“I always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job because he will find an easy way to do it.” – Bill Gates
I better start this post by pointing out that I am not lazy. Nope. Far from it.
I am lazy, however, when it comes to doing things the hard way. Give me any task and I’ll figure out the most efficient way to do it. The time and energy one can save by doing things the easy way can be enormous. Work smarter, not harder (duh).
The task of losing weight is no different than most any other task: it can be simplified. Not long ago, I found myself 40 pounds overweight and climbing. It was time for a change, and the thought of going to the gym every day and surviving on a diet of broccoli and asparagus didn’t interest me. I researched and applied some simple, fundamental weight-loss principals that took me from 232 pounds down to a healthy 192 pounds in less than six months (see photo).
That’s right: eat more. Eat more frequently and eat more good food (more on good food shortly). I eat five full meals every day, and there are good reasons for this. Failure to eat sends us into starvation mode. While in starvation mode, our bodies hold on to fat to ensure we have enough energy to survive. As long as good food keeps coming in on a regular basis, our bodies have no reason to store much energy for future use. Eat more and you will lose more. Simple.
The other reason to keep yourself well-fed is to avoid hunger. When we get hungry, we tend to reach for food we know will quickly fill us up and give us an energy boost. This is the type of food that needs to be avoided in order to lose weight. . Stay full, stay happy, and you will stay on-track.
Eat Good Food
So what is good food? There is a lot of debate on this, so I don’t know how much science I want to get into. Here are my staple foods:
- Chicken, fish, pork, steak
- Lunchmeat (chicken or turkey with no added sugar)
- Almonds, Cashews, peanuts
- Spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, green beans
- Bean and ham soup
- Water, tea, coffee
That’s about it. The bean soup and chili (using chicken or steak) are homemade in a slow cooker and portioned out for the whole week. I’ll also grill and season a few chicken breasts at a time to use in spinach salads. Making meals in advance helps ensure I always have good food on hand so I don’t fall victim to a fast food drive-thru.
By staying full on the foods listed above, I don’t need to try very hard to avoid those that aren’t. It’s extremely difficult to stop any habit. Humans have a monumental failure rate when it comes to quitting their habits. It’s damn near impossible. Replacing bad habits with good habits is a much more effective way to facilitate change. Focus on healthy choices, rather than on quitting your unhealthy ones.
It’s also a good idea to gradually incorporate good eating habits. Trying to change everything overnight can be discouraging. Although zero cans of soda or diet soda a day is ideal, one can is still better than two. One square of chocolate is better than the entire candy bar. If it helps, put the rest of the candy bar away before eating the one square (this works!). Over time, you’ll find yourself eating less and less of the things that are unhealthy for you. This will likely happen sooner than you think, especially by incorporating the next principle…
When I started my weight-loss journey, I had no intention of giving up my favorite foods entirely. I’ve been able to eat plenty of bad food while continuing to lose weight. I allow myself one to two meals a week where I can eat anything I want, and as much of it as I can fit into my stomach. One of the meals is planned every Saturday, and the other meal is a freebie. The freebie meal usually happens when some friends want to go out to eat.
Planning unhealthy meals is a way to stay sane. If you don’t plan for it, it will happen eventually. Eating good food is like a bandwagon for most people, and once they fall off, they stay off. If you know you are going to fall off—once or twice a week—it will be much easier to get back on (especially if there is still bean soup and grilled chicken waiting in the fridge).
Do this sparingly. Try to do too much and you will burn yourself out. In fact, if you exercise for too long your body will release a hormone called cortisol which has been shown to contribute to weight gain. I lost 40 pounds by exercising for less than 30 minutes per week. You don’t even need to exercise to lose weight with the eating plan outlined above, but it does speed things along. Here is my general plan, from which I deviate quite frequently:
- Sunday: Weight lifting
- Monday: Kettlebell swings
- Tuesday: Rest
- Wednesday: Surge training
- Thursday: Kettlebell swings
- Friday: Rest
- Saturday: Surge training
I alternate my weekly weight lifting between two different routines that work every muscle in the body. For each lift, I do one set of 5-10 reps until exhausted. When you can’t do any more complete lifts, do a static hold until completely exhausted. If you are able to do more than ten reps you need to add more weight. Each session takes 10-12 minutes including a few minutes of rest between each lift. I have been able to increase pounds and/or weight with every single workout. Here are my routines:
- Workout 1: Incline bench press; weighted exercise ball crunch; underhand lat pull down
- Workout 2: Shoulder press; leg press; behind-the-back wrist curl
Kettlebell swings should be done until exhausted, which generally takes about 2-5 minutes. Find a weight that keeps you in this time window and increase the weight once you surpass five minutes. View a good video on kettlebell technique here. If you don’t have access to a kettlebell or can’t afford one, do additional surge training instead.
For surge training, do 30 seconds of a cardiovascular exercise as hard and fast as you can, then rest for 30 seconds. Continue alternating between surging and resting until you are too tired to continue. When I started surge training it took me only a couple minutes to get completely exhausted; now I’m up to six minutes per workout. If you aren’t completely exhausted after six minutes, you aren’t working hard enough. Use an exercise machine or simply run in place or do jumping jacks.
I’ll end this post by pointing out that I’m only one man. The above strategies are rooted in science, and they work, but they should not be taken as gospel. Be skeptical and do your own research on these methods before making any life-altering changes. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get the same results you’ve always gotten. If you want to make life-altering changes, you need to act. Start slowly, work deliberately, go easy on yourself, and find a set of good habits that you can live with.