This could easily be one of the topics that are a personal favorite of mine.
Staying fit long term, one of the questions I get from my clients often post their coaching period with me ends. Though I have a slick written resource to help them out with it and equip them with tools to DIY, a few things were missing there.
A little rant: It is honestly very annoying to see online coaches cropping up by the dozen lately. Anyone who loses weight these days doing a few FAD diets becomes an online coach. Selling 12-week transformation plans (there is a reason we call it coaching and not a transformation plan) with generic template cookie cutter plans. These are the pests in the industry harming people rather than helping them.
The cookie cutter plans aside, a bigger part of the problem is them displaying 12-week before/after pictures where people are dropping weight overnight. Maybe a good thing (there is a way you can diet aggressively as well, a topic for another time) but the real problem is these people gaining more weight than lost 6 weeks after the '12-week transformation plan.'
Couple that with the template low-carb/ketogenic diets and you have a recipe for disaster in the form of erratic weight gains, eating disorders, zealotry, and misinformation.
Coming back to the topic, how do you stay fit forever? Before we even get into discussing that, the problem roots very much before the coaching begins. It comes with unrealistic expectations. Most of the time, I am myself left in a fix when a client asks me over a consultation that 'How much weight am I going to lose with your program?In all honesty, I do not know that. A lot of factors play a role there but a healthy range lies anywhere between 0.5-1% body weight per week for the majority.
This is the exact problem.
The reason you have gained weight is due to little understanding of nutrition, eating way excessive calories than your needs, coupled with sedentary lifestyles.Taking up coaching and using it as a band-aid to lose weight is a short-sighted approach. You will lose weight, yes. But are you correcting the behavior that led to the problem in the first place? Sadly, no.
Here are 10 steps which you can start following literally TODAY if you are serious about losing weight and keeping it off for long:
1. Stop doing a 180
This is the first step where you start digging the hole. You have a lifestyle or history of ordering takeaway for lunch and dinner. You party on the weekends with alcohol involved. Suddenly, you decide to get fit and start eating salads, and salads only. The problem here is that THIS salad eating person is not you. Beyond a point, you are going to break and get back to the old self. And with double the intensity and by ordering takeaway four times a day. My advice is, start small and give yourself time to adapt. Taking two steps forward, one back is still progress. Taking one step forward and two back is not.
2. Do not marry the scale
There is a good chance you never even paid attention to how much you weigh before you did a random check and freaked out. That is often the decision-making point for most people to do something. The good part is you paid attention and made a decision. The bad part is you are now obsessed with it. A few things about your weight, it changes day-to-day, within a day, and for women during the different phases of your menstrual cycle. It depends on a lot of factors like your meal timing, amount of salt you have consumed, amount of fiber in your meal, your sleep, your stress levels, your bowel movements, etc.
The scale is a useful tool to assess progress but NOT the best one.
First things first, if you are checking weight, do it in the morning on an empty stomach after using the washroom with minimal clothing. And do it 4-7 times a week and take an average. Compare the week-to-week average for at least 2-3 weeks before deciding if things are going your way or not. Checking the weight before and after the gym to see how much fat you have dropped is not how it works.
Also, look at other measures like your body measurements, how do you look visually, how your clothes fit you, etc.You will be happier.
3. Cut out the obvious crap
Do you know how do most people end up consuming a HELL lot of calories so easily? That is because of mindless eating.Let's take a situation, say you have a pack of cookies at your dining table. How easy is it going to be to gorge on the entire pack in a matter of minutes?Compare this to the situation that you have all the raw ingredients and the expertise to bake a fresh batch at home and eat cookies. It will just take you approx. an hours time to bake them. How likely are you to eat cookies now?
Out of sight, out of mind is 100% true.
If you see that you are eating a lot of such chips, cookies, colas, pastries, chocolates on a regular basis; it is because you have easy access to them. Take those things out of the house or keep them in places where you do not have easy access to them.Occasional eating in moderation is completely alright if you are taking care of your nutrition and eating nutrient dense foods majority of the times. Not the other way round.
