Have you ever acted against your better judgment? Ummmm, of course you have. We all have. Sometimes you do things that you later regret. And this keeps you from achieving that lean, sexy body that you want.
- You hit snooze rather than waking up early to exercise before work.
- You blow off your healthy eating plan to indulge in a hamburger and fries.
- You start an exercise program only to drop out two weeks into it.
These regrettable actions prevent you from achieving your goals and keep you stuck.
Most of us are all too familiar with this frustrating paradox. It’s almost as if there are two sides inside of you, raging war on each other. Your sensible side versus your emotional side. What you want versus what you do.
A psychologist named Jonathan Haidt came up with a mental model that explains exactly why you do things that you wish you hadn’t – and how to take control to finally do the actions necessary to get what you really want.
“The image I came up with for myself, as I marveled at my weakness [of willpower], was that I was a rider on the back of an elephant. I’m holding the reins in my hands, and by pulling one way or the other I can tell the elephant to turn, to stop, or to go. I can direct things, but only when the elephant doesn’t have desires of his own. When the elephant really wants to do something, I’m no match for him,” explained Haidt in his book, The Happiness Hypothesis.
Human decision making is like a tiny rider on a massive elephant. The rider may think he’s in charge, but the elephant’s will always wins. The Elephant, The Rider, and The Path are a great framework for understanding yourself and what drives you. All human change depends on it.
Here’s Haidt’s mental model for creating lasting change in greater detail…
The Rider: is your rational and analytical side. The Rider is a visionary that has the ability to think long-term, to plan, and that is willing to make short-term sacrifices for long-term payoffs. The Rider loves to contemplate and analyze, has limited reserves of strength, suffers from paralysis by analysis, and relentlessly focuses on problems rather than solutions. Most crucially, the Rider is so small compared to the six-ton Elephant that anytime they disagree about which direction to go, the Rider will lose.
The Elephant: is made up of your emotions and instincts. The Elephant prefers the comfort and security of a well-trodden path, even if a new path leads to a better outcome – this is why it’s so difficult to change your habits. The Elephant has enormous strengths: love and compassion and sympathy and loyalty. The Elephant is the one who gets things done.
The Path: is your surrounding environment, the context in which the Rider and the Elephant operate. A rocky Path makes change hard, if not impossible, even when the Rider and the Elephant work together.
There are three steps to lasting change:
- Direct the Rider
- Motivate the Elephant
- Shape the Path
1) Direct the Rider:
Change begins with a plan, and it’s the Rider who comes up with plans. Direct your Rider to analyze what’s right, and what works. When you’ve lost weight and made progress towards your fitness goals in the past what worked for you? Focus on these bright spots rather than on potential problems related to your desired change. Once you’ve come up with a plan, move on. It’s important to move quickly and to avoid getting bogged down with paralysis by analysis.
2) Motivate the Elephant:
In order for the plans of your Rider to succeed, your Elephant must feel emotionally invested in the outcome. Find an emotional connection that you feel deep down in relation to the goal. Don’t just think about why you want to achieve your goal – feel why you need to achieve your goal.
3) Shape the Path:
Make change easy. Reduce obstacles in your life, so that the new desired behavior is frictionless. Move the barriers between you and the actions that you want to take. Lay out your workout clothes the night before. Spend time in the morning to prep all of your healthy daily meals. Get a trainer to hold you accountable to showing up to your workouts.
The key to effective change is getting the Elephant and the Rider moving together on a smooth path to success. Do this and you’ll stop doing things that you later regret.
What’s the best eating strategy for fat loss? This is the question on the mind of those who are ready and motivated to transform their physique. A quick online search produces two popular eat-for-fat-loss strategies: Intermittent Fasting versus Six Small Meals.
Which strategy works best? And which should you follow? Let’s find out…
Intermittent Fasting: this eating strategy cycles between periods of eating and periods of fasting. The content of your meals during eating periods is not a factor. Some cycle between eating and fasting each day, creating a small window for eating and fasting for at least 16 hours, while others cycle eating and fasting across several days, taking as much as 48 hours at a time to fast.
Pros: Humans have been fasting for thousands of years. Our bodies are well equipped to handle periods of fasting. Research shows that fasting produces benefits for disease prevention, metabolic health, weight loss and even life extension. Some find it less work to fast rather than to plan for several small meals. During eating periods you get to eat whatever you want.
Cons: Abstaining from nourishment for long periods of time can be challenging, especially when food is all around you. Socially it can be awkward to skip meals while your friends and family break bread together. Some find themselves overeating during eating cycles, and some find the ongoing absence of food to aggravate food obsession and to produce an unbalanced focus on food.
