Many concepts evolve as time goes on. Evolving social ideals can cause a marked shift in definition, and a word or phrase can take on a whole new meaning. Around here, “losing weight” is not determined by the scale, as it once was. As far as the scale is concerned, think about this: Amputation of a leg, for example, would affect a weight loss, but just because the numbers are dropping doesn’t mean you’re going to suddenly look fabulously slender. Losing weight is all about burning body fat— keeping the muscle and burning the fat. By adding or toning muscle and burning fat at the same time— which is exactly what you should be doing— the scale does not necessarily have to move for you to look great, regardless of the number that pops up.
While we’re at it, the word “diet” no longer refers to that thing you routinely cheat on with the trendy name. Those days are over. “Diet” refers to the ongoing, consistent delivery of essential nutrients in sufficient amounts for the sole purpose of fueling the body efficiently for muscle development, recovery, movement, and the production of heat for burning fat. This definition accurately depicts what the body needs to run at its optimum level; notice consumption of chocolate is conspicuously missing.
Unlike robots or livestock, we humans like food. There is an undeniable pleasure garnered from the instant gratification we get from food (especially chocolate); its resonance can sooth anything from a broken nail to a broken heart. So, the truth is, we can’t just live on macro-nutrients! There has to be a way for us to have our cake and eat it too.
There is. Just not all the time.
There’s only one way to rid your body of fat, and all the creams, machines and potions offered on late-night TV will make more of a dent in your Visa card in that area on your hips that you hate. You have to change the way you live. You have to make your body work and you have to face up to the serious reality concerning what a diet really should be. Changing your life in such a way is not easy, but, since chocolate can be part of it, it’s not impossible. Like so many other things in life, the longer you do it, the easier it gets.
However you choose to make that commitment, once you do, the following 50 tips will help produce the most positive results.
1. Accept the facts. There’s no magic involved in getting your body to liberate stored fat. You must change the way you live and the way you eat. In other words, exercise your body and monitor and/or limit your intake of food. Only if your energy expenditure is greater than your caloric intake, will you burn body fat. You must have an unwavering commitment to this fact or you will fail.
2. Maintain or increase muscle mass. Specifically, do weight training. Muscle is metabolically active— it requires calories. The more muscle you have and the more calories you need to sustain it translates into the more food you can eat and still bring down your level of body fat.
3. Do your cardio. Forty-five minutes on a stair climber or treadmill with your heart rate at 70 percent of VO2 max will not only burn about 500 calories, but it will also keep your metabolism elevated for up to six hours post-exercise.
4. Know your stats. Unless you know from experience what works for you, hook up with one of the many specialized diet and nutrition counselors and get the computerized body assessment done so you know precisely what to eat and when to eat it. www.intrafitt.com is the best place to start.
5. Don’t cheat. Be conscious of your willpower— you and only you are in control of what you eat. Exercise this power absolutely. Who’s going to know if you are a little heavy handed on the salad dressing? You are, so don’t lie to yourself. Eat only what your diet allows— NO CHEATING! Except Sundays…
6. Allow yourself a treat. All diet and no fun can make you nuts. No more than once a week, really indulge in the things you miss most. I wouldn’t recommend this if you are close to an event for which you’re preparing, but your basic long-term diet will be unaffected by a weekly splurge at Godiva, or eating at China Express and not getting the steamed chicken.
7. Don’t punish yourself. If you do go off the deep end and really, really blow it big time, go right back to where you left off. You can’t compensate by starving yourself or over-aerobicising. No matter what you ate, or how much, three days back on the program will erase any clue.
8. Picture the end result. Look in the mirror and ponder the future. Imagine what you’ll look like when you reach your goal. Use the image to make good decisions.
9. Be realistic. You didn’t gain all your weight in two weeks, so it’s going to take more than two weeks to take it off. A half-pound to a pound a week is all you should ever hope to lose, if that. A slow, steady metamorphosis is underway.
10. Attach a photo of yourself in killer shape to the refrigerator door. Every time you open the door you’ll see it and it will motivate you to do the right thing. If you’ve never been in killer shape…
11. Attach a picture of someone else in killer shape to the refrigerator door. Pick someone who’s got the body you want and stick it on the door to the fridge. Every time I reach for mine, Brandi Carrier is stepping out of a swimming pool looking like little miss thang with the six-pack etched in her tummy and the big rock on her finger. Seeing that makes it less likely I’ll decide to do the wrong thing.
