The Big Picture of Permanent Weight Loss

Most people who read my articles and e-books know me as a science guy who likes to quote studies and apply research to everyday problems such as weight loss, bodybuilding, and other health/fitness related topics. However, sometimes you have to step back from the science and look at the big picture to help bring people back into focus, so they can see the forest for the trees, so to speak.

For most people reading this article, finding an effective diet that works most of the time must seem as complicated as nuclear physics. It’s not, but there are a bewildering number of choices for diets out there. High fat or no fat? High carbohydrate or no carbohydrate? Low protein or high protein? To make matters worse, there are a million variations and combinations to the above diet scenarios to add to the confusion. It seems endless and causes many people to throw up their hands in frustration and give up. In this article I will attempt to change all that.

There are some general guidelines, rules of thumb, and ways of viewing a diet program that will allow you to decide, once and for all, if it’s the right diet for you. You may not always like what I have to say, and you should be under no illusions this is another quick fix, “lose 100 lbs. in 20 days,” guide of some sort. However, if you are sick and tired of being confused, tired of taking the weight off only to put it back on, and tired of wondering how to take the first steps to deciding the right diet for you that will result in permanent weight loss, then this is the article that could change your life…

Does your diet pass “The Test”?
What is the number one reason diets fail long term; above all else? The number one reason is…drum roll…a lack of long term compliance. The numbers don’t lie; the vast majority of people who lose weight will regain it – and often exceed what they lost. You knew that already didn’t you?

Yet, what are you doing to avoid it? Here’s another reality check: virtually any diet you pick which follows the basic concept of “burning” more calories then you consume – the well accepted “calories in calories out” mantra – will cause you to lose weight. To some degree, they all work: Atkins-style, no carb diets, low fat high carb diets, all manner of fad diets – it simply does not matter in the short term.

If your goal is to lose some weight quickly, then pick one and follow it. I guarantee you will lose some weight. Studies generally find any of the commercial weight loss diets will get approximately the same amount of weight off after 6 months to a year. For example, a recent study found the Atkins’ Diet, Slim-Fast plan, Weight Watchers Pure Points program, and Rosemary Conley’s Eat Yourself Slim diet, were all equally effective. (1)

Other studies comparing other popular diets have come to essentially the same conclusions. For example, a study that compared the Atkins diet, the Ornish diet, Weight Watchers, and The Zone Diet, found them to be essentially the same in their ability to take weight off after one year. (2)

Recall what I said about the number one reason diets fail, which is a lack of compliance. The lead researcher of this recent study stated:

“Our trial found that adherence level rather than diet type was the primary predictor of weight loss”(3)

Translated, it’s not which diet they chose per se, but their ability to actually stick to a diet that predicted their weight loss success. I can just see the hands going up now, “but Will, some diets must be better than others, right?” Are some diets better then others? Absolutely. Some diets are healthier then others, some diets are better at preserving lean body mass, some diets are better at suppressing appetite – there are many differences between diets. However, while most of the popular diets will work for taking weight off, what is abundantly clear is that adhering to the diet is the most important aspect for keeping the weight off long term.

What is a diet?
A diet is a short term strategy to lose weight. Long term weight loss is the result of an alteration in lifestyle. We are concerned with life long weight management, not quick fix weight loss here. I don’t like the term diet, as it represents a short term attempt to lose weight vs. a change in lifestyle. Want to lose a bunch of weight quickly? Heck, I will give you the information on how to do that here and now for no charge.

For the next 90 to 120 days eat 12 scrambled egg whites, one whole grapefruit, and a gallon of water twice a a day. You will lose plenty of weight. Will it be healthy? Nope. Will the weight stay off once you are done with this diet and are then forced to go back to your “normal” way of eating? Not a chance. Will the weight you lose come from fat or will it be muscle, water, bone, and (hopefully!) some fat? The point being, there are many diets out there that are perfectly capable of getting weight off you, but when considering any eating plan designed to lose weight, you must ask yourself:

“Is this a way of eating I can follow long term?”
Which brings me to my test: I call it the “Can I eat that way for the rest of my life?” Test. I know, it does not exactly roll off your tongue, but it gets the point across.

The lesson here is: any nutritional plan you pick to lose weight must be part of a lifestyle change you will be able to follow – in one form or another – forever. That is, if it’s not a way of eating you can comply with indefinitely, even after you get to your target weight, then it’s worthless.

Thus, many fad diets you see out there are immediately eliminated, and you don’t have to worry about them. The question is not whether the diet is effective in the short term, but if the diet can be followed indefinitely as a lifelong way of eating. Going from “their” way of eating back to “your” way of eating after you reach your target weight is a recipe for disaster and the cause of the well established yo-yo dieting syndrome. Bottom line: there are no short cuts, there is no free lunch, and only a commitment to a lifestyle change is going to keep the fat off long term. I realize that’s not what most people want to hear, but it’s the truth, like it or not.

The statistics don’t lie: getting the weight off is not the hardest part, keeping the weight off is! If you take a close look at the many well known fad/commercial diets out there, and you are honest with yourself, and apply my test above, you will find most of them no longer appeal to you as they once did. It also brings me to an example that adds additional clarity: If you have diet A that will cause the most weight loss in the shortest amount of time but is unbalanced and essentially impossible to follow long term vs. diet B, which will take the weight off at a slower pace, but is easier to follow, balanced, healthy, and something you can comply with year after year, which is superior? If diet A gets 30 lbs off you in 30 days, but by next year you have gained back all 30 lbs, but diet B gets 20 lbs off you in the next 3 months with another 20 lbs 3 months after that and the weight stays off by the end of that year, which is the better diet?

