not give you carte blanche access to derailing treats.
  • Friendly Competition – nothing motivates like a little competition. Grab a friend and do a class or go through a strength training workout together. Without even giving much though, I bet you find that you automatically up your intensity when you know someone else is watching.  That’s just inherent to our nature.
  • Results – Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing (for me) motivates like results. I dare you to find success in a 3 week program and completely fall off in week 4 (this will ONLY happen if your plan is entirely too restrictive or entirely too grueling). The key is to have a well-constructed plan that you can live with long term.  If you can master that, than the results will keep you hanging on like nothing else.

Having trouble losing weight? We can help! Check out our online coaching page. For what you’d pay for a single session with a trainer we’ll create a tailored program and help you course correct as needed.

Don’t want to make major changes? Check out our Mindful Living Program. The easiest weight-loss program you’ll ever need.

Mindful Living – One Day Challenge

challenge

Since our mindful living plan is about simplicity, I wanted to introduce a simple one day challenge. This exercise should take you no more than 15 to 20 minutes over the course of a day, and you’ll be amazed at what you find out. Here are the rules:
1) Know your daily calorie needs. If you don’t already know them, you can calculate them here. Reminder, this should represent a 500 calorie deficit, so if you only know your maintenance level, subtract 500. If you follow the link it will default to a deficit (Lose will be highlighted on the second page)

2) Divide your total calories as follows:
a. 20% breakfast
b. 30% lunch
c. 30% dinner
d. 20% snacks (snacks can be divided into 2 or 3 snacks, but they must total 20%)

3) You don’t have to change what you eat, just make sure you portion control to fit the calorie allotment

4) By reading your nutrition labels or using a calorie tracker like MyFitnessPal or Loseit! Take note of your sugars, sodium, carbs, and saturated/Trans fats. You don’t have to do anything other than take notice. And be aware that for a healthy diet:
a. Added sugars should be under 37 grams (do not count natural sugars, like those found in fruit)
b. Saturated fat. Should be less than 10 grams
c. Trans fat. Should be avoided
d. Sodium should be less than 3,000 (if not 2,500)
e. Carbs should be under 150

5) Also be aware of how many of your carbs are from refined grains, like white flour based products (bread, cereal, pasta, rice). Since they should be avoided, it’s good to know how big of a role they play in your diet.

6) Be aware of how many empty calories (junk food)
What’s the point? Well, doing this work will make you more aware of what you’re eating. When you see how many calories are in poor quality foods, along with the detriments they have to your sugar, sodium, and fat allowances, you’ll likely swap them for better foods on principle. This will encourage you to eat better quality food and help you lose weight and feel better.

Want the advanced challenge, include this workout:

AMRAP (As many rounds as possible) Workout – Time Limit: 30 minutes (Pressed for time? Do it for 20 minutes)

Dumbbell Chest Press (use exercise ball as bench) – 12
Reverse crunches – 20
Burpees – 10
Chest – Dumbbell Flye- 12
Scissor Kicks – 20
Jumping Jacks – 40
Bronze – 4 rounds

Silver – 5 rounds

Gold – 6 rounds

For the dumbbell exercise, be slow and controlled, at least 2 seconds on the concentric movement, 2-4 seconds on the eccentric movement.

This is what it means to live mindfully. check out our book!

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Victoria Secret Models Diet And Exercise Just Like We Do. Oh, OK!

va

A few comments on a recent article that was written by Jordi Lippe from Hollywood Take, you can read it here.  I’m not sure what I expected to read, but I figured  the main idea would be simply that they don’t do anything outside what I consider sensible weight management.  Clean diet, a strong exercise program, and clear and measureable goals.  Afterall, we only make this more complicated than it is because we’re bombarded with Marketing pitches and misinformation with the intention of selling empty promises.  By the time I finished this relatively short article, however, I was a little confused on the point.  Here’s why:

Victoria’s Secret models Elsa Hosk and Jasmine Tookes have the kinds of bodies that send countless women running to the gym. But the VS hotties aren´t exactly limiting their diets to carrots and celery!

Hollywood Take caught up with the two beauties at a Valentine´s Day Gift Picks event at Victoria’s Secret Herald Square, and they told us they love to indulge in high-calorie meals like the rest of us do.

