Habits Not Diets -
Developing Better Eating HabitsBy
Tom Venuto - author of
Burn The Fat, Feed The
Many of us are faced with the daunting
task of shedding the layers of flab we have accumulated. This year, instead of
wondering "how can I get rid of this belly in time for the beach," why not ask
yourself a totally different question: "How can I lose this excess baggage
permanently so I dont have to keep taking it off every
If you are having a difficult time
keeping fat off permanently, it is probably because you foster the entirely
wrong attitude towards nutrition. For most of us, our idea of a summer shape-up
program consists of jumping on the latest diet bandwagon, which we inevitably
end up falling off of when the summer is over. Losing weight is easy; the hard
part is keeping it off. Instead of looking for quick fixes, we need to focus on
developing better eating habits and exercise habits that we can maintain for
the long haul. Instead of going on and off diets, we need to completely change
our approach and make exercise and good nutrition our way of life. Small
changes in our daily habits, over time, can produce quantum changes in your
body and your health.
The first habit you must
develop is to keep track of your daily caloric intake. Calories do count! Human
physiology dictates that losing fat is a simple matter of consuming fewer
calories than you burn up. Too much of anything gets stored as fat. However, it
is not necessary to starve yourself. In fact, you can actually eat more and
still become leaner by eating small meals more frequently. Five small meals,
each eaten three hours apart, will speed up your metabolic rate, allow your
body to absorb and utilize more nutrients, stabilize blood sugar and insulin
levels, and increase your energy levels. Most importantly, small frequent meals
will decrease fat storage by controlling your portion size and never giving
your body more calories than it can utilize in one sitting.
The trick is to decrease your calories
slightly below your maintenance level but not to cut them too far. Women can
usually eat as many as 1400-1800 calories per day and men 2200-2600 per day and
still lose bodyfat. Most diets are based on severe calorie restriction, often
dipping well below 1000 calories per day. This approach may work initially, but
it will never work in the long run. Many people believe that they can just skip
meals or "starve the fat off" by hardly eating anything at all, but its
not that simple. Your body is an extremely efficient fat storing machine during
times of famine or deprivation. The direct and unavoidable consequence of very
low calorie diet is a reduction in lean body mass and a decrease in metabolic
rate. When this occurs, your progress will grind to a screeching halt. Once
this dreaded plateau strikes, most frustrated and discouraged dieters end up
falling off the wagon and gaining all the weight back.
The next habit is to divide your calories
into the correct portions of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Each meal should
contain approximately 30% of the calories from lean proteins and 55% from
natural complex carbohydrates. The remaining 15% will come from fat. For high
energy levels, your best sources of carbs include 100% whole grain cereals and
breads, potatoes, yams, brown rice, oatmeal, beans, legumes, vegetables and
fruits. Great sources of protein for muscle development include egg whites,
lowfat dairy products, chicken, turkey, fish and lean cuts of red meat. Fats
should be kept to a minimum, but cutting all the fat out is not necessary.
Essential fatty acids are just as important as amino acids, vitamins and
minerals. Your diet must contain a wide variety of natural, unrefined foods.
The less processed your food choices are, the better; eating foods in their
natural state the way they came out of the ground is ideal.
Plan on losing weight slowly. Everyone wants
fast results, but you cant undo a lifetime of inactivity and poor
nutrition overnight. If you lose weight at a rate of 1-2 lbs. per week you will
be more likely to keep it off permanently. Many diet programs promise rapid
weight loss. High protein, low-carbohydrate diets for example, can take off
pounds very quickly, but much of the weight loss consists of water and muscle.
Instead of worshipping the almighty scale, measure your progress in terms of
body composition. Use your bodyfat percentage as the ultimate yardstick of your
success. This will help you distinguish between fat weight and muscle weight.
If does you no good to lose 5-6 lbs. per week if it is mostly muscle!
Arguably, the most important habit of all is
exercise. Nutrition is only half the battle; the other half is working out.
Cardiovascular exercise is the real secret to burning bodyfat. Aerobic
activities such as bicycling, walking, jogging, stair-climbing, cross country
skiing and rowing are all terrific fat burners. Shoot for at least thirty
minutes, three to five times per week for optimal results. Weight training is
also essential because the more lean muscle tissue you have, the higher your
resting metabolic rate will be. In other words, by developing more muscle, you
will be burning more body fat all day long, even when youre not working
It is human nature to look for quick fixes. However, when
it comes to fat loss, there are no shortcuts. It is easy to fall for the
hottest diet craze, the newest workout gizmo, the trendiest class or the latest
miracle pill, but the results they produce are often short-lived at best. If it
sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Short-term diets never work!
Dieting for a few weeks or months just to get in shape for summer, only to put
the weight right back on makes absolutely no sense at all! Get off the diet
roller coaster once and for all by developing habits that you will be able to
maintain for the rest of your life. If may take a little more discipline,
patience and hard work this way, but it the end it will all be worth it.
Tom Venuto is a bodybuilder, gym
owner, freelance writer, success coach and author of "Burn the Fat, Feed The
Muscle" (BFFM): Fat Burning Secrets of the World's Best Bodybuilders and
Fitness Models. Tom has written over 150 articles and has been featured in
IRONMAN magazine, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development, Muscle-Zine,
Exercise for Men and Mens Exercise. Tom's inspiring and informative
articles on bodybuilding, weight loss and motivation are featured regularly on
dozens of websites worldwide. For information on Tom's "Burn The Fat" e-book,