The secret to fat loss is…there is NO secret. by Alwyn Cosgrove

This week I have heard more excuses as to why people are not losing fat than I have ever heard in my life. I have literally heard people tell their trainers – “I am following the nutrition program exactly, but instead of an egg white omelet for breakfast, I have a muffin and a latte”. Hmmm. Not “exactly” the same is it?
So I thought this would be a good time to share some of my ‘wisdom’ for those of you still looking for the magic pill.

Having worked with hundreds of individuals over the years and as a trainer, magazine writer and lecturer to other fitness professionals I am amazed how often I am asked “What are the secrets to fat loss?”

I can vividly remember doing a photo shoot at our gym with a male client who had lost 85lbs of fat and now had a nice six-pack to show for his efforts. My own gym members came up and asked me what his “secret” was. THERE’S NO SECRET. They seemed to think I’d given him the “real” information and had withheld it from them! He’s been given the same advice as I give to everyone else – he just chose to follow it a little more closely.

Fat loss is not under the control of the magic fat loss fairies. It’s based on simple changes in behavior.

So I thought I would take this opportunity to launch into an Alwyn Cosgrove rant. Those among you who are politically correct and easily offended can stop reading now. And if any of the rest of you are offended, then I’m sure there is a new diet book that will tell you exactly what to do to achieve fat loss nirvana (hint – you have to eat less, fat boy, tends not to fill up a 300 page diet book). So put down your copy of “Eat Right for Your IQ” and listen up.

To lose fat:

Eat less calories than you burn.

Yes, there are some factors that can make this a little more difficult – metabolic type, medical disorders, food sensitivities, medications, sleep patterns, etc. But these are the minutiae – the small details. Even if you adjust or control for every single other variable in your body and your environment – if you consume more calories than you burn – you are going to gain fat.

Here are a few basic truths that no one really wants to hear:

Think about the foods you are about to consume. Are they going to bring you closer to your goal? Or will they make you feel like crap and take you farther away from what you want? Yeah I know that when you were younger, before you had kids, you could eat blah de blah de blah and not gain weight. Too bad – times have changed. And I know your friend can eat whatever he or she wants and is in great shape. Yay for them, sucks for you. But no amount of whining will change the fact that you need to work to get your butt in shape.

Stop rushing your meals – eat slowly. This will give your body a chance to actually realize that you’ve eaten, and register that you are full. It takes 20 minutes for the satiety mechanisms to kick in. Give your body a chance to tell you that it’s full before you cram another 500 calories in your pie hole.

Eat smaller portions. Unfortunately you cannot eat unlimited amounts of the food you would like and still get lean. Sorry. Second helpings? I seriously doubt it. Appetizers, main course and dessert? You’re kidding me.

Make correct meal choices that contain appropriate servings of protein, carbs and fats. I love the new “low carb diet” options at most restaurant chains now. A steak with melted cheese on the top. That’s not a diet food people. I also saw a low carb buffalo wings option. The difference? No carrots to dip in the blue cheese. Like that’s your problem – too many carrots in your diet.

A big ass bowl of pasta? That’s what marathon runners eat the night before the race. If you have a marathon planned tomorrow then go ahead. If not – you don’t need the calories.

“You are what you eat” is a true statement. And it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that some of you have eaten a fat bastard or two in your time. Are you a lean piece of meat – or a saggy nasty sausage?

If certain foods are a “trigger” for you and you cannot eat them sensibly, then you have to give them up. I have known very few people that can eat their “trigger” food and not end up blowing their diet. Once you “pop” you can’t stop right? Usually one cookie means the whole bag. So you can’t be trusted. Don’t have them in the house.

You do not need something sweet to finish your meal. This is a conditioned response from your childhood days when cleaning your plate meant ice cream. ‘Need’ something sweet? Do you realize how much you just ate? You don’t need anything. Dessert is not a psychological need for survival. It is just a bad habit. Habits can be broken. You do not need the cheesecake.

Do not buy junk food. If it is there – you will eat it. If you have a craving for candy and there’s none in the house – it’s highly unlikely you’ll get up and go to the store. You’ll just sit your ass back down and finish watching American Idol.

Oh, and buying the junk food “for the kids” is an absolute bullshit excuse. The kids do not need the cheezy poofs either. In fact, in my opinion, the childhood obesity epidemic has been caused by parents buying shit for their children. It’s essentially child abuse plain and simple. Depriving your kids of crap is a good parenting decision.

If you screw up a meal – do not, I repeat DO NOT try to adjust the next meal to “make up for it”. All you did then was screw up two meals. If you overeat at meal number one – just get back on track. Immediately. Because thinking “Well, I’ve blown it now so I might as well REALLY blow it,” is akin to getting a flat tire as you drive down the freeway and getting out and totaling your car.

Cookies, doughnuts and muffins are crap food choices. You can’t ever justify eating them on a regular basis. And low carb, fat free cookies, doughnuts and muffins are still crap – don’t kid yourself.

Yes you can eat fast food. It’s called grilled chicken sandwich or a turkey sub, Jarod. Fries? No. And you do not need to supersize for an extra 50c.

Yes it’s hard. You want to look great? Nothing tastes as good as lean and buff feels. It’s true. This week I’ve heard “It’s too hard – I want an easier diet”. What that means is “I’d rather eat crappy foods than look or feel any better. I have made a conscious decision to get fatter because my love for junk food is a more powerful love than my desire to get lean.” It’s unfortunate but you will have to work for the body you want.

Little changes add up. Switching from a glass of orange juice every morning to a cup of green tea will save you 100 calories per day (this is without including the antioxidant and thermogenic benefits of green tea). That adds up to over ten pounds of fat loss per year.

Little discrepancies add up too. A Big Mac meal is about 1500 calories. You’ll have to walk 15 miles to balance that out.

If you aren’t a fat loss expert – hire one. Or follow a plan written by one. I wrote a 16 week all inclusive fat loss program called AFTERBURN that includes diet cardio and weight training. If you don’t like that option I have an online fat loss training program. Using either of these approaches means you CANNOT fail. You just need to follow the program. I’m amazed how many people STILL ask me how they can get single-digit lean. The info is out there people.

This is by no means a complete list but I think you’re probably getting the point. There is no secret to fat loss. At any one time your body is either getting leaner or it’s getting fatter. You just need to adjust the balance. In today’s world it just takes a little effort on your part.

But if you want to eat whatever you want you have two choices:

Move a lot. A LOT.

Gain weight, get fat, accept it and stop complaining.

And if you want to look great, the keys to fat loss are (from my politically incorrect colleague Lyle McDonald):

Change your eating habits: so that you’re eating less.

Change your activity patterns: so that you’re expending more calories.

Repeat: Keep doing this over a long period of time.

Forever: Newsflash, you don’t EVER get to go back to your old eating habits unless you want to get fat again. To maintain weight loss means maintaining at least part of the changes you made to 1 and 2.

It really is that simple. If you are not losing fat it’s YOUR fault. It’s not mine, it’s not your trainer, it’s not your husband, wife, kids or your boss – it’s YOU. There are 168 hours in each week – no matter who you are. Maybe you train for three of them. That leaves 165 for you to completely blow it.

If you are not good at self discipline then hire someone who will make you accountable. Until then realize that the choices are yours. Getting really lean is not difficult in terms of knowing what to do – it’s doing it that makes the difference.

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