The Top 5 MUST DO’s To Losing Weight

image Making positive changes to your body is one the most challenging things to do.  As well as the constant struggle to achieve lasting results.  Just ask the 50 million americans who are following some kind of weight loss program right now .  Most of us are well aware that making diet and exercise changes takes tremendous discipline, sacrifice and consistency for it to ever have an impact.  It’s going to take a lot more of those 3 simple words if those changes are to stick around. Here  is my list of 5 incredibly important “MUST DO’s” in order for your weight loss program to work.

 I have been working as a fitness coach for about 17 years now and I have yet to see people, who integrate these key components into their lives not see the results of their efforts.  I just don’t think it’s possible.

1.  You MUST change bad habits. This is a serious MUST DO and that’s putting it lightly.  Many conversations I’ve had  and have with clients, family, friends and  strangers that I just meet for the first time, who like to ask me questions after discovering what I do for a living, is about changing some of their bad habits.  This may be the single most important variable because it covers so many areas.   It could be having wine with dinner every night, having dessert every night, it could be because they like to walk on the treadmill and read the paper for an hour(which is a big waste of time because if your reading then you’re not working) or maybe their staying up late to watch some crap on television instead of getting to sleep, which is what your body needs.  If you want to be successful, you surely cannot have your day filled with bad habits like these.  They are habits of over weight, out of shape people.  They will KILL your potential for success.

You MUST slowly begin to change some of them…one at a time. Here is a suggestion that could save you a bunch of time and increase your potential for success.  Focus on changing one bad habit at a time. You will likely set yourself up for failure if you don’t.  If you’re like many people I have encountered over the years, you’re more than likely to try to change too many things a once or none at all.  You can actually make serious changes physically and emotionally by replacing one bad habit with a good one.   Focusing on one bad habit at a time will allow you to more easily accomplish the day-to-day stuff, like eating well and exercising.  These things are going to be difficult enough.

 Focus on changing one bad habit at a time. You will likely set yourself up for failure if you don’t.

For instance, if you’re like many people struggling to lose weight, there’s a good chance that you’re drinking things that are not conducive to weight loss.  Whether it be soda, juice, fruity drinks or high calorie, sugary coffees, you don’t need them.  There a big waste of calories that have a terrible effect on your blood sugar and insulin levels.  These will contribute to weight gain.

The diet version of these drinks have even worse effects than the regular sugar laden ones.  They also contribute to fat storage through the insulin response they cause.  Details about this go outside the scope of this article but keep in mind, if you’re serious about losing weight, eliminate these drinks from your diet and replace them with good old filtered h2o. Water is always better.

It’s not likely you developed these habits over night, so don’t try to change them over night.  After replacing one bad habit with one good one and keep at it for about 1-2 weeks or until you feel comfortable enough to attack another one, one that is really effecting your progress.

2.  You MUST  regularly step out of your comfort zone. This is one that many people don’t like to do, so they usually don’t.  When it comes to exercise, this is why the long slow stroll on the treadmill was the way to burn fat, not working real hard.  That never made any sense.  I get the physiology behind it but that is not how to get real results.  Yet everyday I still see it.  People spending an excessive amount of time on treadmills going a snail’s pace.

When it comes to eating, I am just going to say this, every meal cannot be a party.  You are going to have to eat food that you probably would rather not.  If you don’t enjoy eating healthy but you want to look healthy, it is going to take a bit of getting use to.  If you eat pizza everyday for lunch, then changing over to a salad with grilled chicken and some fruit is going to be a bit challenging at first.  But if you resist changing and do not try to find enjoyment in it, then this is either going to be a VERY, VERY difficult journey or you will just fail, again.  I am not saying you cannot have all of the bad food we all enjoy, I’m just saying that you can’t have it everyday.

I am not saying you cannot have all of the bad food we all enjoy, I’m just saying that you can’t have it everyday.

When it comes to making serious changes in your body, if you continue to follow the path of least resistance you’re unlikely going to make changes at all, forget about lasting changes.

