Rumor has it, I’ll be turning 43 this week.
Since I like a good list as much as the next person, I thought I’d sum up a variety of ways you could lose fat with the remaining weeks of 2018. What makes this more interesting is that my birthday falls during what is typically the “Oh Shit!” time in many people’s diets. I’ve tried my best to keep that in mind since many people are looking for a short-term solution to help or kickstart their fat loss plan.
So, you could be like so many others and “seriously” lose weight starting in January OR you could get a head start on those folks by trying one or several of the tips you’ll see below.
Yes, I’m still considering the fact that by and large calories in and calories out is the single most important factor of the conversation but that would make for a really boring list of 43 items. What you’ll read will be some things you may have considered before and perhaps some things that you may have never thought about.
If you’re reading these and find that some of these ideas wouldn’t work for you, just think about the fact that we’re really only focusing on what you can do for the remainder of the year.
If you find a groove with some of these concepts and want to make them part of your long-term success plan, many of these will fit well.
Let’s get to it.
In no particular order:
- Skip Snacks-Whether they come in between meals or after dinner, one quick place to trim back the calories during this season is with snacking. Stick to your 2 or 3 regular meals of the day and eliminate all snacking and grazing.
- Swap One Meal For A Protein Shake-You pick the meal: breakfast, lunch or dinner and replace it with a protein shake. The shake would ideally just be one single serving of protein powder mixed with either 8–10 oz of water or a low calorie dairy alternative like unsweetened almond milk.
- Drink One Gallon Of Water A Day-This one is not for the faint of heart but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t have some good attributes. If you’re currently only consuming about 20–30 oz of water a day, I would highly suggest building up slow and not consuming a great amount within 3–4 hours of bedtime. Otherwise, you’ll be visiting the toilet all night which will disrupt your beauty sleep. No bueno.
- One 24 Hour Fast Each Week-While intermittent fasting gets a lot of mention, for both good and questionable reason, you could try a more advanced method that has you only taking in water, black coffee or unsweetened tea for 24 hours once a week. My favorite way of using this method is to stop eating after dinner of a given night and not eat again until dinner the following night. I would advise that you keep yourself busy and well-occupied during the fast or the ONLY thing you’ll be thinking about is food.
- Half The Starches, Twice The Veggies-Take a look at the way you prepare your meal. What are the proportions of protein, starchy carbs, and vegetables? Now, cut the starches in half and double up on the veggies. This has you taking in fewer calories via rice, pasta, bread, etc. Fill your plate back up with lower calorie carb options that are typically high in fiber like broccoli, spinach, asparagus and so on.
- Schedule Your Workouts-This is the time of year where I see my client’s scheduling get somewhat haphazard. Treat your workouts like you would a doctor’s appointment and make the commitment to keep it. This could include your workout with a trainer, a workout at home (before the day gets rolling) or something you do after dinner. Just don’t skip. Make it a priority so you have another place to burn a few more calories.
- Netflix and Treadmill-There are a lot of great shows out there. If streaming services have done anything, it’s to create addictive shows with great plots and cliffhanger endings making it easy to binge on them. Referring back to option 6, only watch a streaming show when it’s part of a low intensity cardio workout. Grab your phone or tablet, put in your headphones and get in a nice, long, brisk walk while you watch your episode. Make it your holiday rule that if you watch an episode, you’ll be getting in cardio while you do it. No exceptions.
- No Eating After Dinner-For the record, there is no magic time to eat or stop eating. Your body doesn’t really do anything different with calories at 7am versus 7pm. However, people like rules. So, for those of you who have a tendency to nosh a few bites after dinner give yourself this rule of no calories (liquid or otherwise) after dinner. I have had many clients who claim this is the time when they do the most caloric damage because it becomes so mindless to keep grabbing at things as they’re relaxing and winding down from a long, stressful day.
- Eat In-As much as we might like, calories are extremely hard to control at restaurants. While this time of year is fraught with holiday events, make every effort to eat at home where you have better control over calories. This has been one of the most useful tips in helping my wife lose the last of the baby weight since Sebastian was born. I learned how to be a better cook, we saved money, she lost weight. Win, win, win. Yes, it can be tempting to just go out to a restaurant when you’re tired and not feeling up to cooking. It would be helpful to find some low maintenance meals to cook that have calories more in line with your needs. I found that many Asian dishes can be whipped together in a wok in roughly 20 minutes which is about how long it would take you to order and be served at a restaurant anyway.
