How To Lose Weight And Tone Up: 5 Habits That Will Change Your Life
How to lose weight and tone up – the easy way?
Wait, is there an easy way?
I know there are plenty of quick fixes – crash diets, weight-loss pills, fasting, to name a few.
But it’s just like pruning a garden: you snip here and snip there, but the weeds grow back again strong as ever.
If you want a weed-less garden, you need to treat the roots, turn over the soil, break out a sweat.
Is that easy? No! it’s extremely hard. But only at the beginning. Once you’ve laid the foundation for a new and healthy lifestyle, it becomes not just easy but a joy to maintain.
Experiencing the new and sexy you will be a source of happiness in your life and an easy motivation to keep going.
So if you’re looking for an easy answer, stop reading now. But if you’re ready to put in the effort to make some serious change in your life, this article may be for you.
Still reading? Then let’s begin.
1. Reshape your habits
First, ask yourself honestly what’s the reason you’re overweight.
Will you say it’s because you’re too busy to go to the gym, or you have a slow metabolism, or maybe just a lack of willpower?
I believe there’s only one reason people become overweight: bad habits. And if only these habits can be transformed, losing weight becomes easy.
But habits are hard to drop, aren’t they? Actually, habits are almost impossible to drop completely, because they’re such a deep-rooted part of who we are.
Don’t try to drop habits. Instead, aim to transform them.
Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
All of your habits were formed due to some kind of craving. Habits which make you overweight usually start from a craving for physical comfort and food gratification.
This initial cue – let’s say a craving for rich food – sets off a certain kind of routine, in this case overeating, and results in a particular reward – a feeling of fullness.
According to Charles Duhigg, all habits follow this same basic pattern. To change a habit, you have to “keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.”
How can we transform our bad habits?
Let’s say your cue is a desire for physical comfort and your routine is to lie on the sofa watching TV for three hours – resulting in a rewarding feeling of comfort.
Now don’t try to change the cue, just alter the behavior: instead of laying down on the sofa as soon as you get home, commit yourself to first laying down on a yoga mat and exercising for 15 mins with a resistance band.
Only when you’ve done your 15 mins do you get to reward yourself with some sofa time. And with all those post-exercise endorphins flooding your body, the feeling of comfort is even more rewarding than before.
Sounds easy, right? Of course, over the long term it’s actually very difficult to keep up a new routine, even if it’s only 15 minutes.
But once you push through the initial resistance, you start to notice small wins. These are what add momentum to your new routine and eventually turn it into a habit.
Good habits > small wins > more good habits > more wins >> self-transformation
Once something becomes a habit, it has an energy of its own, making it easy to maintain. And starting with just one or two good habits is enough to set off a chain reaction.
2. Build muscles to burn more fat
What’s the best exercise for fat loss? You might think plodding away on a treadmill for hours is the way to go. Long, slow and steady cardio exercise is the best for burning fat, isn’t it?
No. The best exercise for burning fat is lifting heavy weights. There are two reasons for this: a scientific one and a psychological one. Let’s look at both.
First, the science one.
Building muscle increases your resting metabolic rate – i.e. the speed at which your body burns calories when you’re in a state of inactivity. Muscle cells burn about three times as many calories as other cells during rest.
Your resting metabolic rate depends mostly on your lean body mass. The more muscle you have, the more fat you burn even when you’re not moving. A muscular body is a fat-burning machine which loses excess weight easily and – super important – keeps it off long-term.
What’s the best way to build muscle?
The best strength exercises for fat loss are large, compound movements like squats, deadlifts, bench presses and rows, done with a barbell and heavy weights.
These movements are the most effective for building muscle and produce the highest overall exercise intensity – meaning more calories burned.
How does strength training help you mentally?
The psychological benefits of strength training for weight loss are often overlooked. But they are so important.
Strength training is a process full of small wins.
As you get stronger, you notice changes in your body.
Beautiful curves appear where before there was only unshapely mass.
Your body becomes firmer, more robust.
Your increase in physical strength brings a sense of personal power and vitality.
The experience of muscular gain, which you’re reminded of every time you look in the mirror, hooks you in and makes you want to never quit. It’s a powerful motivator.
3. Do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT means doing short bursts of high-intensity exercise with brief rest periods in between.
Like sprinting up a hill and then walking or jogging slowly back down. Or going all out on a punchbag for 1 minute, alternated with rest periods of 1 minute.
Short, high intensity cardio sessions are more effective for fat loss than long, low intensity cardio because they burn more calories – even if the overall duration is much shorter.
You have a busy work and social life, do you really have time to spend hours every week jogging? Wouldn’t it be great if you could pack all your cardio exercise into twice- or thrice-weekly sessions of only 20 mins?
With HIIT you can achieve in 20 minutes what would take an hour with steady-state cardio.
The EPOC Effect
One reason HIIT is so effective for weight loss is because of something called the EPOC effect. EPOC stands for Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption.
After you do any kind of exercise, your body needs time to repair itself, replenish fuel and basically adapt to the exercise you just performed. This all requires a higher intake of oxygen and, you guessed it, more calories burned.
