9 lessons in leanness | Precision Nutrition

9 lessons in leanness

By Ryan Andrews, M.S., RD

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Frustrated? Feel like “nothing’s working”? Here are 9 hard-learned lessons from real people trying to get lean. YOU could be the biggest factor impeding your progress.

Once upon a time there was a PN Lean Eating Coaching client who vented some frustrations.

  • First, he described how he spent each minute of the day.
  • Next, how he ate.
  • Next, how he exercised.
  • Next, how he slept.

After all this, he expressed his disappointment.  His progress had stalled and he couldn’t figure out what was holding him back.  He wanted some answers and he wanted them now.

Fortunately, not only does our LE Coaching program have some world class coaches, the program also has some amazing clients – always willing to provide insight and support.  And in the case of the client above, it was our clients who provided 9 awesome lessons in leanness.

Here are the 9 things I learned that day.

Lesson 1: Smile for the camera

Posting pictures can be a powerful tool. While noticing week to week changes in pictures can be a slow process, the bi-weekly meeting you have with your camera in skimpy swimwear can radically change how you feel about accountability. Take it up a notch and post pictures for everyone to see, not just your coach/trainer.

Lesson 2: Nix cheats

If you talk about your “cheat meals” a lot, you’re probably eating too much crappy food. Usually, the people focused intently on cheat meals are the same people not yet comfortable with a complete eating overhaul. Ideally, get to a lifestyle where “cheat meals” aren’t on the radar.

Clients have told us that the idea of “cheating” (or the 10% rule) should be abolished. One client said, “At a time when you’re focusing on life-long habits, eating a bunch of junk food on a regular basis is just plain blowing it, not to mention unhealthy.”

Certain foods and situations are triggers for people. Maybe it’s the idea of any food in any quantity. Maybe it’s eating alone. Or maybe it’s grandma’s scrapple. Whatever it is, the trigger leaves them in a vulnerable position.

The idea of cheating can mess with mindset too. It makes us think that healthy eating is a grind and the cheat foods are the ones we truly want.  To this end, successful clients don’t eat junky food regularly.

How about getting rid of any food that’s not helping you move toward your goals and replacing it with a smarter option?

It's harder to eat if it's not in your kitchen.
It’s harder to eat if it’s not in your kitchen.

Lesson 3: Take responsibility

Do you feel angry when you are trying to transform your body? Good. Direct it at yourself. Don’t direct it at your trainer or coach.  Coaches teach you based on experience. Saying that “a plan” doesn’t work is inaccurate. The plan usually works.   Maybe YOU don’t work on the plan. You are the common denominator.

One client said,

“If you eat less starting right now, in 30 days you’ll be thinner. You’re not trying hard enough. It’s time to look inward and re-asses your goals. I had to dig deeper each week because nothing was happening. It’s not easy for me or anyone else. Keep digging. It might take you months to learn what your body needs.”

Another client said,

“I’m not expert enough to tell you how to get your bodyfat percentage to 12%, but I’m old enough and wise enough to know that progress comes when you make excellent choices, surround yourself with great support and throw in a whole lot of faith. Faith in yourself and the people you’ve put in a position to help you.”

One client shared this story:

“I started working with a nutritionist and her “advice” didn’t work. I got mad and went to another one. I did everything she said, but I also kept eating chocolate every day and drinking beer each week. Guess what? Her advice didn’t work either.

I went to my doctor looking for thyroid problems or low testosterone. Everything was fine. I didn’t believe the doctor so I got a second opinion. Same results. The doctor told me I wasn’t working hard enough. I told them he was wrong.

It came down to me not being ready and not taking responsibility. I was playing the victim. Nothing was my fault. It was everyone else’s fault and they didn’t know how to do their job. I had to realize it was my problem and I was the only one who could fix it by changing my eating and exercise.”

When we hold ourselves accountable and take responsibility, it’s on us.

Lesson 4: I eat 14 times per day

People with too much body fat are eating too much.  Cutting back on the number of times we eat every day and increasing our level of hunger as we conclude a meal can get us off the plateau.

Is it comfortable? Nope.

But going from 6 meals each day to 4 or 5 can do wonders for health and physique. When clients go through a period of fat loss, they expect and acknowledge a slight level of hunger for a good part of the day. And that’s usually needed to get into a deficit.

Some people are “compliant” for months and even years with basic food selections and nutrient timing. But they straight up eat too much. It’s time to become aware of hunger and portions.

One client said,

“Why I thought I could eat all the time and not be hungry while still losing fat… I don’t know. I was eating 10 ounces of steak at dinner. That’s too much, even in maintenance. I now eat less.”

Lesson 5: Don’t be low quality

Think about the food choices you make. Are you picky enough about what you pay for?

One client said,

“I can’t tell you how much better I started feeling when I stopped eating cheap meat. I now pay more for higher quality meat, and eat less of it. I feel satisfied after eating less of the high quality foods. I make my veggie to meat ratio about 3:1. A 10 ounce steak with a spoonful of broccoli and peas isn’t what we’re talking about here. Let the meat flavor the vegetables.”

There are countless high-quality foods to eat. Are you getting enough?

Lesson 6: It takes effort

Are you really working hard enough?

We need to exercise at least 5 hours per week with real intensity. This is what most people struggle with. Dump most exercise machines; they’re too easy or awkward. Develop more torso strength. Use free weights as much as possible. Get on a prescribed program. Find a weight you can lift through all sets and stick with it. Challenge yourself.

One client said,

I know most people say they love lifting, but experiment with hating it so much that you learn to love it in a new way. Love the way it radically transforms your body.”

Browsing blogs, reading magazines, and chatting about getting fit is easy. The hard part is in the actual doing.

Lesson 7: Too much information

Throw out preconceived “knowledge” and get back to what brought you success in the beginning: Eating less junk food and consistent/intense exercise.

People keep reading “Joe Fitness” magazine columns about how “Joe” lives on milk, cottage cheese and eggs. Then next month, they pick up another magazine and see how “Jane Fitness” loves her oatmeal. Then it’s off to another diet book that extols the benefits of fat intake for testosterone.  Before you know it, you’re living on fatty cuts of meat, sacks of oats, dairy and eggs.

Do you keep accumulating bits of information that work for other people? Train hard and get back to eating good food with an eye on the amounts. Unlearn what you know if it isn’t working.  The client we mentioned in the beginning of this article who originally requested help stated the following:

“The more I learn, the less weight I lose.”

Lesson 8: Energy expenditure work

Sometimes people just don’t move enough. Find some energy expenditure work you can tolerate. If you can’t stick with it, it won’t work. Walk, bike, hike, swim, or play sports – it doesn’t really matter. Just stay mobile.

Lesson 9: Got any… powders?

Some people are powder junkies. Are you using 6 scoops of protein powder every day? What about the powdered coffee creamer each morning? Powdered diet drinks (like Crystal Light)? Chemicals = junk. These things add up. Eliminate as much fake stuff as you can. Eat real food.

As the computer tech support people say, “Problem exists between chair and keyboard.” Don’t be the limiting factor in your own progress. Get out of your own way!

get-out-of-your-own-way

Learn more

To learn more about making important improvements to your nutrition and exercise program, check out the following 5-day video courses.

They’re probably better than 90% of the seminars we’ve ever attended on the subjects of exercise and nutrition (and probably better than a few we’ve given ourselves, too).

The best part? They’re totally free.

To check out the free courses, just click one of the links below.