“I don’t avoid carbs,” Jasmine Tookes, 25, told HT. “Give me carbs! I love pizza.” 

Fellow Angel Elsa Hosk, 27, couldn’t agree more. “I don’t avoid carbs,” she told us. “I have a crazy indulgence that I do a little bit too often. I get a grilled cheese sandwich at Chelsea Market at a place called Lucy’s Whey almost every day. It’s so good! But if I have an important shoot, I’ll cut down on my grilled cheese sandwiches.”

Okay, so they know how to work in cheat meals (so do I) while keeping a really strong and principled program.  Hoorah!  But wait, after reading this, did you get the wrong message? Did this justify indulgences?  I came out of this thinking wow, they only workout three days a week and eat pizza and grilled cheese.

That’s obviously not what’s going on.  While they do have the benefit of being young, you really need to keep on point to keep body fat percentages that low.  So while the message is great that you don’t have to give up everything to keep thin, I would be careful in over estimating how clean people in this shape have to be.  If you are anything like me, this article made you want to hit the local pizzeria for a fresh slice!

Having trouble losing weight?  We can help! Check out our online coaching page.  For what you’d pay for a single session with a trainer we’ll create a tailored program and help you course correct as needed.

Don’t want to make major changes? Check out our Mindful Living Program.  The easiest weight-loss program you’ll ever need.


 
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3 Little Things You Can Do To Immediately Benefit Your Health

change

If the idea of becoming healthier has been nagging you, but you just can’t bring yourself to adopt a full program, here are three little ways to make effective changes immediately:

  1. Learn to read food labels – A lot of information can be gained by glancing at food labels, in the matter of 5 seconds you can become more mindful of what you’re eating
    1. Calorie Count – Be aware of serving size, too often it doesn’t fall inline with how much of the food you’ll actually eat in a sitting
    2. Carb and Protein grams – Just by having daily targets for Protein and Carbs can make an impact on your food choices. I generally keep carbs at about 40-50% of total calories
    3. Ingredients – 2 big things to notice are the number of ingredients (be especially mindful of the ones you can’t pronounce) and the first few ingredients. If sugar or white flour are high on the list it’s likely a poor quality food
    4. Sugar count – I keep ‘added’ sugar to 37 grams per day or less. Fruit is not counted toward this total
    5. Fat content – aside from fat having more than double the calories per gram than either protein or carbohydrate, you want to limit saturated fat and remove trans-fats
  2. Slow Down! – Even if you choose to indulge in your favorite comfort food, be more mindful of how fast you’re eating and slow down!  Not only will you enjoy it more, but the longer it takes you to eat the more likely it will be that your brain will get the signal from your stomach that you’re full.  You’ll naturally eat less
  3. Exercise, but start small – This one is obvious, but a huge objection for must of us.  The good news is that you don’t have to go crazy to reap the benefits.  Start off really small until it becomes a habit.  20 minute workouts just 3 times a week is enough to get started.  YouTube has an insane number of free workouts that will  keep boredom at bay, and working along with a video will push you further than working out on your own.  Look for Tabata, AMRAP, and EMOM workouts which get the most out of the short duration workouts.  Once you start seeing benefits you’ll likely want to ratchet up the duration and frequency.  They key is to start small until it takes root so that you burn out.

These easy steps can make you more mindful of your weight management habits and can help promote change. Being Mindful is a great way to make decisions automatic without deprivation.  So much so that we wrote a program called Mindful Living, check it out.

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Why Is There So Much Conflicting Diet Information?

image

Ever notice how how you can read an article about weight-loss and dieting one day, and then read something completely contradictory the next?  Or, even worse, read articles about grueling workouts, super high protein intake, carb cycling, and HIIT training leaving you to believe your only hope is to quit your job and become a super athlete?

The source of this insanity is simply that each article has a unique audience that likely isn’t in the same mindset as you.  If you’re looking to lose a few pounds while still maintaining a full time job, a family, and your sanity, you’re not going to be willing to commit to something that either a Marathon Runner or a Fitness Competitor (two totally different programs) would do.   Now, obviously I’ve used extreme examples, but the idea holds true.  Each article is catering to a niche, and that niche may have different goals than you.  Understanding your own goals and needs is a great first start, then you need find the information uniquely for those goals.

