Counting calories without regard to the quality of the food you are eating will not do much in helping you with any weight loss goals. You can’t try to lose weight by watching your calories and eat processed junk foods all day. It is the difference between eating 500 calories in chips and candy or 500 calories in lean protein and vegetables. You are skipping essential nutrients and sabotaging your metabolism which is critical when trying to lose weight. There are many foods that you can include in your diet to help speed up your metabolism, lose body fat, and stay feeling full longer.
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Your New Year’s Resolution this year was a doozie. After feeling inspired by reading seemingly everybody else’s incredible transformation story, you decided it was your time. You spent days scouting out the perfect workout program, made a list of everything you couldn’t eat (and what a list it was!), told everyone your plans, and then wiled away night after night tweaking the details on your fitness app.
Fast forward two months, and that after-picture isn’t so vivid in your mind anymore. The image in the mirror says you barely changed at all. You started off strong, but then began falling into your old habits, going to the gym less than you’d planned, and just got burned out. Now you’re starting to suspect—yet again—that perhaps a transformation isn’t in the cards for you.
Why do we fall short in our most cherished goals? There’s no simple answer, since we’re all different in terms of our driving forces and individual psychology. But there are common themes, such as setting goals that are far too big or drastic for the timeframe, or developing an all-or-nothing mentality.
I offer an alternative viewpoint that can drastically impact your results over what remains of this transformative year—and there’s plenty left, by the way. My three-point plan won’t give you a magic formula for what rep scheme to use or what macros to ingest to melt away your former self, but if used correctly, it will drastically impact the results you achieve and leave you ready to set some new goals next January.
When setting goals, most people shoot for the stars. This is great, and I encourage my clients to aim high. If you are inspired to transform by someone else’s successful transformation, that “eyes on the prize” motivation is crucial to keeping you excited through the long, repetitive work of a transformation.
However, I also advise people to be realistic about what they want. If you have 50 pounds to lose to hit your goal weight, don’t expect to drop all of it in just 3-4 months. This doesn’t mean that such a drastic weight loss is impossible—on the contrary, it’s very possible—but obsessing over a big, round number may not be the best way to achieve it.
If you still see your old weight staring up at you from the scale, it’s time to break down your lofty goal into more realistic chunks. Do you think you could manage a 1-2 pound per week loss for the next few months? I bet you could. Once you achieve this goal a few times, you’ll find a rhythm in your program and the weight will add up more quickly than you think.
Once you lose the first 10-15 pounds, weight loss often slows down. It’s a natural process, because once you weigh less, you burn less energy. So realistically, you should expect a slower rate of loss the closer you get to your goal. A pound per week loss is a realistic goal to build around here, and anything more than that is gravy (not literally). Understanding how this process works gives you an idea of what to expect, and how to stay clearheaded as you navigate toward the end goal.
“Yeah, but I want it now!” you say. I get it. But understand that your long-term health and well-being are well worth the time involved. If, by some trick of self-denial and pharmaceutical tinkering, you are able to magically wake up skinny one day, you’re far more likely to wake up fat soon after. You don’t want that. So prepare yourself for a journey.
Look at those transformations, and you’ll consistently see diet listed as the hardest thing for most people to master. It’s not because they don’t know what to eat, or when to eat. It’s because it took them a long time to learn how to bend a diet without breaking it.
Unless you’re an athlete who has to make weight for a meet, missing a meal here or there is not the end of your long-term changes. Focus on establishing habits you can maintain for a lifetime. No one ever got fat by enjoying 2-3 meals per week that were outside of their healthy meal plan; they fell out of shape when those 2-3 bad meals per week turned into 2-3 per day. The lesson here: contain the explosion.
As long as you stay active and aware of your daily food choices, you have the mindset it takes to get to your end goal. Simply being aware that food is a choice is a huge improvement over most people’s mindset. Don’t mistake feeling guilty all the time for awareness. Given how long it takes to transform a body, I guarantee that unexpected circumstances will throw a wrench in your dietary diagram here and there.
