It can be incredibly frustrating to want to lose fat and not be able to do so. Sometimes it takes a little shift in your perspective to make changes that lead to a successful reduction in body fat. In other cases, you just need better information about what to do and how to do it.
This article is going to give you both: First, we’ll list the physical actions you need to stop doing if you want to lose body fat. Second, we’ll show you how to transform the way you think about things, making it easier to follow through with the key habits that help you get lean.
#1: Stop Drinking Your Calories
Soda, juice, and sugar-sweetened coffee and tea have no business in your diet if you want to reduce body fat. Drinking sugar is like mainlining fat right into your organs. Not only are sugar-containing beverages packed with empty calories, they have no impact on appetite, while also disrupting insulin sensitivity and wrecking your metabolic health.
Do This Instead: Water and unsweetened coffee or tea should be your beverages of choice. Diet soda, sparkling water with citrus added, or zero-calorie natural soda with stevia are viable options if you require something more.
#2: Stop Skipping Meals
Does this sound like you? You skip breakfast in a rush to get out of the door in the morning, but then you’re so busy at work all day, it’s not until someone offers you a cupcake or bagel that you eat anything. Maybe you grab a handful of candy or rely on sweetened coffee to keep you doing.
You might think you’re saving calories by skipping meals and just taking a few bites here or there (even if it’s junk food), but really, you’re bumming out your metabolism and setting yourself up for overeating later in the day.
Do This Instead: You need to eat according to a set schedule starting with your first meal by 10 am because the stress hormone cortisol is elevated in the morning and eating will help bring it down, keeping your stress levels in check. Eating also prevents your body from breaking down lean tissue to release glucose when you’re fasting.
#3: Stop Snacking
Somewhere in the past 30 years, Americans became a snack-happy nation. Studies show the amount of time spent snacking has skyrocketed to the point where people are literally eating 16 to 18 hours a day! Although this might keep hunger at bay, it means your body never has a chance to shift into fat burning mode! Plus, a lot of times people snack out of boredom or for emotional relief, meaning they’re just piling on the unnecessary calories.
Do This Instead: Eliminate random snacks in favor of 3 to 4 meals within a 12-hour window daily. Meals should not be more than 5 hours apart. This type of eating schedule sustains your metabolic rate, improves balance of metabolic hormones, and allows your body to burn fat in between meals.
#4: Stop Staying Up Late
Ok, sometimes a late night is a must to catch up on house chores or to get ready for tomorrow’s meeting. But the reality is that these must-do tasks aren’t the reason most people are cutting into their dreamtime. Social media, TV watching, and other leisure activities are a huge contributor to late bedtimes and the metabolic nightmare they create the next day.
Here’s the deal: Not only are you exhausted after only a few hours of sleep, your blood sugar control gets out of whack, cortisol gets elevated, and a network of pathways is activated in the brain that makes you hungry and lazy. No one can make good nutrition choices with that going on in their body!
Do This Instead: Have a set bedtime that you stick to every night including weekends. An hour before bed, start winding down, putting away screens, dimming the light, and calming your mind so that you can get all the rest you need.
#5: Stop Planning Meals Around Carbs
You probably know that carbohydrates that are refined, processed, or have added sugar need to be avoided if fat loss is your goal. But, you might not realize that planning your meals around carbs, even the so-called “healthy” carbs, like rice, noodles, sushi, or wraps are a problem if your goal is to lose body fat.
Compared to high-protein foods like eggs, meat, or fish, carb-based meals are less satisfying and elevate insulin and blood sugar to a greater degree, which means you’ll be hungry again sooner. They also tend to be less nutritious and have a lower thermic effect, which means that the body burns fewer calories digesting and absorbing high-carb foods compared to pure protein.
Do This Instead: Plan meals around protein, only including higher carb foods in small quantities. For example, hardboiled eggs, turkey slices, a piece of salmon, or Greek yogurt can be the focus of your meal. Including mixed berries, half a sweet potato, a small serving of quinoa or buckwheat, or a half piece of Ezekiel toast can fulfill your carb craving without providing the bulk of your calories.
#6: Stop Doing Random Workouts
It’s true that some exercise is better than none, but the “random” workout approach in which you do a group fitness class one day, TRX the next, and cardio the day after that doesn’t allow you to make progress with specific fitness goals. If you want to see serious changes in your physique, you need to overload the body with a series of progressively challenging workouts.
