This post was originally written to be published by Rapid Personal Training on their site. Since then the business has closed down, and so I have decided to re-publish any content that I produced for Rapid PT here so that everyone can still have access to it.
I’m going to put this right out there and say, most people make losing fat way too difficult. By that I mean that they make the entire fat loss process more difficult than it has to be. In fact, as odd as this may sound, sometimes it seems as if they’re going out of their way to make it as difficult as possible.
Whenever I see someone eating nothing but roasted chicken and a tasteless salad, or lacing up their shoes for a 2-hour cardio session, I wonder to myself if they actually don’t know any better, or if they have some masochistic tendencies.
Look, losing fat is already a tough task; you’re literally going through the process of starving fat stores off your body. That’s was never going to be fun to begin with, let alone making it worse by purposely doing things the hard way.
But misinformation from media outlets, poorly educated trainers, and even less informed doctors has somehow purveyed the message that in order to lose fat you must do everything the hard way.
I like to operate a little differently. My goal has always been to make my client’s lives easier throughout the process. If I can design some simple fat loss systems for them, they’ll be much more likely to stick to the plan, and their results will come faster – which is the goal of any coach.
Does this mean that they never have tough moments throughout the process? Of course not.
As mentioned, the process itself is inherently tough. But through the creation of systems we can begin to make the journey a little easier, and overtime those small victories can turn into large ones.
Note the keyword that I used in the sentence above – systems. Systems are designed to make your life easier. They automate processes to lessen your need to be constantly thinking about what to do next. And that’s what I’m going to be bringing you in this article – some simple fat loss systems, or hacks, designed to help you get faster results, with less time and energy spent on the processes.
Let’s get into it!
Keep Food Diary
I know, I know, it’s been said a million times before; but it’s worth saying at least one more time. There has been ample research supporting the use of a food diary, and it’s effects on progress.
In one recent study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, the dieters who kept a food diary religiously (6 days per week or more) were shown to get twice the results of those who didn’t keep it as frequent.
What was the reason for this?
It’s quite simple – keeping a food diary creates awareness, and with awareness comes the ability to adjust your approach, as well as hold yourself accountable.
It was Peter Drucker who was quoted with the famous line ‘what gets measured, gets managed’, and that’s what keeping a food diary affords you – a summary of everything you’ve eaten that day right there, right in front of your face.
In short, when you see what you’re eating, usually you’re delivered a dose of reality, and begin to change what you’re eating as a result. On top of this, if you know that your diary is going to be read by someone else (such as your coach), then you’re going to be that much more likely to ensure what’s in it is at least somewhat respectable (as you’re probably already aware, burpees are a horrible punishment, and we all know that most coaches were born with innate sadistic characteristics).
But it begins with awareness, and in order to get that you must first keep a food diary.
Schedule Your Training
James Clear recently made me aware in this article of a study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology.
In the study, the researchers wanted to see what was the major determining factor in whether or not folks were likely to show up for their training session.
The researchers split 248 participants into 3 groups –
- The first group, the control group, was simply told to track their training sessions over the coming 2 weeks, and had no other (useful) intervention put in place in order to get them show up. After 2 weeks 38% of the participants had completed at least one session. Not really a surprising figure, as that seems to be about standard for average gym goers.
- The second group, the motivation group, were told to exercise over the coming 2 weeks, but were also explained the benefits of exercise to their health (the motivation). After 2 weeks 35% of the participants had completed at least one session– lower than the control group and, admittedly, a little surprising for me.
- The third group, the intention group, was told not only to exercise over the coming 2 weeks, but they were also required to outline when and where they were going to train within that time. After 2 weeks 91% of the participants had completed at least one session– over 2.5 times the amount of the motivation group.
People often say that they aren’t motivated enough to train, but the reality is that most people simply haven’t made their training a priority enough to schedule it into their calendar.
So the obvious conclusion is that you should begin by scheduling each of your sessions for that week into your calendar. By committing to when, where, and how you’re going to train, you’re more than twice as likely to show up and put the work in. And, in my experience, consistency is the biggest determining factor to success.
Now that you’ve got the appointment scheduled, here comes the tricky part – keeping the appointment. Whenever life begins to get a bit crazy it’s really easy to put off the things we’ve got scheduled for ourselves. It’s even worse if you’re the kind of person who always puts others first (I can hear all of the mothers reading this nodding their heads).
But true mastery of this habit happens when you not only schedule the appointment, but also keep it consistently, because you know, in your heart of hearts, that sometimes you need to look after yourself before you can effectively look after someone else.
It’s just like when you’re flying and they run the In Case Of An Emergency demonstrations. When the attendant is referring to the oxygen masks dropping from the ceiling, their direction is always that you must ‘help yourself before you can help others’.
The reason for that is that if you don’t help yourself first, then you don’t have the ability to effectively help others – you can’t genuinely help someone put their oxygen mask on if you’re gasping for air yourself.
It’s really is the same in life. Your ability to help others grows exponentially when you’re looking after yourself as well.
So once you schedule an appointment with yourself, you need to make sure that you keep said appointment.
“I don’t have time to cook every night”.
