Keep It Simple

I remember an athletic young woman who came in to the gym a couple of years back. She’d recently had a lay-off from training and had gained a few pounds. She had a program she’d put together and she wanted me to look it over. She planned on doing 3 days per week of weights, 2 days per week of cycling, 2 days per week of long, slow runs, and some “machines.” Also, she was going to go on a cleanse (don’t get me started…) to jump start her fat loss, then do a predominantly liquid and fruit diet she’d read about until she was back to her normal weight. Which supplements should she take? Should she buy whey protein?

I suggested that it sounded like a lot of work, but she might be able to do it. Of course, I was lying, but I’m nothing if not non-confrontational. I knew she’d fail…we all would.

In the book The Power of Less, Leo Babauta shows that given one clear task, 85% of people can stick to it. Give them a second task, and only 35% of us would succeed in adhering to the plan. At three tasks, we drop to less than 10% success.

One of the famous lines about fat loss is “don’t talk to me about supplements if you’re still eating Big Macs.” You get the point; do the simple stuff first, and see if it works. If you don’t work out at all, you don’t need to worry about a complicated training plan. If you eat out every day, forget about counting calories.

Here are a few very simple (not necessarily easy) tips to push you toward success.

  1. Limit the treats to one-a-day. This is a great tip from Lou Schuler, author of The New Rules of Lifting. Sure, eat some crap, but just one. One.
  2. Drink some water. Sounds silly, but how much do you actually consume? Start with a full glass at the beginning of each meal. Replace your special drinks with water as a terribly efficient second step if you’re trying to lose weight. Did you know that by simply drinking water instead of your daily glass of red wine you could lose 8 pounds a year? Plus, you’d save about $900 per year. And as much as you’d love to think it’s good for your heart, that’s not why you drink it.
  3. Eat more often. Sure you know this one, but the reason we do it is not so much to stoke the metabolism, but to keep you from being so dang hungry. We tend to overeat when we come to meal time ravenous, so follow this one little step to avoid it.
  4. Take some time and plan. You know the right things to eat. (If you don’t, as I’ve said before, ask a first grader) Make a plan to buy and prepare meals for all of your lunches and dinners for the week. Plan on having enough good stuff around that you don’t get tempted to eat junk. Very rarely are good-for-you foods conveniently packaged into bite-sized morsels, so it’s going to take some energy.

Don’t worry about doing it all at once. Try one thing and ask the question “Is it working?” If not, try adding another intervention. And another until you get it right.

The years are not counting up, they are counting down. Get your mind right, keep your goals simple, and you might just get a few more.