by Shane Allen, CSM, WMS, CSN
I hope I’m not the first to tell you, but it’s 2016. In the fitness world we call the first quarter of the year “weight loss season.” Losing weight or being more healthy is hands down the number one resolution each and every year.
The result? Gyms are packed with people who haven’t seen a treadmill in the better part of eight months. Local juiceries like Roots Juices are struggling to keep up with demand as health conscious Texans try to jump start their dieting. Your friends keep ordering salad instead of the usual burger or sauce-drenched steak.
US News & World Report and countless other publications released this week their “best diets of 2016.” Even morning TV shows like Good Morning America had a segment this week on the top three diets. The truth is, most of you who resolved to shed pounds in 2016 will give it up by February. That’s not my jaded opinion—that’s according to a lot of science and research. Smarties at the University of Scranton recently found that a quarter of resolvers don’t even make it a week before giving up.
Golds Gym did an analysis of its member data last year and saw a drop off of members showing up around February 18. That’s a lot of wasted money if they purchased year-long memberships! Of the 16 million Americans who have resolved to lose weight, only 8% will actually pull it off.
Now this all sounds like bad news, right? You may have asked yourself, “Why not just give up now?” Well, you haven’t met me yet.
Allow me to introduce myself. (So rude that I haven’t done it already!)
I’m Shane Allen, a certified weight loss specialist, personal trainer and sports nutritionist. I was an investigative journalist for 12 years before transitioning into the fitness, diet and weight loss industry. I’ve done my research on all the studies out there and even have experience working for one of the many diet food companies trying to hock their meals. I’m going to give you some easy to live with weight loss tips that I know are proven to work.
1. You can’t outrun a bad diet
You can go to the gym every day. Run five miles. Join a spin class. Yoga. Pilates. Boot camps. Get a trainer (like yours truly.) But if you’re not focusing on your food it’s all for naught. When you’re trying to lose weight the food you eat is 90% of the battle. Exercise is secondary to that.
To put it another way, the British Journal of Sports Medicine said last year that lack of exercise is not to blame for obesity and type II diabetes. It’s starchy carbs and sugars.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t work out. Exercise should definitely be part of your fitness routine—but it should not take priority over eating right.
2. Focus on food
I’m almost ashamed to admit that I eat out around 90% of the time. But I’m still able to maintain a 46% muscle and 12% body fat ratio. (If that math doesn’t add up, the rest of the 42% is bones and brains, etc.) For perspective, I’m about 7% higher than the minimum amount of fat needed for your brain to function.
People who want to lose weight should work to avoid starchy carbs and sugars. This means focusing on things like fish, chicken, steak, eggs, tofu, vegetables, leafy greens and nuts. Dairy should be consumed in moderation. There are great alternatives on the market for things like your coffee creamer, including almond and soy milks.
You can still eat out while avoiding or reducing these foods.
I was at a restaurant just the other day and saw a sea bass preparation with an “Asian glaze” over it. I know the Asian pallet and was almost certain the glaze had some sort of sugar in it. After confirming with the waiter that it was in fact a sweet sauce, I ordered the fish without it.
A friend I was dining with ordered the same dish with the glaze. I’m not lying when I tell you my preparation was much more tasty than his sugar-drenched dusky.
Don’t be afraid to ask for alterations when you’re eating out. The resulting dish is usually a fresher, more thought out version than what the kitchen is so used to churning out day in and day out.
3. Don’t make weight loss an event
If you want to lose 15 pounds, and you do, you’ll likely want to reward yourself with a cake or something else you were giving up during your “diet.” Be careful with this. Don’t drop your healthy eating habits the second you hit your goal weight.
Before you know it, drunken 2am pizza becomes a norm and you’re back to where you started—only to have to start your weight loss journey all over again. That’s called yo-yo dieting, and it’s not healthy. And it certainly won’t help you with long-term weight loss.
Anyone can lose about 10% of their body weight on any type of pound shedding diet. But folks who yo-yo diet will actually end up gaining back more weight than they actually lost, according to research from the University of Minnesota’s Health and Eating Lab.
What I’m about to say has been said so many times it has become cliché; but it’s true: fitness is a lifestyle. Your diet and health should be a life-long habit—not an event.
4. Keep it up
You did it! You followed my advice and you’ve reached your goal weight. So now what?
As I mentioned above, DON’T STOP NOW.
Do some reasonable experimenting to incorporate some (SOME) starchy carbs and sugars back into your diet. Maybe that means a banana or apple with a bowl of oatmeal in the morning. Or some sweet potato fries with lunch.
You don’t have to give up everything you love forever—you just have to eat less of it. And if what you’re eating is a starchy carb or sugar, consume them in moderation before 1pm. Anything after that will just turn to fat while you sleep. And that’s not cute.
5. Don’t do it alone
People who lose weight with a friend have been shown to be more likely to meet their goal weight and keep it off. Peer-to-peer accountability is very motivating.
Hiring a personal trainer or sports nutritionist can also help motivate you along the way. A good trainer will keep you honest and push you to be stronger than you never knew you were.
So let’s boil it all down:
Exercise is only 10% of the battle
Food is 90% of the fight for weight loss
Starchy carbs and sugars= bad when you’re trying to lose weight.
When you’ve hit your goal weight, moderately incorporate starchy carbs and sugars back into your diet before 1pm each day.
Don’t give up. Sometimes losing weight with a friend, or hiring a personal trainer to motivate you along the way can be your biggest key to success.
You can do this!