Six Small Meals: this eating strategy, of breaking the traditional 3 square meals into 6 smaller meals that are spaced 2-3 hours apart, has been used by body builders and fitness competitors for years. The content and size of each meal is an important factor of this eating plan. Meals early in the day contain lean protein, fiber-filled veggies and a small portion of complex carbs, while meals later in the day are smaller and do not contain any complex carbs. All meals are low in fat.
Pros: You never feel hungry. By fueling up every 2-3 hours you never get the feeling of deprivation that comes with fasting. Energy levels are steady and high due to the constant supply of wholesome calories. Fat loss results are steady, and, when done with an exercise plan, muscle is maintained.
Cons: You have to plan ahead. Every. Single. Day. Get used to carrying around a small cooler filled with containers of chicken, broccoli, brown rice and sweet potatoes. Each meal is small, so restraint is required. Unless you are including the occasional cheat meal, or cheat day, there is no room in this diet for empty calories or comfort foods.
The facts are out there to prove that both of these eat-for-fat-loss strategies work. There are photos of real, actual people who have subscribed to each of these methods and have gone from flabby to lean. Both methods irrefutably work.
But why? How can two methods that utilize opposing strategies both produce fat loss results? And which one is better? Let’s dive deeper into what makes these eating strategies work…
1. Meal Timing: When you eat is a factor with both of these eating plans. This means that subscribers to both plans are required to wait until the appointed time to eat. So mindless snacking, or grabbing a muffin just because it’s there, is out of the question. This reduces overall calories, which is key to weight loss, and explains why both plans produce results.
2. Meal Content: The Six-Small-Meals plan focuses on the content of each of your small meals in great detail. Your meals contain lean proteins, fiber-filled veggies, and limited complex carbs. This detailed control of calorie content is largely why this plan is a sure bet for fat loss, not just weight loss.
Intermittent Fasting does not consider the content of your meals during eating periods.
3. Meal Size: The Six-Small-Meals plan also focuses on the exact size of your meals, which makes sense since you are eating six times each day, and excess calories would quickly add up. Typically this is done by weight, so as you pack your meals for the day you’ll be using a food scale to ensure that you have exactly the right amount of lean protein and complex carbs. Veggies are often measured rather than weighed.
Intermittent Fasting does not consider the size of your meals during eating periods.
So What’s the BEST Eating Strategy for FAST Results? As we’ve discussed, both of the eating strategies above are capable of producing results. This is due to the fact that both plans result in a lowered caloric intake.
When it’s all said and done, weight loss comes from caloric balance.
Remember the junk food diet where the professor lost weight eating restricted calories of only vending machine food? As long as you are taking in fewer calories that you are burning, you will end up losing weight.
While both of the strategies above end up curbing your calories, only the Six-Small-Meals plan encourages wholesome calories that are ideal for burning fat and building muscle, which is why this is the plan most used by body builders and fitness competitors.
When it comes down to you choosing your own eating strategy it’s important to determine what will work best with your lifestyle. If carrying a cooler with you and making time to stop every 3 hours to eat a meal is simply not something you can see yourself doing, then Intermittent Fasting may produce better results for you. The key is to figure out a plan for restricting calories that you would realistically be motivated to stick with. And the more wholesome the content of those restricted calories, the better and quicker your results will come!
What is Metabolism?
This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.
You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight. But what exactly does this all mean?
Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. It’s how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.
Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive. And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.
Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:
- Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
- Allow activities you can’t control (e.g. heart beat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
- Allow storage of excess energy for later.
So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.
Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”.
This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).
The calories you eat can go to one of three places:
- Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
- Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
- Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).
As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.
There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate. One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you’re not being physically active.
The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.
What affects your metabolic rate?
In a nutshell: a lot!
The first thing you may think of is your thyroid. This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism. Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you’ll burn.
But that’s not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.
How big you are counts too!
Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!
As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does. So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be. Even when you’re not working out.
This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program. Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you.
The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don’t want to happen. So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.
Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they’re doing “work”.
The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!
Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food. This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).
You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.
Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%. By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.
Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow. By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.
And don’t forget the mind-body connection. There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.
The best kind of fat loss is steady fat loss. And while a slow-and-steady approach to weight loss will ensure that you keep the weight off for good, I have a few tricks to help you burn fat as fast as possible.
So if you’re ready to speed up your fat loss (and are willing to do the work necessary!) keep reading…
Rapid Fat Loss Habit #1: Bottoms Up! It’s not always easy to get to the water cooler or the sink. But if you’re going to shred pounds, you’re going to have to keep a tall glass of water nearby. There are many perks to drinking down plenty of water. Doing this helps you feel fuller, which keeps you from overeating or thinking you’re hungry when you’re actually thirsty.