If you don’t know the answer to those questions, you have totally missed the point of this article and the lesson it’s trying to teach you, and are set up for failure. Go back and read this section again…By default, diet B is superior.

Teach a man to Fish…
A well known Chinese Proverb is – Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

This expression fits perfectly with the next essential step in how to decide what eating plan you should follow to lose weight permanently. Will the diet plan you are considering teach you how to eat long term, or does it spoon-feed you information? Will the diet rely on special bars, shakes, supplements or pre-made foods they supply?

Let’s do another diet A vs. diet B comparison. Diet A is going to supply you with their foods, as well as their special drink or bars to eat, and tell you exactly when to eat them. You will lose – say – 30 lbs in two months. Diet B is going to attempt to help you learn which foods you should eat, how many calories you need to eat, why you need to eat them, and generally attempt to help teach you how to eat as part of a total lifestyle change that will allow you to make informed decisions about your nutrition. Diet B causes a slow steady weight loss of 8 -10 lbs per month for the next 6 months and the weight stays off because you now know how to eat properly.

Recall the Chinese proverb. Both diets will assist you to lose weight. Only one diet, however, will teach you how to be self-reliant after your experience is over. Diet A is easier, to be sure, and causes faster weight loss than diet B, and diet B takes longer and requires some thinking and learning on your part. However, when diet A is over, you are right back where you started and have been given no skills to fish. Diet companies don’t make their profits by teaching you to fish, they make their money by handing you a fish so you must rely on them indefinitely or come back to them after you gain all the weight back.

Thus, diet B is superior for allowing you to succeed where other diets failed, with knowledge gained that you can apply long term. Diet programs that attempt to spoon feed you a diet without any attempt to teach you how to eat without their help and/or rely on their shakes, bars, cookies, or pre-made foods, is another diet you can eliminate from your list of choices.

Diet plans that offer weight loss by drinking their product for several meals followed by a “sensible dinner;” diets that allow you to eat their special cookies for most meals along with their pre-planned menu; or diets that attempt to have you eating their bars, drink, or pre-made meals, are of the diet A variety covered above. They’re easy to follow but destined for failure, long term. They all fail the “Can I eat that way for the rest of my life?” test, unless you really think you can eat cookies and shakes for the rest of your life…Bottom line here is, if the nutritional approach you use to lose weight, be it from a book, a class, a clinic, or an e-book, does not teach you how to eat, it’s a loser for long term weight loss and it should be avoided.

The missing link for long term weight loss
We now make our way to another test to help you choose a nutrition program for long term weight loss, and it does not actually involve nutrition. The missing link for long term weight loss is exercise. Exercise is the essential component of long term weight loss. Many diet programs do not contain an exercise component, which means they are losers for long term weight loss from the very start. Any program that has its focus on weight loss but does not include a comprehensive exercise plan is like buying a car without tires, or a plane without wings. People who have successfully kept the weight off overwhelmingly have incorporated exercise into their lives, and the studies that look at people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off invariably find these people were consistent with their diet and exercise plans. (4)

I am not going to list all the benefits of regular exercise here, but regular exercise has positive effects on your metabolism, allows you to eat more calories yet still be in a calorie deficit, and can help preserve lean body mass (LBM) which is essential to your health and metabolism. The many health benefits of regular exercise are well known, so I won’t bother adding them here. The bottom line here is, (a) if you have any intentions of getting the most from your goal of losing weight and (b) plan to keep it off long term, regular exercise must be an integral part of the weight loss strategy. So, you can eliminate any program, be it book, e-book, clinic, etc. that does not offer you direction and help with this essential part of long term weight loss.

Side Bar: A quick note on exercise:
Any exercise is better than no exercise. However, like diet plans, not all exercise is created equal, and many people often choose the wrong form of exercise to maximize their efforts to lose weight. For example, they will do aerobics exclusively and ignore resistance training. Resistance training is an essential component of fat loss, as it builds muscle essential to your metabolism, increases 24 hour energy expenditure, and has health benefits beyond aerobics.

The reader will also note I said fat loss above not weight loss. Though I use the term ‘weight loss’ throughout this article, I do so only because it is a familiar term most people understand. However, the true focus and goal of a properly set up nutrition and exercise plan should be on fat loss, not weight loss. A focus on losing weight, which may include a loss essential muscle, water, and even bone, as well as fat, is the wrong approach. Losing the fat and keeping the all important lean body mass (LBM), is the goal, and the method for achieving that can be found in my ebook(s) on the topic, and is beyond the scope of this article. Bottom line: the type of exercise, intensity of that exercise, length of time doing that exercise, etc., are essential variables here when attempting to lose FAT while retaining (LBM).

Psychology 101 of long term weight loss
Many diet programs out there don’t address the psychological aspect of why people fail to be successful with long term weight loss. However, quite a few studies exist that have looked at just that. In many respects, the psychological aspect is the most important for long term weight loss, and probably the most underappreciated component.