More often than not, these wrenches will come in the familiar form of friends and family. Should this make them the enemy? Not if you want to enjoy your life, or have actual people (as opposed to online avatars) around to compliment you on your post-transformation body. The key is to reframe the issue. Realize that the act of enjoying food in good company is good for you psychologically. It’s nourishment for your spirit, and your spirit is the motor that will ultimately get you to the end of a transformation.
If you know you’re going to a birthday party Saturday evening, do you best to follow your diet leading up to that day, and then enjoy some goodies in moderation. That’s right: enjoy them. It’s just one meal and one day. Tomorrow is a new day with new choices. Repeat those two sentences as often as necessary.
If you are anything like me, your diet and training are important to you. I plan a lot of my day around food and training. However, that doesn’t mean my plans don’t land in the gutter sometimes.
There are times when you get sick, or injured, and you have to take time off from the gym. There will be weeks or months when you travel so frequently that you can barely watch your diet and can’t train like you plan. Guess what? It is OK. Learn how to press reset.
What does this mean in action? Do not just lay there in bed trying to convince yourself that all isn’t lost. Realize that overcoming challenges enhances the secret skill that defines the physically fit: to find a way to keep moving forward. Shoulder tweaked? Work your legs and lungs. Calves so dominated by DOMs that you can barely walk? Do pull-ups. Did a plantar fasciitis flare-up knock you down? You can always work on your core.
Even if you find yourself missing three or more consecutive days of training, don’t beat yourself up about it. Close your eyes, breathe, relax. Think of your life as an arrow that always points ahead. Then get back on track the following day. One or two days of going off your diet or training doesn’t have to turn into a weeklong binge or training hiatus.
Life is uncertain, which means training is uncertain. It doesn’t have to negatively affect you. If you catch yourself in a pattern you don’t wish to be in, stop and press reset. Don’t waste any time being mad or upset with yourself. Just keep going. You can always move forward.
Bodybuilding. JC Dean.
I really love this quote. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do”. Roosevelt.
Most of the things that we really want to do or dream about doing we don’t do because of doubt. Doubting that we are capable of doing it.
Sometimes we really just have to push through that fear and go for it. The worse thing we can do is not try because then we really have lost. Not unless you are a mind reader there is really no way to know the outcome of trying something new. The only guaranteed outcome is if you do not go after what you want because then you’ll know you will not achieve it.
Last week, I put my iTunes on steroids, recruited a horde of virtual zombies to chase me, and found six different ways to run through Central Park.
Welcome to the new world of running apps. While smartphone-toting runners have long used apps like Nike+ and RunKeeper, which track your runs using GPS and offer training plans, three different apps have recently helped me get out of a running rut.
The first app is a new one called Cruise Control, which adjusts the tempo of the songs in your iTunes library to help you speed up the pace. The second app I’ve been using is called Zombies, Run! It intermittently puts the sounds of snarling zombies into your ear to make you run faster. And lastly, there’s WalkJogRun, which helps you find creative running routes in your local neighborhood, shared by other users.
All of these apps are relatively pricey, ranging from $3 to $5 each. And the only one currently available on both iPhone and Android is Zombies, Run! The other two are iPhone-only. And, since they all use your smartphone’s built-in GPS, they all are geared toward running outdoors, especially WalkJogRun.
But despite being forced out into the cold, I’ve enjoyed using these apps and can recommend them if you’re looking to shake up your routine. My top pick of the three was Cruise Control, probably because I rely a lot on music to keep me motivated while running.
Cruise Control costs $4.99, and works sort of the same way cruise control in your car works: If you’re going too slow, Cruise Control will adjust the tempo of your music to help you speed up; if you’re running too fast, the app tries to slow you down.
It does this using an algorithm that speeds up your music without altering the pitch, so that a sped-up song doesn’t sound like the Chipmunks and a dragged-out song doesn’t make the artist sound sleepy or drunk.
