I make my living as a personal trainer in Plymouth MN helping people win with the scale. In a 4-week game like DietBet, the challenge is to have a steady approach for the first three weeks. We can’t win a 4-week DietBet in the first three weeks, but we can sure lose during that time.
I want to help you win your DietBet (and if you want to compete in our current game, click here to join our DietBet Challenge). Weight loss can be a million-piece puzzle, so I’m going to distill the process for you to help you focus your efforts on a few strategies that are likely to put you in the best position to win. If you want to win this scale game, here’s where I’d encourage you to invest your efforts:
1) Write out a meal plan in advance of each week (with Paleo recipes!).
Obvious tip, right? It’s so obvious that most people won’t do it.
A written meal plan is a written goal. It’s also a contract…an agreement you make with yourself. It is much more difficult to fall off the food wagon after you’ve gone through the effort to write out a meal plan. Because your brain knows better. If you eat fast food when you specifically wrote down that you were going to eat bacon-wrapped guacamole chicken (yes, I’ll send you the recipe AND the cooking video), you experience specified disappointment. You know exactly what you should have done, and you did something you know you shouldn’t have done. If we don’t have a plan, we don’t feel as bad about our decision because we didn’t choose against a specific good food. Without a plan, it’s almost as if our brain gives us permission to behave badly. “It was late and I was so tired, and I didn’t know what to eat, so I drove thru Wendy’s,” our brain says.
Fast food restaurants exist because they are counting on us not having a plan. They are counting on us forgetting that we get hungry each morning, midday, and evening. Fast food chains want our predictable bouts of hunger to take us by surprise, rendering us helpless as we pull up to their window.
It is easier to win with food when you make your food decisions in advance (and I’m assuming that, along with your written plan, you went ahead and made some meals in advance). When I get home at night and I’m tired after a long day, if I know what I have planned to eat and it is already waiting for me, I’m going to win. If I do not have my plan ready and food prepped, I am going to lose with my food. It’s as simple as that. And I’m going to jump out on a limb and guess that you may operate the same way I do sometimes. When you are hungry and tired (or hungry and busy, or hungry with kids hanging on you), you will reach for whatever is closest and easiest. If you have planned for healthy to be close and easy, you will eat healthy.
I have a meal plan template I’m ready to send you. All you need to do is email me and ask for it (firstname.lastname@example.org). To win this scale game, you need a meal plan created in advance of your week. If you do this, you are very likely to be in position to win.
2) Exercise with intensity for at least 9 minutes a day.
According to volumes of research, when weight loss is the goal, most forms of cardio are for suckers. I can hear you thinking, “that’s a little dramatic, Adam, don’t you think?” Yes, it is. Cardio has value for our health, but it does not have near the amount of value for weight loss as most people lend to it. If we jog two miles (at a 10-minute pace), we will burn somewhere around 200 calories. Big deal. If we lift weights at a moderate pace for twenty minutes, we will probably burn less than a 100 calories
Winning a scale game is not about how many calories we burn during exercise. Winning a scale game is about how many calories we burn BECAUSE we exercised. The person who lifts weights at a moderate pace is likely to burn several hundred more calories in the 24 hours post- exercise than the person who performed moderate cardio for the same time duration. I don’t care how many calories I burn during my short workout. I care very much about how many calories I burn in the 24 hours after my workout. That’s the number that matters more.
To burn the most calories post-exercise, the duration and modality are not nearly as important as the intensity. Exercising with intensity is how we win a scale game. I recommend applying a Tabata interval to your exercise. It is an easy interval format that will help you win with the scale.
A Tabata interval works like this: 20 seconds of exercise (bicep curls, for example), followed by 10 seconds of rest. Then 20 seconds more seconds of bicep curls ,followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeat this format for 8 sets, which will take four minutes. Guess what? In four minutes you have destroyed your biceps for the day. Rest for a minute, then do another Tabata interval with another exercise that challenges anything but biceps (mountain climbers, perhaps).
In this example, you crushed biceps for four minutes, rested for one minute, then tore it up with mountain climbers for four minutes. In nine minutes you broke a sweat, provided great work to some muscle groups, and did so with reasonable intensity. You just won the scale game for today in the workout department.
Most people don’t exercise as often as they should, and part of the problem is their rigid definition of exercise. For most people, the exercise experience is defined by a change of clothes, a drive to the gym, a warm up, 30-40 minutes of structured moving around, followed by a drive home and shower.
Do the 9-minute thing. If you have time for more, great. If not, you at least crushed it for 9 minutes and DID SOMETHING. Leave your “I don’t have time to exercise because I don’t have an hour to burn” excuse at the door. Tackle 9 minutes with some intensity and reap the rewards of your effort.
3) Sleep like it is your job!
If we break down weight loss into categories and percentages, I believe it looks like this: 70% of weigh loss is about food, 20% is about exercise, 5% is about habits, and 5% is about hormones. The funny thing is, you can get 95% of the equation correct, but if your hormones aren’t in agreement, losing weight is going to be incredibly difficult. And nothing helps regulate hormones like sleep.
Quality sleep helps balance hormones like cortisol (our fat-storing hormone) and leptin (the master hormone, which tells us how hungry we are and how much energy we have…amongst other things). Sleep also helps aid in recovery from exercise. If we sleep well, our muscle tissues and connective tissues recovery much more quickly than if we don’t sleep soundly.
If we do not sleep well (enough hours, or deep quality REM sleep), our body uses our “backup” system to help repair muscles and tendons: food. When we don’t use sleep to recover, our body will crank up our appetite in hopes that we consume more nutrients and achieve recovery from increased nutrition.
I encourage you to take a hard look at your sleep habits and winding down process at night. If you focus on getting more quality sleep, it will help you win your scale game!
Weight loss is a million-piece puzzle. I do believe that writing out a meal plan, exercising with intensity with a few muscle groups for 9 minutes or more each day (or most days), and nailing down your sleep schedule will put you in position to win from the start!
Here’s to your healthy success with your scale game!