How to Lose Weight – The Not So Secret First Steps
One of my new year’s resolutions was to drop some weight. This is one of the most common goals that people set out to achieve. In fact, over half of the people reading this have attempted to lose weight in the past year. Unfortunately, 95% of people fail to ever reach their weight loss goals. So how do you do it? How do you lose weight? Well, I’m here to tell you that every one of you reading this already knows how to lose weight. Your problem is probably that you are skipping the most important steps that will allow you to be successful.
Weight Loss = Fat Loss
Before I begin, let me clarify what I (and pretty much everyone) means when they say “lose weight”. I really mean “lose fat”. A lot of people get fixated on the scale, but if you are losing as much muscle as you are fat, you are doing a terrible job. Muscle is what makes men and women look good naked, so we want to keep as much of that as possible while dieting. If we only wanted to lose weight, we could just cut our arm off or stop drinking water.
Now that we have that out of the way, lets get to it. In order to lose weight, you simply need to either eat less, exercise more, or do a combination of the two. There are a thousand diets out there and, for the most part, they all work. They all have you eating fewer calories than you burn every day, therefore, making your body burn fuel (body fat) to supply the energy. It is an extremely simple concept and anybody over the age of 10 probably already knows that.
So if it is as simple as that, why then is it so hard? Well, because what makes it difficult has almost nothing to do with head knowledge and everything to do with your mindset, beliefs, and emotional reactions to food. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to learn anything about nutrition but I am saying that you could pay $10,000 and get the most amazing customized diet specifically for you and still fail.
Step 1: Set a Specific and Measurable Goal
The first thing you’ve got to do is set a goal. There are, of course, many schools of thought on goal setting, but I like to keep it simple and just use the “SMART” criteria. This stands for “Specific Measurable Assignable Realistic and Time-related” goals. So the goal of “I want to lose weight” or “I want to look better” are bad goals. The goal of “By October 1st, 2017, I will lose 17 pounds of fat and get my BMI below 25”, is a good goal. It is “Specific” (17 pounds of fat and BMI below 25), “Measurable” (you can easily measure weight and BMI at home), “Assignable” (assigned to yourself), “Realistic” (17 pounds in 15 weeks is considered a healthy rate of fat loss), “Time-related” (completion date of October 1st, 2017).
Whenever you are setting goals, you should only have 1 or 2 big goals. For instance, I have 8 goals that I am working on this year, but currently, I am only focused on two this quarter (getting my weight down and blog traffic up). The other six are still there, but they only get touched after my main two are addressed.
Be sure your weight loss goal is also realistic. So many people set out to lose 5 pounds a week and run themselves into the ground after 3 weeks. It is different for everybody, but most people can lose a pound of fat a week. If you are a 400lb guy, you could safely lose 3 pounds a week. If you are a 120lb girl, losing just 1 pound will be tough. My favorite calculator is here.
My personal goal is to go from 192.6 pounds to 172 pounds, and to be able to maintain that weight without tracking food and without losing strength, all achieved by January 1st, 2018. I have an exact target weight of 172 without losing strength in my bench, squat and deadlift. It is realistic and I have a deadline. The trickiest part of this goal is learning to maintain a new weight.
Step 2: Find your motivation
Like I have said, losing weight is easy. Consume fewer calories than you burn. What makes it tough is that in order to consume fewer calories than we burn, we are going to fight biology, our eating habits, and our emotional reactions to food. Those are some truly tough enemies.
Your motivation needs to be something that stirs up some strong feelings and emotion. We are looking for the best reasons why your goal is important. Whatever you come up with at first, I suggest you try to dig a little deeper. If you don’t have a good reason “Why” you will never be able to endure the “How” of losing weight. If you can come up with a strong enough reason why, you will be energized and filled with emotion and will not only be able to stick to your diet and workout routinely, but you will want to.
A great example of finding your “Why” is in the book the Compound Effect. Would you walk across a 6″ wide board, spanning two skyscrapers, for 20 bucks? Of course not! You would have to be out of your mind. Would you cross that 6″ board to rescue your child who was on the other building that was now on fire? Of course you would , instantly, without even thinking. The task is the same, the only difference is in the motivation.
Try to come up with something better than “so I can have six pack abs” or “to look like Taylor Swift” or “so I can impress that guy or girl”.
Instead, come up with stuff like “because I want to be around long enough to see my daughter get married and if I don’t get this weight down, I probably won’t be” or “I want to be a role model for my overweight family. I want to show them that I can do it and they can too” or “so I can be excited about taking pictures with my friends and family instead of avoiding them at all costs out of fear and embarrassment”.
My personal motivation is “so I can have more energy to play with Brooke and to be a lifelong role model for her, so she can develop her own healthy relationships with food and exercising.” And, “to not be another stereotypical dad. I want to break the mold and show people you can still look great and have fun after turning 30 and having kids”.
Step 3: Visualize your success
The last step involves doing a little subconscious programming. I know a lot of people aren’t really into this type of stuff, but I personally have seen great results with it. What you need to do is to become obsessed with your goal. You need to be thinking about it all the time. Even when working on other tasks, you need this goal to be spinning around in the back of your mind.
The best way I have found to do this is to review my goals every morning. I have my goals written down with my reasons why I am chasing them. I then write down a few things I can do that specific day that will move me closer to those big goals. This little process kind of primes my brain for the day. As I am doing those tasks during the day, it gives me that feeling of accomplishment. It allows me to see myself in the future, achieving my goal.
Every morning, you need to read your weight loss goal, read your powerful reasons why you are going to achieve your goals and then write down at least one thing you can do today to move yourself towards your goal.
Wow, I have talked a lot about losing weight but haven’t even mentioned macros, meal timing, calories, cardio, etc. That is because if you get your mind right, the other stuff almost doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because your brain will find a path to success. Some methods are better than others, but if you follow the steps above, you will find the best method for you.
So even if you think it is a massive waste of time, before you set out on your weight loss journey, I encourage you to spend a couple hours writing out your specific, measurable goals with deadlines, finding a deep emotional reason why you want to achieve these goals, commit to reviewing your goals daily and creating daily action items. At least commit to it for 21 days and give it a true, honest effort. I am certain it will be worth it!
PS – If you want a great, detailed book about the above, and also about how to diet and exercise for fat loss, there is (in my opinion) no greater book than Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle by Tom Venuto.