Are you fighting the belly bulge – and the belly is winning?
Somewhere north of 20 years old our habits start to catch up to us.
The days of being bulletproof – eating and drinking what we want without any weight gain – are now in the rearview mirror.
Maybe many miles in the rear view mirror!
Unless you have been actively working hard to maintain a lean and fit physique, for most of us older than 20 it is not a question of whether we are getting out of shape and overweight – it’s just a question of how bad has it gotten!
For most, a number of years pass where we tell ourselves it’s not really that bad.
Even though we kind of know it is that bad, we find it easier to live in some self-denial.
Each year it gradually gets a little worse, until it hits us one day…
All of a sudden we have to face the reality we just don’t look or feel like we want to anymore.
Before long we need a blood pressure pill, or we find out we are pre-diabetic, or the knees start to give out, or a hundred other little ailments…
On top of not having the image or strength we want to have, now we are worried about our health declining as well.
The thing is, there is a lot conspiring against us.
You may think you know how you should eat, or exercise, or what you should do to get lean and fit.
The truth is you likely have a lot of beliefs implanted in you by our constant cultural messages from media, marketing, and our peers.
And most of these beliefs are likely not correct, being either planted there to convince you to buy something or based on flawed research from many decades ago.
Here’s some of the major issues you will need to deal with if you are going to step up and control your own fate.
False belief number one – what you should eat
The Standard American Diet is full of sugars, processed foods, fast foods and other foods our grandparents would not have recognized as food.
Most of us kind of know it really is not good for us, but c’mon, we’re guys and we are not about to eat “sissy” food.
Here’s a tip – this food is highly engineered to taste great and make you want to eat as much as possible.
It’s good business to cause you to overindulge because it creates higher sales.
The large industrial food companies market to us that they care about our health and nutrition, but we really know inside that’s a load of bull.
The truth is we are just their “junk food bitches”, and we might as well face up to it and own it – or decide to change it.
False belief number two – what exercise is needed to get in shape.
Add to that the concept of “cardio” as the exercise of choice for good health – hours of cardio are just downright time consuming and boring.
Who has the desire to do that day after day, especially when it is basically ineffective in countering a large caloric excess.
Seriously, do an hour of most cardio, busting your butt, and you may burn anywhere from 200 to 600 calories. Eat two slices of pizza and you ingest 600 calories.
Do you quit after two slices of pizza? I sure as heck never did!
I could eat most of the pizza at a sitting without breaking a sweat!
False belief number three – you have to diet to lose weight and get in shape.
There is no question that dieting sucks!
I mean, REALLY sucks.
Especially dieting as practiced by most plans out there which are based on cutting the quantity of what you eat, making you perpetually hungry and down-regulating your metabolism.
Many of these also recommend low or reduced fat, which means food that tastes like crap unless you add sugar or artificial chemicals to sweeten it.
No one can stick with that for a long time, so if you have fallen off that wagon one or more times it is not really surprising.
You can read more on this at a prior post I did on Forget About Dieting – How to Look Good Without It.
Read on for a pretty straightforward way to change your life easily to start making progress
3 steps to fix your “broken diet”, AND nail down your workouts.
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What’s really the issue here?
If you are anything like me, and there is a good chance you are, you have spent some time trying to figure out the best way to get your lean and fit self back again.
There also may be a pretty good chance you have tried once, or twice, or even multiple times using different programs or approaches which have not been sustainable.
There is so much conflicting information out there, and so much misguided advice, it seems darn near impossible to figure out what is really right!
If you think about it, most of these weight loss programs are “cookie cutter” programs.
There is some kind of prescribed diet regimen and exercise recommendation, and it is given as the perfect solution for everyone!
I mean just look around you at the diversity in everyone you see.
Is it really logical or reasonable that every one of our complex and unique metabolisms will respond exactly the same way to the same foods?
Of course, you instinctively know this is pretty unlikely.
What does work is a solution which can be personalized to you individually, and that concept is going to imply you will need to take some responsibility for having a part in constructing that.
Nobody should think this stuff is for sissies – if you are serious about accomplishing something you already know from your life experience you have to “man up” and do what it takes to get it done.
It took years and a lot of actions to get where you are today, and it is logically going to take some investment and commitment on your part to several months worth of effort and a lot of conscious action to reverse all that.
The solution – value yourself again, start with these five steps and nothing else
This really is a five step process to have the most success.
Before we get into the five steps, let’s talk about some basic habits you need to implement.
At the top of the list is consistency
You notice, I did not say perfection! Nobody is perfect and do not make the mistake of holding yourself to that standard.
For our purposes, consistency will mean you do it more often than you don’t do it to start.
And it also means that the longer you do it, the more “consistent” you become.
This is because as you build these steps into an actual habitual behavior it becomes much easier to just do them without conscious thought.
That convenient fact is going to naturally up that consistency rate to a level which will produce the results you are looking for.
The second thing which is helpful is a personal commitment to yourself to do the five steps for a set period.
Whatever you feel comfortable with, but in my opinion as a nutrition and exercise coach it needs to be long enough to plant the habit and see results.