Here is an example I use for exercise to step outside your comfort zone.  When I am developing a programs for clients, I like to use the RPE scale (Rate Of Perceived Exertion) when we a discussing the amount of effort the client will put into a set or interval of the workouts.  I use is a 0-10 scale.  Zero is basically the effort it takes to sleep or sit still and a 10 is comparable to an all out sprint.  When it comes to resistance or strength training a 10 would be complete muscle failure.  You should never be working at anything less than a 5 when it comes to strength training and I actually think that’s too low unless you are deloading.  That’s nothing most people need to worry about.  I prefer my clients to work to a point of “technical failure”.  This means that you stop when your reps START to look and feel crappy.  I would say leave 1-2 “in the tank”.  This is regardless of the rep range.

I prefer my clients to work to a point of “technical failure”.  This means that you stop when your reps START to look and feel crappy.

When designing a long duration aerobic workout for a client I would first get some history and then determine the clients over all fitness level to establish a good starting point. Most would work at a 5-6 effort on the RPE scale anywhere from 20-60 minutes.  That’s a good amount of effort that one should be able to sustain at an aerobic or continuous pace for an extended period (20-60 minutes depending on the clients goals of course).  You should be working to a point that you’re breathing is heavy but not too hard that you’re forced to stop and recover.

When I design an interval based workout I would recommend the individual work at an 7-9 (occasionally a 10 would be prescribed but that’s rare)out of 10 during the work interval and recover to a 3-4 during the rest interval.   Of course these numbers would be adjusted to meet the needs and goals of each individual. This can be a 30 second work interval followed by a 90 second rest interval.  In order to maximize interval training, you really need to work at a pace that will bring you to near exhaustion in the prescribed amount of time; I’m using 30 seconds in my example.  If you were to work for 30 seconds but the effort was too low (say a 5-6) and you were actually capable of working for longer than 30 seconds, but you stopped at 30 because “that’s what your trainer told you to do”,  you would not get the benefits of a true interval or anaerobic workout.  You would need to increase the intensity of the exercise that would cause you to work to near fatigue in 30 seconds. This may take some trial and error, not to mention learning a bit about your body.

You can use any mode of exercise you would like (ie.treadmill, elliptical, bike, etc) in order to maximize this type of training.  The most successful programs are not gonna be easy. They typically have you stepping outside your comfort zone often.  Whether it’s exercise or diet, you need to find a program that has you challenging yourself regularly, in a sustainable fashion.  If you’re expecting great results with little effort, easy workouts and a diet that doesn’t have you making much sacrifices or too many unsustainable sacrifices, there’s a good chance your next years resolution will be the same is this year.

3.  You MUST surround yourself with like-minded, motivated individuals.   Having supportive people around you is a huge benefit when trying to reach goals.   I think having supportive family and friends is imperative in your quest to change your body. One of the many questions I ask when interviewing a new client, especially if they have a considerable amount of weight to lose, is “do you have a supportive family and friends?”  It is very difficult to overcome that negative variable when trying to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle.  Some people have the strength to do while many do not.  From my experience a negative spouse or close friend can completely sabotage any goal one sets out for themselves.

The potential for success is much greater when families work towards similar goals together.

The potential for success is much greater when families work towards similar goals together.  It makes it much easier to plan meals, share cooking responsibilities, drag each other to the gym when one is feeling lazy that day or just say the right things to get the other motivated to want to keep pushing and not give up.  You get the idea.

Coworkers can be a big positive or negative force if you’re struggling to reach a weight loss goal.  If you have negative people close by, do your best to keep them at a distance.  Negative people tend to say hurtful things  to others, usually because they are too afraid to make the sacrifices and do the work that you’re doing to improve yourself.  

We all know of a few people who just have this great energy and make you feel good.  They are the type of people you would love to have around all the time.  But in the real world that’s not likely to happen to often. Just do your best to keep the naysayers away.

4.   You MUST set short and long-term goals. Setting very specific goals is one of the most important things you can do for yourself when you have something you wish to accomplish.  I suggest  thinking about how much weight you really need and want to lose and start from there.  I prefer to take other things into consideration like body composition(body composition is a measurement of how much body fat you have compared to lean body weight).  The method of changing body composition can totally transform your body, sometimes without too much of a reduction in overall body weight.  