Studies that compare the psychological characteristics of people who have successfully kept the weight off to people who have regained the weight, see clear differences between these two groups. For example, one study that looked at 28 obese women who had lost weight but regained the weight that they had lost, compared to 28 formerly obese women who had lost weight and maintained their weight for at least one year and 20 women with a stable weight in the healthy range, found the women who regained the weight:

o Had a tendency to evaluate self-worth in terms of weight and shape
o Had a lack of vigilance with regard to weight control
o had a dichotomous (black-and-white) thinking style
o Had the tendency to use eating to regulate mood.

The researchers concluded:

“The results suggest that psychological factors may provide some explanation as to why many people with obesity regain weight following successful weight loss.”

This particular study was done on women, so it reflects some of the specific psychological issues women have – but make no mistake here – men also have their own psychological issues that can sabotage their long term weight loss efforts. (6)

Additional studies on men and women find psychological characteristics such as “having unrealistic weight goals, poor coping or problem-solving skills and low self-efficacy” often predict failure with long term weight loss. (7) On the other hand, psychological traits common to people who experienced successful long term weight loss include “…an internal motivation to lose weight, social support, better coping strategies and ability to handle life stress, self-efficacy, autonomy, assuming responsibility in life, and overall more psychological strength and stability.” (8)

The main point of this section is to illustrate that psychology plays a major role in determining if people are successful with long term weight loss. If it’s not addressed as part of the overall plan, it can be the factor that makes or breaks your success. This, however, is not an area most nutrition programs can adequately tackle and should not be expected to. However, the better programs do generally attempt to help with motivation, goal setting, and support. If you see yourself in the above lists from the groups that failed to maintain their weight long term, then know you will need to address those issues via counseling, support groups, etc. Don’t expect any weight loss program to cover this topic adequately but do look for programs that attempt to offer support, goal setting, and resources that will keep you on track.

“There’s a sucker born every minute”
So why don’t you see this type of honest information about the realities of long term weight loss more often? Let’s be honest here, telling the truth is not the best way to sell bars, shakes, books, supplements, and programs. Hell, if by some miracle everyone who read this article actually followed it, and sent it on to millions of other people who actually followed it, makers of said products could be in financial trouble quickly. However, they also know – as the man said – “there’s a sucker born every minute,” so I doubt they will be kept up at night worrying about the effects that I, or this article, will have on their business.

So let’s recap what has been learned here: the big picture realities of permanent weight loss and how you can look at a weight loss program and decide for yourself if it’s for you based on what has been covered above:

o Permanent weight loss is not about finding a quick fix diet, but making a commitment to life style changes that include nutrition and exercise

o Any weight loss program you choose must pass the “Can I eat that way for the rest of my life?” test,

o The weight loss program you choose should ultimately teach you how to eat and be self reliant so you can make informed long term choices about your nutrition.

o The weight loss program you choose should not leave you reliant on commercial bars, shakes, supplements, or pre-made foods, for your long term success.

o The weight loss program you choose must have an effective exercise component.

o The weight loss program you choose should attempt to help with motivation, goal setting, and support, but can’t be a replacement for psychological counseling if needed.

Conclusion
I want to take this final section to add some additional points and clarity. For starters, the above advice is not for everyone. It’s not intended for those who really have their nutrition dialed in, such as competitive bodybuilders and other athletes who benefit from fairly dramatic changes in their nutrition, such as ‘off season’ and ‘pre-contest’ and so on.

The article is also not intended for those with medical issues who may be on a specific diet to treat or manage a specific medical condition. The article is intended for the average person who wants to get off the Yo-Yo diet merry-go-round once and for all. As that’s probably 99% of the population, it will cover millions of people.

People should also not be scared off by my “you have to eat this way forever” advice. This does not mean you will be dieting for the rest of your life and have nothing but starvation to look forward to. What it does mean, however, is you will have to learn to eat properly even after you reach your target weight and that way of eating should not be a huge departure from how you ate to lose the weight in the first place. Once you get to your target weight – and or your target bodyfat levels – you will go onto a maintenance phase which generally has more calories and choices of food, even the occasional treat, like a slice of pizza or whatever.

Maintenance diets are a logical extension of the diet you used to lose the weight, but they are not based on the diet you followed that put the weight on in the first place!

Regardless of which program you choose, use the above ‘big picture’ approach which will keep you on track for long term weight loss. See you in the gym!

References

(1) Truby H, et al. Randomised controlled trial of four commercial weight loss programmes in the UK: initial findings from the BBC “diet trials” BMJ 2006;332:1309-1314 (3 June),

(2) Michael D., et al, Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone Diets for Weight Loss and Heart Disease Risk Reduction. A Randomized Trial. JAMA. 2005;293:43-53.

(3) Comparison of Diets for Weight Loss and Heart Disease Risk Reduction-Reply. Michael Dansinger. JAMA. 2005;293:1590-1591.

(4) Kruger J. et al. Dietary and physical activity behaviors among adults successful at weight loss maintenance. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2006, 3:17 doi:10.1186/1479-5868-3-17

(5) Byrne S, et al. Weight maintenance and relapse in obesity: a qualitative study. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Aug;27(8):955-62.

(6) Borg P, et al. Food selection and eating behaviour during weight maintenance intervention and 2-y follow-up in obese men.Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004 Dec;28(12):1548-54.

(7) Byrne SM. Psychological aspects of weight maintenance and relapse in obesity. J Psychosom Res. 2002 Nov;53(5):1029-36.

