Why is it that so many people find fat loss so elusive? One reason is that the diet industry doesn’t exactly have a reputation for honesty, clarity, and simplicity. Another reason is that too many people are looking for the quick-fix, easy solution to a complex issue. Instead of falling for the latest diet fad or quick-fix miracle promise, why not stop and look at what lean people do? Here are 7 important habits that lean people practice – consistently.
HABIT #1: LEAN PEOPLE KNOW WHAT THEY EAT
Most people are “see-food” eaters. They see food, and it is in their mouth before their mind has a chance to ask that all important question, “Is this helping or hurting my goals?” Lean people know exactly what and how much is going in their mouths. They consciously think about the outcome of their food choices. They may use different methods such as a food journal, a photo food log or a diet tracking app on their phone. They may weigh food, measure it or use hands for portion size (palm-sized serving of lean protein), but one thing is certain – they know exactly what and how much they are having each day.
HABIT #2: LEAN PEOPLE ARE CONSISTENT
The leanest people tend to eat the same thing each day. You may be thinking, “Isn’t it good to have variety? What about nutrient deficiencies? What about building up an intolerance to certain foods by over-consuming them? It would be so boring to eat the same thing every day!” While you do not need to eat the same thing every day, success in getting and staying lean is consistency. Variety is good but the trick is seeking variations in your food selections without deviating from your optimal meal template. For example, leanness requires a diet that emphasizes lean proteins and veggies. This becomes the foundation of your meal template. Let’s say for lunch you decide to have 1 palm-size portion of lean protein, 1-2 fists of veggies, a cupped handful of fruit, and a small amount of healthy fat. This is your template. Stick with this template as long as it is producing the results you want. However, while the template doesn’t change, your food selection can. You can make a list of as many lean proteins, veggies, fresh fruits and healthy fat options as you want and use any combination of them. Lean people are also consistent with their training. Week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, they hit the gym like clockwork.
HABIT #3: LEAN PEOPLE ARE EVIDENCE-BASED
Too many people evaluate their workouts on how they feel. If they left the gym feeling tired and sweaty and were sore the next day – well then it must have been a good workout. Too many people base their eating habits off a philosophy or the latest diet fad. Lean people like to feel good after a workout and choose to follow intelligent eating habits. However, they know that no matter how good a workout feels or how good a diet sounds, if it doesn’t produce the results that they want, something needs to change.
HABIT #4: LEAN PEOPLE STRENGTH TRAIN
Try this experiment: go into the gym and look to see where the lean people are. They are the ones doing strength training. Yes, you can do some appropriate cardio, but you want to emphasize strength training. Strength training increases your metabolism and builds hard, lean muscle. Many gym-goers slave away on cardio machines month after month and still don’t get leaner. Sure, there are naturally skinny people who run all the time but we are talking lean, not skinny.
HABIT #5: LEAN PEOPLE DON’T REQUIRE SOMETHING NEW EVERY TIME THEY TRAIN
Now more than ever people want new, innovative and creative changes to their workouts every time they train. While this is fun for your mind, it doesn’t necessarily help your body. Your muscles don’t need to be confused. Working out is not what gets you in shape. Progressing a workout is where the magic happens. Lean people don’t come to the gym to be entertained, they come to get the results they want. They stay with a program and focus on getting better.
HABIT #6: LEAN PEOPLE ARE OK WITH PSYCHOLOGICAL HUNGER
Getting and staying lean means you will have to say “no thanks” to treats a lot more than you want. Lean people try not to get hungry by emphasizing protein and high-fiber foods like veggies. However, they know there will be times when they are tempted and have to say “no” to reach their goals. They understand that there is a difference between true physical hunger (which they try to avoid) and boredom or psychological hunger (I’m hungry and all I want is chips – do you really think this is your body telling you it has a Dorito deficiency?) which they push through and devote the focus to something non-food related.
HABIT #7 – LEAN PEOPLE SEPARATE FOOD FROM SOCIAL GATHERINGS
Yes, of course it is good to relax and enjoy a special treat once in a while. However, for most people the frequency of celebrations in today’s world are many and close between. Sure you have your standard Christmas day, Thanksgiving dinner, and your birthday. These are not the problem. The problem is the countless other social events (kids piano recitals, board meetings, donut day at work, your dog’s birthday, etc.) each week that all provide boat-loads of fattening foods. If you indulge at every opportunity, you will never reach your goal. Lean people don’t avoid family gatherings or parties because they know there will be junk food there. Instead they go to social events not to pig out, but to be with people they care about. They are okay to nurse a water bottle at a party or pass on dessert at the family dinner. They will go to restaurants with a group of friends and order meat with extra veggies instead of a starch with their meal.
Some people may look at these habits and say “that’s not normal!” However, we have to remember that 69% of Americans are overweight or obese. That means that it is normal to be overweight or obese. If you want to be lean, it will require that you do things differently from the norm. Remember that you do not have to choose between obese or ripped. There is a continuum of leanness. You don’t have to go as far down the continuum as someone else does. Find a level that is healthy and reasonable for you. Just remember that the farther down you go, the harder and stricter things become.