The method of changing body composition can totally transform your body, sometimes without too much of a reduction in overall body weight.

A good way to set a weight loss goal is to first determine how much weight you would like/need to lose.  Then, based on about 2 pounds per-week figure about how long it will realistically take to lose it.  At a safe and realistic loss of 2-3 pounds per-week it may take about 13-15 weeks to lose 40 pounds.  Of course this will differ from one person to the next but it’s a pretty good target.

Now that you have a goal set, it’s time to develop a plan to get you there.  This is where I lead into my next MUST DO.  There are a million ways to get into great shape.  There are 1000’s of different diets and exercise programs that could actually help get you there.  But the first thing you need to do prior to any of that is to determine exactly what it is that you want.

5.  You MUST find a qualified fitness professional to assist you.  One of the biggest mistakes many make when they begin a “weight loss” program is that they go at it blindly, for the most part.  Without a plan or any realistic goals set, how do you plan on getting to where you “say” you want to go?

Of course I’m somewhat biased as I’m a fitness coach, but the bottom line is a good fitness coach can be an invaluable resource and can potentially change your life forever.  Of course you must find a good one, in a world of many.  The best way to find a good trainer would be through a referral for sure.  Someone you trust to give you good advice.  Helping someone lose 50 pounds doesn’t necessarily make you a good coach or trainer.  You just happened to have a motivated and very compliant client.  Sorry, but it’s the truth.

the bottom line is a good fitness coach can be an invaluable resource and can potentially change your life forever.

Searching for a great fitness trainer/coach can be a tough job.  I suggest you put them through a bit of an interview yourself.  Here you  get to ask a few questions and you can see if your personalities match.  You must like and respect them if this is ever going to work.

College education is very important , but not the biggest factor.  Experience in this industry is a HUGE variable and if you have a lot of movement issues, past injuries etc, you’re going to need someone who has worked with a lot of people, preferably with similar issues.

Credentials are important, so be sure they have an accredited certifications ie. NCSA, NASM, ACSM and ACE.  Those are just a few.  It’s important that they are up to date.  You can also check to see what type or if they specialize in anything?  See if this relates to you.  There are many opportunities for us trainers to further our education and certifications through multiple outlets.  The amount of continuing education is quite unlimited.

These are just a few ideas on what to look for in a good trainer but I can tell you it’s kind of easy to spot a bad one as they probably won’t ask you too many questions about yourself.  If they make it all about them…run like hell.  For instance, I wouldn’t go to anyone with a picture of themselves posing in a tank top or shirtless on their business card.  This just screams bad things in my opinion.

A thorough fitness trainer would definitely do some kind of formal intake that would include your history as well as your specific goals.  A movement screen would be very important to get a good idea of how you move and what , if any issues need to be addressed.  I would expect some type of conversation about their thoughts on a plan for you and why.   They should also be explaining in great detail anything that they ask you do, such as the movement screen.  it’s very important that you, the client is aware of the significance of what you’re doing, each and every step of the way.

You may just have to give the trainer the benefit of the doubt and work with this person for a session or two so you can determine if this she or he is right for you.  If their glaring weaknesses are not jumping out at you , this may be a good option.

Think about all of the things you wouldn’t think twice about hiring a professional for.  Why would your body be any different?  In fact,  wouldn’t it be at the top of that list?  The very, very top?

If you haven’t figured it out by now…there’s no miracle diet or exercise program that will change your life overnight.  This battle is a long-term battle and it’s mostly within yourself.  That will never change.  But what can change is the way you choose to fight the battle. Against all odds or everything in your favor?  Mostly everything I’ve written about here is about the battle within.  Not necessarily about what to eat for breakfast or what type of cardio you should be doing or strength training is not going to bulk you up…blah blah blah.  It’s all been said.  Start taking responsibility for what really matters.  The other stuff is quite simple…for the most part.

Strength For Life,

Jim O’Hagan

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