Weight-loss challenges can be frustrating because healthy fat-loss is more of a marathon than a sprint. Some challenges can promote poor habits around crash dieting and intense caloric restriction. On a positive note, a challenge with a deadline can be the spark or jumpstart that is needed for long-term motivation. In this most recent challenge, we had multiple people lose more than 6% body fat and a couple that lost more than 8%.
Although body fat percentage is a fun goal, these numbers aren’t always common and progress comes in many forms.
Progress can be measured in many different ways such as an “A-ha” moment, breakthrough of understanding, muscle gain, improved energy, improved mood, freedom, better sleep, better digestion, faster mile time, lower body fat %, etc…
I’ve had the pleasure of working on more than 50 group weight-loss challenges and this last one was one of the most successful due to camaraderie, accountability, and positive team-work. It’s cool to see what we’re capable of with the power of a team.
Healthy fat-loss is measured in how you feel, not just how you think that you look or what the scale says. We also want to remember to focus on losing fat and not just weight. An extreme caloric restriction will allow you to drop weight but only so much and can set you up for muscle loss and stress if it’s done for too long. Focusing on resistance training will help preserve muscle which is more expensive from a caloric approach and will help the metabolism in the long run.
A challenge is not about a battle with willpower. Willpower is on limited supply and can get you started until new habits are formed.
The truth is there is no “one size fits all” solution to permanent healthy weight loss. What works for one person may not work for you, since our bodies respond differently to different foods, depending on genetics and other health factors. To find the method of weight loss that’s right for you will likely take time and require patience, commitment, and some experimentation with different foods and diets.
There are common factors that we can agree with:
Sugar, Liquid calories, processed-food, and alcohol is not going to help your fat loss goals.
Here are a few tips from some of the top movers and shakers, followed by some of the top nutritional advice for sustainable healthy weight loss.
I asked participants:
What worked best as far as success factors?
Take charge of your environment
Create a routine that starts in the morning with water. Small wins lead to momentum.
A goal and a plan on how to get there. Knowing we had 6 weeks to lose as much body fat and I was working with a team was the best motivator. Being challenged by others and held accountable to the team kept me on track.
Tracking and food journaling – Logging food into My Fitness Pal so that I could clearly see my macros and learn where I needed to make adjustments.
Cook your own meals. Cooking meals at home allows you to control both portion size and what goes into the food.
Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time. This allows you to plan success rather than relying on your future-self that you think is a super-hero.
Recipe and meal exchange with other participants – This is cool to create accountability and spark new ideas
A little creativity and experimentation goes a long way
Having some fun recipes kept things interesting and gives you something to look forward to
Outsourcing – Meal delivery prep – makes job easier to have 4-5 pre-made meals per week
What got you through when you had a craving?
Cravings are the worst the first 2 weeks. Getting past the first week was the hardest. Knowing I could eat some delicious foods and finding new things to eat (your ice cream recipe) helped with the cravings. I also would stay active and stay out of the kitchen late at night
Out of sight, out of mind. Don’t bring junk in your house in the first place. Willpower is on a limited supply, after a long day cravings can happen
Having some sort of healthy snack option. Protein ice-cream worked well for me, but may need to add something else to help break the monotony of it.
Protein Ice Cream
Extra BCAA’s or gum. BCAA’s are branched chain amino acids that are the building blocks of protein and can convert to glucose to spare muscle and aid in recovery. Many people drink them in the form of a flavored drink with or similar to electrolytes.
Eat a salad before main meal keeps you full for longer – find healthy dressing that makes the enjoyable.
Building snacks around protein:
protein shakes, smoothies I can freeze, pancakes, and protein balls. Love being able to put in liquid flavored stevia
Protein is naturally satiating and can help support metabolism and muscle recovery
Protein waffles (here’s one that is plant-based)
Top food prep-tips
Easy prep, cook fast, and not a mess.
Being creative with dinners but keeping them simple built around a vegetable and protein
Weekend prep: Sunday spouse routine: Hike, shop, chop, try new recipe and prep
Put on some music, an ebook or play a youtube video in the background
Cauliflower rice was a popular answer as it is a perfect example of transforming a nutrient-dense filling vegetable into something more palatable.
Overnight oats for a tasty breakfast that’s ready to go in the morning – something to look forward to
Homemade waffles, much easier than you would imagine. It’s like oatmeal, eggs and a shake all together.
Protein & Veggies for dinner – make the veggies more palatable and enjoyable.
Edamame and Black bean spaghetti – great filling dish that is high in protein and fiber. Cooks in 10 minutes with an added sauces and is quicker than picking up fast-food.
Utilize the slow cooker for fast meals – cook your meal over night
Have a few go-to snacks and meals that you can throw together. Here are a few that worked for some of the participants:
Protein Carrot cake Waffle (don’t knock them until you try them)
Single serving – 2 waffles – Under 10 minutes
Natural Sweetness from the carrots! This reminds me of a gingerbread cookie or cake. It’s a Desert like treat without the sugar that is great for a meal anytime. Egg-free and vegan-friendly. You can add egg for higher protein. I like to top with a maple-caramel sauce. These waffles are made with rolled oats instead of flour and use unsweetened coconut milk. The fiber and nutrients keep you full and satisfied for the long term.
