If you’re like most people, you’ve put on both pounds and inches over the past months. With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays being centered around eating, eggnog and parties, and New Year’s Eve centered around booze, it’s no surprise that jeans are a bit harder to button up this time of year.
But the worst part of it is that the weight gain is 100 percent fat. Face it—you probably haven’t spent much time in the gym building heavy muscle over the past two months, but you have been eating more than usual. Recent frigid temperatures may persuade you to do less outdoor exercise. And since fat is a lightweight substance compared to muscle, you may have put on a thicker layer than you realize.
To start the new year out right, here’s my gift to you: some lesser-known fat facts to help get rid of unwanted holiday flab.
First, the good news: Recently gained fat is easier to lose than fat you’ve stored for a while. It’s the adaptation principal: Your body has a “set point” for its normal amount of fat. That’s why it often takes so long to start losing it—to simplify the science, think of it as your body wanting to make sure you’re serious before getting into action about losing fat, or storing it permanently. So, burning it off now will be easier than later, after you’ve been carrying it around for a while.
Second, do not—I repeat, not—think of losing holiday fat by going on a diet. When does a “diet” end? What then? How much guilt and stress do you suffer when you cheat? A diet is a temporary and negative way to look at losing weight. Instead, go for a lifestyle diet change: less bread and processed food, more veggies and poultry. Chocolate, pastries and candy as only occasional treats. Eat smaller portions. Your stomach and hunger set point will adjust within a week; your eyes will adjust so the smaller portions will seem normal. You’ll eat less without even being conscious of it—and without suffering.
Remember that your body adjusts faster than you may realize. Skip meals, and your body quickly goes into famine alert, slowing your metabolism down and storing more calories as fat. To kick fat-burning up a notch, eat a small bit of nonfattening food when you first get up (a handful of baby carrots is perfect). That gets your digestive system churning so your metabolism doesn’t stay slowed from the fasting of your sleep-filled night. Then do some aerobic exercise for at least 15 minutes. That revs up your metabolism, which now requires more calories for fuel. But since the only calories freely available are those low-cal baby carrots, your system will reach into your fat storage for fuel. Burn, baby, burn. Afterward, with your metabolism still working overtime, eat your most carb-filled meal of the day—a kind of post-breakfast breakfast. Carbs such as cereal will now have more chance of being burned, rather than stored as fat.
An important fact: You do want to snack (a little) throughout the day to prevent your metabolism from getting sluggish. But make those snacks low-calorie. If you give your system a constant supply of calories, it will never need to go into your stored fat for fuel.
Finally, you probably already know that the most common New Year’s resolution involves getting more exercise, either to start shaping a beach-ready body, get in better physical condition, lose fat, or all three. What’s the best way to accomplish that?
It isn’t just aerobics or weightlifting. According to a study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, the best way to get leaner as well as stronger is a carefully balanced program using both aerobics and anaerobics (resistance). The 11-week study, with three workouts a week, showed that the biggest weight loss came from a routine of a brief aerobic exercise that raised the heart rate, followed by the same brief time period of resistance exercises that worked major muscle groups.
Happy New Year to all my readers. May you lose fat and gain prosperity.