- Black Coffee or No Coffee-If I had a dime for every client who destroyed their caloric intake with what they put in their coffee every day…well, I’d have a lot of dimes! Kidding aside, this is a big area to improve for a lot of people. Get accustomed to drinking only black coffee for the rest of 2018. It is an acquired taste, one I had to acquire myself. You can save hundreds upon hundreds of calories by adhering to this. It’s not uncommon for me to find clients who are adding in 400–600 extra calories a day with their low-fat sweeteners and creamers simply because they eyeball the measurements. If you can’t make the transition, try skipping coffee altogether and going for another caffeinated drink that has no calories.
- Weigh Daily-This is a sticky one because we all have a different relationship with the scale. I spoke about this in reference to my Dad a few weeks ago. If you’re good at removing your emotion from the number, this can be a great tool for keeping you on point with your dietary decisions throughout the holiday. I would advise logging the numbers into a health app on your phone so you have a better idea of long term trending of the numbers.
- Weigh Weekly-Knowing what I know about some people’s personalities, option 11 will never work for them. It’s too paralyzing. So, at least weigh once a week. I recommend a Tuesday, Wednesday or a Thursday. There is no magic day, just keep it consistent. First thing in the morning, after a pee, butt-nekkid, stick with the same day.
- Two Bites Of Dessert-Oh, my precious sweet tooth, my Achilles heel. If I was trying to lose weight, this is one place I would have to examine. This option would likely take the help of another to implement but let’s draw the picture. You’re at an event and you see a dessert you can’t take your eye off of. Ask your spouse, significant other or friend if they will share it with you. Tell them you have a 2 bite limit and they can either finish the rest or toss it. You can save both tremendous calories and tremendous guilt by doing so. If you were able to do this on your own, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog. So, make sure you have an ally in this endeavor.
- Only Drink Low Calorie Drinks-With the exception of the protein shakes mentioned in Option 2, this can play into my thoughts in Option 10 as well. This is where you may need to eliminate or minimize sugary sodas, sugary energy drinks, mixed alcoholic beverages, craft beers, etc. Stick to things that have controlled lower calorie options: sugar free sodas/energy drinks, one measured shot of liquor with lime/lemon, etc. or low calorie beer. Stick to one serving.
- Use Herbs and Spices Instead of Marinades and Condiments-Learning how to cook really opened my eyes to the wild world of spices and herbs. While certain foods really taste great with marinades, sauces and condiments you potentially open up a huge opportunity with more calories than you bargained for. Utilize those spices, try new ethnic cultures with your menu and treat your senses to some low-to-no calorie flavors.
- Watch The Sides-Sometimes I see people order reasonable entrees with outrageous side dishes. Grilled chicken with mac and cheese and french fries. Salmon with sweet potato casserole and broccoli swimming in butter. You know what I mean. Stick with sides that have little to no guilt attached. If they’re not available, skip them altogether.
- Hold The Fries-I like a good burger as much as many people do. While I have seen some fantastically high calorie burgers in my time (hello cheese, bacon, egg, sauce, etc.), the added damage is what those fried potatoes bring to the mix. Stick with a simple burger with veggies and mustard or A1 and let someone who’s not concerned with their waistline get nuts with the fries. If you’ve ever been to Five Guys, you’ll know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.
- No Cheese, Please-The food industry has gotten really sneaky about doing one thing with food I never thought possible. They’ve found ways to add even more cheese (artificial and otherwise) to your meal options. Why have one slice when you can have two, two when you can have three, etc. I love dairy through and through but if there’s one area I see pop up in a lot of food journals, it’s significant cheese consumption. Much like the coffee problem I mentioned before, this is a place where hundreds of calories creep in that can be dealt with easily. No, you don’t have to cut it out forever. My Dutch ancestors would never forgive me for making that suggestion. Just note where it’s problematic and try pulling it out of the mix for a while.
- Skip breakfast-This will likely play into the hearts of all intermittent fasting folks out there. Many have decided to skip breakfast so they can close their eating window for the day. While I think this can certainly have some benefit because it is definitely a place to save calories, I will add the caveat that many people who are already doing this tend to find other meals to overeat at. So, if you feel like you don’t have that problem, try pulling breakfast out of the mix and watch your hunger signals to make sure you’re not overindulging elsewhere. For the record, this tends to work pretty well for my wife.
