Monday, 24 February 2014

7 key tips to help you lose weight

During the last 7 years I have tried pretty much every fad diet, crazy exercise routine or other stupid trick I could find to try and help me lose weight.

Luckily I never ran across this

When I say I tried them all, I mean I tried them ALL...

No meat, no veggies, red day/green day, shakes, tablets,  cabbage soup, detoxes...the list is pretty much endless.

For most of that time I did what most people did, lost a few pounds due to some miracle shake or only eating sprouts and then piled all the weight back on when I stopped, plus usually a few extra pounds decided to come join the party.

When I found the magic cure to all my weight loss woes (I'm thinking of copyrighting that ;) it turned out to be less rooted in the world of advertising gimmickry and more founded on a principle of hard work and perseverance.

Here are a few key tips which I have stumbled across or had provided to me along the way that I really wish I had been told years ago.

1. Set a goal-

I bet I'm not the only person in the World who has set out to do something only to realise that I didn't really know what it was that I was hoping to achieve.

Some prime examples....

"I want to start a business"
"I want to be rich"
"I want to lose weight"

While these are all admirable goals for a number of reasons they are all doomed to failure from the get go. 

Why you might ask? Simple. They are wishy washy and vague.

Anytime I said to myself I wanted to lose some weight I was pretty much guaranteeing that I wouldn't really end up where I wanted to.

For me to reach that goal of losing "Some Weight" technically all I would have to do is skip eating for a day and drop a couple of ounces. Voila, some weight has been lost.

You need to be specific. Your goals need to be measurable, you need to be able to know at any given point what success looks like for you.

As soon as you know what your goals are it helps you focus. Plus you are less likely to quit if you can see how much further you have to go.

Sure losing 30lb might sound like a tough ask but when you start trying and see that after 3 weeks you have dropped 8lb suddenly you realise -  hold on I can do this. 

Instead of having made an indeterminable amount of progress towards an unknown destination you have already made a measurable achievement towards a tangible goal.

Trust me it helps.

2. Be realistic

I'm going to let you in on a little secret... setting goals can create it's own problems that a lot of people don't tell you about.

Ok. I know, I know I just told you to go away and set goals. I'm not going to suddenly back down on that. But please, please, please don't step out of the frying pan into the fryer.

Having no goals to aim towards is a really bad thing, after all how can you get somewhere if you don't know where you are going.

It's equally bad setting goals you just can't achieve.

Sure you really, really want to lose 100lb, drop 10 dress sizes and have the perfect washboard stomach but chances are you won't manage that all in one go. 

Unless you are Hercules or some other freak of nature I would argue that isn't really a goal, it's just wishful thinking.

Do you know what the two big differences are between a wish and a goal? 

1- A goal is measurable
2- A goal is attainable

You can measure your progress all you want, if after 6 months or a year or 10 years you are still not reaching that goal you will eventually lose heart and you will eventually fail.

Wouldn't it be better if instead of saying "I want to lose 100lb" and failing you said "I want to lose 20lb" 5 times and winning.

Sure it might seem like semantics as if you succeed you have still lost 100lb but look at it this way, you are far more likely to lose 20lb in a realistic amount of time than you are to lose 100lb.

When you hit that 20lb goal, even if it is a small one you will feel elated. You set a target and thanks to hard work, dedication and perseverance you hit it.

That buzz that you get from your first success will drive you on to make sure you nail your next goal and your next and your next.

3. Keep a food journal

Question- What did you eat yesterday? 

Now I don't mean what did you have for dinner or what was your breakfast I mean tell me exactly, with complete accuracy, what you ate yesterday.

I'm willing to bet one euro you can't do it without missing something.

Guess what...those somethings add up.

Until I started keeping track of what I was eating I hadn't realised just how many of those little somethings were creeping into my diet on a daily basis.

Sure 1 Malteser may only be 11 calories but when have you ever eaten just one...or even remembered that you had a handful of cheese on your otherwise low cal Weight Watchers ready meal spaghetti...

It's not even the things we forget about that hurt our diets, a lot of people just plain lie to themselves about what they eat or they take guesstimates.

As a little example I had my two brothers over to my house recently for a BBQ. They both had the same meals and had access to the same snacks. 

I gave one of my brothers a little notebook and asked him to write down what he ate.  The other brother just had to remember what he ate and tell me later.

The difference was 350 calories worth of food huge. That was over the course of an afternoon.

Imagine that over the course of weeks and months and then ask yourself why you aren't losing weight!

My personal pro-tip for keeping a food journal is to do it online.  

