7 Rules of Highly Effective Weight Loss (Part 1)

I absolutely love the internet.  In fact, that's probably why I spent my first few years out of college working in social media marketing, simply because it was a brilliant way to waste time....but a way to claim I was "working."

(And Dad, I'm sure you're happy to read that previous paragraph after shelling out the money for my expensive, liberal arts education.  But I also learned how to write....so that has to count for something?)

Anyway, as much as I love the internet, it's also the reason most attempts at weight loss tend to end up like the video below - a smooth Michael Jackson dance, turned into an aggressive bathroom(?) wall face plant.

Why?  There's just too much noise on the internet.  For example, I googled "Weight Loss" and was inundated with programs, ads, centers, and weight loss news.  Oh, and I found out Beyonce is now vegan.  So there's that too.

While I'm primarily a "strength" guy, I know a thing or two about weight loss.  Mostly because A) I've had several successful clients lose weight and keep it off for over a year (time, not weight, being the biggest indicator of success), and B) I was 40 pounds heavier only a few years ago.

With that, I'd like to introduce my 7 Rules of Highly Effective Weight Loss....while ignoring the irony of adding to the aforementioned noise with this two part article:

1. For weight loss, diet is king.  All else comes second.

I absolutely love when I get to work with clients that want to "get after it."  They're extremely dedicated, would run through a wall if I told them to, and are all about the details of getting strong.  Where this attitude can lead one astray is the belief that kicking ass in the gym is all that's needed for losing weight.

I've had some weight loss clients tell me they worked out for 60 to 90 minutes, 6 days a week when they were thinner.  Others are always asking about what "extra" work they can do when they're not seeing me.  I've also had someone tell me about how they were doing "double sessions" where they woke up early to use a stairmaster, before they headed to work and saw me later that same day.

I know what you're saying, "stairmasters still exist?"  Apparently they do....oh, and 1994 called, they need their exercise equipment back.

Anyway, I love the attitude but it's slightly misguided.

I think I've said it 86 times on this blog, but it remains an important point: you can't out run or out train a bad diet.  And, in fact, it really doesn't matter what method you use to lose weight - paleo, vegan, low-fat - they all work.  This study illustrated that it's not a particular diet, or the percentage of carbs/fat/protein you consume.  Instead, it's adherence.

 Clearly, crushing burgers like a "Baby Boy" were not on the "Flawless" diet plan.  <-- I'm hilarious.

Clearly, crushing burgers like a "Baby Boy" were not on the "Flawless" diet plan.  <-- I'm hilarious.

Further, that study tells us that you can follow any type of diet that's going to allow you to change your habits in a sustainable way.  You don't need radical changes - i.e. switching to a Vegan diet if you love meat, you hear me Beyonce? -  just changes that suite you over the long term.

On that same note, let's head to #2....

2. Figure out why you're unable to stick to your diet plan.

Back in my early days of coaching, I wanted to do "all the things" with everyone.  Suffice to say, it didn't work out.  What do I mean?  Here's some quotes that came out of my mouth:

"Just eat as many vegetables as you can."

"If your goal is weight loss, stop the drinking."

"Limit the processed foods!"

"Lean protein at every meal!"

The problem?  These were all to the same client!

The bigger problem?  I wasn't coaching.  In fact, what I was REALLY saying was "Why can't you just be more like me!?!"  

I needed to remember that you have two eyes, two ears, and one mouth - in that order!  Instead of spouting off, I needed to ask and listen to important questions: why are you unable to avoid the treats, sweets and other vices that get in the way?  Is it because you're bored at work?  Is it because you're thirsty?  Is it a coping mechanism?  Is it your mind's way of relaxing?

There's some logic behind why you're overeating.  By figuring out what else will fulfill that need, you'll truly be set up for success.

(In case you were curious, deadlifts are my current way of relaxing.....which surprises no one.) 

3. Sleep and Hydrate.

Whenever someone comes to see me for weight loss, I'm secretly looking for gaps and deficiencies.  The most common I find?  People are usually over tired, and pretty dehydrated.

I know, I know. BOOOOOOORING.  But hear me out.

Sleep (and stress) is a pretty big indicator of weight loss.  Want proof?  This study tells you exactly that.  Plus, if you're a night owl, you're at risk for a whole heap of other problems.

But, I'm a realist.  I know you can't avoid your family or work by saying "OK, I'm off to regulate my metabolism and stave off those catabolic hormones!"  Prioritizing your sleep, minimizing the late nights, and actually going to bed when you say "I should really go to bed" will have an effect on your weight loss.

With hydration, there's some stat that says 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. And, while I don't know how true that statement is, I can say that chronic dehydration is an issue I faced firsthand.

What do I mean?  My first internship in the strength and conditioning industry was pretty grueling.  It consisted of six straight hours of coaching high school and middle school athletes, and the goal was to get hired on after it ended so I needed to make a good impression.  It was exhausting, and I was usually pretty hungry after the first few hours - just like when I worked in a desk job.  With food being scarce, I decided to take the hint from my chapped lips that I needed more water, and not more snacks.  After making an effort to pound water to the dome throughout the day, I realized how much more alert and awake I was, and how satiating simple water can be.  I lost weight, and more importantly, I learned how the old adage was true - you can lead a horse to water, but if they eat crappy snack foods instead, it's going to be a fatter horse.  

Or something like that.

That does it for Part 1 of this series, and notice I haven't even mentioned exercise as one of the rules?  That's not to belittle my own profession, but it's just a statement of truth.  Until you have numbers 1-3 down pat, don't expect to see any appreciable weight loss from exercise.

Have a great week, and check back next week for Part 2!