- Fewer Grains, Fewer Pains-I hesitate to add this one because I, for one, find grains to be really helpful for my digestive system. However, everyone is different in this regard. So, for the next several weeks, see where you can limit your grain consumption. This will include: breads, pastries, cookies, cakes, cereals, etc. Stay aware of how your stomach feels with these items limited. I would also make an extra effort to get fiber from fruits and vegetables so you don’t clog up the plumbing.
- Fun With Fiber-While I’m on the subject of fiber, try experimenting with new types. Most of my clients drastically under-consume fiber. Women typically need to be around 20–25 grams a day, while men would be shooting for roughly 35–40 grams a day. I would caution against things like Quest bars that have an abnormally high amount of fiber because I’ve seen them really not sit well with many people’s digestive systems. Start with whole food sources like berries, leafy greens, seeds, etc. and make sure you get plenty of water to help flush this through the system.
- No Bread Basket-No, I’m not anti-grain. Please see option 20 for my thoughts. That aside, many restaurants (if you can’t stay out of them for the holidays) will start your meal with large rolls or large sliced loaves and a healthy serving of butter. Save yourself the anguish of an additional 300–500 calories by opting out. Make sure your guests are okay with that decision otherwise you may upset the table and this may be a place where you look a little unpopular by not partaking in what the rest of the table is.
- Harness The Power Of No-I don’t know about you but I know a lot of “pleasers”: people who just want to do as much good as possible for as many people as possible. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. I like being around good people. The issue I have is that many of these “pleasers” forget to take care of themselves. If you’re embarking on my challenge as I’ve offered it in this blog so far, get better at saying No. No to that food, No to that drink, No to that food pusher who can’t take No for an answer, etc. It is immensely liberating to have freedom and power from something as definite as No. It’s not to be anti-social or unfriendly. It’s a Yes to self-care and self-improvement. And..it can work wonders with a fat loss plan.
- Look In The Mirror-This is something I’ve heard more clients speak openly about lately. The notion of being so unhappy with their weight that they don’t look in the mirror. They get dressed in their closet, they don’t peer at their reflection until it’s fully clothed and concealed and they go on with life not really wanting to see what their physique looks like. This is heartbreaking to me. I have a client who very recently has just started to embrace his reflection. Mind you, his weight loss results so far have been exceptional. I believe that now he is developing confidence in what the mirror shows him. Much like looking at your bank account, you don’t know how to address something until you face it. So, lift your head up. Look at your reflection. Then, decide how you want to improve what you see. This has nothing to do with calories. It has everything to do with self-acceptance and accountability for our actions. It is even something I have had to struggle with so this doesn’t just affect those who have weight to lose.
- Write Your Rage-If all of my years of being a songwriter, poet and now blogger have taught me anything, it’s to use my writing as an outlet for pain. Thankfully, my life is much calmer and filled with more love now than it has been for many years of my life. That being said, many people take their emotions and use food/drink to blanket them and sweep them under the rug. I say, write it out. See it in black and white. Uncover it, unpack it, unveil it. Use food for constructive purpose, not self-destructive purpose. Don’t pretend your emotions have no voice. Give them a voice and place to belong, since they probably don’t need to exist on your plate.
- Challenge A Friend-Make a friendly bet with someone you know. Keep it realistic and have a reward like a movie, manicure or new shirt attached to it. Give yourself a weight loss goal to achieve by the end of the year. You have until Dec 31 to hit it. Have fun, keep the competition motivating and uplifting, and offer tips to help each other. You both can win: the reward and the weight loss. And, you both get to start 2019 with a fresh set of eyes and some new goals to attack.
- Get Boring-Variety might be the spice of life but it can be hell on a fat loss plan. Too many choices can mean too many places to ride off the reservation. Get more predictable, get your meal plan in place and see how far you can go with fewer options available as opposed to more options.
- Reward Yourself With Non-Food Gifts-Did you have a good weigh-in? Did you see a number on the scale that you haven’t seen in a while? Awesome! Now, rather than splurge on a tasty food that you may regret as soon as you finish it, try rewarding yourself with something else instead: a massage, a haircut, or a new book that’s been sitting in your Amazon wish list. Not every celebration for your hard work needs to have a calorie attached to it.
