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So you’ve decided it’s high time you got rid of that gut. So you join a gym and/or try to eat better. You do that for a few weeks. But… nothing has changed. The gut is still there. What’s the deal? It’s not what you’re doing—it’s what you’re not doing. Check out the following list to see where you’ve fallen off the get-fit train, so you can get back on and ride it all the way to Slimsville. (OK, we may have extended that metaphor a little too far, but you get the idea).
1. You’re Not Tracking Calories
It’s been proven that the only way to lose weight is to run a calorie deficit (eat less than you burn). The only way to assure you’re running a deficit is by tracking what you’re eating, at least for a while. Tracking not only keeps you in check but also it sheds light on high-calorie foods that you once thought were OK to binge on.
2. You’re Not Tracking What You Drink
Maybe you are tracking calories and eating pretty well. But then you head out for a couple of beers with friends. It turns out a pint of decent (non-light) beer has about 240 calories in it. Multiply that by however many grogs you’re grabbing, and you’ll see where your calorie deficit went.
3. You’re Not Moving
You’ve gotta get off your butt to kick your metabolism into burn mode. When you spend all day sitting, you’re storing all those calories even if you do some running or biking on the weekend. Get up from your desk and go for a walk after lunch. Stand up and stretch. An hour of exercise is great but move around even on your rest days. Every little bit counts!
4. You’re Not Lifting Things
Ever notice that people who only spend time on treadmills or running rarely get that super-fit look? Sure, they might drop pounds, but a lot of that weight is much-needed musculature. Lifting weights (or any kind of resistance exercise) is critical not only for overall health and bone density, but muscle burns more calories over time: the more muscle you carry, the more calories you burn just existing, so even sitting at a desk, you’re burning more calories than your friend who runs marathons. Science!
5. You’re Not Sleeping
You’re one of those guys who says he can get by on four to five hours of sleep per night. If “getting by” is your goal, then move on, Fatty. For the rest of us, seven to eight hours of sleep is critical for weight loss. Sleep is when our bodies reset, rebuild, and—yes—burn fat. What’s more, when you sleep well, your workouts go better, and you snack less. You can see where this is going.
6. You’re Not Eating Breakfast
The most important meal of the day is just that. Having a good breakfast kicks your metabolism into gear. You might think skipping the calories in the morning is an easy win since you don’t “feel” hungry, but you’ll make up for those calories later on, and you’ll lose out on a productive morning. Don’t. Skip. Breakfast.
7. You’re Not Drinking Water
You know how you get that afternoon hunger and just grab a diet soda and some chips thinking that’ll get you through the rest of the day? You may be right, but it could also be that you’re just thirsty. Keep a big bottle of water nearby and try to refill it at least three times throughout the day. You’ll notice those hunger pangs start to fade. Plus, water helps flush the bad stuff out of your body.
8. You’re Not Having Fun When You Exercise
If your workouts feel like a chore, chances are pretty good that you’ll dread them, and chances are better that you’ll stop doing them. When exercise becomes fun, you’ll look forward to it, and you’ll do it more often. In fact, you’ll forget you’re even exercising. Find something you can geek out on—mountain biking, weight lifting, CrossFit, capoeira. Just find something you honestly enjoy. Get past the “exercise is bad” mindset.
9. You’re Depressed or Stressed Out
When you’re stressed out, your body releases adrenaline to try to give you that run-from-the-predator jolt (in modern times, said “predator” is often work or relationship issues). It also releases cortisol, which sticks around longer and increases appetite (this is why we stress eat). But when you exercise and start getting healthier, those same endorphins can keep your mood up and your appetite in check. Make ’em work for you!
10. You’re Not Eating Fiber
Simply put, fiber makes you feel full, and it moves food through your digestive system. Eating more fiber means you’re eating fewer calories (it takes up room), and fewer calories means fat loss. In other words, Mom was right about the greens!