Did you know that nearly 75% of all American men are obese or overweight? Ladies aren’t faring much better, as over 60% of all American women are also obese or overweight. This means that if you’re not happy with your body, you’re probably not alone. As a certified personal trainer, I always find myself telling people that fitness and healthy living is not a fad, and it’s not even something you do 4 or 5 times a week. Getting in shape and being healthy is a lifestyle. Its a series of choices we need to make everyday, and if we’re diligent and focused, those healthy choices eventually turn into healthy habits.
Regardless of whether you’re 5 pounds overweight or 50 pounds overweight, the journey to finding your fitter self has to start somewhere. The following 5 tips are straightforward, easy to implement into you daily schedule, and are absolutely guaranteed to help you shed unwanted fat.
1. Stop Eating After 7PM.
Research continues to show that the later you eat at night, the more likely you’re going to be overweight. There are two primary reasons late-night meals cause weight gain. First, snacks and meals eaten later at night are almost always “extra”, that is they aren’t part of your normal eating schedule. Unless you’re increasing your activity to offset those extra calories, they will lead to weight gain. To make things worse, those late night meals are typically high-calorie foods like candy, chips and sweets, which are not only extra, but can also cause disruptions in your sleep (see number 2 below).
Second, late night meals can interrupt your body’s natural fat burning-processes. Your body relies on two primary sources for energy: the food you’ve eaten and the fat stored in your body. It generally takes 10 to 12 hours for your body to burn through the last thing you’ve eaten. From there, usually after fasting for about 12 hours, your body’s fat burning mechanisms kick into high gear. That means if you’re last meal was at 7PM, from 7AM to whenever you eat breakfast, your body will be using your fat-storage as energy. Make a habit of eating your last meal earlier, and you will burn fat while you sleep!
2. Sleep at Least 7 Hours Each Night.
Getting enough sleep, by itself, will not cause you to lose weight; but it may be the most important factor in your weight-loss journey. Research study after research study has shown that poor sleep is a major factor in weight gain and obesity. Getting a full night of sleep will give you more energy to take on your day. That means having the energy to be productive at work, take care of your family responsibilities, and have enough energy left to workout.
In addition, failing to get enough sleep can cause your appetite to increase. Your appetite is controlled by two hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is released in the stomach and signals hunger in the brain. Leptin is a hormone released by fat cells, and it suppresses hunger and signals fullness. Basically, more ghrelin and less leptin means more hunger. Unfortunately, when you don’t get an adequate amount of sleep, your body does just that – it releases more ghrelin and reduces leptin, causing you to feel more hungry than if you had gotten a full night’s rest.
Finally, poor sleeping habits can cause you to lose the motivation and self-control you need to make healthy decisions. Sleep deprivation has been shown to dull activity in the frontal lobe of the brain, which controls decision-making and self-control. In addition, the reward centers of the brain are more stimulated by food when you are sleep deprived.
3. Don’t Eat and Watch TV at the Same Time.
After a long day at work, kicking back in front of the TV with your favorite food can be incredibly relaxing. Something about being entertained while you eat can really help you unwind after a hectic day. However, studies have shown that eating while you watch TV can greatly increase your risk for being overweight or obese.
This is a result of several factors. Frist, people tend to eat more when they watch TV. Your mind is distracted, and you don’t realize how much you’ve eaten, or for how long you’ve been eating. When you’re focused on watching TV, your mind blocks the feelings of fullness and satisfaction. Moreover, people typically eat less-healthy foods when they watch TV. You’re a lot more likely to eat some pizza, chips or a bowl of ice cream when watching TV than a salad.
4. Stop Dining Out as Much.
There are a lot of things to like about eating at a restaurant. You don’t have to cook, you don’t have to clean up, and someone is there to serve you during your entire meal. However, we all know that eating out too much can hurt our wallets, and it can also hurt our waistlines.
Eating at restaurants can cause weight gain for several reasons. First there is the serving sizes. A typical meal out is usually much larger than the amount of food you’d eat if you had prepared it yourself. Restaurants also provide you with appetizers, bread, chips, soups and desserts that many of us usually wouldn’t indulge in if we hadn’t eaten out.
Second, there is the issue of incorrect nutritional information. Studies have shown that many restaurant meals contain 15% to 20% more calories than what was listed on the menu. That could increase your daily calorie intake 100 to 150 calories per meal. Eat out 5 times a week, and you’ve just added a whopping 750 unaccounted calories to your weekly intake!
Third, you also have to watch out for that restaurant mindset. When you dine out with friends and family, you’re more likely to eat and drink more. Talking can cause you to lose track of how much you’ve eaten. Sociability can cause you to eat or drink things you wouldn’t normally consume. Your friend orders dessert, you order dessert. Your friend orders one more drink, you order one more drink. While there are a lot of good things about dining out, it can have a severe impact on your ability to lose weight.
5. Add HIIT Weight Training to your Workout Routine.
All good weight loss plans should include high-intensity-interval-training (“HIIT”) and weight training. Combine the two and you have an incredibly powerful weight-loss workout.
HIIT is a type of training where you exercise at a very high-intensity until your heart rate spikes, and then you rest, allowing your heart rate to come down. This process is done repeatedly at set intervals. HIIT training has a lot of benefits, one of which is that the constant bursts of high-intensity exercise torches calories and fat. Another benefit is that HIIT training sessions are relatively short, which can save you time when you need to squeeze a workout into a busy schedule.
On the weight training side, fitness professionals have called weight training the mother of all weight-loss techniques. Whether you’re trying to add muscle, or just tone what you already have, training with weights has been shown to increase your resting metabolic rate, which means your body burns more calories when you’re at rest. Moreover, by strengthening your muscles, you have the ability to go harder and longer in future workouts, which will allow you to burn more calories and get more out of each workout.
When weight training is combined with HIIT, you get the benefit of each, and the added benefit of the “afterburn effect”, which is what happens to your body after an intense workout. The afterburn effect occurs when your body increases its metabolism to cool down, repair itself and return to a resting state. This increased metabolism greatly increases your calorie burn, which can lead to greater weight loss.
This article was originally published on Four Dots, and it has been republished here with the author’s consent.