(8) Elfhag K, et al. Who succeeds in maintaining weight loss? A conceptual review of factors associated with weight loss maintenance and weight regain. Obes Rev. 2005 Feb;6(1):67-85

Author Bio

Will Brink is an author, columnist and expert in the supplement, fitness, bodybuilding, and weight loss industry and has been extensively published. Will graduated from Harvard University with a concentration in the natural sciences.

His often ground breaking articles can be found in publications such as Lets Live, Muscle Media , MuscleMag International, The Life Extension Magazine, Muscle n Fitness, Exercise For Men Only, and numerous others.

He has been co author of several studies relating to sports nutrition and health found in peer reviewed academic journals, as well as having commentary published in JAMA. Will formerly trained high level Olympic athletes, bodybuilders and fitness and now runs seminars for (SWAT).

What the Diet Industry Isn’t Telling You About Weight Loss

At any given time, more than half of U.S. residents are trying to lose weight. With overall body weights increasing, along with the rates of diseases that have been correlated with higher weights, many people feel that dieting is their only option for good health. Unfortunately, not everyone who wants to reduce is doing it in a healthy way. Weight loss is an industry worth more than $60 billion dollars in the United States, and much of that industry is dedicated to selling products rather than keeping people healthy. Here’s a look at what you may not know about losing weight.

Types of Weight Loss Techniques

There are many methods available for trying to lose weight. Restrictive diets are among the best-publicized. These include calorie restriction, in an attempt to take in less energy than you expend, as well as diets that restrict food by type, such as low-fat, low-carbohydrate and low-sugar diets.

In addition to using restrictive diets, some people also attempt to significantly increase their activity. This has a similar effect to that of a calorie-restricting diet, but it increases the amount of energy spent rather than decreasing what goes in. Increased activity tends to require greater schedule and lifestyle changes than simply changing your eating habits, but it comes with added benefits such as increased strength and better cardiovascular health.

Last, and potentially more profitable for the weight loss industry, are devices, supplements and other products intended to produce weight loss. These include diet pills, natural weight loss supplements containing acai, African mango and a range of other substances, plus belts and other devices. The basic principle behind some of these products has been shown to help with reduction when it’s combined with other mainstream methods, but the majority of diet pills and other products don’t do much to help. They can even be harmful to your health.

Weight loss Effectiveness

With more than 50 percent of the population paying attention to weight, you’d expect the pounds to be coming off. Most people, however, are experiencing little to no weight change. Some people even find that their weight goes up after they attempt to reduce. Depending on the study, statistics show that between 30 and 60 percent of dieters not only regain all the weight they lose while dieting, they actually become even heavier than they were before they started the diet. These patterns hold true across a wide spectrum of weight-loss techniques. Only about 10 percent of all dieters are able to maintain their loss after several years, no matter how much weight was lost during the dieting period.

Out of people who do lose weight effectively, the most viable target is a loss of about 10 percent of their highest weight. That’s the number recommended by the National Institutes of Health for people who are obese or overweight. Losing more than this can be difficult and is rarely effective.

Many people attribute this lack of effectiveness to poor willpower on the part of the dieter, but recent research has shown that the problem is more complex than this. A 2011 study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that losing weight changes the way the body produces hormones associated with metabolism. This means that people who attempt to reduce are hungrier and suffer from higher appetite levels than they did before the loss. This lasts for at least one year after weight loss, making it far more difficult for someone who has dieted to maintain a lower weight than it is for someone who has never undergone a weight loss program.

Dangers of Dieting

It’s not just poor rates of effectiveness that make weight loss a complicated subject. Trying to get rid of fat can also be dangerous. This problem is greater with extreme diets that promise to take off a lot of weight very quickly. These diets can encourage loss of muscle instead of fat. They also increase the risk of heart disease, a slowed metabolism, and other health problems. Liquid diets, extreme calorie deprivation, and fad diets that eliminate whole categories of food are the most dangerous; but any kind of diet can be hazardous to your health if you repeatedly lose and gain weight, or “yo-yo.”

Diet pills can cause serious health problems, too. These weight loss supplements are usually made to be taken for only a short period of time and often contain large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants. This type of diet pill can increase anxiety and irritability, produce insomnia and other sleep problems, and even cause cardiovascular problems in people with existing heart weakness. Fat blockers can produce intestinal discomfort and other digestive problems. They can also produce malnutrition by blocking the body’s ability to absorb important vitamins and minerals. Diet pills that work as appetite suppressants can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. Even herbal weight loss supplements can have unpleasant side effects, especially in people who are allergic to some of their ingredients.

Weight Isn’t Everything

These questions about health and effectiveness are often met with the assertion that fatness is fundamentally unhealthy, so everyone should try to lose weight. In fact, while there are several diseases and conditions associated with higher weight, they aren’t necessarily a direct result of it. While fat people are much more likely to suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure and other metabolic problems, the correlation reduces significantly if those fat people are active and eat a good diet. Thin, sedentary people are actually at greater risk than people who are fat but otherwise in good physical condition. You may be fat and unhealthy, but your weight isn’t the biggest factor. However, that doesn’t mean that weight loss isn’t effective.

Who Should Reduce?

Studies show that if you have diabetes, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, your condition will probably improve if you lose about 10 percent of your body weight. Losing more weight than this doesn’t seem to provide additional benefit, though it could help you wear smaller clothes. If you have any of these conditions, it’s important to be careful how you lose the weight and to do it only in conjunction with good diet and regular exercise. These seem to be the most important parts of staying healthy, no matter how much weight you carry.