Calorie Count from is a great tool.  There are 1000s of foods already listed, you can add your own foods and recipes and as well as tracking what you eat you can also record your weight loss, set goals and get support from the community.

Plus with mobile apps you don't look like a dork whipping out your notebook all the time!

4. Learn to cook

If you don't know how to cook learn...if you do know how to cook start doing it!

Ready meals and fast food are junk, deep down we all know that. In most cases there would be more nutritional content if you were to eat the packing they came in.

Sure it might be more time consuming to knock up a home cooked meal but how can you really be sure of what you are eating if you aren't in control of what goes into your meals.

Not only that but I have never seen anyone use even half as much sugar or salt in their home cooking as you see specified on ready meals or takeout.

I'm not just talking your mail meals either either. What is the point of creating delicious, satisfying, healthy meals and ruining it by guzzling down treats from the vending machine.

There are some really, really great recipes out there for delicious, hunger busting snacks that will fill you up, be healthier and cost you less in the long run as well.

5. Take pictures:

Now don't all rush to turn into a soulless hipster d-bag taking ironic snaps of everything that passes your lips or start duck facing for selfies.


When I say take pictures I mean full length body shots of you. 

If like me, you aren't exactly a fan of cameras, don't worry. These aren't for your Mum's living room wall or the family album these are solely for you.

Far from being something to be scared of these pictures are actually very empowering.

If you have a picture of you at your personal low point this can be a great motivator as you strive to make sure you never go back to that place.

Likewise nothing beats the feeling of comparing the new slimmer, happier, healthier you with those before options.

As an added bonus pictures can help with plateaus... there will come a time when the scales will slow their descent and possibly even stop. 

Now, it could be the dreaded plateau or it could be that actually you have toned up, gained some muscle mass and look great as a result. Having a reference point will help you make that decision as opposed to just stressing and beating up on yourself over a good thing.

6. Get active

Diet is important, just how important? 

I would say that if you have everything locked down correctly and you are sticking to it than around 80% of your fat loss will be as a direct result of what you eat.

So if your diet is so important to fat loss why bother with exercise?

Good question.

Getting up off your ass and exercising is beneficial for you in so many ways that go miles beyond just fat loss.

1. Exercise will help you lose more weight in less time

Sure diet will get you there eventually but surely you want to turbo charge things and grab that extra 20%?

2. You will gain muscle

Everyone wants to look good right? Well guess what, some muscle tone will help you have that sexy look you have always wanted.

Guys, always wanted to be that strong guy who can help a lady to a car with all her heavy shopping bags etc etc...well guess what you need to do...get moving. You won't end up with Hulk Hogan style pythons pushing a pencil.

I can't help you on the moustache front.

Super awesome bonus point - As well as looking sexy and making you stronger muscle burns more calories than another type of tissue. So the more muscle you have the more calories you will be burning all the time.

3. Exercise improves your mood

Ditch the happy pills and reach for the dumbbells.

As little exertion as a 30 minute walk stimulates your brain into releasing chemicals which help you feel happier and more relaxed.

Now I don't know about you but I don't see too many happy, relaxed people secretly eating a pack of Oreos when the room is empty...

4. Exercise can help you live forever

Well maybe not quite for ever but certainly active people do live longer lives.

How much longer? 

Well obviously there is no magic figure but a recent study by Dr. Ian Janssen has suggested that active folks could live up to 5 years longer.

On top of helping you enjoy an extra 5 years of American Idol regular exercise can help you prevent or manage a wide range of health issues including stroke, MS, diabetes, depression, arthritis, heart disease and even certain types of cancer!

5. Exercise gives you energy

Sounds like an oxymoron doesn't it....exercise gives you energy and yet it's true!

Regular physical activity increases the health and efficiency of your cardiovascular system, increases your lung capacity and helps your body get blood and oxygen to your muscles which are doing all the hard work in the first place.

So dwell on that one next time you are winded going upstairs or start to sweat opening the refrigerator door.

6. Exercise makes you sleepy

Obviously that isn't how scientists or your Doctor would put it but I believe it cutting to the heart of the matter.

We all know sleep is important right, after all how many of us want to be tired all the time?

But how many of us realise just how important sleep really is?  As well as making you feel like a human sleep is a very much overlooked part of weight loss.

So you are eating right, living clean etc etc but that pesky belly flab still sitting there? Stop playing Xbox all night long and get your 8 hours.

Struggling to sleep?  Tire yourself out by exercising...the more you look at it this exercise thing seems to be onto something.

7. Persevere

Apparently Rome wasn't built in a day. 

A new you won't be either. 

No matter how hard it feels sometimes keep at it, believe in yourself and you can achieve everything you ever wanted and so much more.

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