If you followed the first two articles, you are well on your way to a successful weight loss journey. Your goals are set and your plan is in place, but losing weight isn't easy - if it was, we would all be walking around with perfect bodies. So before you dive in head first, I wanted to talk about some "hard truths" that you will run into.
Focusing On Your "Abs" Alone Will Likely Not Give You The 6-Pack You're Looking For
Lately, I've had a lot of people ask me for good ab workouts so I wanted to start here. If you're anything like me, you've probably rolled your eyes once or twice at the sayings, "Abs are Made in the Kitchen" or "You Can't Out-Train a Bad Diet," but the unfortunate truth is that these sayings are true...unless you're Michael Phelps.
If you're looking for true ab definition, you'll need to start with a good diet. Diet and exercise go hand-in-hand when building abs, which usually consists of 80% diet and 20% exercise; you need a fairly low body fat percentage (diet) and built muscle (exercise) to obtain the definition.
I'm not saying that working your core isn't important. Having a strong core is crucial for carrying out everyday tasks, preventing injuries, and easing back pain, but that "Lower Belly Fat Blaster" workout you found online that has you doing millions of crunches won't actually make your lower belly fat disappear. The idea of exercising one part of your body to melt away fat from that area, aka "spot reduction," has no scientific backing and is really just used for click bait. Unfortunately, a lot of educated bloggers and big publications give in to this temptation and post articles promoting spot reduction because they know it will generate interest;"Six Pack Ab Workout" sounds much sexier than "Get Your Diet Together and Consistently Exercise." And so the rest of us are left wondering why we don't have 6-pack abs after doing 500 crunches every night before bed.
So when I'm asked for ab workouts, I always suggest exercises that will work the entire body while seriously engaging your core. I don't want you wasting your time doing crunches when you could be burning significantly more calories, burning the hell out of your core, and getting stronger from lifting (deadlifts, squats, presses, plate raises) and body weight movements (bear crawls, crab walks, mountain climber sprints). I also try and sneak in a tad bit about diet :)
It's Important to Change The Way You Eat
What you're eating is key so I really want to drive this point home. If you want sustainable weight loss, a "quick fix diet" isn't going to work, you'll need to change the way you eat. Being on a "diet" is a temporary mindset that will never work because losing weight and keeping the weight off is a constant string of everyday decisions to live a healthier lifestyle.
Start by being more conscious of what you put in your body. Remember that what you are eating is not just food, it's your body's source of nourishment. Have you ever had a heavy pasta dish or big sandwich for lunch and felt like you were going to pass out at your desk afterwards? There's a reason for that; foods high on the glycemic index (carbs that raise your blood sugar) release glucose, causing insulin levels to spike, and while you may feel great at first, once the sugar leaves your blood stream, you will start to feel that energy crash. Begin to pay more attention to the food you're eating, and the effects that they have on your body, and you'll be amazed in what you can find out.
I'll share a personal story of how the food I was eating was affecting me. For a long time, I had struggled with bad nasal congestion and was unsure of what caused it. Unrelated to my congestion, I decided to cut gluten out of my diet to see how it made me feel, and after two weeks, my nasal congestion was cleared up. Without making that adjustment and listening to my body, I never would've guessed that my congestion was caused by my gluten consumption. Another recent experiment I underwent was cutting dairy out of my diet to see the effects. I was hoping that this would alleviate some breakouts/acne I was experiencing, that I typically would have just associated with stress. My brother initially gave me the idea that eliminating dairy would help clear up my skin, and viola, he was right! Don't get me wrong, I understand that cutting out gluten and diary may seem extreme, but it's all about balance. You have to treat yourself to your favorite foods once in awhile to stay sane. I apply the same 80/20 rule for my meals - 80% healthy, 20% treat meals.
The best way to start changing how you eat is learning to cook a few super tasty healthy meals. When you have a list of go-to's, it's a lot easier to eat clean. There are some things, like oatmeal, that I can eat every day, but there are other foods that I just can't stomach a couple days in a row so I also recommend learning new recipes to mix it up now and then.
If you're unsure of where to start, I'll be posting some of my go-to healthy recipes on our blog.
It's A Marathon, Not A Sprint
Although it's possible to lose 5 lbs in one week, it isn't sustainable long term. If you want to lose weight the healthy way, it will take time. It's exciting when you feel extra motivated to lose weight, but working out too hard or cutting calories too much can be harmful to your weight loss efforts. In terms of working out, it's really important to have at least one rest day in your schedule because although it seems counterintuitive, your muscles actually grow in between, not during, workouts. Results from working outcome from the process of your muscles repairing themselves, so you need to give them proper rest time. In terms of your diet, cutting calories drastically can also set you back in your weight loss efforts. When your calorie intake drops too fast, your body will go into starvation mode and will start storing fat and burning muscle, which we definitely don't want.
Be patient with yourself and the process. If you are consistent, the results will come. They might take longer than expected, but they will come. You will slip here and there, but don't get discouraged. If you get off track, don't give up or dwell on it too much, we are all human and no one is perfect. And don't beat yourself up either, just pick it back up the next day. But make sure to stick to the next day because the "I'll start next week" can turn into months and years quickly if you're not careful.
You Might Hit A Plateau
The reality of weight loss is that the more weight you lose, the harder it becomes to lose weight. When you get closer to your ideal weight, your body works harder to hold on to your extra fat stores. Getting stuck at the same weight for 2-3 weeks is usually considered a plateau. Although plateaus can be frustrating, there are a few ways to break through.
- RE-ASSES YOUR DIET - Although I'm not really a fan of tracking everything I eat, I try and track a day or two every couple of weeks. It can be a pain in the ass, but it is a super helpful reality check. Almost every time I catch something I'm eating that surprises me nutritionally. Stay mindful of facts like just because something is gluten or dairy free doesn't automatically make it good for you. My sister and I made pizza the other night and we assumed it was super low cal and healthy because it was a fancy gluten free recipe. After dinner, I was looking at the tapioca flour we used and realized that combined with the other ingredients, this "super healthy" crust had more calories, more carbs, and more fat than regular pizza. Other things to caution are good fats and fruits. It is great to include these in your diet, but if you are watching calories you have to be careful to not get carried away...particularly with nut butters and fruits high in sugar.
- ADD PROTEIN - When you workout, tiny tears form in your muscle, after your workout your body starts to repair these tears. This repair process is what makes your muscle grow, and your body can't do this without protein. It's important to repair your muscle because those gains will help you burn fat and boost your metabolism. Protein also helps reduce appetite and hunger, curb cravings, and lower blood pressure.
- MIX UP YOUR EXERCISE ROUTINE- hitting a plateau might also be a sign that you need to mix up your workout routine. This could simply be upping the intensity, lifting heavier weights, or adding in something completely new. When I hit my first plateau I decided I wanted to do something new and started kickboxing. I was burning a ton of calories and getting super toned, but I was also starting to reach another plateau. I started incorporating heavier weights and the combo completely transformed my body. I don't want to sound like a robot, but it is all about experimenting and finding something that makes you happy. Incorporating weights is one of the best ways to shed some pounds. The more muscle you gain, the more fat you will burn :) And ladies, like I said in the last article, there are SO many benefits to lifting and I promise you will not get bulky. It takes years and massive amounts of weight for women to bulk.
Stay tuned for the final blog post. We will be sharing a list of tips to kickstart your weight loss journey :)