- Unfollow Food Pages-There are probably exceptions to this but whenever I see my clients/friends share food pages with each other, like those videos of someone preparing a dish from beginning to end, these are the clients who are struggling with weight loss. Temporarily (or permanently, your pick) unfollow these food pages from your social media feed. If you’re already struggling to get control over your food intake, the last thing you need is more hyperpalatable foods in front of your face making you salivate every time you scroll past it.
- Put Down Your Fork-After being in retail for as long as I was, there is one nasty habit I’ve had a tough time breaking. I eat so fast I barely register what the food tastes like. This is due to many years of not knowing if I would get an actual break when I was at work. When you pile on the stress of the holidays on top of every other stressor in your life, it’s easy to just inhale food without thinking. So, slow things down a bit and put your fork down in between bites so you can actually chew the food you’re supposed to be savoring.
- Time Your Meal-This option can be stacked into option 30. Set a timer for 20 minutes and take the full time to eat your meal. Enjoy the conversation of others. Slow.Down.
- Only One Serving-While Thanksgiving festivities are now behind us, there are still plenty of opportunities to overindulge no matter whether it is a holiday event or with how we eat at home. Give yourself the limit. Only one serving of what you’re having. This goes for drinks with calories and what’s on your plate. At all costs, try not to revisit the mashed potatoes scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. That’s arguably one serving also. One very large serving…
- No Buffets-There’s a really great Indian restaurant nearby and during the winter months, I love going there. It’s the right combination of heat, spice and comfort to keep me happy. They offer a lunch buffet throughout the week and without fail, not only do I overindulge there but I violate option 32 every time I go. Resist the temptation and stay away from buffets for the remainder of the year (with the exception of your holiday gathering which will present enough temptation in and of itself.) If you can make that the only All Access event you attend, you’ll probably still win the fat loss game by the end of the year.
- Remove One Vice-Typically, I’ll see clients give something up for Lent each year. Some people really do a great job of giving up something that actually has a noticeable effect on their diet, some pick an item that really doesn’t plague them too much but sounds nice when they talk about it. My recommendation: Give up something that actually takes effort. Maybe that’s alcohol. Maybe it’s sweets. You decide. Most people know what that vice is. I always find it very intriguing what people can give up and what they learn about themselves during the process. Make your vice of choice count if you decide to temporarily remove it from the equation.
- Get Uncomfortable-Affectionately, I am “stealing” this one from my friend Leigh Peele who much more eloquently suggested this on our recent podcast together. While I do think you should listen to that episode if you haven’t already, the short take on it is to consider what you do differently to actually be hard and uncomfortable to undertake. It teaches you resilience. It can be wildly effective with a fat loss plan. And for those of you who believe that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger (as I tend to do), getting uncomfortable with your plan is a crucial step to take. For some, this might be adhering to Option 34 or for others it would be something like Option 4. Either way, whoever tells you dieting should be comfortable is probably an ass, most likely a liar and even more likely, is a good mixture of both. You may want to reconsider your affiliations with this person. They might fart glitter and that is not an attractive trait. Just saying…
- Be Less Social-If you’ve been taking these options in stride, you may be thinking about how any of these ideas could affect your social life. If you’re a very social person who tends to cave under the influence of other’s opinions it could be difficult to navigate with what I’ve proposed thus far. Consider limiting your social outings this time of year and only focus on the ones that mean the most to you. The less friction you have to work with, the easier it will be to stay on plan. The more temptation you give yourself (see Option 33), the harder it will be to make the decisions that help get you closer to your goal of fat loss before 2019.
- Go To Bed-One thing I frequently hear about is the terrible sleep habits of my clients. They get home from work, they’re tired, they’re hungry, they’re bored, they’re stressed, they’re depressed. So, they relax, they eat, they take in cues from television to go back to the pantry, grab more to eat, relax some more, get on social media, get worked up about what Susie so-and-so said about political ya-ya and, back to the pantry they go. Here’s a thought: finish dinner, take a bath or shower, read a book, go to sleep. Stay off social media and turn off the television. You won’t miss much. I promise. Plus, wait for it…you’ll save a lot of caloric damage this way AND who doesn’t like more sleep?
