Fat loss is hard. That’s a simple truth. Think about it — You’re trying to reverse fat gain that took years and years to accumulate in a small fraction of the time. Beyond that, you’re trying to change powerful habits that you’ve lived with every day, and make those changes permanent. This isn’t a small task for anyone, and it can feel insurmountable.
We always have a choice
I have a tattoo that my brother and I got that means “In chains, still free.” It’s a reminder that we always have the freedom to make a choice, even if it’s hard to see or, more often, difficult to accept and act on. When I need that reminder, it usually means that choice is going to involve work and discipline, and will be difficult at times, but I NEED to make it in order to live a quality life.
It all comes down to deciding to make a choice. Not a preference, an attempt, a hope or even a strong desire, but a clear and powerful choice. Hope and desire are based on a longing for external circumstances to change while ignoring the powerful resources already there.
This choice has to be backed up with a clear understanding and unwavering belief in the “why.” Why do I need to make this choice? What outcome will change in my life? Why is the other outcome harmful to me? Why is this truly worth it to me to choose this outcome?
Write the answers to these questions down, longhand. They’re that important, and we bring them to life and give them weight and size by articulating them with pen and paper.
We need to accept that not only do we always have a choice, but we are 100% responsible for every choice we make in our lives. This is scary, but so freeing. It took me until my mid 30’s to accept this simple truth, and while I’m grateful to have had it finally sink it couldn’t have happened soon enough. This power is the beautiful core of being human.
Hunter S. Thompson wrote his friend this sage advice, beginning with a quote from Shakespeare:
“‘To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles…’
And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect — between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.”
Will you float with the tide, or swim to your own goal?
“The question isn’t, Who is going to let me; it’s Who is going to stop me.” — Ayn Rand
Stop believing the stories you create about yourself
Your language dominates your thoughts. Your thoughts dominate your beliefs. Words have power. These stories we tell ourselves frame our perception of ourselves and often encourage us to view ourselves as victims of the external world around us.
Here are some of the stories I tell myself:
I never finish what I start.
I have a problem with that.
I can’t learn this.
I can’t do this because I didn’t learn the skill or the habit earlier in life in my formative years.
This is just how I was made.
This should be easier.
I shouldn’t have to work so hard for this.
What stories do you create about yourself that sabotage your progress? Write them down and be honest with yourself. What you find may surprise you.
Once you identify these you can begin to notice them when they creep up on you and reframe them to support instead of sabotage.
“You have to risk your identity for a bigger future than the present you are living.” — Fernando Flores
Be a little bit better every day
Most of us understand the power of compounding interest when it comes to financial investments, but that same principle applies to investments in yourself.
When undertaking a long-term goal like fat loss and body recomposition, consistent small changes for the better are absolutely critical for long-term success. And this is a long-term goal. You’ve decided the choices you need to make for the permanent outcome that gives you the healthiest and best life and body. Permanent is about as long term as it gets.
The Japanese word for this concept is Kaizen, originally meaning “change for the better,” but evolving into a concept of “continuous improvement.” The idea is to focus on small, manageable, and achievable steps towards consistent improvement, always getting incrementally better by day.
“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens — and when it happens, it lasts.” — John Wooden
I’ll take a leap and say every single person could do 1% better today than they did yesterday. Could you do 1% better with your fitness and diet than you did yesterday? What would that look like compounded over a week, a month, a year?
The critical part of this approach is in its consistent application. Each 1% improvement is maintained and soon changes from a willpower challenging discipline to effortless habit. Deliberate and intentional becomes natural consistency. Meanwhile, the next 1% improvement is going through the same transformation, compounding on the progress before. Imagine what you can accomplish with consistently applying this approach.
“Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.” — John Maxwell
Don’t lose sight of the fundamentals
With so many diet approaches, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important in contributing towards your goal. This great variability in diets exists because only a few fundamental principles really make the difference in the outcome. Dieting approaches are exactly that — approaches to implementing core principals. The reason why one diet works well for one individual and not for another has more to do with the individual’s circumstances, habits and personality, and how that system of implementation matches them.
With that in mind, understanding the core evidence-based principals that deliver the measurable results in fat-loss is important. The Pareto principle states that 20% of what you do creates 80% of your results. Breaking it down like this lets you focus the majority of your efforts on that 20% (rather than the less impactful 80%).
The other important concept is that nutrition and dieting principals for fat loss, performance, and general health are not the same. They’re not mutually exclusive, and certainly can overlap, but the fundamental 20% is different between them. Understanding that lets you choose the most impactful changes to make.
Weight loss depends on a caloric deficit — expending more energy than you consume. It’s simple, and not an oversimplification unless the goal is more specific. Any diet that causes you to eat less overall calories at the same or higher energy expenditure level will be effective in this. Increasing your activity level can also contribute to this, expending more calories.
Fat loss becomes a little more specific and involves maintaining lean muscle mass while only losing fat. The well-researched answer to this is increased protein levels and resistance training along with a caloric deficit.
When you’re consuming fewer calories relative to the level you would need to maintain your current weight, increased protein consumption will have a muscle sparing effect, with fat mass loss maximized and lean muscle mass loss minimized. The average recommendation for protein levels in a caloric deficit is around 0.8 to 1.4 grams per pound of bodyweight, with leaner individuals needing higher levels and more overweight individuals needing less.
“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.” — Jim Rohn
Applying those two basic principles every day, and consistently getting better with them, guarantees successful fat-loss. It may be painful to accept that something so many people struggle with is that simple, but it is the truth. Not losing sight of that will keep you focused and make the entire process that much easier.
It’s human nature to want to find the shortcut or magic bullet, but as Robert Collier put it:
“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
Decide to make the choices that will lead you tour best quality of life and health, understand the fundamentals that will lead you there, be patient with yourself, and each and every single day improve just a little bit more than the day before.
Great changes take time, so be patient with yourself and know your “Why.” Success in almost all things is never a moment in time, but the sum of small and consistent actions over time.
There’s an easy way to know right off the bat whether you’ll be successful in your goals. Peter Drucker says it best:
“The best way to predict the future is to create it”