How do I lose weight without doing something crazy?

Disclaimer before I dive into this: regardless of the lifestyle you've chosen, if it is working for you and you're happy, I do not think it is crazy. This post is coming from a direct question a friend asked recently.

If you pull open a new tab and start a search with the phrase, "how do I..." the second choice that comes up is, "how do I lose weight?" Clearly it is a topic that matters to a lot of people. Whenever you start talking about fitness, the most common request or goal is around weight loss. The biggest issue is that there is a prevailing notion that in order to lose weight you have to make extreme changes to your lifestyle. I'm here to dispel that notion. Losing weight is not rocket science. It is not easy, but it also does not require you to make incredibly uncomfortable changes.

Keto, intermittent fasting, hours of cardio...is it worth it?

I don't have any issue with the ketogenic diet, nor with intermittent fasting. In fact, I've had multiple clients I've recommend both approaches to. Also, long cardio has been used for many, many years to help body builders lean out for a show, and if you have ever done wrestling you're all too familiar with the treadmill weight cut. All of these things are simply tools in your tool belt to be used in the proper situation.

The challenge with each of these more drastic solutions is the ability for them to fit within your real life. For example, intermittent fasting works until your friends want to get together for brunch at 10:00 am and you don't start eating until 12:00 pm. The keto diet works until you get caught in a spot with no choices but higher carbohydrate foods and you toss yourself out of ketosis with one bite of grandma's cookies at the holidays. Hours of cardio for weight loss is highly effective, but most people don't have consistent time for two hour dates with the treadmill.

These drastic lifestyle changes can definitely work. I've watched them work with my own family and friends. But for those of you who don't want to tackle such a shift in your life, here's an outline for an easier way to lose weight.

Include some form of exercise every single day.

Humans are not meant to sit around doing nothing for twenty four hour periods. We are built to move, so start doing this every day. I do not recommend a formal workout seven days a week, 365 days a year. I do, however, recommend you move your body for at least 30 minutes seven days a week, 365 days a year. That would ideally include intense exercise mixing cardio, bodyweight, and weight lifting movements (like what we do at Summit) three to five times per week, and two active recovery days with things like yoga or simply going for a long walk with your dog. Currently, I use one of my off days to cut my lawn. It takes over an hour and a half, and I always feel great when I'm done. It is low intensity recovery from exercise.

Step 1: move your body every single day.

Get rid of the obvious junk in your diet.

Many people would say you need to start with fixing your diet. I disagree. Your nutrition is impacted an incredible amount by the lifestyle around you, and working out starts to shift your lifestyle to that of an active person. Once you're doing that, start to work on your nutrition. This doesn't mean jump into counting macros (which I love and use with tons and tons of clients). It does mean taking out the things you know are not great for your nutrition.

The pint of Ben & Jerry's you reach for every night at 10:30 pm? Throw it out. The children's breakfast cereal with shockingly similar amounts of sugar to a candy bar? Don't buy it. You already know so many of the things you obviously should not be eating. Follow your gut (sorry for the pun) and get rid of the junk. It is actually junk. You don't need it.

Here's a non-exhaustive list of foods to eat: eggs, bacon, pork tenderloin, salmon, all seafood, chicken breast and thighs, sirloin steak, oats, rice, potatoes, every vegetable under the sun, every fruit you can find, Greek yogurt and skyr, olive oil, nuts and nut butters, and avocados. It doesn't matter when you eat these. Those are the building blocks of a healthy diet.

Step 2: Simplify your diet around whole foods, and throw out the junk.

Weigh yourself every day.

Generally, I don't have people do this. It can become obsessive. But, when your main goal is weight loss, weighing yourself every day becomes a helpful reminder of your goals. It also keeps you from freaking out when you get to check in day and you have gained a pound. The trend line is the important part. Are you consistently moving in the right direction? Bouncing around a couple pounds here and there is dependent on so many things outside of your control, but if you are gaining weight week over week, you'll know it and you will know you need to make a shift in your habits.

Step 3: Start weighing yourself every day.

Focus on your mental health.

Stress and burnout are real challenges in every weight loss goal. Fastest way to burn out? Skip all the fun life events that make life worth living (those look a little different in a COVID world, I know) and never allow your diet to move from the foods listed above.

I hate the advice of a weekly cheat meal. Hate it. If you aren't in the mood for a treat - that's what it is, not a cheat - then don't have one. If you're feeling burnt out and hungry all the time, and grabbing ice cream or cracking open a couple of beers with your friends will help you unwind and destress, allow yourself that space. Just don't do it all the time. In addition to this, spend 5-10 minutes per day just being alone with your thoughts. I like doing this through journalling, but meditation is another popular choice. I promise you, it makes an impact when you're consistent.

As a general rule, try to limit straying from your diet 80% of the time. Just be 80% accurate with your nutrition and lifestyle and you will see results. When you want to ramp those up, make it 90%.

Step 4: Include mental health focused activities in your plan, and give yourself space for imperfection.

See, it's not rocket science, right?

One of my favorite quotes from a very fit human comes from CrossFit star Rich Froning: Pick up and put down some heavy things, and get sweaty. Much in the same way Rich makes fitness simple, losing weight really boils down to as simple of a proposition: move your body every day, spend some time focused on your mental health, and get rid of the junk food. And if you hit a wall and need some help, give us a call. That's what coaches are for.

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