I would recommend a three to six month commitment to start. This gives you enough time to at least start to see some results.
One more thing, you will notice as I go through the five steps I am not going to talk about what you will actually eat.
Now that sounds crazy, right?
Who ever heard of “diet” advice which does not talk about what you eat.
Here’s the deal – these steps are more about your habits – the things you do unconsciously and consistently every day.
Regardless of what you actually eat, getting these habits right will create progress in your journey to regain the lean and fit future you.
Now, let me take a minute to clarify – I am a nutrition coach and of course I have opinions on what is better to eat.
Look, no BS zone here – the closer you can move on a continuum from what you eat now to eating in line with my recommendations on that page, the quicker and better your progress will be.
But that is where most people get tripped up.
It takes time to retrain your taste buds and wean yourself off all the processed deliciousness you have become enslaved to.
When you can’t do it, you quit and go back to the old ways – I don’t want that in your way of success.
Build your basic eating and exercise habits, and then we will talk in Step Five about where you go from there.
So, enough – let’s get to the five steps.
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Step 1 – Visualize the future you.
Okay, here is where I start to lose some of you.
This step does not appeal to the analytical mind, and is really more of an exercise at a feeling and subconscious level.
This is hard for many guys….
And, it is not vital to the process – you could succeed without it.
I will tell you though, this is a very powerful tool if you do the work to use it.
The key is to spend a few minutes early every day visualizing in your mind’s eye, imagining or daydreaming if you will, what you are going to look and feel like as your future lean and fit self.
Make this your personal movie – actually feel the confidence as you walk into a new situation, or the good feeling when you get that second look from the opposite sex, or how easily you can do physical work or play.
Think about the energy you will have by not carrying that extra weight around every day.
I could go on and on, but here is what makes this work.
When you imagine at this level you actually feel the feelings and see yourself having accomplished this.
This plants the idea and image in your subconscious.
Now, your subconscious can be your best ally or your worst enemy.
If you subconsciously believe that this effort will end like all the others and there really is not a chance you can get to looking and feeling like a young man again, then you will have active thoughts which are trying to sabotage the effort.
“C’mon, this is hard – do it tomorrow”
“I am tired of this, it’s not going to work anyway”
Etc., etc., etc………
On the other hand, if you subconsciously know you are going to get to the future you, these temptations to deviate from plan are much less intense and frequent.
As a matter of fact, you start to look at the temptation as a roadblock which will make the trip longer, and you actively want to avoid it rather than give in to it.
You are ready to get there because you already know how awesome it will be, and you are not all that interested in a short term pleasure which will make that awesome day farther away.
If you believe it, you will receive it – it really is as straightforward as that.
This is totally within your capability to have and keep for the rest of your life, if you really want it.
Step 2 – Eat slowly
This may sound like it’s easy.
However, it is one of my personal biggest challenges.
And I bet it really is for many of you as well.
The concept is to try and eat as slowly as possible, and in doing so to do it mindfully.
This allows you to do something which is so powerful it is hard to comprehend.
I am talking about your ability to really (I mean REALLY) tune in to your own body and what it is telling you.
You may have heard it takes a twenty minute time lag between your first bite and when a satiety signal kicks in from your brain.
The power of this step is simply this – it gives you the time you need for that feedback to start.
That feedback is the key to the next step, which will be to only eat what your body actually needs and wants.
We don’t over eat because we are truly that hungry, or we need that much food.
We overeat because we are eating fast, or because we aren’t paying attention.
Which brings me to another side of eating slowly.
To do it right implies you are also eating mindfully.
No TV, radio, cellphone, book, or other input except human conversation face to face with another while you eat.
I have more on mindfulness and it’s benefits in my posts on Thoughts on Mindful Eating and 6 Powerful Reasons for Controlling Weight with Mindful Eating.
I especially encourage you to read every linked article on these pages to get a deep understanding of this concept and to help empower you to get it right.
The Precision Nutrition articles in the second page are especially helpful and would be the ones I recommend first.
This will be a challenge, but anyone can do it – if you make the commitment to try it and just keep getting better at it a little bit every day.
Step 3 – Eat to 80% full
Ready for a challenge?
Dude, c’mon, you’re not going to back down are you?
OK, a little bit of of a pep talk, as well as also a little bit of a dare, because frankly this is harder than it sounds.
On the other hand, it’s also easier than it sounds.
By that I mean, it’s pretty easy to stop eating before you are full.
And it’s darned easy to eat until you can’t put another bite in your mouth!
We’ve had plenty of practice at that one, haven’t we?
In my former life that was how I decided to stop eating – I literally could not stand the thought of another bite.
The beauty of Step Two is that it allows you to focus a little more on what your eating experience is really like.
That’s the power of combining slow eating to allow time for your body feedback to kick in and eating mindfully so you are paying attention to what your body is trying to tell you.
OK, the hard part is figuring out what “80% full” really feels like.
Here’s the best guidance I can give you – if you feel full and satisfied, you have likely passed 80%.
Remember, you still have that 20 minute lag in your satiety signaling from your last bite.
So, practice stopping for 20 minutes when you start feeling pretty full but still a little bit hungry.
