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Monday, October 10, 2005

Seven Keys to Permanent Weight Loss Success (Part 3 of 4)

Copyright © 2005 Jeremy Likness

This is part 3 of the 4-part "Seven Keys to Permanent Weight Loss Success" series.

Key #4: Make it a lifestyle

You’ve heard this one so much you probably don’t even pay attention to it anymore. The idea of a lifestyle change has become a cliché. Sure, we all want to avoid the yo-yo diet plan and make something permanent, but few people really take the effort to learn how.

Are you one of those people dead-set in making a difference, so you strap on your shoes, load your refrigerator with nothing but chicken and broccoli, then put on your blinders and focus 110% for twelve weeks until you reach your goal?

What happens after that?

Most people celebrate. They eat a lot. They take a break from training.

A few weeks later, they are back to square one. Instead of feeling great, they talk about how great it felt. Instead of looking terrific, they tell old stories like grandfathers in rocking chairs, “I remember when I could see my shoes and not my belly when I’d look down at my feet.”

It’s great to have focus and to take on the challenge and really pursue it. But have you stopped to think about what happens after?

Are you training and dieting for a few weeks, or for life?

Let me ask you this … if it’s for life, can you imagine yourself eating the way you are eating from now until you are six feet under with a bouquet of flowers above your head? If not, it’s time to change.

You see, living healthy doesn’t have to be about diets and horrendous workouts. It can be about fun. I still recall the first time I set down the barbell and put on a pair of running shoes. Several people wrote me, horrified at the thought of how my muscles would wilt and wither from the rigors of training for a half marathon. How could I give up the admirable iron game for some lousy 13-mile run through the woods? What was I thinking?

The truth is, I’m beyond the need to compare my self-worth to the depth of my abdominal cuts or the girth of my biceps. I’m in this for life, and that means having fun. While I enjoy grabbing rusty dumbbells and slinging them around as I grunt, groan, and sweat like I’m taking an indoor shower, there’s more to life than weight-lifting. That’s why I like to ski, jog, and do other activities as well. I make it fun. And you know what? I can do fun. I don’t have to always have a workout sheet and a pen to stay in shape. Sometimes all I need is a good pair of shoes, two hours of free time, and the good green earth to make my rounds.

The same is true for nutrition. Live a little. Experiment with healthy recipes. Understand what “better bad choices” and “portion control” means. If I want some cheesecake, I might order a slice and split it with my wife and daughter. You’ll catch me eating a slice of pizza on occasion, and even sipping on a glass of red wine. The key is moderation. I don’t have to count the days until my diet is over because I’m focused on the process, not the end result. Learn to get out of the finish line and into the race. You’ll enjoy it more.

Key #5: Listen to your body

“Jeremy, I can’t finish my cardio workouts because I get dizzy and nauseous when I do them first thing in the morning, but I can’t eat food because they said I have to have an empty stomach to burn fat.”

“Jeremy, I know I need a ton of protein, but I just can’t seem to get it down. I get ill eating so much protein. How will I ever build muscle?”

These questions are common, because instead of listening to their body, many people are giving up their power by following the current trend or diet program. Your body has built-in mechanisms that can teach you a lot about what you are doing and if it is working. A healthy person knows when it is time to eat, because they get hungry. A healthy person also knows whether or not they require protein. These instincts are built in, but the S.A.D. diet (Standard American Diet) is so loaded with processed food that has no counterpart in nature, it’s no wonder the signal is getting lost.

What happens when you are next to a busy intersection with a constant buzz of cars going by? Eventually, you will tune out the noise. It becomes part of the background. If you are standing next to a deserted road, however, the occasional car whizzing by will attract your attention. You’ll be “in tune.”

The typical diet is so loaded with salt that it completely nullifies your sense of taste. When you try to eat something that is low salt or salt-free, it tastes bland and disgusting. You reach immediately for the salt shaker or at least grab a bottle of Mrs. Dash and cover it with herbs and spices.

Try going without added salt for just four weeks. This is an experiment I experienced first hand, as did my wife, and so do many of my clients. The first few weeks are not fun, because everything is so dull. Then, just like a smoker who has stopped sucking on smoke for a few weeks, something amazing happens. Slowly but surely, your taste will return. Suddenly, you become aware of the subtle flavors in vegetables, fruits, grains, meats, and other foods that just tasted like salt and seasoning before. It’s an amazing experience, if you let it happen.

By removing the additives, preservatives, refined sugars, processed grains, and other artificial components of your diet, you can start to sense your needs for protein and carbohydrates as well. I don’t follow the traditional “slab of meat at every meal” bodybuilder diet. I know it’s popular, but I choose to listen to my body.

I’ve force fed pounds of protein and the end result might be a little more muscle mass, but it also leaves me staring at a block of steak wishing I was somewhere else and hoping I never have to taste a bite of meat ever again. That’s not living … it’s dieting, and I’d rather live healthy than diet miserably. So, I stay in tune. If I crave protein, I eat it. If not, I might just have a vegetarian dish. I listen to my body.

If you have the most energy on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, go for it. If you’re one of those who feels dizzy and weak, then listen to your body. Stop worrying about what “they” say about an empty stomach. Instead, get some food, let it digest, and then get to work. Whatever fat-burning benefit you might have from training on empty will be negated by your lack of energy. Add some fuel and then push down on the accelerator and go full throttle. In the end, it’s calories that are king, not whether or not you time the meal before or after your workout.

If you thrive on high protein and lower carbohydrates, that’s great. Personally, I get extremely irritable when I reduce my carbohydrates and get sick of eating protein when I raise my protein intake. So instead of giving up my power to the almighty diet, I listen to my body. I figure it knows what it wants. Of course, the trend is that you have to cut carbohydrates to lean down, so I made certain I lost 35 pounds and cut down to 7% body fat while eating 300 grams of carbohydrates and 90 grams of protein per day to prove that, first, you can lose fat even with carbohydrates in your system, and second, it doesn’t take pounds of meat and tubs of protein powder to maintain a muscular physique. The proof is in the pudding – you can see my menus and my progress here:

Bottom line, get comfortable with you. Stop ignoring your body. Listen to it. If you find that your “splurge meals” are making you sick, think about the message your body is giving you and decide if you are going to continue it week after week, or if it’s time to take off the training wheels and grow up. You don’t have to have pizza every week to enjoy life.

(Continued in Part 4)


Jeremy Likness is an author, motivational speaker, international health coach, Certified Fitness Trainer and Specialist in Performance Nutrition. He wrote the internationally selling book, Lose Fat, Not Faith (ISBN 0976907925) after losing 65 pounds of fat. He was a Top Finisher in a 2000 Physique Transformation competition. Read more articles by Jeremy at

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Copyright 2006