I’ve got a couple solutions for you if you’ve ever had a hard time with “dieting” or “weight loss”.
First things first: quit dieting. A diet is something that has to end at some point – a specific diet can work but it’s important to know you’ll always go back to habits. The results from a diet can be maintained in most cases, but not if the background habits aren’t there.
Just gimme a sec before I get into it – hopefully I stop short of making it sound like the world is in a rough spot. Don’t worry, this isn’t about politics but I may have been the only guy on the planet last week thinking, “man, all that work Michele Obama was doing – will Ivanka carry the torch for childhood obesity?”
The diet industry is beyond fanatical about pushing special diets and superfoods that are supposed to make it so easy – falling short of calling it a conspiracy, I’ll just come out and say it — when you buy, they profit, when you fail, they get to profit again.
No shortage of money in the fitness and diet world. I just want you to know there are good places to put it (if you need ideas, just ask – I’ll help).
It’s not that they’re evil and it really isn’t a conspiracy. It’s just that money makes the world go around and these corporations never actually have to meet you. So they don’t really care. Every piece in the corporate wheel is designed to do one thing – profit.
They do it very well.
And just like the cracker companies engineer a specific crunch that is tested and proven to light up the reward centers of your brain like a disco ball – making you want more – they’ll find ways to make you want it. I love Crispers because that crunch is MONEY.
The diet industry knows it can repeatedly push words like simple, convenient, affordable in front of different products and diets and when you fail, they do it again. They have the research and the data. They know they’ll get another chance to sell you something even better.
So, in hopes that you begin to ignore this stuff or that you already do. Here are some tips that are habit-based, sometimes inconvenient, and part of a long-game. Not going to re-invent the wheel either. These take effort, I’d be a liar otherwise.
1. Your Grocery List
I’ll tell you what, when I’m at Costco I can’t help but scan people’s grocery carts. No judgment – never any judgment – but what’s in those carts tells a story.
There’s a ton of people out there wanting to lose just 10 pounds. If you’re one of those people that has Doritos and pops/juices on your grocery list and all of a sudden you don’t, you may lose 5-10 pounds just by doing that. Not to say you can’t have these foods, you just might want to keep em off the list.
That being said, if foods that come in bags and cartons – the unnatural and processed stuff – hits your list and it’s gone next day, I’d suggest you leave it off. And if you need some of that stuff for a party or gathering, grab it the day of and spread it around.
In an ideal world the stuff you put in the house should be the foods that are borderline impossible to overeat. Most of the people I’ve worked with can’t stomach more than 2-3 eggs (150-225 cals), but we can all kill 500-1000 quick in pizza, chips, etc.
- Meats/Fish (vegetarian counterparts, if you will)
- Unsweetened yogurt
- Protein supplements
If you can keep the bagged, boxed and processed stuff in the house and control it. Go for it. If you can’t, save it for occasions.
*Nuts, nut butters, oils are highly nutritious and should be making the list – just know careless use of healthy oils in salads and big bowls of nuts beside the couch can be trouble. A cereal bowl worth of nuts is well over a half a days worth of food for many of you.
2. Make it harder to get the “bad stuff” – easier to get the good.
Let me start by saying I don’ want you to vilify foods. But if you’re still reading you probably have a few foods you’d recognize as ones you can easily overeat.
In Shawn Achor’s read “The Happiness Advantage” he spends some time talking about will power and “activation energy”. Simply put, the amount of energy you need to expend to complete and action.
Do you have trouble controlling yourself with food at night? You’ve probably ran out of will power. You spend all day using will power – on everything, not just food – and by the end of it there’s none left. If the chips, cookies, or whatever snacks are in the kitchen, they’re gone as you turn on Netflix.
Here’s an embarrassing anecdote from my life that builds this point at the expense of my normalcy. I recently moved from a situation where my washroom was two steps away at any given time while in the house to a situation in Toronto where my washroom is literally as far as possible from my room. Whenever biology sends me a signal, I groan.