- ¼ Cup Oats
- 2 Tbsp Flax
- ¼ Cup Chopped carrots (I often use baby carrots)
- 1/2 Cup Coconut Milk
- 2 eggs
- You do not have to steam the carrots but it may help with the texture and visibility.
- 1 tsp Pumpkin pie spice
- 2 Heaping Tbsp Vanilla Protein powder (or coconut flour)
- Optional: ¼ Cup pecans
Directions: Heat waffle maker until hot and spray with cooking spray. Add ingredients to a blender and blend on high until completely combined and oats, carrots, and flax are broken down. Pour the waffle batter onto the iron and close the lid.
Cook until the indicator light comes on or you have browned waffles that are cooked through and do not stick to the iron. This mixture will make 2 waffles.
You can substitute the coconut milk for any milk, and the pecans for any nut.
*You can sub eggs out by adding 1/2 cup more milk and tbsp chia seeds
PB Cookie dough bites
- 1 cup PB2
- 2-3 Scoops Vanilla Protein Powder
- 3/4 cup vanilla unsweetened almond milk
- 1/4 cup oats
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 3-4 squirts vanilla stevia
Mix it up, spoon out bite size portions on a pan (sprayed with coconut oil spray) and put in freezer. Eat frozen. Delicious!
Best nutritional advice:
You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet
Focus on what you SHOULD eat instead of what you SHOULDN’T
Make Healthy Taste Good
Know that you have complete control over what you put in your mouth. No one ever ate anything by accident.
Eat till 80% full
The ten-second rule – take 10 seconds to think about your choice of the food
Eat a plate of salad first at every meal to fill you up before main course
Eat for the body you want not the one you have!
Stop dieting and start creating lifestyle changes that can be maintained
Eat more vegetables.
If you don’t want an apple, you aren’t hungry.
Drink a big glass of water or sugarless tea before each meal. This will make you less likely to overeat and aid with digestion.
Replace sugar-filled sodas, coffee drinks and juices with water. This tip alone can make a huge difference in the shape of your body.
Turn salads into meals. Add a serving of lean protein to a large pile of greens for a guiltless meal.
Include vegetables in every meal. The benefits to eating more veggies are too many to list.
Miscellaneous responses that are relevant:
Medications can affect your body’s ability to burn fat in addition to hormones related to cravings, etc..\
Think good fat, not low fat
Walk down any grocery store aisle and you’ll be bombarded with low-fat or fat-free snacks, dairy, and packaged meals. But while our low-fat options have exploded, so have obesity rates. Clearly, low-fat foods aren’t delivering on their weight loss promises.
Part of the problem is that many of us have swapped dairy and animal fats for the empty calories of refined carbohydrates and sugar. Instead of eating whole-fat yogurt for example, we’re eating low- or no-fat versions that are packed with sugar to make up for the loss of taste.
When it comes to motivation, you are not going to always feel like it. A lot of times you are not going to feel like it. This is normal
Social support means a lot. Seek out support—whether in the form of family, friends, or a support group—to get the encouragement you need. Spouses play a major role in support. You have to find a sweet spot here, too much and it can create drama. A friendly reminder of goals that are shared is powerful.
Slow and steady wins the race. Losing weight too fast can take a toll on your mind and body, making you feel sluggish, drained, and sick. Aim to lose one to two pounds a week so you’re losing fat rather than water and muscle.
Accountability is powerful. Set goals to keep you motivated. Short-term goals, like wanting to fit into a bikini for the summer, usually don’t work as well as wanting to feel more confident or become healthier for your children’s sakes. When temptation strikes, focus on the benefits you’ll reap from being healthier.
Use tools to track your progress. Smartphone apps, fitness trackers, or simply keeping a journal can help you keep track of the food you eat, the calories you burn, and the weight you lose. Seeing the results in black and white can help you stay motivated. Myfitness pal is a great app for creating awareness. The power of tracking for a couple of weeks is invaluable. We can’t change something if we’re not aware of what we are consuming.
Get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep stimulates your appetite so you want more food than normal; at the same time, it stops you feeling satisfied, making you want to keep eating. Sleep deprivation can also affect your motivation, so try to get about six to eight hours of quality sleep.
So What to eat so we stay satisfied?
Fill up with veggies and fiber. Even if you’re cutting calories, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to eat less food. High-fiber foods are higher in volume and take longer to digest, making them filling—and great for weight-loss.
Maybe you didn’t achieve your goal BUT you do have data and new information to create awareness. It can be frustrating to see the scale or body-fat barely budge. Understand that this is part of the process and there is no definitive blueprint that works for everyone. This requires an individual effort that is worth investing for. I’ve been working in this industry for more than 12 years and I’m still learning something new EVERY year. I often learn the most from your feedback. Stay curious and have fun with it. There are SO many variables including stress, hormones, digestion, food intolerances, body-type, speed bumps, events, time and more.