What I usually think whenever I hear someone say this is ‘I don’t want to cook every night’. Because the truth for the vast majority of us is, yes, we do have time to cook.
And you should be happy about that!
The fact that you can create time enough to cook means that you have the ability to significantly increase your results over only focusing on your training.
But I understand that cooking isn’t on the top of everyone’s Love To Do list, and that’s where learning how to batch cook can come in handy.
Batch cooking is exactly what it sounds like – doing larger cooks generally in one, two, or maybe three blocks of time per week, rather than the more frequent daily bouts of cooking.
In the fitness industry this is often referred to as meal preparation, or meal prep for the cool kids.
Without going into the complete step-by-step approach of how to meal prep effectively (we’ll save that for a future article), the simplest form of batch cooking really is just cooking enough at dinner to serve as your lunch for the next day.
As an example, if you’re cooking grilled chicken to add to salad for dinner, then you’d just cook twice as much chicken that evening, making two meals for yourself at once (one for that evening’s dinner, and the other for lunch the next day).
This saves you time spent setting up the kitchen to cook, preparation time to cut and clean your food, washing up time because you’re using the same pots, pans, and utensils for twice as much cooking, and you only have to cook once for both meals.
Once you mastered this step we can graduate onto a full meal preparation (which generally means cooking only once per week), but to kick-start you in the right direction to begin with, try the method above.
And if you’re genuinely in that 5% of people who have zero time to cook (or who just don’t want to cook, which there’s nothing wrong with), then I’d highly recommend that you sign up for a meal delivery service such as Easy Eating or Workout Meals – both companies that Rapid staff have used and loved.
Gamify Your Fitness
I’m not sure about you, but I can sometimes (read – always) get a touch on the competitive side.
That’s why when I bought a FitBit and added some friends onto the app that accompanies it, I immediately started dropping kilos. You see, the FitBit has a Challenges section where you can compete against your friends on a weekly basis.
Once I was looking at a daily leaderboard (that updated in real time) of who was winning the challenge for that week, my daily step count doubled. It literally doubled. I found myself going out of my way to get more steps (and thus more activity) in each day.
For me, the competitive aspect brought out my desire to win, which fed directly into my fitness goals. It was a system that worked for me.
If that story sounds like it could’ve been you, then a Fitbit might be just what the doctor ordered. But I understand that not everyone has the desire to compete against others; and that’s where the diversity in ways to gamify your fitness comes in handy.
There are plenty of other options in the marketplace today to gamify fitness that you’re afforded the opportunity choose what’s going to work best for you. Apps such as Fitocracy, Pact and others are really helping people level up their fitness through fun and interactive platforms.
Hell, you can even gamify your running by being thrust into a zombie apocalypse (via Zombies, Run!) and having to complete missions built around your running.
The world of fitness is starting to become a whole lot more entertaining!
Sometimes the hardest part of eating a diet that’s less dense in calories is missing out on some of your favourite meals. Things like pizza and pasta can be hard to get away with without blowing your daily calories on one meal.
That’s where finding some good food substitutions can come in handy.
Substituting some calorie-dense foods with lower calories options is one of the easiest ways to remove calories from the your diet without changing too much at once.
For example, instead of using regular spaghetti pasta, you could make zuchinni spaghetti using a spiral slicer. You could also do what I do and replace the pasta sheets in a lasagna with sheets of eggplant. I won’t lie to you and tell you that it tastes exactly like the pasta lasagna, but it tastes pretty damn good, and at a fraction of the caloric cost.
You could even make a pizza base out of cauliflower or sweet potato instead of dough. There are literally hundreds of options out there, especially if you get a little assistance from our friend known as Google.
Rubber Bands On The Water Bottle
Most of us don’t drink enough water.
You’ve been told a thousand times before why drinking water is important, so I’m not going to beat a dead horse and run you through it all again.
Instead I want to give you a way to overcome the most common problem associated with trying to drink more water; and I’m not referring to having to run to the bathroom every 10 minutes (although, granted, it is a problem, but one that’s easily fixed by positioning a well-placed tree near your office desk*).
I’m, of course, referring to the problem of forgetting to drink the water.
I’ve had the old reliable ‘I forgot’ defense used on me too many times in my years training clients. And you know what, it is easy to forget to drink enough water.
So here’s a simple trick.
Buy yourself a 1L water bottle. Make sure it’s a nice one, because it’s far too easy to throw out a plastic one, or not want to use a cheap one (you know the ones I’m talking about, the ones that leak water all over you as you’re drinking from it).
Now, we understand that most of us should drink anywhere from 2.5-3L of water per day, so what you’re going to do is get a hold of 3 rubber bands. Each morning you’re going to place the rubber bands around your water bottle, and with every litre you drink, you’re going to remove one of the rubber bands, and then refill the water bottle.
Your goal by the end of the day is to have removed all 3 rubber bands, and thus having drunk 3L of water that day.
There you have it, 6 simple fat loss hacks to speed up your progress without affecting your day-to-day life too much. The fat loss journey doesn’t always have to be a struggle every step of the way, and sometimes with a bit of creative thinking we can figure out ways around our toughest of problems.
* That was a joke. Please don’t actually set up a pee tree next to your desk. Your work colleagues will not be impressed with me at all.