But clearly I go. I have to.
If the chips are in the kitchen, they’re gone. If they’re a 2 minute walk to the store, maybe you pass. I’ll take maybe – you should too. You have to know yourself and act accordingly.
- People that live close to gyms go to the gym more
- People that hire a trainer to come to their home skip their sessions less
- People who work in fast food restaurants eat fast food more
- It’s a pain in the ass going downstairs every time I have to pee
3. Cook often
I don’t think any habit truly distinguishes people that have trouble with controlling their weight compared to those who find it hard. If I have a client who isn’t cooking, we start there. One new meal a week turns into a library – even better, it builds a habit. And I stress it as a habit that must be built.
Salads, stir-frys, chilis, stews, egg based meals, meat and potatoes – these are the basics. Lunch time sandwich? That works – the more vegetables and protein in that thing the better.
Prepping counts too. Protein shakes and smoothies are quick , portable and you can blend fruits, vegetables, oils and nuts to make it highly nutritious as well. Breakfast in 2 minutes.
4. Exercise more
I think most people would agree that when you begin an exercise habit, you eat better at the same time. The two go hand in hand and I would even say they have to. Sleep plays into this too.
If I eat like crap the night before I’m supposed to go the gym, the gym is the last place I want to be the next day. I may go, but I have to force myself a bit more. I’m sluggish. Same goes for poor sleep. It’s all tied together.
This stuff is also backed by science in a couple different ways: for one, there’s something known as the “transfer effect”, that a better habit built towards a goal leads to building other habits built for that goal. I think this point explains a lot. If you exercise regularly and define yourself as someone with healthy habits, you’ll pick up other healthy habits as well.
Research out of the Journal Of American College and Nutrition also found that people that exercise more ate more fruits and vegetables. Call it a win.
5. Plan ahead
So, you’ve got a social engagement at night that’s clearly going to involve several drinks and treats. I bet the last thing you want is for everyone to see you holding back or even just to feel like you have to.
For one, one night can’t do much.
Two, it’s not really what you’re eating at night that’s the problem. It’s that in most cases you eat normally throughout the day and by the time night rolls around, every single calorie is excess. It just doesn’t help that it’s usually foods that add up quick.
But if these nights come up all too frequently, just plan ahead. I started using this trick under the recommendation from Jordan Syatt. If you’ve got a big night ahead, there’s nothing stopping you from fasting or just focusing more on eating protein and vegetables so that you have more room to indulge without hitting excess on the day.
Telling you not to eat is a little tough for me because it wreaks of lunatic coach. But your body evolved from a time where we didn’t know where your next meal was coming from. If you know you’ve got a fill coming at you on the weekend, nothing but good things will happen if you just hold back during the day.
Time without food in your stomach can actually be a good thing, so leave some space for later.
6. Be Happy
Off-topic much? Bare with me, I actually think this is most important. I’ve played around with several of these habits for a while now and consider them life changing. Here’s the catch: their effects diminish when you stop. So by all means, use these strategies to get out of hard times, but the real magic is using them when times are good.
Back to Achor’s book the Happiness Advantage – in it, he states “study after study shows that happiness precedes important outcomes and indicators of thriving”. Essentially, happiness precedes success, not the other way around.
Here’s a few habits you can use daily:
- Meditation (as little as a minute or two of focusing on your breathe)
- Gratitude and appreciation (journals and just flat out telling someone)
- Forcing a smile even when you don’t feel like it
And by all means, have the glass of wine and a couple slices of pizza. You’ll be happy you did.
So there it is, some nutritional behaviour stuff to get you going because lets face it, if you don’t have the basics down then dieting is never going to work. If you just work on putting the right foods in the kitchen and making good meals out of them, you’re half way there. Stack on top of it some strategies to make it harder to fall off and easier to stay on and you may never even need a diet.
PS. That happiness stuff really is gold. Check out the book, it was very convincing and very useful.