12. Don’t eat before bed. Sleep uses little fuel. Those calories are going to get stored somewhere, since there isn’t much of a chance they’ll be burned. At least two hours should pass between eating and sleeping.
13. Eat consistently throughout the day. No more than three to four hours should pass between meals. Spacing meals keeps your energy levels constant and prevents ravenous hunger.
14. Eat low-glycemic carbohydrates. Slow-burning carbs, such as beans, yams and whole grains, will keep your blood sugar stable. Sugars found in some fruits, fruit juices, and refined and processed foods cause wild fluctuations in insulin. Insulin bursts enhance fat storage, plus they can leave you feeling starved and foraging for more to eat.
15. Trust the system. Within a certain range, humans all follow the same metabolic pathways. No woman has the ability to send a brownie straight to her thigh. We all pretty much work the same; we certainly all get fat the same way. We also lose fat the same way. If someone else can do it, so can you. It happens all the time.
16. Take your ephedrine/caffeine supplement. Studies prove thermogenic (fat burning) supplements help the body burn more fat and preserve lean body mass while suppressing appetite and elevating energy level.
17. Eat foods high in fiber. Salads, leafy green vegetables, etc. fill you up with good colon-cleaning bulk and barely negligible calories. Just watch the dressing!
18. Eat foods low in fat. No more than 20 percent of the calories per serving should come from fat. How does one figure this out?
19. Read the labels! Loads of fat and sugar are innocently consumed, hidden under label claims of “fat free,” “lean,” “light,” “low fat,” etc. FDA labeling claims are based on net weight, not calories. So do the math! Multiply the fat grams by nine to get the number of calories from fat per serving and you will have a much different picture than the label claims. Sugars are also listed separately from total carbohydrates. While the number of carbs may be low, most of them could be coming from sugar (refer back to number 14 for why that’s bad).
20. Keep a diet journal. Writing down everything you eat and drink, as well as computing the calories of each macro-nutrient, is the only way to be absolutely sure you stay within your calorie guidelines.
21. Rid the house of junk. Junk food can be defined as anything that’s not included in your diet. If you share your home with other non-dieters who balk at the idea of a cupboard bare of munchies, refer back to number one!
22. Don’t shop hungry. All kinds of things can end up in your shopping cart because they look interesting. Prepare a list and stick to it.
23. Don’t shop in stores that have bulk food sections. Just one of those innocent-looking chocolate covered peanut clusters is loaded with sugar and fat. And who eats just one?
24. Don’t pick. If you’re cooking for more than one, you can taste yourself right out of the ball park, calorically speaking. Adjust questionable seasoning at the table once your portion is measured.
25. Don’t’ guess. Weigh or measure everything first. “How many calories are in that bowl of low-fat granola?” I asked my friend as she was about to pour on the milk. She thought her portion was okay. I weighed it for her and shocked her with the information that she was about to consume 800 calories worth of granola— before the milk! Definitely not okay.
26. Stay out of the kitchen. Fix your meal, eat, put the dish in the dishwasher and leave. Go hang out someplace else.
27. Don’t watch the commercials. Leave the room; go get a drink of water; make a phone call; check on the kids, etc. For some reason, food manufacturers come out with scrumptious new products and market the daylights out of them just when you happen to be trying to stick to your diet. This phenomenon is particularly more prevalent at night.
28. Make the news of your diet public. Hopefully, friends and family will show some compassion and not invite you out for pizza and ice cream.
29. Never stray too far from a mirror. When all else fails and your willpower is failing, pull off your clothes, stand under a good light, and check yourself out in the mirror. You are your own best critic. Regardless of how good or bad you look, a trip to the fridge will be unlikely after you assess your body.
30. Compliment yourself. Positive reinforcement, even if it’s self-generated, can do wonders for your attitude, as well as your willpower.
31. Bring your food. Don’t count on being able to find a restaurant willing to weigh and measure your food and cook it without lard. Make your meals ahead of time and bring them along with you.