This is precisely why using a weight-loss coach can give you a tremendous advantage.  A program will be tailored specifically to your needs and goals, removing a lot of the confusion as you both work toward your finish line.

Fitcoach99’s online weight-loss coaching can help guide you on your weight-loss journey.  Check out our program here

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Willingness to Change – And its Impact On Weight-loss

change

 

Willingness to change is a huge factor in weight-loss success.  Being human and, therefore, creatures of habit, most of us find change to be unsettling.  Just think about how pervasive habits are in our daily lives.  From our morning ‘getting dressed’ routines to the order in which we get ready for bed, everything is done in a specific order day-in and day-out.  The beauty of this is that we often can do these tasks with our brains on auto-pilot, free it up to do other tasks, like poke at our phones or pondering the meaning of life.   Not only that, but there’s a level of comfort in the routine.

The same holds true for eating habits.  From the morning coffee to the 2pm snack machine visit, most of us take comfort in these daily habits, they are little treats we perceive as ways we ‘make it through the day’.  When adopting a weight-loss plan, we’re suddenly ask to change these routines, and many of us resent it.

This all may sound counterintuitive, you may think that anyone adopting a weight-loss plan is likely ready to change, but that’s simply not true.  Many like the idea of losing weight, but when it comes to practical application, making the strategic changes could spell disaster. This is why only 8-10% of people actually hit their New Year’s Resolution goal.  The idea sounds fantastic on paper, but, having only the change of a page in a calendar as motivation, it’s too easy for objection to change to win out.

If you’re planning to start a weight management program, be aware of your own willingness to change and recognize that in order to promote change in our body, you have to make changes to your routine.  Merely being aware of this can change your mindset enough to overcome the initial objection.  Afterall, your overall happiness in life is not even remotely hinged to a 50 cent bag of potato chips, so don’t let that routine derail changes that can add so much value to your life and health!

To dramatically improve your chances of success, check out our online coaching page.

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5 Reasons Your Weight-loss Program Is Failing You

frustration

Since “lose weight” is a perennial resolution for most of us, let’s do a 3 week check-in.  Have you lost any weight so far?  If you have, is it the amount you expected or are you just barely moving the needle?  If you’re feeling frustrated by lack of results, here are 5 reasons why you current program is failing you.

  • Your program didn’t set clear, measurable goals. This probably sounds like an afterthought that doesn’t carry much weight, but you’d be surprised how important this step is.  It lends structure to your program, and lets you hyper focus on small, specific steps.  For example, when you set out to lose weight, did you set a specific weight-loss goal? Did you set calorie targets per-day, exercise minutes per week?  One of the first things a coach will do is help you set these targets as they play a pivotal role in success.
  • Your program lacks Structure. Whoever said ‘rules are made to broken’ had it wrong! At least as it pertains to weight-loss.  When you adopted your plan, did it provide you with a strong rule set and guidance or are you just winging it and hoping you can will-power your way through it?  Structure and rules help to remove willpower completely. It becomes a matter of mindset. Having a strong, structured, sensible program can make all the difference in moving the scale in the right direction.
  • You’re program is too aggressive. This may sound counterintuitive, after all, being aggressive should yield quicker results, no?  Well, normally it would, however, aggressive programs usually lead to inconsistent behavior. After the holidays and the junk food free-for-all, almost anyone would find it difficult to be super strict and suddenly commit to grueling, frequent workouts.
  • Your program isn’t demanding enough. Well, that seems like a total 180 from above, but your program should be asking a lot of you. Too many programs are trying to market themselves as ‘easy’ but nothing is going to change if you don’t make some sound, strong, strategic changes.  So if you’re not doing the minimal things like tracking calories, logging workouts, pre-planning meals, and course correcting based on weigh-ins you’re working at a really big disadvantage.
  • You’re not using a program at all. I would caution exactly what program to use since many are just money machines with a bigger focus on the bottom line than your waist-line; however, not having any kind of structured plan and winging it with vague concepts and will-power will certainly lead to stagnation and frustration.

The best way to safeguard against these mistakes is to work with professionals who know exactly how to build a program based on your individual needs. Believe it or not, this is a science, not a matter of luck or white-knuckled will power.

To dramatically improve your chances of success, check out our online coaching page.

Just need a jump-start to get back on track and remove bad habits, check out our 30 days reset program