By Jeremy Koerber, Fitness Manager of BJC WellAware, ACSM Exercise Physiologist
I’m sorry. Did you click on this link thinking you were going to find a super-secret ninja like tip that would allow you to lose all the weight you wanted and more? Gotcha!
This isn’t a late night infomercial that will show you before and after photos along with folks in bikinis (or muscle shirts) imploring you to buy their box set of workout DVDs for three easy installments. But since you are here and still reading, I think we need to give you some knowledge bombs of awesomeness that will help you drop body fat, increase muscle tone and feel amazing in 2017!
There is no magic weight loss hack.
Almost without exception, when I consult with a new client (and even some longstanding clients), I am asked two things: What is the best exercise to lose weight? and What foods should I eat to lose weight?
Understand that there isn’t a specific food (how many people are eating hot peppers to boost metabolism) or one exercise (crunches) that will expedite fat loss or help you lose inches around your waist. This is a diet mentality and it is one that will sabotage you before you even begin your weight loss journey. Repeat after me: There is no diet; only lifestyle choices!
Right now, you are a product of your environment and your habits or behaviors. Of course it is hard to fit exercise into your already over programmed life and if you have never meal prepped, jumping into the realm of healthy eating will be overwhelming. Start small!
The all or nothing mindset has derailed more lifestyle modifications than can be measured. In a perfect world, I would have you choose one and only one “thing” to work on beginning January 1, 2017, but I know you are an overachiever so I am going to let you splurge. You can select two lifestyle strategies.
Why only two?
- Because you are a flawed, messy human. (Don’t worry, I am too so don’t take that as a slight. It’s a fact.)
- Most research shows you have a 85% chance of making one strategy successful. Add two strategies and your success rate plummets to 33% (this is why slow change strategies are so important).
Our clients sometimes think we are crazy when we suggest they implement a strategy like eating breakfast three days a week (when they used to not eat breakfast at all). Most of the time they look at us with a slightly puzzled expression and reply “but aren’t there seven days in a week?” Right you are! But seeing as you have not been eating breakfast on any of those seven days, start by showing us you can get something worth 20 grams of protein along with a piece of fruit on three of those seven days! If you can be successful with that strategy we’ll consider something crazy… like asking you to eat breakfast four out of the seven days.
The exercise question is even more of a quandary because all notable sources say you should be getting 30-60 minutes, three-five days a week, but there have been times I have started a new client with sessions as little as five minutes. Why? Because if they are telling me they have no time, we have to discover together that making time and adding physical activity minutes as appropriate can and will work for them.
Your program is not only a set of activities. It is a living, breathing plan that will need to be adjusted as you progress. Don’t box yourself in to only one strategy but neither should you overwhelm yourself in the beginning. Unlike walking into a salon and getting a new cut or color, I promise you will look the exact same after workout number one. Stop thinking with the diet mentality and start focusing on the lifestyle process.
What Does Your System Look Like?
If you look at anyone who has lost a significant amount of weight, runs marathons, looks amazing in a bikini, or appears to dominate in the gym, I promise you they all have one thing in common that produces success: they have a personalized system of processes they implement (either daily or weekly).
Folks from the outside looking in, use words like “will power” and “discipline,” but I don’t believe it is as much about those things as it is having definable action plans with tasks that are performed routinely (daily or weekly) that are the root cause of their success.
For example, Christy Matteuzzi, Executive Coordinator for Institutional Research and Support at the Washington University School of Medicine, is a mother of three who has a few things going on. She has a full-time job, is in the process of beating breast cancer, and regularly participates in fitness competitions… all in her spare time. Many may look at her and say “wow, she is lucky to look like that…” where we see the exact systems and processes she has created to get in the kind of shape she possesses. Luck has absolutely nothing to do with her success, but these things do:
- She exercises with purpose. Never does she walk in the gym without a plan for that specific workout session. Whether cardio or weights, she knows what she is going to do when she walks in the door. It is simple, efficient, and productive.
- She preps her meals. On Sunday, Christy cooks a lot chicken, beef, pork, etc., and she makes five lunches and stacks them in the fridge. She doesn’t fret about lunch during the work week and is never forced to grab something from the cafeteria or vending machine. She simply grabs lunch as she walks out the door each morning on her way to work.
- She tracks things. I see her writing down important stats, thoughts, and other miscellaneous notes in a small journal. I suspect it helps her measure her success and as we all know from working here at BJC, if you can measure it, you can improve it. If it works in your department, I promise it will work for you!
How do you develop a system as detailed as Christy’s? First off, you may never get to that stage. Christy’s goals are probably different than your goals, so clearly identifying your goal or “why” is numero uno. Second, pick a tiny strategy (ex: I will drink 20 ounces of water five days a week) and implement it. Third, continue doing that strategy until it is second nature and then consider strategy number two. As you continue down this path, your plan will create itself.
Feeling overwhelmed? No worries. That is what the BJC WellAware Center is here for! If you are wanting to develop a plan and are scared, have no time, are overwhelmed or all of the above, this is what we do for a living. Call us at 314-286-0525.
Intended vs. Realized Result
How patient are you? I ask only because implementing two small lifestyle strategies most likely won’t do much to change the way you look and feel in the beginning. This is about building the groundwork for a personalized program, developing base conditioning, and building confidence. Once that happens and the more strategies you can assimilate, you can assume you will see greater results.
Here is the one thing I will guarantee: If you employ a series of positive lifestyle strategies and are consistent over a 4-8 week time frame you will get a positive result. What will that result be? I have absolutely no idea! Of course the intended result is to lose body fat, increase muscle tone, and feel better. Chances are, that is going to happen but at what rate? That depends on factors such as the volume of exercise you perform, how/when/what you eat, age, gender, genetics, etc., but once you have deployed your strategies over a definable period of time, you will be able to assess your actual or realized results.
If you got exactly what you wanted, then awesome. If you need to add more of something, cool. However, you also need to understand that if work, life, and other commitments only allow you to exercise three days a week for 30 minutes you probably won’t have the physique and fitness level of someone who works out 60 minutes, five days a week. Then you need to come to peace with that fact.
Doctors practice medicine. We practice fitness. This means we apply a dose of physical activity along with a script for a nutrition strategy and see how it works for you. If we need to increase the dose, we’ll consult with you and adjust accordingly.
The exercise professionals, massage therapists and registered dietitians at the BJC WellAware Center are here to help you modify your lifestyle and help you develop your personal process. If we can be of assistance, please stop by or give us a call!
This post is part of the January 2017 “Building Healthier Communities” series of the Institute for Public Health’s blog. Subscribe to email updates or follow us on Twitter and Facebook to receive notifications about our latest blog posts.Tags: community health, fitness, health, nutrition