With millions of people making New Years resolutions to participate in the “Battle of the Bulge” here’s some useful ammo to help you adhere to your weight loss plan, keep you motivated and ensure victory:
Just as new enlistee signs a contract that commits him/her to their military task and duty, similarly, if your goal is to lose weight, you too should sign a contract with yourself, your trainer, a friend or a loved one. Essentially a contract cannot be broken and there is usually a penalty to do so. A contract places the commitment to paper and the responsibility on you, which will increase your resolve and motivation to the task of losing weight. If you need to, assign a reward for the satisfactory fulfillment of the contract rather than a penalty. For example, if you attain your target weight, write in the contract that you will take a spa vacation to show off your “new” body. This is a form of positive reinforcement, which gives you an eventual goal to work toward and tends to work better than negative reinforcement like punishment.
2. Recruit backup
For many people the “battle of the bulge” is exactly that. Give yourself a leg up right from the start and recruit the services of a well-qualified (check credentials) personal trainer or exercise physiologist. These “officers” are experienced in their field and will offer the correct guidance, training and motivation to conquer the enemy (fat). If you cant afford this service, recruit the assistance of a friend or family member to offer moral support and motivation.
3. Know Your Enemy
To go into battle with no knowledge of the enemy is guaranteeing defeat. With the guidance of your “officer”, or on your own, find out information on fat loss. This may involve doing some homework on fat metabolism and basic nutrition. Learn about how to “identify” the enemy by being able to recognize fattening foods and bad carbohydrates and research topics like how to shift the scales toward negative caloric intake. Don’t be afraid of exploring a little of the science behind weight loss – the web is essentially a free of source of information – use it!
4. Know Thyself
Just as it is important to know and study the enemy, you must also know some information about yourself. Make a list of possible obstacles that may derail the successful implementation of your upcoming battle plan and jot down proposed solutions on how to deal with them. Forecast where you may weaken in your resolve. For example, if you have a weakness for scoffing Ding Dongs at midnight or certain situations make you more likely to eat junk food or drink alcohol uncontrollably like at parties.
It may also be very helpful at this point to find out your EAR or Estimated Average (Caloric) Requirement. Your EAR gives an indication of the number of calories your body needs to maintain its current mass, taking into account the subjective estimation of your daily activity levels – for example, exercise participation and physical activity associated with your work. (Click here [http://www.bossfitness.com/interactive.asp] for a handy caloric calculator)
5. Develop a “battle plan”
With the help of your “officer” or with your own “top secret” information from your research, carefully devise a strategy to follow. Like many successful battle plans, attacks should involve multiple strategies. An obvious battle plan would be to begin a sensible “diet” to restrict caloric intake, yet does not border on starvation levels. This is decent single strategy attack, but if you really want the enemy on their heels, you need a multiple-strategy attack.
Consider using the combined forces of diet and exercise to shift your energy intake levels to less than your expended energy levels. Resistance training will not only greatly add to your energy expenditure, but will also increase your lean muscle mass and as a result, increase your resting metabolic rate. A multiple-strategy approach such as this will greatly increase weight loss over dieting alone.
Make a chart using colored pens to designate the multi-strategy attack plan. This will provide you a tactile image of your battle plan and help you stay motivated and in control. Remember the battle may continue for several months or possibly indefinitely, so adjust your plan accordingly and consider making permanent lifestyle changes concerning exercise and eating habits.
6. Set strategic and realistic goals
A successful battle campaign will involve setting goals of smaller victories to result in eventual victory. Setting goals will increase your motivation and adherence to the task and allow for assessment of progress. Sit down and strategize with your trainer or your partner and decide on achievable weight loss goals. Assign a time frame to achieve your “mini victory” and write them down on a chart. Check off every “mini victory” as you attain them.
A rule of thumb for gradual weight loss that will stay off is to aim to lose about one percent of your body weight a week. The human body does not simply “let go” of its fat stores – it gradually releases them when caloric expenditure is greater than consumption. For example, if you weigh 225 lbs, you can safely lose about 2.3 lbs a week. A pound of fat contains 3 500 calories, so 2.3 lbs contains 8 050 calories. So in this case, look to cut about 1 150 calories from your EAR using a combination of diet and energy expenditure from exercise.
If your battle plan involves resistance training (it should!), do not place a high priority on scale readings as this may lead to frustration. Resistance training will increase muscle mass (muscle weighs more than fat) and may confound scale readings.
7. Arm yourself!
At this point you will already be armed with a powerful array of non-tactile weapons – knowledge, moral support and guidance. Now, arm yourself by financially committing to either purchasing quality exercise equipment or a long-term gym membership. Buy a sensible diet book (for example, South Beach Diet) and a journal to write down your feelings, experiences on a daily/weekly basis if possible. Keeping a journal of the types of foods you eat and your feelings/attitude toward eating and exercise will help provide concrete evidence to identify signs of progress or regression and keep you on track.
8. Get out there and fight!
By now you will be prepared enough to face the enemy. Realize that the battle of weight loss is just that and that it will sometimes have to be fought tooth and nail. Use your weapons and resources to stick it out when your resolve begins to wane. Remain committed to yourself and your personal campaign and realize that others “back home” are supporting you.
9. Monitor your Campaign
Use your resources and the tips in this article to monitor the progress of your weight loss plan. Use a combination of body weight, waist/hip circumference changes and the results of your journal to get the “big picture”. See if there are any aspects of your battle plan that need “tweaking” or revision. A highly effective way of objectively monitoring your fat loss and lean muscle tissue gain is to monitor your body composition (% body fat, % lean muscle tissue and bone).
Try to find a local personal trainer or fitness service that offers body composition tests. Body composition can be measured by a variety of different methods depending on the sophistication of the service. The simplest and least expensive method of determining body composition is by means of skinfold measurement. Other more sophisticated (and accurate) methods involve the use of Bioelectrical Impedance Assessment (BIA) equipment.
10. Integrate a “new government” for your lifestyle
Once you have achieved victory and attained your weight loss goal, consider the lifestyle changes that you will need to make to maintain your goal weight. You may need to make exercise a part of your daily routine or continue to follow a sensible eating plan that restricts certain foods, or both. If your campaign was an extended one, you will most probably already have made some permanent changes to the way you deal with eating and physical activity.
Also, if your battle plan involved resistance training, you will find it much easier to maintain your desired weight because of an increased muscle mass and metabolic rate. Realize that it was an uphill battle to get to the point where you are and plan to “do whatever it takes” to keep or even improve your physical condition.
This article has highlighted some basic strategies to help make your weight loss goals more attainable. Use these pointers and you are virtually guaranteed “victory!”
David Petersen is a Personal Trainer/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and the owner and founder of Body Tuneup Shop Inc. based in Clearwater, Florida. More articles, information and client testimonial video clips can be found at http://bodytuneupshop.com
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