One scientific study researched the effect of 30 second sprint interval training vs steady aerobic exercise on EPOC. The study showed that the energy required to recover from three maximum effort 30-second sprints was significantly higher than 30 minutes of steady, moderate exercise.
Also, with sprint training, the participants’ caloric expenditure remained significantly elevated long after the exercise was finished, while that of the moderate exercise group quickly returned to normal resting levels.
High-intensity training revs up your metabolism and gives you a much bigger calorie-burning boost than steady aerobic exercise.
The intensity of HIIT means it’s not for everyone. If you have heart problems or are pregnant, don’t do it. And if you’re not sure, definitely check with your doctor first.
But you don’t need to jump in at the deep end with hill sprints or intensive circuit training. Applying HIIT principles to your workout can be as simple as alternating walking with light jogging, or doing a few rounds of gentle shadow-boxing with short rest periods.
HIIT workouts don’t usually require any equipment but a fitness tracker with heart rate monitor is useful to keep your workout on track.
4. Fix your diet
Notice I said fix your diet. I didn’t say go on a diet.
Going on a diet is one easy way to set yourself up for failure. The more extreme the diet, the more spectacular the failure.
Sure, many people go on diets and have great results. Some of them keep the weight off long-term, most put it straight back on.
No diet plan is a catch-all solution, because we’re all different. We have different body make-ups, different life schedules, different preferences. What works for me might be a disaster for you.
The only universally effective dieting remedy is to develop the habit of healthy eating.
We’re interested in long-term, sustainable weight loss accompanied by high quality of life. We don’t want a diet which is a source of misery and inconvenience.
Developing the habit of eating healthy, nutritious food which you enjoy is what will result in lifelong positive change.
But this requires a little self-discipline. It’s not the easy solution, but it’s the one which gets to the root of the problem and will change your life.
So how do you fix your diet and become a lifelong healthy eater?
Habits are formed and then strengthened over time through repetition. The trick is to start with small changes.
If you’ve been eating a big bucket of KFC for lunch every day for the last ten years, don’t suddenly switch to a plate of tofu and spinach. The change is too big and you’ll give up after a few days, and probably make yourself sick.
Instead, just make a small adjustment.
For example: you usually take three sugars in your tea. Starting from today, you reduce that to only one. At first you don’t like it, you crave for the extra sugar. But you stick to it. Soon you become used to it. Then you start to prefer your tea this way. The habit has been altered.
Break down your bad eating habits into small objectives to be gradually and gently transformed, one at a time.
Keeping a food diary will help you analyse your eating habits and identify what needs to change. And get yourself a healthy recipe book for ideas on what kind of diet best suits your taste buds.
You can follow these basic guidelines for healthy eating:
- Replace refined grains with whole grains
- Replace saturated fats and trans fats with unsaturated fats
- Cut down on added sugar (especially in liquid form)
- Cut down on processed food, eat more whole food
- Eat plenty of protein, especially fish, lean meat, nuts and seeds
- Eat more leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables (e.g broccoli)
5. Just move more
Maybe you just don’t like to work out. Fair enough. It’s not for everyone.
But movement is something which comes naturally to all of us. To burn more calories and lose fat we just need to do more of it. It really doesn’t matter if it’s in the gym, in the park, in the office or in bed (wink wink).
Finding ways to add more movement to your life in a natural and enjoyable way is the key to sustainable weight loss.
Walking has long been the favourite way for philosophers, poets, scientists and business leaders to clear the mind and find inspiration.
Nietzsche, Rousseau, Freud and Darwin came up with some of their best ideas while walking, ideas which changed the world. Steve Jobs preferred walking meetings as the best way to work through problems.
A recent study at Stanford University showed that walking boosts creativity by an average of 60%, even if it’s just walking on a treadmill facing a blank wall. There’s something about this gentle repetitive movement which puts the brain into creativity mode and lets you find the solution to problems more easily.
Half an hour of brisk walking will burn up 100-300 calories. Walk for more than 30 minutes and you’ll start to draw energy directly from fat stores instead of sugars.
Best of all, regular walking may help you come up with that genius idea which will change your whole life.
Cycling to work is another amazing way to up your daily calorie output. Often it’s quicker than public transport and far less stressful. Using muscle power to make the daily commute guarantees you hit your minimum activity target every day.
Once you get past the initial “I really can’t be bothered” feeling and make it a daily habit (or at least a few-times-a-week habit), you’ll find you really enjoy it. There’s nothing like flying over the tarmac with your favourite tunes in your ear to rev yourself up for the day ahead, or de-stress after a hard day.
There are so many ways to add more movement to your daily life.
Take the stairs instead of the lift. Walk for 10 mins to get your lunch instead of choosing the place next door. Get off the bus or subway one stop early and walk the rest of the way. Favour the walking meeting, à la Steve Jobs.
But whichever road you decide to take on your weight loss journey, make sure you enjoy yourself. Do things right and you’ll not only improve yourself, you’ll have a lot of fun doing it!
One more thing…
Using resistance bands for weight loss is another great way to shed the pounds.