The Healthiest Option

What the diet industry doesn’t want you to know is that most diet pills, weight loss supplements, and diet programs don’t work very well and can even hurt your health more than being fat. If you’re interested in being truly healthy, your best option for weight loss is to look at your activity level and the nutritional content of your diet. Work on making fresh vegetables at least half of your diet and take up moderate exercise at about a half hour per day. That’s what the U.S. government recommends for optimum health.

If you do decide to reduce your caloric intake, use a balanced diet that doesn’t cut out any important food groups, and look for weight loss of no more than one to two pounds per week. This rate is more likely to produce permanent loss without serious health side effects because it’s so slow that your body has the ability to adjust more effectively. You may not be able to drop a dress size in a month, but you’ll feel better and stay a whole lot healthier in the long run.

5 Ways to Break Through Weight Loss Plateaus

Have you hit a weight loss plateau? It’s time to learn why, and what you can do about it.

Fat was practically falling off your body just a few weeks ago, and now you’re wondering if your scale is broken because no matter what you do, your weight won’t budge.

What gives?

Why did your routine suddenly stop working, and what can you do to push through this weight loss plateau?

Understanding Weight Loss Vs. Fat Loss

“Weight loss” is a tricky little devil because it doesn’t differentiate between changes in fat, muscle, and water.

The goal, of course, is to lose maximum fat and minimum muscle, and to keep water retention at a healthy minimum. When you step on the scale and register a pound lighter than the day or week before, you probably assume that you’ve lost a pound of fat; if you weigh the same or more, you probably assume that you’ve lost no fat, or gained. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Nothing swings weight up or down as easily as water retention, for example. If you eat a lot of sodium and carbs, and drink little water, you will retain quite a bit of water, giving you that puffy, smooth look. This can easily add 3-5 pounds in a day, which can be quite disturbing if you happen to hit the scale in this state. On the flip side, you eat little sodium and carbs and drink plenty of water, your body will flush water out, giving you a harder, more defined look, which might lead you to think that it was a great day of fat loss.

The unpredictability of water retention is one reason why I only weigh myself once per week, on the same day, in the morning, naked. Weighing yourself multiple times per week, or worse, per day, will quickly kill your confidence and mess with your head.

I also recommend that you choose a “weigh day” that doesn’t contain a cheat meal, as this can often add a pound or two of water that will come out by the end of the following day (my experience, at least).

What is a True Weight Loss Plateau?

A true weight loss plateau is a situation where you’re no longer losing fat.

I consider that I’ve hit a plateau if my weight hasn’t changed in two weeks. As I’m only going for one pound of actual fat loss per week, no change on the scale after one week of dieting isn’t necessarily a reason for concern-I could’ve lost that pound of fat but happen to be retaining a bit of water, or maybe my bowel movements weren’t as regular in the prior day or two. No change in weight after two weeks of dieting tells me that I’m definitely stuck.

Some Fat-Loss Facts to Keep in Mind

Before I cover how to break these plateaus, I want you to know a few things about losing fat.

1. Weight Loss Plateaus Are to Be Expected

Just about everyone experiences weight loss plateaus. If you have no idea what I’m talking about and are able to reach single-digit body fat percentages with complete ease, count yourself lucky. It’s very common for people to hit several plateaus on their journeys to a six pack because, well, the human body is just stubborn when it comes to shedding fat.

I’ve found that I can’t get below 9-10% body fat on diet alone (you can only reduce your calories so much, or you begin to eat up muscle)-I have to add in cardio if I want to continue losing. When I bulk, I usually end off around 14-15% body fat, and I can diet off the first 5% or so, but then I hit a plateau that only 3-4 days per week of cardio can cure (20-25 minutes per session). Then, the next plateau for me comes around 8%. If I want to go lower, I have to up my cardio to 4 days per week, for 30-40 minutes per session.

Everyone I’ve trained and otherwise helped has experienced the same phenomenon, but the thresholds vary. I’ve known a few rare people that can diet lower than 10% without adding cardio, but most people can’t break double-digit body fat percentages without a very strict diet and regular cardio routine.

2. The More You Lose, the Harder It Gets

The leaner you become, the longer it takes to lose fat healthily (the key, as you want to preserve as much muscle and strength as possible while losing fat). If you’re at 25% body fat, it’s very possible to lose 2-3 pounds of fat per week for the first several weeks. If you’re at 10% body fat and are making a run for single digits, however, 2-3 pounds of fat per week would be impossible without dangerous drugs.

For me, once I get below 12% or so, I’m very happy to see just one pound of fat loss per week, and I have to work for it.

3. Your Body Has a “Comfort Zone”

Although it might sound a bit broscientific, it’s the best way I can describe a phenomenon experienced by me and millions of other athletes around the world. The body seems to have a weight (and, accordingly, a body fat percentage) that it is most comfortable at. Your natural appetite tends to maintain this weight and if you eat less than this, you feel hungry. If you eat more than this, you feel quite full.

For some, this “comfort zone” is relatively fat, while others settle into a weight that is quite lean. For me, for example, I find that my body is most comfortable around 11% body fat (which would currently put me at about 200 lbs). I don’t have to watch my calories too closely and I can cheat several times per week, and I’ll just stay around 11%.

Now, maintaining a weight under this comfort zone requires constant work in the form of restricting calories and doing cardio. Getting fatter than this requires regular overeating, and if this continues for too long, the comfort zone creeps higher and higher.

