There are a lot of keys I suppose, but this one is critical. It is critical in science especially, but also in fitness and nutrition. It comes down to Controlling Variables.
In fitness and nutrition, if your life is totally random, then your outcome will also be totally random. First off, you have to be clear about what you want to achieve. Set a clear goal, make it measurable and write it down. Next, you need to make sure that you actually want that goal, and not just because someone told you, or you read it, or something like that. It needs to motivate you! Do what you have to in order to make it real and powerful! If your goal is to drop 20 pounds, then find a photo of you when you were leaner, or a magazine model that looks like you want to look. Post it somewhere to inspire you if that works. You can also make a chart with some graph paper, with your weight now filled in on the left and as you drop weight, you fill in the graph to the right over and over until you are at your goal. Focus on progress.
Okay, now that we have the goal step done, you need a plan that works. This might mean you need a coach, or a program and definitely a meal plan and some data to make sure you have everything in place. For fat loss you need to have a body composition analysis so that you know your BMR – your Basal Metabolic Rate, which is how many calories your body burns at total rest in a day. If you do not have this data, you are guessing, and guessing is random, the opposite of controlling a variable. If your BMR is 1,400 calories a day, and you photocopy a 1,200 calorie diet from a magazine, you will not be getting enough calories, start doing damage and never reach your goal. Starving is a drag and the slowest way to lose fat and be healthy.
Once you have defined your goal, and your body’s requirements, now you need to set yourself up to win by controlling the variables.
That starts with eating well. Predictably. The more you pay attention to detail the faster your results will be. Once you get a meal plan custom designed for your goals and your BMR, then you need to follow it and track it. MyFitnessPal is a great app for that. Install it on your phone and use the free version or upgrade to premium (no ads and a few more features) so that you can quickly enter all that you eat. I love it and am constantly surprised at how easy it is to use. There is a barcode feature that is amazing! If I am having Greek yogurt, I click the scanner button, scan the yogurt and enter how much I want to or did eat. Done. Easy. It has most restaurants in it too, so if I enter Chopped Leaf, Signature Salad with Chicken, it’s in there. Boom!
Get your water in, and track it in the app.
Exercise by going to classes, working with a trainer, or doing something that challenges you. Track the length of class, and what you did. I have a Garmin watch, and it automatically updates directly to MyFitnessPal, so I can see how many calories I burned. By feeding my body to my BMR, and creating a deficit through exercise, I lose fat. Predictably. Your goal is a caloric deficit through exercise of around 500 calories a day. If you go too much more than that your energy will be low, you will be hungry and miserable all the time, and likely cheat on your plan; which is counterproductive.
Get at least 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep each night, and if possible, at the same time. Go to bed and get up at the same time, every day. I happen to suck at this … But I am working on it. It messes up my variables! If I work until after midnight, like I am doing now, then I will be exhausted tomorrow morning, which will lead to either sleeping in, or skipping my workout, or feeling like I’m only giving half the effort when I do it. All of those are negative towards my goal.
I am not saying that you need to become a robot, but the more you control the variables, the more predictable your results will be. Perhaps MORE importantly, if you are not reaching your goals, it is EASY to change things when the variables are known. If you are randomly eating whatever, and working out whenever, and not dropping fat … who knows what the cause is! You will be guessing. Guessing leads to random.
Make a plan, stick to it. Correct, and continue. Above all, take action!
Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and the owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake.