This isn’t an article describing the perfect diet for everyone (because there’s no such thing). This also isn’t an article telling you how to get ripped in two weeks. Rather, this article lists some small, easy changes that people typically overlook. Yes, you will lose weight. Yes, you will get in better shape. No, you won’t be ready to enter the ring just by employing these tips. Let’s begin.
1. Don’t Drink Calories
For whatever reason, liquid calories just don’t fill us up as much as regular food does. Because of this, it’s easy for a ton of calories to sneak into an otherwise healthy meal.
Let’s visualize a trip to your favorite restaurant. You want to be healthy so you opt for the salad, but order a Coke with your meal. As you sit there and chat, the waiter regularly comes by and tops off your drink. “What service!” you think. As the meal goes on you inadvertently drink 36 oz of Coke (maybe even more). Congratulations! You’ve just tacked an additional 420 calories -pure sugar no less- to your meal. And don’t even think switching to Diet Coke is an improvement. To be honest, it’s probably worse.
So here’s your approved list of drinks:
- Tea (unsweetened)
- Black Coffee
That’s it. No fruit juices, no “diet” drinks, no additives. I would say the only exception to this rule is if you are having a drink to replace a full meal, such as a protein shake for lunch. Even that should be used sparingly.
2. Cut your meal in half
Unless you are actively counting your calories on EVERYTHING you eat, you are most likely underestimating just how much you are actually consuming. A simple fix to this is to prepare your meal, and only eat half of it. The other half can be saved for lunch the next day. Win-Win! This is especially useful when eating out as restaurants have an uncanny ability to make even a salad a fattening meal.
3. Mind Your Macros
If you’re following the Standard American Diet, aka SAD (coincidence?), you’re eating a high-carb/high-fat/low-protein diet with loads of processed, low-nutrient foods. What this does is spike insulin levels, exacerbate weight gain, and contribute to a myriad of other health issues. You would be better off increasing your protein and fat consumption while restricting your carbs. This doesn’t mean cutting carbs to a ridiculously low level, although many do great on a low-carb/ketogenic diet. Your body only needs a certain amount of carbs to refuel the muscles and liver. Anything beyond that gets stored as fat. Play with the levels to find what works for you.
Others have reported good results on a high-carb/low-fat/moderate protein diet. I have little personal experience with that approach, but I believe it can work as well, if properly implemented. The biggest thing is to go either high-carb or high-fat; not both.
NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Big words, simple translation:
Any activity outside of the gym counts as NEAT.
This includes walking, carrying groceries, playing with your kids, mowing the yard, etc. All this counts as exercise. You’re burning calories, are you not? Sadly, most people neglect, or even avoid, NEAT. They circle the parking lot looking for the closest spot, take the elevator instead of the stairs, and use a shopping cart to push around a 6-pack of beer and a frozen pizza. Here are some easy changes you can make that will quickly add up:
- Park at the very back of the parking lot everywhere you go.
- Carry your groceries unless you legitimately need a cart.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Walk during your lunch break.
- Get a standing desk for your computer or, at the very least, get up and move around hourly.
- Mow your yard with a push mower.
- Play with your kids. Pick them up, wrestle with them, chase them around the house.
Most of these things aren’t huge calorie-burners, but that’s not the point. NEAT is a nickel-and-dime approach to weight loss. Its purpose is to keep you active and moving throughout the day instead of sitting on the couch or behind a desk. Trust me, an hour at the gym is not going to offset the other 23 hours of loafing around. It just isn’t possible. A good way to track your NEAT is to simply get a pedometer and set a steps goal. The standard goal is 10,000 steps (approx 5 miles). I’d say that’s a respectable amount. I typically strive for 5,000 – 7,000/per day, but I also have a standing desk.
Weight loss is typically, and oftentimes intentionally, overcomplicated. By minding a few simple principles -consume less and move more – you can quickly begin losing weight without feeling like you’ve completely overhauled your life. By following these few tips, I’ve already lost 5 pounds in less than a week (your mileage may vary).
Stay tuned in the future as we look into some more extreme methods of weight loss that are still healthy and safe.