4. Lift some weights
The reason most people do not get into shape even when they diet is them not lifting weights. Many people say that I just want to do a home workout or just diet and lose weight.The thing is that, to lose weight, you need to eat lesser calories than what your body utilizes on a daily basis (in a calorie deficit). By just eating lesser, there will come a point where the food you are eating becomes so less that it will rather be impossible to continue.
By training, you will be able to push your energy expenditure for the day higher and eat more food.
Not just the food part, weight training helps you improve a lot of health markers like improving bone density, making you stronger to perform day-to-day tasks easily, it improves your fat-free mass, decreases the risk of sarcopenia, increases the strength of your connective tissue, muscles, and tendons.A lot more can be written about it but to keep it short, it improves your functional fitness and can be considered the fountain of youth in the true sense.
A good start here would be a minimum of 3 sessions per week and then you could work your way up based on how much you enjoy training with weights.
5. Mix it up
Though resistance training has a lot of benefits, it does not mean that you should force yourself to do it all the time.There would be instances when you are at the gym and there is a Zumba session about to begin. Or a spin class. Or a power yoga session. Maybe you are not in the mood to lift weights on a particular day and intrigued to try such a class. By all means, go ahead and enjoy.
As I mentioned, try to have 3 sessions of weight training per week and the remaining 2-3 days could be the things you enjoy doing and those that keep you on track.
6. Educate yourself
This is the where the phase two starts. You have been eating well and training, how do you maintain it now?
First thing is to know what you are doing and why you are doing it? It is very easy to read a meal plan and follow it like a robot. But what happens when you stop getting these meal plans? Or you get bored of it? Or they stop working? Or you end up planning a vacation or end up in a social situation where things won't work according to your meal plan?
How about not falling down that hole? Instead, trying to understand things like calories, macros, and the energy balance equation.
Learn things, understand them, apply them.
7. Start being flexible (article)
Once you have understood the concept of calories and macros, take it a step further.
If you are still away from your goal physique, eat in a calorie deficit. Label macros to foods and try making your own meal plan that how would you eat on a given day. Make two to three options with the same macros and start alternating your choices. Once you get a hang of it, go a step further and just track your protein and calories. Carbs to fat ratios do not really matter when it comes to losing weight.
On days you end up having no control over your food choices, just stick to your calorie targets. Use a calorie/macro counting app to aid you with it.
You will be surprised to see that the one birthday celebration of your friend has not derailed you at all.
8. Go Ad Libitum
This is where you are actually taking the training wheels of your bicycle.
Ad libitum literally means eating 'at your own pleasure.'
If you have had a successful transition from following rigid meal plans to being flexible and following just protein and calories or just calories, you have successfully taken off one training wheel on a 4-wheeled bicycle. As you have been successful, it means you have a good understanding of food items, their estimated macros and calorie density.
There is a good chance that by default you end up making food choices that are high in protein and nutrient dense. It has become a habit.
Take the last training wheel off and stop tracking anything, eat at liberty. It may seem a bit scary at first but for how long do you think you would be willing to track things diligently. If you are an athlete or a fitness model, I see the motivation. But if not, I do not think so.
9. Check your weight regularly
It might seem like I am taking a 180 here by first suggesting not to marry your weighing scale and then suggesting check your weight regularly.
Well, the context is different here.
In the earlier pointer, what I meant was do not take your weight multiple times a day and marry your emotions to it.
Over here, I am suggesting that check your weekly averages as usual and observe the trends along with Ad libitum food intake.
If you see the weight slowly creeping up, you know you are doing something wrong. Take corrective measures instantly than realizing it at a point where desperation overcomes habit formation.
10. Find your 'Happy' spot
This is the MOST important thing in my opinion. You do not need to flaunt a 6-pack abs year round if it makes you feel miserable.
Similarly, you do not need to hit a target weight if you do not like the way your mood remains when you are at that ideal weight.
Stay in a spot where you are comfortable, you enjoy doing things, eat nutrition-rich food, and train regularly.
In terms of body composition, men are considered fit and healthy up to 16% body fat and women up to 26% body fat. As long as you are there, and you enjoy things, you are good to go.
This is how you can not just get fit once but truly adopt it as a lifestyle and stay fit for the long-term.
It is not about a 12-week transformation, it is about staying fit 12 months of the year.