If you are starting from scratch, or pretty close to it, want to drop your body weight, and have medical clearance to start on a program of progressive exercise and nutritional adjustment, I would like to bring you through a 3 step cycle that I believe boils the process down to the most essential and most effective elements required for long term success.
Of course, it is not the only way to go about the job. There are many diets, training programs, apps, coaches, fitness books and tools out there that can all contribute in their own way, and of course there are different courses for different horses. However, If you like things to be simple, as I personally do, prefer long-term success over short-term satisfaction, and would like to address the current state of your health without cutting yourself off from your social life, eating like a rabbit, or spending the rest of your days on the treadmill, then this post is for you.
What I would like to present to you here essentially comes down to fixing your diet, and fixing your movement. It is the essence of what we have used to help many people lose body fat, and become healthier and more energetic over the years at ACLAÍ.
On the food front, aim top fix one thing at a time (Step 1), and on the movement front, you need to build strength and mobility (Step 2), as well as increasing the amount that you move on a daily basis (Step 3). Remember what Confucius said: “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” One fitness goal at a time.
Step 1: Fixing your diet and nutritional attitude.
Better to build consistently and solidly over the long run than start off like a house on fire and burn out after a short period of time. Most of us already know what our most damaging nutrition habit is that holds us back already. The usual suspects include; skipping a decent breakfast, soft drinks, binging at the weekend, eating late at night, consistent snacking on sugary foods, not preparing food in advance and ending up very hungry, eating on the go, and take aways.
Pick the ONE that you know is holding you back the most, and work on it for the next 2 weeks (or longer if you still find it a big effort at the end of the two weeks). When you have rectified one major habit, move on to the next. Think about this in contrast to the alternative of trying to change everything in one big sweep. It rarely works out for the long term when you try to clear the decks in one go, so knock them down one at time. Like dominos!
For some inspiration on things that you can work on, check out this article on 19 things that you can do to fix your diet. But remember, one at a time.
Step 2: Start a Strength and Mobility Program.
A well structured and supervised program of strength, conditioning, and mobility training will help you in more ways than you may initially realise. Having the support of a professional coach will serve as a good anchor for your consistent effort and progress. A properly fitted plan will help keep you injury free, which is essential for the job at hand if you want to make real progress. You will build confidence along the way as you see yourself making progress and mastering new skills, and these will act as landmarks letting you know that you are moving in the right direction. You will have regular appointments and accountability that will help keep you on track when you feel like taking the foot off the pedal, and you will build a greater awareness of your body and learn how to train, which will serve you for many years to come.
It is common to think that you are not ready to start strength training when you are starting out on this journey, but strength training is for everyone, and will be extremely beneficial for you as long as you have the right advice at hand. A training frequency of 2-4 times per week works best. The key here is to get the right advice, coaching, and training program from the start.
If you haven’t been practising for a long time and think it’s too late to start over, you might want to read our blog post on how to overcome the 5 greatest barriers to become physically active again.
Step 3: Increase out-of-gym physical activity
Your out-of-gym activity comprises two separate components; exercise, and non-exercise physical activity.
With your out-of-gym exercise, start with as little as 10 minutes, get out of the house and get yourself some movement. Walk, cycle, swim, whatever you like. This is an essential component for your long term success so it is crucial that you get started right now and keep on building up as slowly as you like until you are doing at least 60 minutes per day. To borrow a term by Dan John, who we look up to massively at ACLAÍ, you should aim for ‘inefficient exercise’.
Dan frames it perfectly in this article right here “Inefficient Exercise is doing something that takes a lot of movement and breathing and really doesn’t get you very far. If you are poor at swimming or dancing, swim or dance.”
Your non-exercise physical activity involves sneaking in bits and pieces of daily activity in the process of your everyday jobs and tasks instead of wasting money for an expensive fitness club membership. Of course, the more sedentary a lifestyle you currently have between your home life and your working life, the more important this becomes. Park your car a bit further away from the door, take the stairs, carry the bags and walk, get the grass cut, paint the wall you have been meaning to do, get a standing desk, get off your chair at work at regular intervals, drop the memo up to your colleague yourself, sit on the floor for a while. You get the picture. This will help you to lose weight way more than fitness classes. All the small things add up, and contribute to raising your energy expenditure. Over the course of weeks and months, and in combination with your gym training and nutritional adjustments, this will make a huge positive difference to your progress.