Do This Instead: Fat loss is best achieved with a two-pronged plan of weight training and intervals. Do 2 to 4 weight training workouts with 4 sets of 8 to 15 reps per set using compound exercises like squats, rows, and presses. For cardio, do intervals on a bike, track, or treadmill in which you alternate 30-second bursts of high-intensity effort with active rest periods. Progressively increase the intensity by adding weight to the barbell or increasing your interval speed so you keep challenging your body.
#7: Stop Thinking All You Need Is Willpower
Willpower sounds like this wonderful thing that once you have it, you’ll be able to achieve all your goals. The reality is that relying on willpower will only take you so far before it starts to drain your spirit. When fulfillment doesn’t come as quickly as you’d like, willpower just feels like endless work without any true gratification.
Do This Instead: We are creatures of habit. You need to set your life up in a way so that you can basically run it on autopilot instead of having to will yourself into the gym or into eating healthy. This requires planning.
It doesn’t just happen because you set a goal to do it. You have to actually go ahead and prepare healthy, satisfying meals so they are ready when you need them. You have to schedule your workout in advance, prepare your gym clothes, and troubleshoot obstacles that will get in the way of execution.
It’s not that the successful people have more self-control than you. They’ve just got habits that help them do the things that need to happen to stay lean and healthy.
#8: Stop Doing Exercise You Hate
Guess what happens when you start doing something you don’t like? You quit.
You’re never going to get yourself to do something on a regular basis unless it provides some kind of satisfaction or enjoyment. You might think that a lean, sexy body will be enough to get you there, but the reality is that goal is too distant to keep you sticking with something you despise. You need a way of moving that provides some pleasure and gratification in the moment.
Do this Instead: At first, when you think back to the hours of cardio you’ve spent on the treadmill or the lame exercises with lightweights you tried, you probably think finding enjoyable exercise to be a lost cause. But take a moment to remember the activities you enjoyed doing as a kid. Did you love playing tag? Doing cartwheels? Climbing trees? Riding your bike around town? Dancing to your favorite jams?
Think about what sort of physical activity you have a passion for. Maybe you want to learn to ice skate or do ballet? Does rowing grabs your fancy. Or tae kwon do? Hiking?
If none of these fit the bill, try weight training with the goal of getting stronger and more athletic. This means you’ll learn to do the classic exercises like squat, deadlift, chest press, and pull-ups, focusing on getting stronger day by day. It can be incredibly fulfilling to see the weight on the bar go up. By the time you've increased your deadlift by 50 pounds, you’ll probably find that your body has adapted, you’ve lost body fat, and you’re leaner too. Surprise!
#9: Stop Compensating For Exercise With Food Rewards
Humans are extremely good at rationalizing reasons to eat. One of the most common mistakes is to add on extra treats as a reward for your workout. This is a well-documented phenomenon called “compensation” whereby people inadvertently increase their food intake after exercise. In studies, people with a greater tendency to compensate often gain fat despite engaging in an exercise intervention designed to produce fat loss.
Do This Instead: Pre-plan meals high-protein foods in advance so you won’t be tempted to indulge in food rewards due to increased appetite after exercise. When training, focus on goals other than burning calories—train to get stronger or for fun. Research shows this is one method for shifting you out of compensation mode.
#10: Stop Saying “I’ll Start Once I…”
Putting off exercise and healthy eating until some day in the future is just another way of saying “I’m not ready.”
We know from theories of how people make lasting changes in their behavior that there are three stages people have to go through prior to taking action. First, they go through Pre-contemplation in which they intend to take action sometime in the future without any actual plan to do so.
Second, is Contemplation in which people put a time limit on their plan to change, such as “once the semester ends” or “once September comes and the kids go back to school.”
Third, is Preparation in which you have a concrete plan with a timeline. It’s not until the fourth stage that people actually take action and make it happen. This stage requires you to think in-depth about how you’re going to implement your goals and what obstacles you’ll have to overcome.
Do This Instead: Get to the Action stage faster by thinking in depth about how you’re going to troubleshoot obstacles. For example, if you want to exercise before work, this means you need 1) a workout program 2) to get up early enough to fit your workout in 3) to go to bed earlier the night before in order to avoid sleep deprivation 4) a plan of what you’re going to wear, and 5) a prepared breakfast.
Considering what you’ll do if there’s traffic, bad weather, or some other unforeseen issue can also help.
Final Words: Exercise and a healthy diet can transform both how you feel and how you look. Figure out a way to enjoy your training and most important: Start Today!