Being lean is pretty cool.
When you're lean you feel light on your feet, confident that you've taken care of yourself, energized to workout more and more in control of your health and fitness.
Plus it doesn't hurt to get some head turns at the pool or beach. It's a big boost to your confidence when people ask you for your workout routine and diet.
However, losing fat and living lean isn't easy for most people.
It might look like it's easy for me, but you'd be sadly mistaken.
In fact, getting lean and staying that way is on the top of my fitness challenges list.
In this article I'm going to map out some of the challenges you might be facing in your fat loss journey and I'll give you some step-by-step guidelines to overcome them.
Just be sure to high five me if we happen to pass each other shirtless on the beach one day.
Why is Fat Loss so Hard for Most People?
Some people are born with the genetic lottery already won.
They simply look at a weight or think about doing some cardio and they instantly have a world class physique.
Yes, genetic freaks can drive you insane with jealousy.
But relax, 99% of people have to work their ass off to look good naked.
And looking good naked is hard.
With a Fast Food restaurant on every corner we are constantly being bombarded with way more food than we need.
Combine that with a desk job (low activity), high stress of trying to keep up with the Joneses, bad sleep because of the phones/TV's, and all the crap information out there that misleads you down 10 different paths...
It's no wonder losing fat is like finding a unicorn.
It doesn't happen.
And when it does happen (let's be honest, there are a TON of before/after pictures out there) - it's RARE to see someone keep the fat off longer than a few months.
Let Me Tell You A Story...
Just in case you've never heard of me before, my name is Josiah. I'm a published fitness blogger/writer, and online fitness and body transformation coach, and I also wasn't born a genetic freak.
I actually was born skinny fat. I was skinny, but my stomach wasn't defined. I didn't even believe I could have a six pack at all.
Because of my skinniness and feeling very self-conscious about not being a "jacked" guy - I put all my efforts into adding muscle. This meant gorging on food and stuffing my face 24/7.
Despite being an athlete most of my life, I found out rather quickly that putting on body-fat came very easily to me. I quickly packed on the pounds throughout my late teens and early twenties due to my poor eating habits. Coupled with depression and some major life hurdles - I found myself weighing almost 280 lbs.
I was a mess. The pic on the left up there doesn't even do it justice. At my heaviest I refused to take photos because I was so self conscious.
The Good News Is...
I figured it out.
After years of struggling with my weight and feeling hopeless, I figured out how to lose the bodyfat and, MOST importantly, keep it off for good.
But I know that every person I work with is different.
What worked for me might not work for you. For that reason I've spent TONS of time researching different fat loss techniques and strategies to ensure that I had answers for anyone who came to me looking for help. Different situations call for different protocols and I wanted to be ready for anything.
Take my online coaching client, Tony, for example. Tony also happens to be someone who adds bodyfat easily.
Tony came to me already pretty lean, but he wanted to take things to the next level.
Needless to say he's done an incredible job and he's still getting leaner as of the writing of this blog. Tony takes trips with his family, works a high stress career and eats the foods he loves yet still loses bodyfat on a continuous basis.
My client David is another guy who comes from the background of carrying around a lot of extra bodyfat and yet he's made an incredible transformation.
Dave has been a client of mine the past year and continues to make huge strides in his physique.
The best part is Dave is a business owner and has a relatively high amount of stress day to day so getting lean wasn't easy for him, yet he's managed to get the formula just right. Dave is an incredible dude and his results are awesome!
Of course I can't forget about my online client Carly - who, as a busy mom, was able to completely change her body in 8 weeks time!
Carly joined my 8 Week TRUE8 Challenge looking to get toned up and improve her nutrition habits.
Needless to say she did just that. We changed up her workout routine and eating plan and...well...you can see the results here!
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Do you want to learn my methods and systems for losing body fat?
Are you interested in reading my strategies around losing that annoying layer of fat that never seems to go away? Do you want my tips on making fat loss easier, especially for people with weight issues?
If you said "hell yes" then this article is for you. Because I'm now going to outline my top strategies for losing bodyfat and specifically how you can implement them to get the body you've always wanted.
And don't forget, you can always get more free help from me in myfree Facebook group as well.
How to Get LEAN: The (Former Fat Guy's) Ultimate Fat Loss Guide
1. INCREASE YOUR NEAT
What the heck does NEAT stand for first of all?
It stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis - which is just a fancy term for all the stuff you do outside of the gym each day.
For example, if you go to the gym and then you sit at a desk for 8 hours...you're not doing much NEAT.
However, if you're driving a UPS truck and hopping on and off while delivering packages...your NEAT is very high.
So why is NEAT so important?
Isn't it just about dieting, working out hard and doing some cardio?
Well sure those things have importance.
But even if you're a gym freak and you hit the gym for 2-3 hours a day...you still have 21-22 hours outside of the gym.
Those are some valuable hours my friend.
