[tab title=”Step 1: Get Rid of Sugar”]
One of the awkward things about beating any addiction is the uncomfortable phase at the very beginning when you suddenly realize you’re going to have to live without whatever it is you’re addicted to. Everyone (and I do mean everyone) who goes through this process starts looking for alternative ways to satisfy their cravings for their drug of choice, and this leads to a desperate search for replacements to fill the void.
Coffee drinkers try to replace their favourite drink with tea (which still has caffeine), or decaf (which is still sort of like coffee). Smokers go with gum or a patch (which still supplies nicotine). And dieters try to find substitutes for their beloved sugar by subbing in “healthy” alternatives like honey (which is made of sugar) or agave nectar (which is made of a LOT of sugar).
Forget about low-fat dieting. Forget about “everything in moderation.” And forget about looking for “healthy” alternatives to table sugar.
If you want to get lean, you have to eliminate sugar. Plain and simple. That means all sugars, not just the so-called “unhealthy” ones. There are no sugars that are healthy. Replacing a teaspoon of granulated white sugar with a teaspoon of maple syrup or honey isn’t going to spare you calories or glucose. The only difference is in the amount of fructose each contains, but they will all impact your metabolism and cause you to store excess glucose as fat.
And, as an important point, you have to get rid of starches too. Your body doesn’t know the difference, and if the goal is to lose weight you need to ditch the potatoes, rice, bread, and pasta.
Don’t worry. Once you’ve kicked the habit — the need to consume bags of sugar — you can start introducing some of these foods again. This is where moderation comes in handy. If you control and avoid 90% of the time, you’ll be able to enjoy that lasagna at mom’s, or a dinner roll at a fancy dinner, without worrying about stacking on the pounds. But for the first month at least of your get lean program, the only sweetener you should really be interested in (if you really need one) is stevia. Anything else, no matter how “natural” it sounds, is just sugar with good PR.
[tab title=”Step 2: Train Inefficiently”]
Forget about long, boring cardio sessions. Jogging for hours on end, riding a stationary bike in spin class, or hitting the elliptical for an hour a day won’t help you lose weight.
That’s right: everything you thought you knew about the value of cardio for weight loss is completely untrue. Shocker, right?
Think about it this way: when people train for a marathon, what do they do? They start with shorter distances, and gradually build up their stamina. That’s not so surprising. But how is it they’re able to maintain their energy for those hugely long distances?
Put simply, our bodies are designed to survive some pretty harsh conditions in the wild. That means we’re made to adapt to ongoing stimuli. The longer we’re forced to move, the more efficient we become at using energy. The net result is that we need less energy to do the same amount of work.
In exercise terms, that means if today we use (hypothetically) 100 calories to run one mile, tomorrow we’ll be able to run the same mile on only 98 calories; or, to burn the same 100 calories, we’d have to run 1.1 miles [these are illustrative numbers, not an accurate calculation]. So if you train long cardio sessions every day, guess what? You’re getting more efficient, burning less energy every time to you do it!
The solution? Exercise inefficiently. That’s right, you actually want to put yourself in a state where you’re not burning calories in an efficient manner. You want to waste energy, if the goal is to burn fat (there are reasons to build endurance, but fat burning isn’t one of them).
The way to do this is with high intensity interval training (HIIT) and burst training. The best intervals use resistance (weights), but this isn’t always necessary. Intervals consist of short bursts of intensity paired with periods of rest. The heart rate goes up fast, and comes down slow, and that’s where the inefficiency kicks in. As a result, you continue to burn calories long after your workout is done.
Bursts are the new “cardio” when it comes to weight loss too. Often these are recommended to follow a weight training workout (referred to as “metabolic finishers”), but they can be done on their own. These consist of insanely high intensity drills (sprints, for example) that are done with as much effort as you can manage, but for really short periods of as little as 20 seconds to no more than two minutes, followed by up to two minutes of rest.
A HIIT workout can last 15-30 minutes. Burst workouts, which can be done on your “rest” days as well, can be as short as four or five minutes, depending on the level of training desired.
When you decide to train for a marathon, training for endurance is a great idea. When you’re out to carve off stored fat, make it short and intense, and break a sweat.
[tab title=”Step 3: Lock It In”]
The truth about daily exercise is that it’s most successful when it’s done at the same time every day. Is this because that consistency has some miraculous metabolic impact? Maybe to a small degree. But for the most part it’s because consistency is what creates a daily habit, which in turn makes this a lifestyle change. This creates a pattern of behaviour that delivers more success and longer-lasting benefits.
I have a motto that some people may find a little too strict:
Be merciless with yourself.
That sounds daunting, I know. But consider this: When you’ve played your fitness plan by ear in the past, how well did it work? Odds are if you’re reading this right now, you’re probably looking for something better.
When I’m coaching people, I urge them to find a time to exercise that works for them and stick with it. For most people, statistically, the best time to workout is first thing in the morning because they can roll out of bed, bang out their workout, and then get on with their day. For some, working out after work is great and suits their morning commute better. However, I’ve found that people tend to get easily sidetracked after work — meeting friends for dinner, picking up dry cleaning, rushing out to get groceries, etc.. Hitting a morning routine eliminates this problem.
But there’s the added problem of life just getting in the way. Appointments distract from your goals. Friends want to meet. Kids need doctor appointments. You need an oil change. All of these things happen, because life happens. When they do, we tend to let these things push our workout aside. It’s the one thing that seems to be flexible enough to “just do it later.”
Unfortunately, this is exactly the wrong attitude. Do you have supper ready for your family at the same time every day? Most people do. So why can’t you have the same tenacity with your daily workout?
Lock it in.
LOCK. IT. IN.
Find a time to exercise that fits your routine. That’s important. But once you do, schedule stuff around that, just like you do with the other parts of your daily routine. There’s no shame in telling the doctor’s receptionist, “I’m sorry, that time doesn’t work for me. Can we make it later in the day?” You’re not the only one with the power to shuffle a schedule…others can work around you just as easily as you can work around them.
It’s your time. You have the right to use it your way. And there really isn’t a better way than to focus on your long-term health goals.
For a comprehensive weight-loss plan that incorporates all of these strategies, along with a solid ten weeks of guidance, hit the button below and get started today!