Losing weight is hard. Really hard. We all know it, and a lot of us want to do it, but far fewer of us actually succeed.
A big reason behind this high rate of failure is a lack of preparation. There are fitness classes in place, communities at hand—either online or in person—and supplements as far as the eye can see, but without proper knowledge and understanding of the subject, you’ll be doomed from the beginning.
But what if we told you all that was needed is four lessons? Four fitness factors that will help you form a foundation in all other aspects of life, sturdy enough to hold you up as you enter the breach and attempt to shift those pounds once again.
These lessons range from the mental to the physical and, while few in number, will prepare you for the pain to come. Nobody said it was easy, but then nothing truly worth having ever is.
1. Emotional Control
The first thing one needs before entering themselves into any significant change in lifestyle is mental preparedness. Even though fitness, on the face of things, is a physical undertaking, it’s often the emotional stress than can lead to its undoing.
Do you ever notice how many elite-level athletes, transformation stories and fitness industry faces have risen to their status from a place of hardship? How many of those names you follow have come from harsh backgrounds or turned to fitness in response to a difficult break-up?
There’s a reason these things tend to correlate, and that’s because it’s good to suffer.
Too often in this generation do we see entitled individuals who are too proud to admit they’ve never truly known what hurt is in their lives or are too down on themselves to make anything positive from it.
Having your emotions in check is a prerequisite to realising any fitness goal, because as we pointed out at the start, chasing a weight-loss dream or any athletic goal is going to suck, and you need to be ready.
There are times when you will want to cry, break down, sleep or just shut yourself away—but the best thing one can do is know the onslaught is coming so that you can weather the storm.
2. No Booze
From something far more abstract to a much more tangible point—cut the booze.
Drink Aware explains how alcohol is detrimental to fitness, firstly because it’s a diuretic, thus making you pee more and encouraging dehydration, but also because it limits the liver’s glucose production capabilities and prevents you from metabolising energy.
Most of us like a drink because it feels taboo; it’s a mental signifier that we’re relaxing, because of course booze isn’t in any way related to school or work (for the most part).
The easiest thing to do when cutting back on the calories is therefore to just say no to the booze altogether, at least during the most arduous phases of your training, and save it for those special occasions.
And before anyone asks: Yes, it is possible for some people to consume beer on a regular basis and still make surprisingly consistent gains.
However, Usain Bolt also ate 1,000 chicken nuggets en route to three world record at the 2008 Beijing Olympics; that doesn’t mean every nation in the world is going to start building athletics tracks next to Kentucky Fried Chicken.
3. Ample Sleep
You’ll read it in just about every fitness hand book there is out there, but this one remains essential for a reason; you must get sufficient sleep if your body is to handle the load of what’s to come.
This is coming from someone who’s done the rat race lifestyle for a time, someone who has lived in a busy city working out twice a day and averaging under five hours of sleep per day for a year.
No, it wasn’t fun, and a body isn’t made to be put through that kind of stress.
Men’s Fitness detail how sleep is made up of two genres: rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. The most beneficial sleep will come from entering the NREM kind, as that’s when our bodies are truly at their most relaxed, but we can only get there by cycling through phases of REM sleep.
The bedheads out there will be happy to learn there’s nothing negative about ample sleep, too, as it reduces fat storage, promotes the production of growth hormone and also the levels of ghrelin and leptin—these two chemicals discourage feelings of hunger and leave us feeling full.
Be busy and get to the gym, but be sure to value sleep as much as everything else done while you’re awake.
4. Portion Control
Very arguably the most important factor of the bunch and the one most of us will struggle with: portion control.
There are many methods out there to keep a better eye on how much we consume. You could adapt the If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) diet, which allows for any and all food as long as it falls within your prescribed amounts of protein, fats and carbs, or you could go the old fashioned route and simply eat clean; meat, vegetables and not much else in between.
However you choose to go about your diet regime, know this: You are just as capable as any of the other 7 billion humans on this Earth, and you control what food you consume. You didn’t come into this world craving food, it just happened along the way, and that’s fine, but it’s time to adapt.
You might have seen it on a poster or read in any book of clichés, but no donut out there tastes as good as good health and feeling more confident about your chances of a long and happy life.