Let me break down why.
Interesting little graphic eh?
Lets say you're not a gym freak, but you hit the gym on a regular basis (or workout at home).
Whatever you do...lets say its 3-4 hours a week.
Pretty standard schedule for most busy people who have a career and a social life.
That leaves lots of time outside of the gym and this is where most people screw up.
As a society we look for ways to NOT be active. We take the elevator, park close to the store, we take the easiest path from A to B whenever possible.
Not to mention, we sit around AND stuff our faces.
Sitting at a desk all day watching a screen or jumping from call to call can actually make you feel super sluggish.
Not to mention it doesn't burn a whole lot of calories.
So lets do the math...
We sit around, eat because we are tired (or bored and stressed), we feel super sluggish so we skip the gym, and then we try and find time "extra" time for more cardio or workouts.
When all we really need to do is consciously be more active...
Simple, yet crazy right?
We could DOUBLE our normal calorie per hour burn rate just by taking a walk a few times a day.
But you might be thinking "I don't have extra time to be active - what should I do?"
Here's a simple list of way to be more active:
1. Take phone calls standing up
2. Get a standing desk
3. Go for a nightly walk with your spouse
4. Do mobility work at your desk
5. Take the stairs
6. Park further away
7. Walk to the store
8. Do push-ups randomly
9. Workout during commercials
10. Have more sex
2. A SUSTAINABLE NUTRITION APPROACH
Let me let you in on a little secret...
ALL DIETS GET RESULTS!
There I said it. The cat is out of the bag and the beans are spilled. Whooooooooooooops.
Here's the kicker tho. Not all diets actually WORK. Because let's face it, when we say something "works" we don't mean it just works for 4 weeks or a couple days right?
When you buy a car do you expect it to break down after a month? Of course not! You expect it to be a reliable and sustainable vehicle. Otherwise you wouldn't have purchased it.
However, when it comes to diet fads we tend to describe them as "working" if we lose weight fast and see some changes in the mirror. The problem is that we tend to fall off the wagon with most extreme diets simply because they aren't sustainable.
Having to stick to a rigid meal plan, meal prepping 6-10 meals every night or having to spend thousands of dollars on special groceries each month isn't sustainable for most people. Of course your average celebrity can promote these crazy diets because they have a paid chef, they get the special products for free and they have a boatload of resources to invest in whatever they need to follow the plan. So lets just forget all that for a moment.
What if we took the good things from each "diet camp" and learned how to customize a sustainable nutrition approach using a few different methods?
Why do we have to be so divided? Wouldn't it make sense to get results by using the things that make sense for your unique lifestyle and nutrition preferences? Of course it would!
What's the perfect dietary approach?
Well there isn't one. But there are some principles that will help you embrace a healthy eating approach that is both sustainable and enjoyable.
Meaning, you'll get to enjoy life while looking and feeling good. #WINNING
1. Eat healthy foods 80%-90% of the time
Call it "eating clean" or "eating healthy" or whatever you want to call it...either way it has to be the core of your nutrition approach. Why? Simple because eating healthy is crucial for the body to function at its best. Food is information and that information gives your body what it needs to repair, rejuvenate and fight disease. Plus, eating healthy food makes you feel incredible.
Now this doesn't mean you can't enjoy a treat from time to time. Life is way too short to not enjoy some pizza and ice cream in moderation.
However, life will get a lot shorter if hot dogs and chips are your go-to food sources.
So lets find a healthy balance shall we? I like the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time you should eat really healthy. This means veggies, fruits, lean protein, healthy fats, and some carbs. Then 20% of the time you can enjoy "whatever".
But what does 80/20 really look like??
This is exactly how my clients eat.
We don't aim for perfection. We aim for balance and health.
A burger, a little ice cream and some Sunday morning French Toast is fine assuming the rest of the week is consistent. This is a long term strategy for staying consistent, enjoying the process and getting phenomenal results from your nutrition plan.
2. Avoid HUNGER
Hunger is one of the leading causes of falling off track with your nutrition plan. The body doesn't want to lose its precious fat stores, so the brain is phenomenal at creating hunger signals to get you to eat more. This is obviously an excellent response if we were dying of starvation, but in today's world that doesn't apply.
The best way to avoid hunger is to eat foods that fill you up and give you a level of satisfaction that doesn't leave you wanting more a few minutes after you finish your meal. If you combine that with drinking water, avoiding boredom by staying busy and a solid exercise program - your hunger should be held at bay for the most part.
Here's a list of my favorite HUNGER crushing foods that won't take up all your calories for the day..
3. Salads (careful of the dressings!)
5. Greek Yogurt
6. Frozen Fruit
10. Lean Ground Beef
3. Eat the Most When You're the Most Hungry
Sounds simple enough, but most people get this all wrong.
They have a moderate breakfast then a huge lunch and by the time dinner rolls around they're pretty hungry, but they've consumed most of their calories for the day already.