Get busy on something else for twenty minutes, chances are pretty good you will find you are really not hungry anymore after that time.
If you are, have a small snack like a few nuts.
Here’s a guide for what you should feel like from one meal to the next taken from an article by Precision Nutrition titled All About Appetite Regulation, Part Two“:
One way to approach eating may be to start with a typical meal and then tune in to how you feel physically, immediately after and every hour after that meal.
- Immediately after eating: If you’ve eaten the right amount for optimal health, you’ll likely feel a slight level of hunger, but still content. It takes about 20 minutes for the satiety signal to go from the gut to the brain. The composition of a meal can influence satiety, so include real/whole foods with fiber, protein, and fat (and balance omega-6 with omega-3).
- About 60 minutes after eating, you should feel satisfied with no desire to eat another real food meal.
- When you approach the 2 hour mark, you may be starting to feel a little hungry, and could probably eat something, but it’s not a big deal yet. If you are feeling quite hungry, you may not have had enough food or enough of a given type of food to hold your satisfaction.
- At 3 to 4 hours, you should be feeling like it’s about time to eat again. Your hunger should be stronger, and will vary depending on when you exercised and what your daily physical activity level is. If you aren’t hungry yet, you probably had a bit too much food at your previous meal.
- After 4 hours, you’re likely hungry and ready to eat. This is when the “I’m so hungry I could eat anything” feeling kicks in. If you wait much longer, chances of making a knucklehead food selection goes up dramatically. It’s important to have nutritious and appealing foods available.
There is variability with all of this, but getting to a point where you’re slightly hungry between meals is a healthy sign. If you are eating every 2-4 hours without ever feeling a level of hunger, you are likely eating more than you need.
This will take a little practice, but like Step Two this is not brain surgery as they say and I absolutely know you can do this.
I am not asking you to deny yourself anything – just pay attention and don’t eat more than you really need.
Step 4 – build a quick basic bodyweight workout
Okay, finding time for exercise can be a challenge of its own.
I talked about the issue with cardio in Part One, so while it is the common recommendation it is not the best way to go.
Here is why you want your exercise to focus on building muscle.
For time invested, building muscle tissue has the greatest metabolic payback.
Cardio burns calories while you do it, but has little effect once you stop.
Building muscle has the tendency to raise your BMR (a measure of your base metabolism) for quite a few hours after completion if it is intense enough.
Plus, muscle is the most metabolically expensive tissue in the body to maintain.
The more muscle tissue you have, the higher your BMR will need to be to maintain it.
Raise your BMR by 100 calories a day and you make progress towards getting the negative energy balance you need to lose weight.
And you do it without cutting a single calorie of what you eat.
Depending on your current habits you likely still need to control your food intake by using Steps Two and Three, but building muscle pays you dividends over what you gain by implementing them.
The good thing about this is you do not need to dedicate more than a few days a week to this, and as little as ten minutes or so on the days you do work out.
Check out the Seven Minute Workout to see what I am talking about:
If you want to spend a little more time and effort, there are several additional bodyweight exercises discussed in my posts titled Bodyweight Fitness – Quick and Easy, Three Upper Leg Bodyweight Exercises, and Bodyweight Shoulder Workout.
If you would prefer a done for you program at a fraction of the cost of a personal trainer in the gym, check out my ProCoach Advanced Nutrition and Fitness Coaching program.
It can be tailored to any fitness level from Beginner to Advanced, and there is even options if you have an injury which needs to be worked around.
On any day you are pressed for time there is always a shortened version available, it’s all delivered online and completely under your control.
Which is cool, because you make it work with your schedule and not some trainer’s schedule.
You can see more about it at the bottom of this post.
Step 5 – iterate and improve
Iteration is a concept in mathematics where equations are difficult to solve with an exact formula without resulting to much more complicated higher mathematics.
Instead, you start with some assumed values and solve with them.
Then by plugging in different assumed values based on the results moving closer to the answer you want you eventually arrive at the actual answer.
Transferring the concept to what you are trying to do here, you would first get to where Steps 2, 3, and 4 were in a consistent rhythm and then you would start a new iteration – tweaking either what or how much you are eating, or a different exercise regimen or schedule, or any of the variables around your diet, exercise or lifestyle and see if that improves your progress or the way you feel.
If it is successful you incorporate it as a new habit and then start thinking about the next iteration
If not you can go back or try another iteration.
The idea is you will slowly get better and better at arriving at the place where you are maximizing your progress while still feeling and performing to the best level you are capable of.
As we like to say in the ProCoach program, “a little better every day” is the key to progress.
I have a lot more free information on the site which will help in the process.
If you click on one of the free infographic links embedded above in the post, you will get a quick infographic which gives you a jump start on how to structure your nutrition and exercise to get started.
You will also get my introductory email series which will point you to a lot of articles which can give you further guidance.
All for no cost except a little time on your part.
If you want a partner to help you through it, hold you accountable, and mentor you through the process, check out the ProCoach program.
I know you can do this!
I know you want to do this!
Take one step forward today and click a link above to subscribe and get started, and then just one more step every day.
Your future self is waiting….
Committed to your health,