Christmas has been and gone. A good time was had. Songs were sung. Memories were made. Now January has come along and brought with it a little reality check. Remember that little thing called fitness? Well, it’s time to start including it in our daily routines again!
Healthy eating and fitness regimes have long since been abandoned. Clothes are fitting a little too snug, energy levels are not so good and a little bit of lethargy has set in. The good news is you’re only ever one step away from being right back on track. Today I’m going to share with you ten simple tips to help you drop those few excess pounds that display the evidence of a good Christmas!
1. Create a calorie deficit:
If your fitness goal involves fat loss, this is the number one rule; you must be expending more energy than you’re taking in. Sounds too simple, right? Nope, simple works. Bring down the calorie intake through food, especially if it has been creeping up over Christmas. Then focus on expending more energy through exercise. Obviously training will be part of this, but think outside the box too. How could you expend more energy in your day to day living? Tracking your step count is a great way of creating accountability but it almost makes it a fun game too. To get the steps up you’ll find yourself doing the clichéd stuff like taking the stairs instead of the lift, parking a little further away or getting off the bus one stop early. All of those small actions really do add up.
Why not check out our article on the benefits of a fitness tracker?
Eat whole foods as much as possible. The benefits are endless. When we reduce highly processed foods and start eating natural foods the nutritional value of our diet increases exponentially. With that comes increased energy levels, less health issues, and probably an improvement to skin, hair and nails. In relation to your fitness journey you’ll find that your calorie intake will probably drop when you start eating more wholefoods. They tend to be much lower in calories than heavily processed foods and a balanced diet will also keep you full for longer.
3. Start the day well:
How you start the day can have a major bearing on how the day goes. If your breakfast of choice is a breakfast cereal, with no major nutritional value, you may be setting yourself up for a tough day. Quite a few of those breakfast cereals can be high in sugar and/or salt. If you start the day with sugar, you’ll probably crave more sugar by mid morning and the day becomes a series of quick-fix snacks. I like to get a good form of Protein and carbohydrates in my breakfast. Protein is amazing for keeping us full so I try to get a Protein source in each meal. My own favourite breakfast is a couple of boiled eggs and a slice of wholegrain bread. If you’re somebody who doesn’t eat breakfast until later in the day, that’s ok too. The same rules apply; when you do break the fast, try to ensure that it’s a good balanced meal to kick off the day.
4. Get colour on your plate:
Eat the rainbow! Eating a variety of colours is a great way to get more vitamins and minerals into your diet. It provides a broad, diverse range of food. Think fruit and vegetables. A diet that consists primarily of bland colours is probably not going to be as nutrient dense.
5. 80/20 Rule for fitness:
I’m a big fan of the 80/20 rule; eat healthy, nutritious foods 80% of the time and have a little bit of what you fancy in the 20%. One of the biggest reasons people repeatedly fail with their weight loss attempts is because they do too much too soon. They try to be perfect. Going from no exercise with a poor diet, to 5 days training and a perfect diet. They do ok for a week or two and then they crash and burn. I actively encourage my clients to have the odd bar of chocolate or a pizza. Giving them that little bit of leeway means no food is off bounds. There’s no sense of deprivation and so mentally the whole process of reaching their fitness goals becomes much easier. The aim should always be progress, not perfection.
6. Give the body a reason to change:
In life, we grow from challenging circumstances. We find a solution, learn a lesson and come out a stronger person from the experience. Fitness is a little bit like that. In order for our bodies to change and adapt, we have to put a stressor on them. We have to challenge them. We have to give them a reason to change. I see so many people putting in training hours but getting no results. Why? Well because effectively it’s a training groundhog day. It’s the same exercises done with the same weight, in the same order, with the same number of reps, with the same rest time, with the same time under tension. Or it’s the same run done on the same route, at the same pace, on the same surface. The body has adapted long ago and can cope quite easily. What if, instead of that same run, we changed from road to sand? Or if we incorporated hill running? Interval sprints? Maybe even brought some resistance training into the programme? That new stimulus on the body is going to force it to adapt and work hard. That’s when you’ll start to see progress towards your fitness goals.
7. Sleep/Stress affects fitness
This point falls into the category of “So important but so overlooked”. As a nation we live in a society that worships the `hustle’’ culture. We wear our sixty hours a week as a badge of honour. I regularly speak to clients who are working off four or five hours sleep. The sad thing is it has become normalised. They think it’s ok because everyone else is the same. The link to mental health issues is being rightfully highlighted. But will lack of sleep/high stress levels also affect your progress towards your fitness goals? You bet it will. Cortisol is a stress hormone, which many of you may not have heard of. If you’re overly stressed or lacking in sleep it’s likely that your Cortisol levels will be raised. High Cortisol levels make it difficult to shed fat. In addition to that a combination of tired and stressed typically leads to poor food choices. Sugary foods or greasy foods tend to become a go to. Caffeine is also utilised to keep functioning. Combine all of that with “no time” to exercise and not only is sleep affected but you’re operating far below optimal levels in most aspects of your life.
8. Be Accountable:
Accountability is a sure fire way to accelerate results. Having somebody to be answerable to will get you mentally tuned in and ensure the things that need to be done every day are happening. That person can be a coach, trainer, family member, friend, training buddy. Anybody that is going to ask you for an update and hold you accountable. If you’re one of the few people that are strong minded enough to do it yourself I’d suggest setting goals, figuring out the steps that have to happen on a weekly/daily basis and then holding yourself accountable to the process. Most people require an accountability partner however, certainly until habits are formed. A good Coach or Trainer is money well spent if you can afford it. Alternatively try some of the free options listed above.
9. Maintenance is progress:
If you were to lose weight every day of every week you’d soon disappear! Yet this illogical thought process is so prevalent. People think that they should be forever losing weight and if progress stalls there’s something wrong. Here’s a new concept; maintenance is progress. I say that because the typical trend is for people to lose weight, and then put it on again. Why? Usually because they have an all or nothing mindset. I’d prefer you to take a slow, steady approach and plan your weight loss. For example if you lose weight over a period of 6-8 weeks how about then taking a little 4 week break from it? Going into maintenance levels for a while to give yourself a break mentally, physically and emotionally? Then when you’re ready you can create your calorie deficit again and make a little more progress. That’s why I say maintenance is progress. If you can take those few weeks to maintain and then move forward again you’re in a better place than the all-or-nothing person who lost weight aggressively for a few weeks and then put it straight back on because there was no real balance to the process.
10. Personal Responsibility:
I could probably have written ten tips on just mindset but I’ve decided to give you what I think is the most important one; Personal Responsibility. The only person who can change your life is you. Not your Coach, not the influencers, not this article. You. In my experience people spend so much time learning but not enough doing. They have all of the information, they follow every fitness person online but they are not applying what they know. Transformation lies in the application of the information. Action over words. Where we are today, for the most part, is a result of decisions and actions taken by us. Understanding, and being ok with, that concept is incredibly empowering. It puts us in charge of our own lives. When we lose the excuses, when we stop looking for people to blame and we just accept responsibility for our own actions; that’s when positive change starts to happen. It’s not just a new year, it’s also a new decade. What better time to start creating that change!
I hope you find today’s tips useful. As January is traditionally a time when people like to create change in their lives I’m more than happy to help you with that process. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if there’s anything you need assistance with.
Alan Williams is a coach, trainer, motivator and expert in the areas of wellbeing and lifestyle, fitness and confidence building. For more information visit alanwilliamscoaching.com