Guest Post by Ridwan Mao
If you’re someone who doesn’t have time to lose weight because of work, family time, and other priorities, I’m going to show you how those things don’t have to hold you back. My goal in this article is to teach you a step-by-step system to reverse your weight gain. The best part is that you can starting using it today to lose that first 10 pounds.
No pharmaceutical conspiracies or ancient fat-burning chia seed cooking secrets here, just sensible strategy and a systematic process. My two favourite things.
Before we jump into that, I need to introduce you to my friend Kevin (he’s a great guy, trust me). Not too long ago, he was feeling stuck.
|Meet Kevin. In real life, he has more limbs and less hair.|
Kevin had been waiting for "next Monday" to start his fitness program for months. He felt like he was the biggest he’d ever been, but if the topic of fitness ever came up he would just sort of mumble, “I’ll get back into the gym when my schedule clears up…”
“When my schedule clears up” is right around “next Monday” in terms of time, for those curious.
Kevin reached the tipping point when he realized 10 minutes into running around his backyard with his daughters that his knees and back hurt and he was completely winded. Due to his weight gain, he felt like he couldn’t keep up with them anymore.
But then, without committing hours every week to the gym, he figured out how to start losing weight in a way that fit his lifestyle. I told you he was a great guy.
We’re going to check back in with Kevin at the end of this article, because every good story needs a little suspense.
So Where Do We Start?
First, let's clear something up about weight loss. The ONLY way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories than you burn daily. You burn calories in a lots of ways (even unconsciously), and different nutrients burn differently, but that doesn’t change this rule. We’re going to be focusing on our intake in this article. I’m not a fan of counting calories either so we’re going to look at this a different way.
The basic rule to remember here is: No matter what you eat, you have to eat fewer calories per day than you burn to lose weight. Pretty straightforward, right?
Second, we need to keep in mind that your body has bigger priorities for you than just losing weight. We also want most of that lost weight to be fat and not muscle. That means if you take “eat less” to mean “hardly eat at all,” you put yourself at a risk for illness, injury, and losing all the things that make you an effective human being. We know the bigger goal here is to be there for your family so you need to stay strong and healthy AND lose weight.
Remember, this is to get you started. We won’t be looking at macronutrient ratios, body types, calorie counts or “fat-burning foods.” We will be looking at the simplest and most effective steps to lose that first 10 lbs.
The key to these steps are that they are simple and actionable. The only diet changes that matter are the ones you will actually do, so I’ve outlined the most powerful, yet simple, steps you can take starting today.
Now we can jump right into it. Let’s break our most important priorities down into two categories: calorie control and improving nutrient profile.
This comes down to two very important action steps. Let’s start with a few simple assumptions:
- You eat relatively the same amount and type of food everyday.
- If you are currently gaining weight, you are eating too much.
- If your weight is not changing, your intake and expenditure are equal. You are eating at maintenance.
Consider this: it takes 20 minutes for the hormones and neurotransmitters in your gut to send a clear message to your brain to stop eating. By slowing down how fast we eat, we allow our brain to process these signals appropriately and let us know the right time to stop. You’ll be surprised to find its earlier than you normally might stop eating.
So with that being said, our first step to control our calories is to slow down how long it takes us to finish a meal.
A simple marker is 15-20 minutes per meal. Start where you are, and add more time with every meal to gradually adjust to how it feels.
Don’t underestimate this! It can be easy to overlook this idea because it feels too simple. Often when we try to lose weight, we overcomplicate the process and end up sabotaging ourselves in the long run. Your best bet is to start with small actions that have big effects and work from there.
As a bonus, here are three specific ways to take advantage of this to decrease your daily calories:
- Put your fork/utensil down between bites and take a sip of water. [EASY]
- Turn off any distractions while you eat and chew a little more than you normally would for each bite. [MEDIUM]
- Set a timer for 15-20 minutes and eat throughout. [HARD]
Now, let's add the second step to double the effectiveness: eat until you are 80% full.
This will become easier as you slow down your eating because you’ll begin to notice the specific cues your body is giving you before, during and after a meal about how full you are. Over time you’ll start to be more aware of your body’s specific needs -- which in turn allows you to better control your intake and adjust accordingly.
If you're confident that you can do this step consistently, great. Then we can move onto our next focus.