- Ask Your Doctor-I have a lot of clients (at least 30% to be realistic) who are on medications for some type of mental obstacle: anxiety, depression, etc. Of that percentage, many of these same clients are on medication for things like high cholesterol or high blood pressure. It often happens that a general practitioner prescribed one medication while a psychiatrist may have prescribed another. Each medical professional is trying to help you with your symptoms. What they may not be focusing on is how a solitary medication or the combination of medications can affect your ability to lose weight. Ask your doctor about your particular scenario and ask, more pointedly, if the combination would be preventing you from losing weight. This is not discussed often enough and you should know if something internally is standing in the way of your success.
- Purge The Pantry-It’s relatively low-hanging fruit, but throw out any items in your fridge, pantry or countertops that trigger more food intake. This might mean pretzels, peanut butter, crackers, etc. that you find you always gravitate towards when you have nothing else better to do. If you want to keep the ball rolling in the right direction, do a good, deep purge of these places and see what you really NEED when 2019 begins.
- It’s For Your Kids, Not For You-This can be a component of Option 39 as well but I’ve noticed that many times when I’m grabbing a snack for Jackson, I tend to take a few bites myself. Not because I’m hungry, mind you. Because it’s there and it’s easy to access. That nickel-and-dime approach still adds up. If it’s for your children, keep your hands off of it. Let them eat what they need to eat. And if you find that you’re buying things simply because your children eat them, yet you can’t control yourself with them, it may be time to find a safer alternative that you’re less tempted by. In my house, what I mindlessly grab at would be the Cinnamon Toast Crunch or popcorn. And if I needed to lose weight right now, I would have to be very honest with myself about the munching I might do with Jackson’s food even though it’s for him, not for me.
- Before You Add, First Subtract-One thing I hear clients express to me, is when they hear something like “You need more protein.” from different media outlets. And while more protein is generally a good place to put some focus, these same clients forget to remove something from the diet before they add something in. The end result is that they GAIN weight when they ADD protein and then blame protein for their weight gain. So, before you get persuaded to add anything to the diet: protein, healthy fats, etc. TAKE SOMETHING OF EQUAL OR GREATER CALORIC VALUE AWAY. You have to be in a deficit to lose fat.
- Troubleshoot Your Tracker-I have an online client who has been seeing pretty good weight loss results with me. She is excellent at sending me her food journals daily. She went through a period of time where she kept going slightly over her daily calories. Not by much, but just enough to catch my attention. I zeroed in on her journals and saw that every day, there was a consistent snack of cheese and something with it. I mentioned to her, half serious, that if she just gave up the cheese each day, she’d hit her calorie goal or be just below. Revisit Option 18 for my other thoughts on cheese. It’s not that I wanted her to give it up, I just saw it as an easy solution to fix a problem. At the time, she wasn’t ready to make that change but lately she’s been getting her calories in line with some tweaks of her own. If you’re not seeing the results you’ve been hoping for, look for patterns in your food tracker. Start with a small change that you think would add up. It doesn’t have to be the complete removal of a meal. It can simply be something like what I reference in Option 1. Be honest with your tracking and once you know everything is accounted for, then see where you can modify to hit your goals.
- Get Real Support-I wish I could overestimate the importance of this one. Beyond getting calories in line and staying consistent with them, you need a real support system. It doesn’t have to be an army. It can just be one person. One real, genuine support. Alcoholics need them, drug addicts need them. There’s a legitimate reason. You need someone who can pull the best out of you when you feel the worst. Someone who can give you blunt truth without being a nag. Sometimes it’s family. Sometimes it’s a friend. It could be someone you see face-to-face or someone you know through social media. But you need a lifeline of sorts to talk you back from off the dietary cliff when you want to give up (which can happen quite frequently.) Maybe this is the person you elect to take up on Option 26. Find this person. Explain to them the importance of your goal and help them hold you accountable. We try to be this type of person at RevFit but sometimes what an individual needs is a different touchpoint than what a trainer can offer. Best case scenario, we get to be part of the puzzle that helps everything fall into place.
Hopefully, some of these options resonated with you. You can try one, you can try many, you can revisit this post as often as you like. My kind challenge to you is to push yourself out of your comfort zone, get “uncomfortable” as Leigh Peele suggests and be the exception and not the rule when it comes to what the droves do at the beginning of the year. You deserve to be a different type of success story.
“We Make Great People Greater”
(Below is Sebastian feasting his eyes on our Thanksgiving Turkey. I hope you all continue to enjoy the holidays with your friends and family.)