Drinking water instead of other drinks also keeps you from ingesting additional, unnecessary, and worthless calories. And finally, if your body is going to perform at its peak, it needs to be well hydrated. Drinking plenty of water helps all your bodily functions operate well, which prevents you from holding onto water weight and suffering avoid constipation, while also giving you what you need to push through the final stages of a difficult workout.
Rapid Fat Loss Habit #2: Be a Planner
Like flying by the seat of your pants? Then you’re going to struggle to shave off pounds in a fast or even slow manner. Burning fat fast requires you to be disciplined.
The beginning of discipline is a good plan. Know when you’re going to the gym, how many calories you’re going to eat and what foods the calories will come from, and how you are going to avoid giving in to that tempting piece of chocolate cake. Once you have your plan, you’ve got to do the hard part: stick with it. If you’re willing to do this, your fat stores will burn away in no time.
Rapid Fat Loss Habit #3: Get Intense with Your Routine
Maintaining a steady pace on the treadmill will help you improve your overall health, but it isn’t the best tool for burning fat quickly. To speed up your fat-burning process, you’ll want to add some HIIT into your exercise regimen. During a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout, you mingle bursts of intense exercise with lighter exercise.
This could involve running, cycling, swimming, or other aerobic exercises. Whatever exercise you choose to do, do it hard for 30 seconds, take it easy for 60 to 90 seconds, and then go full force again for 30 seconds, repeating the cycle for 30 minutes. You’ll be exhausted when it’s all said and done, a sure sign that you’re burning fat!
Rapid Fat Loss Habit #4: Lift Weights
Think you can burn fat fast by doing nothing but aerobic exercises? You can. But you can do it faster and better by mixing in some weight-lifting sessions. In fact, if you don’t add weight lifting into your regular routine, you may begin to lose muscle. The scale may go down, but if you’re dropping muscle mass, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.
When shooting to burn off fat, nothing helps more than extra muscle. Added muscle helps you feel better and perform tasks of daily living with greater ease, while improving your metabolism and ultimately helping you burn more of that pesky fat!
Rapid Fat Loss Habit #5: Eat Right
You know that what you put in your mouth is either going to fuel you to get through the day or simply add some pudgy inches to your waistline. So choose wisely! Fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats all give you the upper hand on burning fat.
But it’s not just the foods you eat. It’s how you eat them. Chew slowly, use a smaller plate, and leave the food dishes in the kitchen. When you’re finished with your plate of food, relax and give your brain time to figure out that your stomach is full. Then take the cue and stop eating. These small steps may seem significant, but they will boost your fat-burning potential exponentially.
You may think the 30 minutes you spend every other day in the gym is enough to keep you trim and healthy, but it’s not. If you want overall good health, you need to eat well and find windows of exercising opportunity every day—not just during your scheduled workouts.
How can you squeeze in a little exercise when most of your hours are spent sitting at a desk, meeting in the conference room, and preparing for big presentations? Read on to find out when you can squeeze in exercise and how to do it.
1. On the Way to Work. To start your day with a smidgen of calorie-burning exercise, you may need to wake up a few minutes earlier than usual. Not to get in a workout before tossing on your power suit, but rather so you’ll have time to torch a few calories on the way to work. To shed some calories before clocking in, you have a number of options depending on your situation. You can bike or walk to work, perform seated calf raises on the bus or train, or park your car at the far end of the parking lot so you get to walk farther to reach your office. And of course, once you get to your building, take the stairs.
2. When Doing Mindless Tasks. Admit it: everything you do at work doesn’t require an amazing amount of brainpower. Take advantage of the easy tasks by multitasking with some exercise. The easiest option is to flex and squeeze your body. From your glutes and your abs to your pecs and thighs, you can get rid of a few calories by simply flexing them as you work. As you grow accustomed to the flexing, you may find it to be a great way to work your way through a long, difficult meeting.
3. Every Time You Finish a Task. When you first get to work, make a to-do list. This will help keep you on track and will also set you up for exercise rewards. Each time you cross a task off your list, give yourself an exercise reward. This could be walking a couple laps around the office, standing up and doing a couple quick stretches, or closing your office door and knocking out a dozen push-ups. Know what your reward of the day will be and go for it.
4. When You Need to Communicate. Helpful as email may be, there is a way to communicate with your colleagues that actually keeps your body moving. That way? Getting out of your seat and walking to your coworker’s office to talk things through. Have to make a few phone calls? Stand up as you talk or better yet, pace back and forth during the conversation.