Improving Nutrient Profile
Like I mentioned earlier, staying strong and healthy while losing weight is the key to any diet change.
I always like to start with the most effective nutritional change that can kick start a bunch of benefits in our diet: eat lean protein with every meal.
You'll notice that this is different from the traditional advice to cut carbohydrates from your diet immediately. For most people, carbohydrates make up a lot of your daily diet, and if you aren't familiar with what foods contain carbohydrates it can be difficult to start removing them.
Worst case scenario, you’ll cut too much out of your diet and end up binging later in the week to make up for it.
I prefer to add lean protein instead so we can start getting the benefits of this nutrient. A powerful side effect of this is you’ll begin to naturally replace other foods from your plate.
Protein helps maintain lean muscle and increase your feeling of fullness between meals. It also isn’t stored as easily as other macronutrients, and your body burns more calories simply in digesting it (this is called the thermic effect of food). You can see why it’s such a powerful change to make.
That’s it. Make it 1-2 palms worth of protein per meal and you’re set. Try chicken, salmon, turkey or eggs. Choose whichever you prefer.
These two steps alone will take you far -- though of course the journey doesn’t end here. There are many more steps you can take, and I’ll show you a few more examples when we get back to our friend Kevin, but just before then...
But I’m Still Not Where I Wanna Be...
What happens once you've slowed down how much you eat, and you've added protein to every meal, but still aren’t at your goal weight?
Remember to track your progress to know when those two steps stop working for you. This is by either taking photos, weighing yourself, or using measurements. When possible, I prefer to do all three.
It's important to only make changes when we need to, not just when we want to. If we can keep following the same path and still see results, we should.
But if you are at the point where it's become necessary to move on, there are lots of options available to us. Here’s a laundry list of options you can use to plan your next move:
- Add 1-2 fists of vegetables with every meal. Steamed broccoli, green beans and cauliflower, raw peppers and carrots, whatever works for you. We’ll use this to make the switch from processed carbohydrates to nutrient-packed foods.
- Eat 1 thumb of healthy fats with every meal. Optimal hormone production, immune system function and reproductive function depend on a healthy fat intake and balance. Add some almonds, seeds, or olive oil to your meals.
- Record a 3-day food log and search for calorie creep. Calorie creep is the extra calories that sneak into your diet through sugar, snacks, and oils. Use this to cut out the non-essentials that do more harm than good.
- Improve your micronutrient profile. To ensure your energy systems and all the functions in your body are working as they should, get a multivitamin and a fish oil pill. These can even boost the rate at which you lose fat.
- Once you get comfortable with all of the above habits, add some variety. Try different recipes, vegetables, protein sources and fat sources. This way you'll always be prepared no matter what you have to work with.
- After a lot of weight loss, are you stuck at the last 5-10 pounds? There are strategies for that too. They are outside the scope of this article, but you can find out more at the bottom of this page.
That Makes Sense to Me!
So, finally, back to our old friend Kevin.
Kevin realized that he was snacking at work and eating out more often when he missed breakfast because he would be way hungrier later in the day, and then he would have a big dinner at home. He took things step by step and started small:
- At dinner he added a glass of water to his meals and took sips between bites of food. He also turned off the TV and split the time eating with talking to his wife during his meal.
- Next he found a 7-minute vegetable omelette recipe, set his alarm for 15 minutes earlier in the mornings, and put all the ingredients together the night before. This helped cut down his snacking at work.
- Then he bought a water bottle to keep at his work desk to help control his appetite and stay hydrated throughout the day.
From there, he’s been slowly changing the content of his diet to add more protein, fewer processed carbohydrates, more nutrient-rich vegetables and more healthy fats.
Kevin is down 7 pounds so far and knows he’s on track to keep losing more weight. He's also finding he has a lot more energy to play with his kids.
Losing weight IS possible without spending hours in the gym. But it can still be confusing looking at your own life and deciding what to do, when, and how to know if you’re on the right track.
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About the Author
Ridwan Mao is a Health Sciences graduate from the University of Ontario in Canada. His main goal is to make healthy living as simple as possible for everyone. He loves talking about nutrition and believes everyone can live an empowered and healthy lifestyle if they take the right steps to get there. You can learn more about his philosophy and work at www.ridwanmao.com. Don't hesitate to reach out ‐‐ he loves receiving emails from people starting or working on their fitness goals!