You can have your cake and eat it too.
Have you ever looked at someone in great shape and thought, “they look amazing, but I couldn't, I love to eat.” I know I have. And I’ve heard many times from clients, “I want to look better, but I just love food too much.”
Somewhere along the line we subscribe to the idea that looking and feeling good about our bodies means we must be deprived.
Now just to clarify, yes, you do need to be in a caloric deficit to lose body fat. And there will be hunger associated with a caloric deficit. But hunger and starvation are two different animals.
Changing your body in a positive way to boost your self esteem doesn’t mean that a temporary deficit (as they should always be temporary) is the only way to go.
There are plenty of ways to change your physique for the better without feeling like you can’t be trusted at a buffet table:
1. Be CONSISTENT with a sufficient amount of food to nurture your metabolism.
Unfortunately body change can seem complicated with things like hormones, dieting history, genetics, stress and lifestyle choices all playing a part in our current metabolic state. Metabolic rate is dynamic, and the human body has an amazing ability to adapt.
Studies show that metabolism can be slowed due to long-term low calorie diets, creating a hormonal environment that is not conducive to fat loss. Furthermore, the longer you are in an extreme caloric deficit the higher risk you are of rebounding and putting on more fat in the long-term.
How can you take the first step in preventing that? Become aware of your daily intake, then strive for consistency so that your body can adapt. If that amount is adequate for your size and activity level, you will feel, perform and look better.
Start by recording your food intake in one of many easy-to-use apps or keep a food journal. Remember to consider a sufficient amount of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats), not just the overall caloric intake. Refer to a qualified professional to guide your macronutrient goals.
2. Don’t eliminate ANYTHING.
I’m sure you’ve heard something like, ‘no white bread’ or ‘baked goods are bad’ and logically it makes sense to avoid things that are nutritionally lacking. But realistically, a diet that eliminates your favorite foods, or even worse, an entire food group, is a set-up for failure — and potentially harmful effects to your health.
For example, fats contribute to a number of important processes in our body, like proper function of our nerves and brain, so a low or no-fat diet can have a negative impact.
Beyond the health risks, trying to permanently avoid foods that you love will only enhance your longing for them and make it more likely you over-consume other foods to avoid what you want. And every time you overeat it’s only human to feel like you should restrict to compensate. The faster you get off the restrict to over-consume cycle the better.
Choosing more real food eliminates deficiencies in vitamins you probably aren’t getting out of the processed stuff in your freezer. Prioritize nutrient-dense whole foods, but keep a little fun stuff to take the edge off.
If 80% of your diet is whole/minimally processed food and 20% is food that keeps you from feeling deprived, you’re way more likely to be consistent. Choose whole foods and don't fear exposure to the foods you used to believe were off limits. You will encounter cake again, so learn how to have a few bites and move on with your life.
3. Use resistance training regularly.
Weight training can transform your physique. And I’m not talking about two pound dumbbells as you walk the treadmill. Heavy barbells and dumbbells used during compound movements, like squats and deadlifts, will change the way you look.
Get strong not only for the mental satisfaction of uncovering your potential, but for the sake of your metabolism and your bones. As we age we lose muscle, so we must be preventative by at least maintaining if not putting on more lean mass. Bonus to enhancing your unique shape, the more muscle on your frame the more calories you burn at rest.
4. Discover your favorite protein and fiber sources and make them the star of your meals.
Digesting food requires energy. Protein requires the most energy to digest. They are made up of amino acids, which contribute to the development and repair of lean tissue. If more muscle can boost our metabolism and protein is key in building muscle, then it’s pretty clear to see why protein is so dang sexy. Protein also has a high satiety factor so you feel fuller longer, as does fiber.
Fiber is a nutrition celebrity that just isn’t glamorous enough to talk about. Really, there are too many benefits to list. Technically we can’t digest fiber and that’s why it’s so important for healthy elimination.
When you are putting together a meal, frame it around the protein source and something fibrous. You’ll feel full much longer and be fueling your body for peak performance.
5. Implement only ONE habit at a time.
Slow and steady wins the race. Although that’s not so inspirational, what’s more attractive: quick change that’s temporary, or slow change that lasts?
Psychologically it’s difficult to change many habits at once. So pick one thing that is low resistance can compound into high impact over time, and dominate it.
If you feel adding in two days of weight training is easier than tracking your food, then do that. Just don’t try to do everything all at once. The shortcut to maintainable change is realizing there’s no shortcut.
Now you never have to start all over again looking for the next shortcut.
6. Satisfy your emotions.
Eating is often used as a coping device for emotional turbulence or stress, but an emotional need can’t be satisfied by anything other than an emotional solution.
Address your energy state first, instead of suppressing it with caloric distraction. Journaling is an easy starting step to uncovering and conquering what’s happening on a deeper level when you want to just reach for the treats.
If you struggle with discipline around food or going to the gym, you may actually just be fearful of something new and what risks or sacrifices come with it. Sometimes when we are standing in our own way, we just aren’t aware of our deeper fears of success or loss.
Your subconscious mind may be keeping you safe in the patterns it's already familiar with. But you have the power to change as soon as you accept responsibility and take the first step.
7. Elevate your perspective.
You don’t need to scroll long to see that body obsession is rampant in our culture. Reminding yourself of your core values, your divine purpose on this planet, and your own unique traits will keep you from getting sucked into the destructive self-comparison game. When you're in control of YOUR views, you will more readily understand that you are enough.
Focus on the things you love about yourself and the amazing things your body can do. You can love the skin you’re in while taking action to be better. The shift in perspective and de-stress over your appearance can actually do wonders for the way you look and feel.
Be aware and intentional about how you speak to, view, and care for yourself. Treat yourself like someone you really love. Unfollow anything or anyone that makes you feel less than you are.
A friend once told me, if you want to change what you see, just stand somewhere else while you look. Change your perspective to see more of what’s wonderful, and you will attract and view more good in you.
Victoria Viola is a certified personal trainer and lifestyle coach that loves to help people not only look better, but feel better about themselves. You can lift and move with her in NYC with Excelerate Wellness, or online coach with her from anywhere with INJA Fit.