Much of my diet and weight loss success has been due to taking a slow but consistent approach to adjusting my habits. Looking over my progress reports I can see a clear pattern has developed where I’ve introduced different habits into my lifestyle. I genuinely believe others could benefit from this which is why I created the Healthy Habit Foundations course which you receive when you sign up to our newsletter. Below is a summary of the process I applied to my own journey. If you can’t stick to a diet, and you feel it’s something you might find useful you can subscribe here for a full and detailed account of how you can incorporate these habits into your lifestyle and see the same consistent progress I have.
So you can’t stick to a diet?
There is a ton of advice out there relating to getting slim and losing weight. It’s easy to lose your way and get yourself caught up in the latest low carb or calorie cutting diet in pursuit of losing a stone or six. The habits I’ve had success with take a low pressure approach to eating healthy. I’ve found that to lose fat and improve my diet the most important thing I can do is start with basics like tiredness and rest. Once these basics are looked after you will feel more prepared and capable within yourself to tackle your eating habits and diet, improving the foods you eat will naturally make you feel less hungry and more healthy. This in turn provides you the basis to introduce exercise to your arsenal of healthy habits. Once these habits are introduced you will feel better in yourself, have increased energy and reduced tiredness, have control of your calorie intake and be well on your way to the weight loss you desire.
Phase 1 – Rest
Tiredness is a healthy habits and weight loss killer! Speaking from a personal point of view decent rest habits are without a doubt the foundation on which all of my efforts are built. Using my Fitbit Charge 2 I’ve come to realise I need to get around 6 1/2 hours of sleep per night. If I drop below 6 1/2 hrs I find I lose the motivation to be healthy and exercise, feel more hungry and want to eat fat and carbs. In fact so much of my success toward my goal to lose weight and get slim seems to be determined by my quality of rest.
Proper sleep and rest is something I neglected for years, I just didn’t see it as important. But during this journey I’ve come to appreciate just how much it contributes to my ability to comply with a reasonable diet and exercise plan.
If like me you have found you can’t stick to a diet in the past then one of the first things you could explore is to improve your sleep habits and remove your tiredness.
Phase 2 – Record Intake
The second phase I’ve worked into my schedule once sleep and rest is taken care of is to log all food and drinks containing calories. I’ve put this after rest because as I’ve mentioned before its hard to establish a true representation of calorie intake while sleep deprived. That being said there probably isn’t much harm in logging your food and catching up sleep at the same time.
I use a free account on MyFitnessPal to log all of my intake and it seems to get easier to add all of my food as my “frequently used” list gets bigger. Now that I’ve been doing it for a while it seems like a no-brainer to suggest recording food intake. I’ve heard people in the past be quite resistant to this however I can add my entire days food in around five minutes which really isn’t so bad. It also shows you your daily carb, fat and protein intake which can be very useful.
The way I approach this has definitely evolved during the time that I’ve been on this journey. I started off pretty simple with 4 meals planned, Breakfast, Lunch, mid-afternoon and Dinner. However I’ve found that by fixing established timings to the meals has caused problems. For instance I’m probably not alone in that my daily schedule isn’t always set in stone therefore I don’t always get to eat at a set time each day. So what if I eat 1 hour before my next meal is due or my mid-afternoon meal ends us being dinner, do I just eat two meals. I’ve found it more useful to simply number them, meal 1, meal 2, meal 3, meal 4 and off plan. Then I simply eat them in order (although I suppose the order doesn’t matter that much) whenever I’m hungry. This approach has given me fantastic control when it come to meal preps and establishing healthy nutrition habits.
To be clear I don’t really been count calories as such, however the foundation of my eating plan is based around establishing a baseline intake that keeps me satisfied and very gradually adjusting from that point to either increase or decrease weight loss, simple!
Phase 3 – Improve Intake
The way I approach this is again by keeping it as simple as possible and not be too restrictive on the foods I eat such as you might find in things like low carb diets. I simply attempt to limit the obviously unhelpful food I eat like chocolates other sweet goods, I’ve also tried to adhere to a few other basic rules:
- Protein with every meal – Usually eggs in the morning then turkey mince, beef mince, steak and chicken breast with my meals throughout the day. I’ve found this provides me all the protein I need.
- Veg with every meal – I’m not a huge fan of vegetables so just throw this stuff in wherever I can. Chopped salad in my pasta and rice, any left over veg can easily go into a chilli basically if I’m cooking I’ll grab whatever’s in the fridge and throw it in to make up the veg content.
- Relatively decent carbs – Honestly, I just keep chips, crisp, other potato based processed carbs and bread to minimum. That being said I love all of those things so have by no means cut it all out and go super low carb like you might find in an Atkins based diet.
- Home prep – Make as much food as possible at home which is also comparatively cheap so its healthier and thrifty, win win!
Each week / day I attempt to establish these habits, but I also make a point of not getting angry or being too hard on myself if I can’t stick to a diet 100% because quite frankly it’s not helpful. Simply put, when it comes to diet compliance go easy on yourself, shame and anger are poor tools to use to build a happy, healthy mind.
Phase 4 – Introduce Training
It might seem odd that I’ve added training as the last phase to this process. Speaking from my own personal experience I’ve found that without the first three phases in place, trying to add a proper amount of training into the mix really messes things up for a few reasons:
- Diet comes first – You’ve probably heard it said a million times before, “you can’t out-train a bad diet”. For me, putting in time (and expense) at the gym without seeing any results is ridiculously demotivating. Therefore an accurately recorded and appropriately adjusted meal plan, that delivers results and that you can stick to consistently offers a solid foundation for training and exercise activity.
- Training is hard – Its hard on the body, hard on the mind. If I’m not getting proper rest then I’m putting in extra training effort it just undermines everything else I’m trying to do. this quickly saps my motivation. Therefore I’ve taken the approach that a good training day starts the night before.
- Food quality – Now I’m not sure how much of what we read from supplement company research is true. But there seems to be a fair bit of agreement across the industry that you need a good amount of protein, veg and starchy carbs in your diet to get results. I guess from personal experience the place where I’ve noticed it the most is in my recovery times. If I eat poorly I’m sore for longer after a training session, which then impacts my next session. For me, less time hobbling after leg day is motivation enough to get my food quality in check before training.
I guess a final note on training from my own experience would be on the type of training you engage in. Just make sure it’s fun and also not too advanced for where you are in your experience. Additionally don’t get bogged down in things you think you “should” be doing. I’ve had training programs that were too much for me and I’ve had boring training programs, generally speaking I’ve tried them because for some reason I’ve convinced myself I should be doing something or another. So try and find a fat loss training program that sparks you up and gets you excited, you may e doing it for some time.
It’s common to find you can’t stick to a diet and from the perspective of evolution, losing weight on purpose isn’t a very natural thing to do so its normal to expect a degree of discomfort when going through the process. That being said it is supposed to be a positive experience, you’re supposed to be enjoying getting control of things and improving yourself physically despite the fact you are maybe uncomfortable from eating slightly less than your activity requires. Weight loss isn’t some kind of punishment for being bad at an earlier time. In fact its probably far more helpful to try to remove as many morality based descriptions as possible. There is no bad or good, there’s just on plan or off plan and it has no bearing on you as a person, it just what it is. So don’t feel you have to cut out, just cut down. You don’t have train hard every day, just train more. Keep making those improvements, stick with small wins and stay positive.