If you're usually the most hungry at night - plan accordingly by saving a good chunk of calories for your evening time.
Having a larger dinner followed by snack is fine assuming you've mapped it out and it keeps your calories where they need to be. However, if you need 2000 calories a day and you only have 200 left at dinner time (yet you're crazy hungry at night) good luck staying on track!
This is why people cave and give into their cravings. They aren't building their plan around their natural hunger patterns. If you're just blindly following a meal plan in a magazine or from an online fitness celebrity that told you to eat a certain way - your success will be average at best simply because the plan wasn't tailored to fit you and your life.
3. Train Smart but Don't Be a Pu**y
When it comes to losing body fat most people tend to head directly for the cardio machines in hopes that they'll burn tons of calories and the fat will melt off.
Well, my friend - while I LOVE cardio (you'll see what kind of cardio I prefer shortly) - replacing good ol' fashion resistance training (weights, bands, bodyweight) with cardio machines is a quick way to go from overweight to skinny fat.
In other words - training with resistance is KING when it comes to fat loss.
There's also a misconception that you have to absolutely destroy yourself each workout in order to see results. If you're not sore, bleeding, and limping after a workout then you didn't go hard enough . Well, that's complete BS.
In fact, training with all-out intensity each workout isn't the smartest route. This style of training can fry your nervous system, add tons of stress to the body, and hurt your fat loss efforts. Plus, if you can't move after a training session your NEAT (remember point #1?) will be struggling.
However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't train hard. Don't take this as an excuse to be a pu**y in the gym. Sorry for anyone who's offended by that, but if you're not even breaking a little sweat or your'e stopping every time your muscles begin to fatigue - well, good luck getting results.
Your training should be set up to build muscle and strength while losing fat. This doesn't mean you'll gain a ton of muscle while in a fat loss phase, but it will help protect and preserve the muscle tissue that you already have and quite possibly help you build some more (or at least strengthen the muscle you have now).
Strength training is often overlooked when it comes to getting lean.
You might have been told that doing high reps and tons of sets with zero rest is the way to go when trying to "tone up" or "get ripped".
Well, high reps have their place, but only if your workout programming is put together properly. Training to get stronger is a great way to build a body that looks more fit and performs at a higher level.
Both men and women should incorporate strength training to help with overall body function and health. Think about it...being strong is a major key to life. Being able to lift things without getting hurt sure helps. And there's always that "loved one being trapped under a car" situation right?
Ok lets talk cardio
What type of cardio should you do to get lean?
Well....all types have their place.
Going for long walks are great for mental and physical recovery, plus they do burn some calories.
For most people I recommend the longer duration, lower intensity cardio for days that they don't train with weights. And on training days I recommend metabolic cardio AKA 10-15 minutes of sweating and cursing at me.
This form of cardio isn't technically HIIT, but it's pretty high intensity. It involves picking some resistance training movements, lowering the normal weight used and doing some fun, yet challenging circuits.
Here's an example of Metabolic Cardio that I recommend my clients do.
Overall there's a time and a place for all types of cardio. It's sort of like the diet stuff - everything has its place if done correctly. Blindly following someone's cardio routine is a recipe for disaster.
One thing I want to stress is that if you're replacing resistance training with cardio you're making a huge mistake. Long term resistance training will keep you looking, feeling and performing at your best.
My rule of thumb for most is a 2:1 ratio of resistance training to cardio. Assuming you workout 4 times a week that would mean doing 2 metabolic sessions a week. You could then throw in some walking on other days to round things out.
THE FINAL PIECE: MINDSET
Whats the most important piece to losing fat and getting lean?
Its simply your mindset and the mental games that take place when pursuing new levels of fitness.
Getting lean is NOT an overnight process.
I run 8 Week Challenges and while the results are great, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to change your body in 2 months time.
The most impressive transformations have taken 4-6 months of incredible consistency and dedication to the plan.
Patience is key. Consistency is key. Taking action is key.
Aiming for progress - not perfection is crucial to success. So many people compare themselves to others and they fail to understand that their journey is unique - nobody's path is the same. Therefore it makes no sense to allow your happiness and satisfaction to take a hit by comparing yourself to others.
Focus on yourself.
Learn to enjoy the journey. It's a beautiful thing to see your body change over time. You'll feel incredible and your confidence will rise to new heights.
Finally, don't be so rigid and strict that you forget to enjoy life. Life is way too short to not enjoy the moments with friends, family and loved ones. Don't miss out on creating memories and sharing experiences. Find balance. Remember the 80/20 rule. It applies to life too.
WANT TO GET IN TOUCH WITH ME?
HERE'S A FREE GUIDE ON FAT LOSS FOR BUSY PEOPLE
I'm a husband and father of 2 who stays fit year round and enjoys LIFE 24/7/365 - so I like to write about that.