There are four modes in Cruise Control: Free Run, Pace, Heart Rate and Cadence. Free Run mode detects and keeps track of your cadence. Pace mode allows you to set a target pace — let’s say sub-nine-minute miles — and creates a playlist that will get you there, adjusting the tempo of songs along the way. The Cadence mode acts as a kind of metronome, prescribing you a cadence to try to maintain.
The Heart Rate mode requires an iPhone-compatible heart-rate monitor to work properly. I didn’t have a heart-rate monitor for testing Heart Rate mode, so I mostly used Free Run and Pace modes.
For me, Cruise Control worked: When my music tracks suddenly sped up, I found myself running faster to keep pace. It was like having a personal deejay in my ear (minus, you know, the whole club atmosphere). If I didn’t like a song, I could tap a thumbs-down sign at the bottom of the app to quickly remove it from my Cruise Control playlist.
But Cruise Control does have one pretty big drawback: The app only plays songs that are between 70 and 90, or 140 and 180 beats per minute, and only about a hundred songs out of 700 in my iTunes library met those requirements. The creator of Cruise Control told me that, for most users, only 10 to 20 percent of their song libraries will be played through Cruise Control.
Next was Zombies, Run!. There are a couple versions of this app, but the one I downloaded is the more expensive version, listed for $3.99 in iTunes. The app is also available on Android.
Zombies, Run! is fun. It made me feel as though I was the last woman standing in a bad zombie flick — “The Running Dead”? — although I was in Central Park, not a post-apocalyptic suburb of London, and the “zombies” 20 meters ahead of me were mostly other humans in cold-weather running gear.
The app’s story kicks off by dropping you from a helicopter into a town called Abel Township. The communications operator is a man named Sam with a thick British accent, who often sounds alarmed. Sam guides you through the different “missions” of the app, introducing new characters and warning you of zombies up ahead. All of this is taking place in your ears, without any crazy graphics or animation happening in the app, so you can keep your eyes on the road.
Missions can last 30 minutes or one hour. The app basically “gamifies” the act of running — along the way, you collect virtual supplies, like batteries, mobile phones and even sports bras, which allow you to grow your base in the township.
You might think running to non-stop helicopter drones and zombie growls would get old after a while. Fortunately, Zombies, Run! thought of that, and the app patches in music from your smartphone’s music library. So, after the helicopter “dropped me off” during the first mission, a Beastie Boys song from my workout playlist came on, like a commercial break.
After using the app a few times, I had only made my way partially through two of 23 missions. But I would keep using Zombies, Run! to add some adventure to my routine. Runners looking for less adventure and more of a training guide might want to try the 5K version of Zombies, Run!, which costs $1.99.
The last app I tried is called WalkJogRun. This iPhone-only app costs $4.99.
Using the smartphone’s GPS, WalkJogRun finds new routes in your vicinity, pulling from its crowd-sourced database of over 1.5 million routes. The routes are categorized by length, so, if I was aiming for a three-mile run, I would select from that group. (Some runs in my neighborhood exceeded 45 miles. I didn’t attempt those.)
Other runners can also leave notes and tips on their shared routes, indicating if a path by the Hudson River is particularly windy, or if a route is a good alternative to the one the New York City marathon runners use.
WalkJogRun helped me discover a new route in my neighborhood that had me sightseeing (and dodging crowds) along Broadway. It also brought me back to another route I haven’t run in years.
However, WalkJogRun is pretty similar to another mapping app called Map My Run, which is free. And I didn’t have enough time to rate this app’s long-term training plans to see how they compared to the plans offered in the RunKeeper app I’ve used on and off for awhile. Lastly, you can’t control your iTunes music through WalkJogRun.
If music is a must-have while you run, Cruise Control might be worth a download. Zombies, Run! is good for those who need to inject a little fun into those long runs. These apps aren’t cheap, but for a few bucks, one of them might just light a fire under your feet.
Update: A previous version of this article said Cruise Control costs $5.49. The app costs $4.99.
Lauren Goode. Allthingsd.