HEALTHBecoming a Lean Machine is Easier Than You Think

Becoming a Lean Machine is Easier Than You Think

By Megan Lautz, MS, RD, TSAC-F

Ah, the elusive six-pack. Abs that are desired by many, achieved by few. As sexy as a six-pack might be, what it takes to get there (by healthy means) is sadly not as sexy. 

Before embarking on a diet change, take a moment to assess your situation. Weight loss is like financial budgeting: reaching your goals will require willpower and sacrifice. Even a moderate calorie reduction can result in decreased strength, fatigue, trouble concentrating, cravings, and mood swings. If you need to make a change for health reasons, start small. Add an extra glass of water, cut back on soda, or add a veggie at dinner. Small, consistent changes will make a difference.

Get realistic

Successful fat loss is often over-dramatized by diet companies, social media, and even coworkers. Before you get started, know that losing a half to two pounds per week is a realistic goal – and that means just two to eight pounds per month. How quickly you lose fat depends on a variety of factors apart from lifestyle changes. 

Leave room for progress

It can be tempting to change everything about your lifestyle right off the bat. If what you’ve been eating and the way you’ve been living has brought you to this point, clearly everything has to change! Inspired, you dive into hours of cardio and high intensity workouts, eat only lettuce and chicken, and then wonder why you can’t stick to this killer program for more than a few days. 

Extremes lead to burnout. 

Calories matter

At the end of the day, weight loss diets work because they create a calorie deficit. Intermittent fasting cuts calories by limiting time to eat. Mediterranean, Keto, Low Carb –  all of these popular diets cut calories by changing food choices, just as Weight Watchers’ programs and counting your macros cuts calories by limiting portions.

Calories are just one important consideration in creating a nutritious diet.  Choosing nutrient-rich foods that will keep you full and energized is equally important. When it comes to fat loss, however, the calorie is king. The truth is, your body simply gets better at using the calories from the food you eat as you subconsciously cut your activity level. 

This is when plateaus happen and weight loss stalls. If you gave your weight loss efforts your all at the start, it will be harder to push yourself off a plateau. Your schedule and willpower may not have that much more to give!

The Unsexy Approach
  1. Start early – don’t wait until two weeks before a cruise to start cutting weight. Give yourself two months minimum.
  2. Evaluate your current lifestyle. Is this the right time to start losing fat? 
  3. Progress slowly – don’t overdo at the start.
  4. Create your calorie deficit through food or movement.

MyFitnessPal is a good app for tracking calories. Start with a good calorie goal and be sure to choose “lose one pound per month.” A goal higher than that will lead to a strict deficit, which is harder to maintain. Logging your progress might not be easy at a busy station, but it will give you a better idea of what and how much you are eating. Even a week of tracking can give you a clear sense of the areas to improve. 

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