If you took a Mustang and filled it up with vegetable oil, the car would break down.
Same thing with your body. You need to fuel it correctly in order to have it look and feel the way that you want.
There are three things to focus on when it comes to fueling your body:
Hydration - getting enough water each day (for most people this is at least 2 liters)
Nutrition - eating the right amount of calories and protein for your goals
Mindful eating - listening to what your body wants and how much it needs
Let’s start with the first one: hydration.
3 Tips to Stay Hydrated (The Most Overlooked Way to Lose Weight)
We’ve all heard how important it is to stay hydrated.
Water gives you more energy, rids your body of waste, and lubricates your joints. You get fewer headaches when you're hydrated.
But no one really talks about hydration in terms of losing weight. When you drink enough water, you’re less likely to confuse thirst for hunger.
If you think of your body like a car, water is like the oil and food is like the gas. A poorly lubricated engine leads to increased fuel consumption. Similarly, not drinking enough water leads to overeating.
How much water is enough? Well, that depends on your bodyweight and level of activity. But most people need at least two liters per day (or 8, 8 ounce glasses). More is usually better.
Here are some easy ways to stay hydrated:
Fill up a water bottle or glass of water at night and put it somewhere you’ll see it in the morning. One of the most critical times to hydrate is right when you wake up, since you likely won’t have had water in the last 8-9 hours. When you wake up, you’ll have a visual reminder to hydrate before you eat breakfast or drink coffee.
Drink a big glass of water before every meal. Many of us confuse thirst with hunger and, as a results, we end up eating more than we really need to. This is why I like to focus on hydration with clients before we tackle diet. If you get bored of drinking plain water all day, but you don’t want the empty calories that come with soda, alcohol, or juice, I highly recommend seltzer with fresh lemon or lime.
Bring a portable water bottle with you during the day and keep it filled. It will help you measure your water intake and you’ll be more likely to drink when you have water on hand. Get a bottle that you really like. I use one from a company called Hidrate that tracks my water intake through an app and reminds me to drink. Yes, it’s kind of nerdy. But it works.
I recommend tracking your water intake for a couple of days, just to get a sense of what enough looks like. At that point you can use a handy (and kind of weird) trick to remind yourself to hydrate...
If you go to the bathroom and your pee is more yellow (versus more clear), then you’re probably not drinking enough.
Okay, Now Let’s Simplify Nutrition
You’ve probably heard the saying “abs are made in the kitchen.” And you know what? It’s actually pretty accurate.
You can have everything else dialed in - your sleep, your training, your stress levels, etc.
But if the food side of things is a mess, you’re not going to have the body that you want.
With a new diet coming into vogue every 6-12 month and conflicting information all over the place, it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.
There are only three things you need to focus on when it comes to nutrition:
Hit the right energy balance. If you’re consuming more calories than you’re burning each day, you’re going to gain weight. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing in terms of exercise. It doesn’t matter how clean you’re eating. You need to be in what’s called a caloric deficit in order to lose fat.
Get enough protein. If you’re in a caloric deficit but you’re not eating enough protein (around 1 gram per pound of bodyweight for most people), then as much as half of the weight you lose will be muscle. This is why some guys end up looking “skinny fat” after they lose weight.
Eat whole foods. While you can technically lose weight while eating junk food (remember, energy balance is king) most people look and feel better when they get their calories from less processed food -- stuff that would go bad if you left it out for too long.
You may find that some people advocate a low carb or low fat approach, but the truth is that most people do best on a relatively even balance of macronutrients. Experiment and find what you’re most willing to cut out.
Some people find that tracking their food for a little while helps them develop more awareness about what “enough” calories and protein actually looks like. For these clients, I create a custom meal plan and then we tweak it based on how their body reacts.
Other people do better with a more gradual approach. They look at their daily food habits and ask “what could I do to make this meal 10% healthier?” Maybe they lose the muffin at breakfast or add in some chicken breast at lunch. Over time these changes can add up to big wins.
Choose the approach that will serve you best in the long term. Speaking of, let’s talk about the most sustainable approach you can take to losing weight: mindful eating.
How To Lose Weight Without Counting Calories
If you learn to listen to your body’s natural signals, you won’t have to count calories in order to lose weight.
There is a Japanese practice called “hara hachi bu” which translates roughly to “eat until you are eight parts (out of ten) full.”
This Confucian teaching works well for weight loss because it encourages portion control through mindful eating. But there’s a problem…
Most of us have no idea what 80% full feels like.
So in order to effectively implement this strategy, you may need to experiment with some related habits first:
Put your fork down between bites. Doing this forces you to actually chew your food and take pleasure from it. When you slow down and savor each bite, you may find that you don’t want to eat as much.
Avoid highly processed foods. Chips, candy, and crackers are engineered to make you want more - from the way they taste to the way they sound when you bite into them. It’s much harder to get a sense of how full you are while eating highly processed foods.
Stop eating in front of your phone or computer. Instead, eat with someone else or in front of a window. The less distracted you are, the more you’ll be able to hear your body's signals. Start by eating just one meal a day without distractions (breakfast works well).
Once you’ve started to get a sense of your true hunger level while eating, you can practice stopping at 80% full. At 80%, you should no longer feel hungry but you shouldn’t feel totally satisfied either.
One thing to watch out for as you do this: you may feel like you have to finish what’s on your plate. This is just old conditioning left over from childhood. If you’ve eaten enough, it’s totally fine to put the rest of your meal in a Tupperware for later.
What’s Your Current Relationship With Food?
Do you view it as fuel? A stress reliever? A social glue?
I like to think of eating and drinking not only as fuel, but also as an act of love. I know - it sounds kind of corny. But stay with me here…
The more I appreciate my body, the more likely I am to fuel it correctly.
And that directly affects my energy, productivity, and mood.
So let’s summarize:
If you want to improve your relationship with food and start feeling better naked, apply for a complimentary strategy session.
We’ll help you turn the above advice into a custom game plan that works for your life. And, if you’d like, we can talk about whether our online fitness coaching would be a good match for you.
Hey, could you do me a favor? If you know someone who would be served by reading this, share the post with them. We’re all in this together.