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This Is The Single Biggest Thing You Can Do If You Want To Lose Weight
Thoughts and emotions affect your health
Scottish whiskey distiller Thomas Dewar once said, “Minds are like parachutes; they work best when they’re open.”
I want you to keep an open mind during the next five minutes it takes you to read this article.
I want to introduce you to an idea that will come in handy if you want to lose weight and improve your body composition.
Self-help health experts remind us to refrain from using language such as lose weight due to its symbolic link to returning weight. You will “release” unwanted body fat that you will know about.
However, for the sake of this article, I am referring to it as weight loss so as not to confuse the reader.
Why am I qualified to speak on this topic?
I began my career as a personal trainer many years ago before transitioning into writing and speaking about health and self-improvement.
In this capacity, I have been fortunate enough to work with thousands of people who have lost weight and kept it off while regaining their health.
I also discovered my own principle on their journey about the key role that thoughts and emotions play in regulating our health.
I wrote a book that was supported by the internationally recognized author Dr. Eldon Taylor. He has also received praise from leading Australian sports neuroscientist Dr. Roy Sugarman.
How money and calories are the same
During this period, it occurred to me that losing weight is like managing money. As an occasional health hacker, I track my calories and macronutrients in the name of personal observation and knowledge.
I followed a ketogenic diet for three years and logged my food and calorie consumption. I gained a lot of data and knowledge that helped me find the most effective ways to lose weight and keep it off.
This was supported by my program The Power To Navigate Life, in which I studied the role that thoughts, beliefs and emotions play in regulating health.
While tracking my calories during this time, I noticed that the process was similar to my spending habits in terms of how it was used and spent.
What I propose in the following paragraphs is not a cure, a potion, or a cure. It’s a short-term intervention that makes you aware of your calorie intake to help you develop the right habits to prevent overeating.
But it’s not just about calories, as the ketogenic diet has proven.
There were times when I consumed up to 3,500+ calories per day and continued to lose fat while regaining muscle composition. I took accurate body measurements and recorded my blood lipids to highlight the changes, being careful not to leave anything to chance.
I learned an old myth calories in, calories out it didn’t apply when I was in ketosis. However, few people are willing to follow a low-carb or ketogenic diet because of its limitations.
So for the rest of us, watching our caloric intake is a way to manage our weight.
American science writer Gary Taubes claims in Why we get fat and what to do about it: “One thing we absolutely have to do if we want to get leaner—if we want to get fat out of adipose tissue and burn it—is to lower insulin levels and secrete less insulin to begin with.”
Excess calories are to blame
What I found was the following.
As for my money habits, if I didn’t track my financial spending by the end of the week, I wasn’t sure where the money was being spent. I had little recollection of the items or services I paid for because the transactions occurred days ago.
From talking to people over the years this has been a problem many have faced. However, when I tracked my spending, I saw where the money was going and implemented a budget to cut down on reckless spending.
So far so good.
During this time I went off the keto diet and gained 3-4kg (6-8lbs) over the winter.
What have I done?
I applied the same process to calories to help me track my expenses. Turns out I was snacking on excess calories during the winter months which led to weight gain.
Now I realize that gaining 3-4kg is not a big deal in the scheme of things. However, it’s not the weight gain that’s valuable, but the experience gained from logging calories.
Money and food share the same relationship where you probably spend money easily and consume food easily.
So they should be logged until you can manage both without consulting an app or food tracker.
I haven’t mentioned exercise and movement yet because I didn’t want this article to be a weight loss guide.
Exercise and movement play a role in maintaining a healthy weight, but not in the way we’ve been led to believe. For now, I’m assuming you exercise or engage in some form of regular exercise.
So here is my overview, if you want to lose weight, big or small, the principles are the same:
- Track your food and calorie consumption for 30 days
Thirty days is a reasonable amount of time to gather sufficient data on how many calories you consume. As the saying goes: “If you don’t measure it, you won’t manage it.”
It is important to recognize where the hidden calories are being consumed. I recommend using an app or software program to calculate macronutrient ratios and stick to them as much as possible. You can see mine in the attached picture.
The advantage of logging data is that it takes into account times when you are likely to consume more calories, such as going out to dinner or a birthday party. Don’t worry about your total calorie intake for the day, but focus your attention on your total calories and macronutrients for the week.
“We don’t get fat because we overeat; we overeat because we get fat,” says Gary Taubes
The goal is to cut calories over four weeks in order to lose weight. Again, I recommend using an app or online program to calculate your minimum and maximum calorie intake for the day, rather than guessing.
If you continue on the same trajectory of consuming your calculated weekly calories, you will continue to lose weight in the coming months. You will also establish a new habit that will last even after this time.
- Cut your calories based on what you’re watching
It is simple. Reduce your calories per day depending on your weight loss goal. As a warning, I recommend starting slowly rather than trying to lose weight quickly.
It has been my personal experience coaching individuals for ten years that what you lose quickly is likely to come back. As they say: The best time to start a new habit is yesterday.”
- Continue the habit in the coming months
As mentioned in point number one, stick to your habit after the 30 day period. You will have enough data about what foods you have consumed in the last 30 days. If you’re unsure about a food, track it to see how it affects your calorie intake.
If you experience setbacks due to illness, injury or personal circumstances, log your calories for two days and use them to get you back on track.
- If you gain weight again, monitor your caloric intake again
After leaving the ketogenic diet, I consumed more carbohydrates that I had previously cut out of my diet. Naturally, this made me gravitate towards these foods once more in the winter and I gained weight.
Instead of being discouraged, I would track my calories for a few days or sometimes a whole week to help restore my weight loss until I reached my goal.
“To effectively lose weight and keep it off, you need to strategically change your body weight set point,” explains Gerard E. Mullin in Revolution in intestinal balance: Increase your metabolism, restore your internal ecology and lose weight forever!
Note that this is not a long-term solution. Many find that once they lose weight, they want to stick with the formula because it is successful.
However, restricting calories for an extended period of time has its drawbacks, including depriving itself of essential macro and micronutrients. Not to mention the mental and emotional devastation caused by maintaining this lifestyle.
I was precise in my approach and used the FitDay software to track my macro and micronutrient ratios and supplement where necessary.
“You don’t get fat because your metabolism slows down, your metabolism slows down because you get fat,” reminds Gary Taubes.
It bears repeating: this is not a system. It’s a way of checking to make sure you’re not taking in extra calories that lead to weight gain.
Most importantly, it helps you eat healthier, because just like spending money, you can’t afford to spend calories frivolously if you want to maintain a slim figure.
The real message of this piece is that your health is your highest priority.
Weight loss is a means to an end to help you maintain a healthy figure with a higher muscle-to-fat ratio, regardless of body type or composition.
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