8 keys to long term fat loss success
Over the course of my 20 years as a Personal Trainer I’ve learnt a few things and made some observations along the way about what makes a successful loser, as in the individual that loses weight and most importantly keeps it off! If you’re looking to make weight loss a permanent state of being then the 8 Keys to long term fat loss success will help you unlock your greatest potential. Remember APPLIED knowledge is power, I hope after reading this article you gain increased clarity and feel inspired to start making positive changes for your desired outcomes today!
Key 1 – Make a start. Anything. Anytime. Anywhere.
This may seem like the most obvious thing in the world but if you’re going to be successful at something you need to make a start on it! Are you a serial procrastinator? Maybe you’re suffering from a case of the ‘gonna’s’ (I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do that). Maybe your suffering paralysis via analysis (too much googling?). Are you still waiting for the ‘right time’? Maybe it’s fear of (another/more?) failure that keeps you from taking action?
Whatever the case may be, take a deep breath put it aside and just make a start. Even if you start with changing just one thing, something as simple as drinking more water and less soft drink or going for a walk each morning for 15 minutes, making a start on one thing is better than making no start at all. The real advantage of doing one thing at a time is that it allows you to put all your energy in to becoming good at it and building a good habit - long term success is all about building positive sustainable lifestyle habits. Once you build a good habit with the first change then move on to the next change. If you try and change too many things at once there’s a strong chance you’ll feel overwhelmed at some point and give up - you only have so much willpower to expend each day so don’t take on board too much!
Key 2 – Write it down
Awareness is the first step to change. After all, if you don’t know what’s wrong how can you fix it? That’s one of the great things about keeping a food and or exercise diary as it helps illuminate areas that you otherwise thought weren’t an issue at all or are worse than what you thought in the first place! In the case of dietary recall a lot of people under report (whether on purpose or not) so you think you’re eating less than what you really are. Keeping a food diary takes any guessing out of the equation and
allows you to get specific with any changes that need to be made. If you’re using a calorie counting app then this style of diary obviously allows you to make smaller tweaks as you can alter your calorie numbers more precisely (although there’s still a degree of ‘guesstimation’ here so please don't get caught up in the 'numbers') but despite the ability to add up the numbers the greatest thing a food diary can do for you is increase your awareness and take the guess work out of making positive dietary changes (if there’s not already obvious changes to be made).
In terms of exercise diaries, the greatest benefit here is that it allows you to make progressive increases in areas like weight lifted, distance covered, intensity levels etc without guessing what your next step should be, this progressive overload helps you reduce your risk of injury and thus keeps you training so you can accelerate your results! The theme here is that you can't guess your way to success! Keeping a food and or training diary helps take out the guess work from achieving success!
Key 3 – Be realistic
How much time, energy and money are you willing to spend/expend/invest each day, week and month to support achieving your end goal? Remember whatever you do to achieve your goal you must keep going to maintain it! And while it’s great to ride that motivational high when you start something new, make sure it’s a momentum and plan you can stick to in the long run. How will your exercise and eating plan work in with family, social and work commitments? Sure, you can train for 6 hours a week but is it realistic for the long term? That’s not to say you shouldn’t train for 6 hours per week or that you shouldn’t take the opportunity to train extra on the quieter weeks, but don’t set your targets so high initially that you’ll feel like a failure later on because things (family, social, work, physical, mental and emotion aspects) get in the way of hitting that target you “need to hit”. Key 7 ties in nicely here too!
Key 4 - Stinking thinking (self-talk)
Did you know you talk to yourself more in one day than anyone else? Depending on where you read we can have up to 60,000 thoughts per day and the quality of those thoughts has a profound influence on your actions and therefor your outcomes! So, it’s time to tune in to radio station you and do a mental audit. What are you telling yourself about your ability to achieve your goal(s)? Is it going to be hard or easy? Are you worth it? Are you prophesising that it’ll be just like ‘last time’? Whether your belief is positive or negative you will create situations (both consciously and subconsciously) that will manifest that belief.