5 Ways to Break Your Weight Loss Plateaus

Alright, now that you know the difference between weight loss plateaus and fat loss plateaus, here are three surefire ways to stoke your body’s furnace again to keep the fat coming off.

1. Re-Calculate Your Daily Caloric Target

Your metabolism slows down as you lose weight because your body doesn’t need to exert as much energy to maintain its now-slimmer physique.

If you don’t adjust your calories to account for this, you may hit a plateau. The easy way to avoid this is to re-calculate your daily caloric target after every 15 pounds of weight loss. As you’ll see, the target creeps lower and lower.

There are many formulas out there for determining how much you should eat to lose weight, but here’s a simple one based on the Katch McArdle:

1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight

1 gram of carbohydrate per pound of body weight

1 gram of fat per 5 pounds of body weight

That simple macronutrient formula will put you in a moderate caloric deficit and allow for steady, healthy weight loss. To turn it into calories, simply multiply the protein and carbs by 4, and the fats by 9.

2. Control the “Hidden Calories”

Most weight loss plateaus are caused by nothing more than “calorie creep”-that is, eating more calories than you think. This, combined with an ever-slowing metabolism, is a guaranteed formula for stagnation.

Calories can creep in from many places. Purposeless snacking, eating out at restaurants (they load calories into meals with butter, oil, sauces, etc.), overdoing it with condiments, and drinking alcohol are all common ways to add enough calories to stall your weight loss without making you feel like you’re completely “off your diet.”

The sad truth is a mere 200-300 calories too many per day can completely halt fat loss. To put this into perspective, that’s only a couple handfuls of nuts, a few tablespoons of fatty salad dressing, or a small bag of chips. Yup, fat loss is that finicky. It’s not very complicated, but it requires absolute precision.

So, to overcome the “calorie creep,” you simply have to know exactly what’s going into your body every day. You can keep a food journal, or you can do what I do: calculate what you need each day, break it down into daily meals, and eat the same thing every day, every meal. I don’t have the time or patience to work a bunch of variety into my diet, so I embrace the simplicity of choosing nutritious foods that I like, and eating them over and over.

3. Increase Your Cardio

If you know that your daily caloric target is good and you have absolutely no calorie creep, then you should increase your cardio.

You can add another day if possible (I don’t recommend more than 4 days per week if you’re also weight training), or add time to each day (I like to add 10 minutes to each session and see how my body responds).

The idea is to just tip the scales a little bit more in the direction of fat loss and observe the results. If the first round of extra cardio doesn’t do it, add more (another 10 minutes to each session, for instance), and you’ll get there.

Oh and do HIIT cardio, please.

4. Embrace the Cheat Meal

Yup, believe it or not, the cheat meal actually helps you lose fat.

How?

Well, first there’s the psychological boost, which keeps you happy and motivated, which ultimately makes sticking to your diet easier.

But there’s also a physiological boost.

Studies on overfeeding (the scientific term for binging on food) show that doing so can boost your metabolic rate by anywhere from 3-10%. While this sounds good, it actually doesn’t mean much when you consider that you would need to eat a anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand extra calories in a day to achieve this effect.

More important are the effects cheating has on a hormone called leptin, which regulates hunger, your metabolic rate, appetite, motivation, and libido, as well as serving other functions in your body.

When you’re in a caloric deficit and lose body fat, your leptin levels drop. This, in turn, causes your metabolic rate to slow down, your appetite to increase, your motivation to wane, and your mood to sour.

On the other hand, when you give your body more energy (calories) than it needs, leptin levels are boosted, which can then have positive effects on fat oxidation, thyroid activity, mood, and even testosterone levels.

So if it’s an increase in leptin levels that you really want, how do you best achieve it?

Eating carbohydrates is the most effective way. Second to that is eating protein (high-protein meals also raise your metabolic rate). Dietary fats aren’t very effective at increasing leptin levels, and alcohol actually inhibits it.

So, if your weight is stuck and you’re irritable and demotivated, a nice kick of leptin might be all you need to get the scales moving again.

Have a nice cheat meal full of protein and carbs, and enjoy the boost in your leptin levels. It can help your weight loss!

The Guaranteed Best Weight Loss Program

If you want to lose weight, selecting the right weight loss program is absolutely essential to your success. There are a seemingly unlimited number of weight loss programs available on the market today so how can you decide which one is right for you? This is a question I see a lot from both men and women looking for the right program to follow. It’s a confusing situation to be in I can imagine; wanting to lose weight but not knowing which program best serves your needs. So what do you do?

Well, the purpose of this article is to discuss various aspects and concepts surrounding weight loss programs in hopes that it will help you be able to select the appropriate program for you. First things first!

1. Identify what you REALLY want

What do you really want from your physical body? My online fitness coaching clients hear this from me all the time. At first it may seem like a pretty silly question, but it’s not. I’ve learned that the vast majority of people seeking weight loss really aren’t really that interested in losing weight at all. It’s true! In my considerable professional experience, the majority of people seeking professional fitness coaching aren’t looking to lose weight as much as they’d simply like to feel good about themselves and avoid the pain associated with the social pressures of being overweight. Weight loss isn’t their true desire, it simply provides them with the things they are really wanting. In fact, I will go as far to say that most people really want to eat whatever they want to eat, do whatever they want to do and live their life as they deem appropriate. I’m not pointing fingers here, that’s what I’d like to do too. However, being human means we have social pressures and expectations. At this point in history we are told that a lean, toned physique is sexy, attractive and desirable. I believe that this is the reason most people seek weight loss programs, not because of a true desire to be lean, but an intense desire to be wanted, to be sexy, to be considered attractive and to feel good about their body when surrounded by people who’s opinions they consider important.