32. Avoid fad diets. If they actually do work, they won’t work for long. The only way to lose fat is as easy as 1, 2 and 3 above.
33. Spice up your food and drink green tea. Cayenne pepper, ginger, chili powder and picante sauce not only make meals interesting without adding significant calories, but studies have shown that these spices, as well as green tea, have a thermogenic effect that helps burn more fat.
34. Don’t carry cash. If your purse is empty, so, too, will be your stomach, regardless of how many vending machines, Starbucks or golden arches you may pass.
35. Don’t spend too much time alone. A good conversation can carry you straight through to your next meal without even the thought of assorted chocolates.
36. Associate with other dieters. Misery loves company. Even if you end up obsessing over the foods you miss most, your egos will keep you honest.
37. Weigh yourself and get your body fat checked just once a week. Fluctuations of a pound or two, or a percent or so, are common day to day. Weekly readings should show your true progress as well as indicate if the diet you have mapped out is really working.
38. Take a “before” picture. No matter how bad you look, you can look forward to looking better. Showing off your progress is a sweet reward.
39. Make an effort to look your best. If you look as though a perfect fashion accessory would be a shopping cart filled with aluminum cans, forget it. To quote Fernando Lamas, “If you look good, you feel good”— and if you feel good about yourself, chances are less you’ll sabotage the diet.
40. Make soup. The main ingredient in soup is water. Water has no calories. The calorie allotment for one meal can be stretched quite far by making soup out of it. A pile of veggies, a chicken breast and two ounces of pasta (before cooking), combined with three or four cups of de-fatted chicken broth, make a huge, satisfying, low-calorie meal that takes a long time to eat.
41. Order à la carte. Some kind of greasy side dish, such as French fries, home fries, coleslaw, potato salad, etc., usually accompanies semi-fast food restaurant meals, regardless of how much this or that you asked to have left off. Ask your server if the side can be replaced with fresh fruit, low-fat cottage cheese, or a plain baked potato. Or build a meal from single items on the menu.
42. Order sauces and salad dressings on the side. Even healthy-sounding dressings and sauces can be freighted with fat. Dipping your fork in the sauce first, then spearing the food can give you the flavor with a minimum of useless calories.
43. Have a shake. Hungry between meals? A low-carb, shake is low in calories, high in protein and will help boost fat burning.
44. Don’t skip meals. Starving yourself does two things to foil the diet: First, sensing starvation, the body slows metabolic function to preserve energy and begins to rid itself of tissue that is metabolically active— the muscle you are trying to keep. Next, ravenous hunger sets in, signaling you to eat. Unfortunately, by the time you heed this signal, a tornado would carve less of a path through the refrigerator. Eat consistently to avoid overeating.
45. Be creative in the kitchen. Diet food can get boring fast, so you need a little imagination. Want pizza? A Boboli thin crust, or pita, fresh-crushed tomatoes, Italian herbs and non-fat mozzarella make a great pizza without departing from your diet guidelines. Want cheesecake? Nonfat cream cheese and low-calorie sweeteners make it possible. A little effort goes a long way toward diet sanity.
46. Stay busy. An idle mind is the diet devil’s workshop. There are a hundred reasons to go to the fridge when you’ve got nothing to do.
47. Nighttime is the worst time. Sitting around watching TV late in the evening, even the most die-hard dieter can cave in. Keep ziplock bags filled with celery sticks, pickle spears and sliced bell peppers in the refrigerator for easy munching. If you have a few carb calories left at the end of the day, air-popped popcorn takes up a lot of room for relatively few calories.
48. Keep the components pre-made in the refrigerator. Some cooked ground turkey breast, grilled chicken breasts, lean steak slices, boiled pasta, steamed rice, steamed veggies, low-fat marinara sauce, etc., can cut meal preparation time to a minimum. The less cooking time, the less picking time.
49. Take your supplements. A high-quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement should also be rich in antioxidant nutrients. This is important because burning fat creates free radicals that must be disposed of.
50. Make Jell-O. Sugar free Jell-O is great stuff; it’s fun to eat, easy to make, and practically devoid of calories— the whole box only contains 40!
Go to it— you can do it!