5. At the Top of the Hour. A great way to sneak a little calorie burning into your routine is to get up every hour. And your exercising doesn’t need to be super intense. All you need to do is stand up. Do this for five minutes, eight times a day, and you will drop 100 calories a day. That’s right—all you have to do to stand up for your health is stand up!
Have you ever been frustrated over a lack of results from your workout routine? If so, you are in good company. Even the most seasoned athletes experience times when their results plateau.
When you continue to put in the same effort day after day with little or no results it is safe to say that you’ve hit your own fitness plateau.
Your body adapts quickly to any repetitive routine. The definition of ‘insanity’ is to do the same thing over and over while expecting different results. This holds true for your workouts. When your results stop then it’s time to do something new.
I have good news—the following 4 tactics are guaranteed to crank your workouts up to the next level and to deliver the fast results you want.
#1: Focus on Negatives
Each time that you do a weight lifting repetition you are utilizing three types of strength. These are:
- Positive strength: the motion of lifting the weight.
- Static strength: holding weight in a contracted position.
- Negative strength: the motion of lowering the weight.
Most people completely miss the benefit of the negative in each repetition by allowing the weight to drop quickly with little control. It is understood that the negative portion of a repetition is just as important as the positive portion, and possibly more important.
Focus on the negative portion of each repetition by lowering the weight very slowly. Concentrate on the negative contraction, and make each repetition count.
If you are advanced, then use a training partner to assist you in moving heavier-than-normal weight into a contracted position, then lower it very slowly.
Another way to utilize negative repetitions on a machine is to lift the weight using two limbs but then lower it with just one. For example, use both legs to lift the weight on a leg extension machine, but then lower it back down slowly using only one leg.
#2: Do a Drop Set
Drop sets have long been used to fight off exercise plateaus. This technique is great for adding muscle strength, endurance and for increasing the cardiovascular benefit of your workout – resulting in more fat burn.
Here, in a nutshell, is how to do a drop set: When you perform an exercise to exhaustion, don’t stop there. Drop the weight by 80% and do another set.
You could take it a step further by dropping the weight twice, making it a double drop. Or drop the weight three times for a descending drop set.
Use this technique only once or twice per workout, on the final set of the exercise.
#3: Modify the Exercise
There are certain exercises that are considered ‘staples’ in the gym. The squat. The lunge. The chest press. The shoulder press. The bicep curl. You get the idea…
While you shouldn’t throw these exercises out the window, find creative ways to modify the familiar motion in order to challenge your muscles. Try these exercise modifications:
- Squat on a Bosu ball or balance board.
- Place a weighted bar across your shoulders and do walking lunges.
- Use an exercise ball for chest presses instead of the bench.
- Do a full squat between each repetition of shoulder presses.
- Do a shoulder press between each repetition of bicep curls.
#4: Use Active Rest to turn each workout into High Intensity Interval Training
Every minute of your workout is an opportunity to increase intensity and to burn more fat. Don’t waste precious minutes with long rest periods between exercises.
While it is important to catch your breath if you feel winded, most of the time you would benefit more from an active rest than a passive one. Perform one of the following activities for 30 seconds between exercises and turn your regular workout into High Intensity Interval Training.
- High Knees with Alternating Punches: Alternately bring each knee high to your chest in a quick jumping movement while alternating forward punches at shoulder level.
- Burpees: Start in a sanding position and bend at the waist. Once your hands hit the floor, push your entire body back, extending your legs until they’re straight and you’re in the push-up position. Go down for a push-up, and when you push yourself up, jump slightly to bring your feet back near your hands. Finally, jump in the air with your arms fully extended over your head.
- Side-to-Side Jumps on Bench: Stand on one side of an exercise bench. Place the foot closest up onto the bench, jump up and switch feet, then land on the opposite side of the bench.
- Mountain Climbers: Place your hands wider than shoulder-width apart on the ground in a push-up position. Bring one knee to your chest and then back to the starting position, alternate each leg quickly.
- Side-to-Side Ab Twists: With feet close together, jump and twist your legs left to right – holding your abs tight. Keep a bend in your knees and swing your upper arms with each twist.
- Jump Lunges with Pop Squat: Start in a lunge position, lunge down then quickly jump up, switching your leg position in midair, land in an opposite leg lunge. Once you’ve done both legs, jump straight into a squat.
- Medicine Ball Squat Jumps: With feet wider than shoulder-width apart hold a medicine ball at chest level. Squat down until your knees are at a 90 degree angle. Explosively jump up, raising the medicine ball straight over your head.
If you’d like a sure-fire way to break through your fitness plateau and to melt away unwanted fat, then contact me for a fitness consultation.