It’s perfectly alright to seek weight loss for any reason at all; because you want to feel attractive, feel confident in your body or to attract prospective love interests. Whatever your reason for seeking weight loss, it’s very important that you identify your REAL reason for this pursuit. Once you’ve accurately identified this reason/reasons, motivating yourself toward that goal/goals is a much more enjoyable process. Once this happens, the weight loss process is not so much about the weight as much as it’s all about you! And that is exactly how it should be.

2. Determine commitment boundaries

This concept is perhaps the most important of all. I have seen people spend thousands of dollars on weight loss programs only to abandon that effort just days into the program. They over-committed themselves and were not able to follow through. Every weight loss program has a few things in common. Each of these things will vary from program to program, but the basic components remain:

Frequency – how often you must workout
Intensity – how much effort and intensity you must put into your program
Time – how much time you must exercise each workout
Type – the type of exercise(s) you will be doing during a program

This actually has a common name. We in the fitness industry call this the F.I.T.T principle. Beyond these basics which are usually associated with the exercise components of your program there will also be nutritional requirements to any quality weight loss program that fit perfectly into the same acronym:

Frequency – describes how often you will eat each day
Intensity – how rigid or lax your diet is
Time – how long you must eat this way
Type – the kind of food and nutrition methodology being used

These are going to be present in any well-developed weight loss program. Your success is dependent on what you are realistically willing and able to commit to with regard to each of these factors. Let’s face it, purchasing a weight loss program does not guarantee success, you must follow the program to achieve results. For instance, if your program requires a very strict diet with seven days of intense exercise each week but you aren’t a disciplined dieter and have never worked out before, this hypothetical program probably isn’t the one that is going to serve your needs best. Perhaps you need a program that has a more developmental approach and allows you more food and exercise options.

3. Beware of programs that claim to be for everybody

I’m not saying that there aren’t programs that could benefit anyone and everyone, but I am saying that you are more likely to be successful when you sign-up for a program that is directed at people just like you. Programs that attempt to cater to everyone are typically designed to produce sales more than results. These programs tend to be very demanding, have very rigid diet expectations and often lead to injury for those not prepared to handle the demands the program requires. Do your homework and find a program that is designed with you in mind.

When I began developing my Body Fat Meltdown weight loss program for women a lot of people told me I’d make more sales if I would only market it to everyone; men, women, older, younger, everybody. While this is undoubtedly true I couldn’t ethically do that because I know that each of these groups of people have their own unique set of needs and desires when it comes to physical fitness and weight loss. Therefore, I developed the Body Fat Meltdown program specifically for newly motivated women wanting to lose weight without requiring a gym membership so they could work out each day for thirty minutes or less wherever and whenever they wanted. I wanted it to be ideal for the at-home exerciser or for women who need to workout with minimal equipment while traveling. It needed to take away all excuses for a newly motivated weight loss participant and that’s what it does. By providing exact diets and exercise instructions the Body Fat Meltdown program ensures success if a woman will simply follow it for ninety days. This is an example of a program that has a targeted audience, a specific purpose and a meaningful method of progression that will lead this specific group of participants toward their weight loss goals.

4. Make sure the program is challenging, but livable

Be honest about the type of program your lifestyle will allow you to partake in. Fitness is an evolution so where you are in life now may not be where you are down the line, but you must be able to manage your weight loss program within the current boundaries that your life provides. For instance, if you are a single mother with two small children at home you probably are not going to stick to a ninety day program where you have to eat brussel sprout and cabbage soup at each meal while exercising sixty minutes two times each day. It’s just not sustainable. Every program has it’s nutrition and exercise requirements so it’s up to you to make sure that those requirements will challenge you to improve but that also fit into your current living arrangement.

5. The best weight loss program is one you’ll finish

The most effective program in the world is useless if you don’t do it. I know this first-hand. I’ve has women sign-up for my Body Fat Meltdown weight loss program and proceed to lose twenty-four pounds in the first thirty days. On the other hand I’ve had women sign-up and never even attempt the first training program yielding a result of exactly nothing. The best weight loss program you can invest in is one you will participate in, be challenged by and finish. I can name at least a hundred weight loss programs off the top of my head that have produced amazing results for their participants. Conversely, I can assure you that every one of those programs also has people who purchased, then barely participated, quit and spent hard-earned money for no results whatsoever. Ultimately the results you get begin and end with you. They are dependent on the factors we discussed above and are absolutely determined by your participation and completion of the program.

Take these five factors and use them to weed through the vast wilderness of weight loss programs available to you. Find a program where you are the targeted participant, one that you can realistically participate in and sustain from start to finish. If you do these things I firmly believe you will be successful in your effort to lose weight and look and feel great.

3 Easy Steps to Fast and Lasting Weight Loss

3 Steps To Lose Weight That Will Last

When it comes to losing weight there are no magic pills or secret diets that can help you reach your weight loss goals. But you can achieve your goals with these 3 steps to help lose weight.

Like most things in life losing weight (a lot of weight) boils down to conscious effort, discipline, determination and perseverance.

