If you’ve been exercising a bit more and eating fairly well then consider a new gym habit well stuck. Congratulations. But, by now, you will have noticed that the cutting down and leaning up of the first few weeks has begun to thin out. It is on such a plateau that many a fat burner loses their way; the flat motivational terrain forcing you to turn back and retreat at break-neck speed back down the rocky slope up which you’ve been scrambling.
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You will not find a route across this weight-loss tundra in the realms of new-fangled exercise regimes or the highest-trending fad diets. The stubborn, age-old fat stores uncovered by your initial successes require more consistent work to break down.
The way to etch out a new body is to make almost imperceptible changes to the way you go about your daily business. Call them ‘lifestyle hacks’ if you must. But fat-loss mavericks Dan John and Josh Hillis swear by their lasting effect.
Their book Fat Loss Happens on Mondays was written to explore how such small things can have a hugely positive impact on your waist size. The name comes from their first rule – starting the week by purchasing and preparing the right sort of food. Starting with this job on day one makes it noticeably easier to stick closer to your nutrition and exercise plans for the next six. If that sounds like bunkum, ask yourself how often a missed workout on a Monday lunchtime turns into an entire week of sedentary apathy. Listening now?
Good. Because we asked John for his favourite tricks for losing weight as part of your daily to and fro. They are not your every day nuggets of advice, granted. But put your trust in this structure and you can break off a piece of fat every day, for as long as you want.
First thing’s first: make some choices
Unless poached turkey breast and green tea is all that your pious quest to #eatclean permits pass your lips, your day is replete with food and beverage decisions. Most of us make more than 200 of these calls every day but, according to a Cornell Uni study, only register about 15 of them.
John’s advice is to make each choice a visual one. “Put your hands on the outside of everything that is about to enter your mouth,” he says. “Your left hand is your starting point – your right is your goal. Now decide whether this food or drink brings you closer to your goal (right hand nearer and left further away) or not (left hand nearer and right further away). It’s simple and you won’t get the value until you try it. So try it.”
Shock you body with a cold shower
We have championed the DOMS-dousing properties of cold water many times, with changes in temperature helping to flush out the lactic acid bringing the hurt. But, according to John, a “Scottish shower” is another way to put weight gain on ice. “Always finish with cold water for as long as you can handle,” he advises. “It triggers a process called hormesis – a biological phenomenon that gives you physical benefits from a low dose of something that could otherwise be dangerous.” In this case, a direct positive influence on fat burning.
The fact that cold water has been shown to improve immunity, circulation, skin, hair, anxiety and depression are cool extras. It might even wake you up. Should that prove too Spartan a regime at this time of year, you can enjoy the same process of hormesis in the heady heat of a sauna. Which is as good a reason to take a little longer at the gym.
Go with your gut
Once you’ve come to your decision, follow through. Even if you’ve picked the less pure of paths. If a doughnut is what you want, and you understand that it won’t realistically grease the wheels on your journey to a slimmer physique, then tuck in. But no matter what, stick with your choice. “Odd, yes. Drink that beer, eat that muffin, if you so wish,” says John. “Here’s the odd part: we tend not to keep going down that road once we’ve made this quick, mental decision.”
In other words, a big breakfast does not automatically usher in a long lunch and a slap-up dinner – as long as you are knowingly pushing the boundaries of healthy eating, you are more than likely to get back into safe territory after your satisfying excursion.
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Whenever you eat anything… eat SOME FAT
OK, so you know that fat isn’t a nutritional bête noir any more. That’s not news but what you need to get used to is adding some fat to every single meal. Those in the know talk about macros but it’s more simple than that. “Imagine each plate of food adds up to 100%, says John. “Always take care of your protein first, then just aim for more fats than carbs for the rest.” More fat means fewer carbs, creating a much better weight-loss environment in your body, lowering insulin and opening up fat stores to be greedily used up for energy.
There is a caveat attached to this mealtime rule of thumb, however. Fat is great and tastes divine and that makes it easy to over do it. “We always add a serving of too much oil and butter because we love it. Even a spoon of peanut butter gets doubled once it’s a heaped spoon,” says John. “Always under serve slightly and you’ll be about right.”
If you slip up, give yourself a break
As you’re turning in each evening, when you’re brushing your teeth say, do a quick review of your day. Think about any exercise you’ve done, or how much water you’ve drunk and pat yourself on the back all you like. But then think about where you deviated from your weight loss plan or ignored it all together. The chips you had with that salad, for example. Then, and this is the crucial part, immediately forgive yourself.
“Rules are going to get broken,” says John. “That’s life. But letting yourself off is the difference between being a bit better tomorrow or chucking it all in.” Science supports this sinktop psychology – research published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that feeling guilty about failing on a diet more than doubles your odds of bingeing, compared with forgiving yourself for missteps. After all, tomorrow heralds another chance for perfection. Or not.
Hit the treadmill for exactly 2 minutes
Spending hours chugging away at cardio, however, has had its time as part of your weight loss schedule. The well-preened phalanx of group exercise classes currently clamouring for your membership all came to a crucial realisation a while ago – feeling like a beginner is the best way to get into shape. John agrees: “Never, ever, go for more than two minutes on any cardiovascular movement. Mix and match all of your CV work in two-minute bursts – row for 500 metres, then bike for 120 seconds and follow it up with 60 hip thrusts to counter all the folding over you’ve done,” he says.
Use whatever equipment is free, or pick a few bodyweight movements, but whatever you do, stop before your body gets accustomed to what you’re doing. It’s quicker and a lot less mind-numbing than pounding pavement over and over again. “Don’t worry if you feel like you’re always moving on before you’ve got into a groove,” says John. “Flailing away like a rookie is superior fat burning.”
For lasting gains, freeze your assets
Central heating has a lot to answer for. The cosy comfort in which we live means you expend very little energy once you’re safely ensconced at home, turning your dwelling into a petri dish for your love handles.
The solution, thankfully, is not ripping off the thermostat and growing a beard. Instead, get your chill on the way home from work. “Each night, I take the dog for a walk. If it’s really cold I’ll wear gloves, but I keep short sleeves on,” John says. “That chill on your neck and arms stimulates the weight-loss miracle of the body – brown fat.” As opposed to regular white fat, which can only store calories, the brown version is packed with mitochondria that burn energy to produce heat.
Regular exposure to the cold was shown by the National Institute for Health to activate brown fat and improve the rate of growth of new brown fat cells, increasing your natural ability to burn calories rather than horde them. Going without your goose-down parka on the way back from the office every day is all it takes to start the process. “Also, it’s worth noting that a lot of fat people have fat dogs.” Your move.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health UK