Where the mind goes, the body will follow. Once you’re aware of repetitive negative self-talk and beliefs you can then work on changing them. Replace negative self-talk with positive phrases starting with:
“I am learning to…” or
“I am choosing to…”
Using these phrases are preferable to something such as “I am going to eat healthy all the time” or “I will be thin in x months”. Subconsciously you may not believe something like these last two phrases so they will create internal resistance as they do not align with your current beliefs. However, by using “learning to” or “choosing to” at the start of a new self-talk phrase it is much easier to accept because it implies having a certain amount of flexibility and not having to be perfect which makes the formations of positive new habits that much easier.
Key 5 - Plan ahead
If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. What does your week look like each week? Are you hoping that everything will fall into place? How many times are you going to train this week and do you have a plan for when you do train? What are you having for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Do you need any healthy frozen food in the freezer this week for when you have to work back late or couldn’t be bothered cooking? Do you have a plan to manage your stresses? Looking at your week ahead allows you to minimise the surprises and prep as much as you can (cook in bulk, make extra meals, reorganise training sessions) so you can make it as easy as you can for yourself to stay on track. Don’t leave your week to chance, make a plan to make it happen! And if there’s ever any doubt during the week then just remember to stick to the plan, because a well-developed plan is designed to get you to where you want to be - it's your road map to success!
Key 6 - Consistency
I call this the “Big C” – Consistency! Make sure you can be consistent with your weekly eating and training plan, because whatever you do to achieve your goal you must keep doing to keep it. Consistency breeds results, so find an exercise modality (whether it be gym, running, solo/team sports, swimming/aqua, dancing, walking) and eating regime you enjoy and look forward to and that you can do day in day out, week in week out.
Key 7 - Flexibility
Give yourself permission to not be prefect! Life happens, things are going to come up, people will (unknowingly) mess with your plans so it’s crucial you’re flexible about achieving your goal(s). If you miss a training session during the week make up for it another day or view it as an opportunity to be fresher for your next training session. If your food plan goes out the window for a meal then try and balance it out at the next meal (also think about balancing your weekly calories not just your daily intake). If your whole day doesn’t go according to plan then balance it out the next day and maybe look at why it didn’t go to plan and then devise a strategy/plan to keep yourself on track next time you’re in a similar situation. There are many way to skin a cat (get results) so if your current training and eating plan isn’t working for you or your finding yourself stuck on a plateau then don’t be afraid to mix it up and try something different. Be rigid with what you want to achieve but flexible with how you achieve it!
Key 8 - Manage your stresses
Stress has the potential to derail even the most amazingly detailed meal and training plans. If excessive stress has you reaching in to the cupboard or the fridge then it's important you find more a constructive, helpful way to unwind and de-stress. There are 3 ways that you can go about changing the stress in your life:
1 - Change the stressor - that is, change what is stressing you. If you're unable to do that then you can...
2 - Change the stressed - the stressed is you! Can you change how you react to certain situations? Is it possible to change your point of view? Can you learn to respond rather than react? If the first two don't work then you can always...
3 - Escape - If your reaching in to the cupboard or fridge when stressed then your definitely trying to escape with food or drink, however this type of escape is not conducive to short or long term fat loss. Choose a different activity that allows you to escape, unwind and de-stress that doesn't involve food or drink. Repetitive activities such and walking, swimming and cycling have been shown to calm the mind. You could also read a good book, take a bath, meditate, write a journal or even do something creative such as painting or scrapbooking. The possibilities are endless but the main thing is to choose an activity you can immerse yourself in so you can find that escape and get your mind off whatever it is that is causing you stress.
Not this kind of flexibility...
This list is by no means definitive or exhaustive as there are so many other factors that can contribute to your success. In saying that, if you work on implementing the keys above (if not mastering one or two of them) then it will go a long way in helping you unlock your potential and deliver lasting results. I hope you’ve learned something new from reading this, or at the very least it has cemented what you’ve already known or even validated that you are indeed on the path to success. As much as there is a science to weight loss there is also an art. That art is in getting to know yourself. Sure you can nail the numbers in your calorie counting app but if you’re constantly going off track due to lack of consistency, flexibility, negative self-talk or any number of other factors then all the science will only take you so far. Weight loss can be a long and tiresome journey but with the right knowledge, a great plan and the right support, the end can be closer than you think!
Good luck and never give up!