Losing 10, 20, 50 or 100 pounds or more all comes back to what you do on a daily basis. If you do what you’re supposed to do (eat right + exercise) day in a day out you will eventually lose all the weight you want.

However, if you throw caution to the wind and don’t do what you’re supposed to do then you may never see your weight loss dreams come true. This my friend is the saddest scenario there is.

If you’re bored of being fat, if your tired of being overweight, if your ready to start your new life today then hold on because I am about to give you the simple yet extremely effective weight loss plan you’ve been waiting for.

Are you ready? I am going to tell you in no uncertain terms what you have to do to lose all the weight you want in 3 easy to do steps. However, in order for this to work you must maintain your focus and discipline everyday to keep doing the steps until you reach your desired results.

Even if you falter and veer off your weight loss track, it’s OK. If you are able to quickly get back on track you will overtime, reap the benefits of dramatic weight loss and improved health.

And now, without further adieu here are your 3 basic steps to weight loss…

1. EAT LESS

2. EAT BETTER

3. EXERCISE

There they are. What do you think? A little anti-climatic, huh? Maybe you were expecting more… Well, let me tell you if you are able to grasp and implement this powerfully safe and effective weight loss plan is you will never again have to spend another unnecessary dime on weight loss products that don’t work.

You see, your body is a fine tuned weight loss management machine. If you follow the right plan and give your body only what it needs to survive it will do all the hard work for you.

Given enough time and following the 3 steps above you can lose tens and even hundreds of pounds without starving yourself or resorting to bogus weight loss pills or dangerous body sculpting surgeries.

Now, this is not to say that the road to significant weight loss will be easy or that you will not have to suffer a bit to reach your desired results. There will be days when you feel like throwing in the towel and giving up.

On those days you might just cave into your undeniable cravings and go crazy at your local all you can eat artery clogging buffet. But hey,that’s OK. You’re human. Sometimes you have to go a little nuts to get back on track.

However, if you are truly committed to reaching even your most seemingly unattainable weight loss goals you can and will do it by following the plan above. Now, for your benefit let’s go a little deeper into each step of the plan.

1. EAT LESS

There is really no doubt about it. If you want to lose weight you have to start eating less. You have to create a calorie deficiency in order for you body to start shedding pounds.

If you do not begin to limit how much food you take in no amount of exercise will help you reach your goals. Eating less of your favorite greasy, fat filled foods will be the quickest way to dramatic weight loss.

It really doesn’t matter how much weight you have to lose. Unless you take control of both your conscious and unconscious eating habits you’ll be hard pressed to lose even one pound.

No, you have to start cutting back on the amount of food you are used to eating. I’ve heard of stories where people would go to Mc Donald’s and pack away two Super Sized Big Mac Meals.

Obviously, this is way too much. In this situation even cutting down to one Super Size meal would be an improvement. But, as we will see in our next step, a better plan would be to do away with the Super Size meal all-together and start eating better.

2. EAT BETTER

As the saying goes, “We are what we eat.” If we eat crap, guess what? However, if we learn to eat well then not only will our waistline thank us for it but we’ll also feel better about ourselves to boot.

One of the quickest changes you can make to your diet when trying to lose weight is to ditch all the junk food you may be used to eating (chips, sodas, pizzas, donuts, cookies, etc) and start eating more vegetables.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. You may still be traumatized by your mother not letting you get up from the dinner table until you finished all your broccoli but let me tell you, your mother was right.

If you can fill half your plate at every meal with high fiber and nutrient packed vegetables you are well on your way to significant and long lasting weight loss. This is probably one of the simplest things you can do to really kickstart your weight loss journey.

While it might not be easy to start eating vegetables at every meal the sooner you begin the better off you’ll be and the quicker the weight will start to melt off your body.

3. EXERCISE

In order to kick your weight loss adventure into high gear you have to get your body moving. I don’t care if you call it working out, exercising, aerobics or whatever the point is you have to do something to get your heart rate up and your sweat glands working overtime.

Exercise is the key to sustainable, long lasting and real weight loss. For every pound you lose by eating right and exercising that is one more pound that will never come back to haunt you.

Why? Because you now know the “secret” to safe and effective weight loss. If you ever feel yourself creeping back up on the dreaded scale o’ fat all you have to do is put these 3 steps into action and watch as you stabilize and contradict any unwanted weight gain.

By exercising on a regular basis you are giving your body the energy boost it needs to ramp up your metabolism rate to start efficiently and effectively losing weight on a daily basis. I don’t about you but that sounds pretty darn good to me.

The more you push yourself physically the faster you will see change in your body occur. You may not have to work out with a personal trainer everyday but you do need to do something.

Be it going for a walk, running, swimming, biking, hiking, or any other physical activity you like to do start doing it now. Don’t spend another night on the couch watching the latest re-runs. Get your body moving and start losing weight today.

CONCLUSION

Losing weight (even a lot of weight) is not rocket science. So rest assured that anyone can do it, even you. However, it will require all the patience, discipline, determination and perseverance you can muster.

Start slow. Take it one day at a time. You may not reach your ideal weight in one week, one month or even one year but stick with it and reach it you will. By following the 3 steps above you too can become a success story like so many other before you.

So go forth and start losing all that unwanted weight that years of undisciplined living have left behind. Take control of your life starting today. Soon you’ll be glad you did. When that day comes there will be no looking back.