Hit a bump in the fat-burn road? Jumpstart your motivation, navigate surprising obstacles and get moving again with strategies from the experts.
The top trainer PT
Tegan Haining has worked with Jessica Gomes, Natalie Imbruglia and David Beckham. She’s the author of fitness and diet plan The 7 Day Quickie.
Decode your hormones
“Cortisol is our stress hormone and, when it’s elevated, we can hold fat more around our abdominal region, belly button and side profile. (FYI, a DEXA scan can show where you’re holding onto fat more in your body.) When you address stress, those extra five kilos might suddenly fall away. Our bodies let go of water weight we’re holding onto, we might not be comfort eating as much, we’re sleeping better. Learning to manage your stress levels is important – even just take a moment in your day for three deep calming breaths.”
“Cardio burns fat, but only while you’re doing that exercise. However, if you add resistance with body weight or weights, you carry on burning fat after you leave the gym. Why? Your body has to work to rebuild the muscle you’ve just broken down. That’s when your metabolism fires up because you need to convert energy to fuel those muscles. It’s not about trying to lift as much weight as you possibly can – I’ll do, say, 60-70 per cent of the most I could do. Do 10-12 reps of an exercise and then move onto another one.”
“People try and do everything very fast in the gym, but I’m always trying to get my clients to slow down. You might do a circuit-style training session with resistance and weights, but don’t be afraid of your rest period – that’s where the magic happens! You could give yourself 30-second rests between exercises. It feels like a long time but by the 20th set, you’re going to be loving those 30 secs. That’s when you’re getting oxygen back into your muscles and regaining strength, so then you get the most out of the working sets.”
“How you wake up really dictates your day. If you’re feeling irritable and angry, you’re probably going to take that attitude into your day and not do good things for yourself. Your growth hormones are also released at nighttime while you’re sleeping – they’re the ones responsible for building lean muscle and helping you burn fat – so not getting adequate sleep really does mean that a lot of people struggle to lose that extra layer. Going to bed at 1am? Try 10pm, bringing it earlier by increments of 15 minutes.”
Ditch bathroom scales
“If you’re gaining muscle and losing fat, you can still weigh the same amount. But people get so discouraged and frustrated by a number on the scales – and that’s a great way to have a chocolate croissant for breakfast instead of eggs and protein, because you think your efforts aren’t working. There are more accurate ways to track progress, like using a measuring tape, photos or finding a pair or jeans you can’t fit into, then seeing where you’re at after three months of training.”
Do the maths
“Look at the accumulative effect of your day-to-day patterns. Clients will say ‘I only have two glasses of wine in the evening’ but that’s still 14 glasses of wine a week. And if you’re struggling to lose the extra layer, could that be a contributing factor? If you cut back to one or two days a week, you’re getting rid of 10-12 units. That’s a lot! These are the little things that do make a difference to one or two kilos of weight in the body.”
Switch your mindset
“Understand that during busy times, it’s better to exercise two or three days a week and be satisfied with that, rather than putting pressure on yourself to work out every single day, and then feeling like a failure if you don’t do that. Three workouts a week is good! You can do effective exercise that’s going to keep you maintained – you might not be reaching new goals, but you’re going to stay on course, keep your energy levels high and stay motivated.”
The nutrition pro
Chloe Mcleod is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Sports Dietitian with a focus on gut health.
“Food diaries can be incredibly useful, as writing everything down means you become more aware of everything that’s going into your mouth. Also if your motivation’s flagging, come back to your goal. Even create an external reminder, like changing your phone background to the place you’re going on holiday in a few months.”
Eat the pizza (yes, really!)
“If there’s been too much restriction or deprivation, you feel like you’re missing out on things – a glass of wine or pizza – and after a while, you don’t want to [miss out] anymore, and it becomes harder to say ‘no’. I often talk to clients about still including some of those extra things throughout the weight-loss process, because it makes it much easier to maintain the changes they’ve been making. And it can be easier to say ‘no’, because you’ll know you’ll have those treats at a point when you really want them.”
Don’t discount weekends
“One of my clients [who’d hit a weight-loss plateau] was killing it with her food between Monday and Friday – 10 out of 10. But then, come Saturday, she’d have morning cake with her husband after the gym, then lunch with friends and usually half a bottle of wine in the evening. So suddenly her overall kilojoule intake for the day doesn’t compare to the rest of the week. It’s about looking where you can make small changes. In this case, she didn’t want to not have the cake, which is totally fine, so we looked at how we could make lunch a lighter affair, or not include some of the other snacks in the day.”
Crush cravings with carbs
“If you’re craving carbohydrates, often it’s because there haven’t been enough healthier carbs at other times of the day. Say, lunch is a tuna salad – a really healthy lunch, but a lot of the time because there are no carbohydrates there, you’ll end up being a bit hungry or looking for those carbs later on in the afternoon. Incorporating a small portion of the right carbs at lunch (like chickpeas, quinoa or sweet potato) can help manage that afternoon craving. Same with dinner and craving sweets afterwards.”
Spot hidden kJs
“Things like cordial (whether it’s sugar-containing or one with artificial sweetener) can add kilojoules or increase that taste for something sweet later in the day. A lot of smoothies and yoghurts, particularly flavoured ones, can be quite high in kilojoules, so be mindful of those. And if you like a milky coffee, maybe have one a day rather than two, or a piccolo instead of a large.”
“If you’re overeating it’s hard to lose weight – but also if you’re undereating, particularly with those last few kilos, which can be hard to lose because your body needs enough food to be able to function each day. I’m talking to more and more people about eating enough on a daily basis rather than cutting back.Your body needs enough food to function each day, and in some cases, eating too little can slow weight loss as your body tries to conserve fuel. Look at portions, the timing of meals, activity and training – if you’re getting up, walking your dog, going to a spin class and are pretty active, you’re going to have different energy requirements from somebody who gets up, goes to work, does a yoga class and that’s about it.”
“Legumes are one of the best food groups for weight loss. They’re really rich in fibre, are low GI and really good for your gut health, because of the prebiotic fibres they contain. Also focus on good-quality protein and eating a minimum of five serves of vegies each day, particularly the green leafy ones. Keep well hydrated, too.”
The mind expert
Glenn Mackintosh is a leading psychologist and the founder of Weight Management Psychology in Brisbane.
Get honest with yourself
“First off, ask if you’re really taking care of yourself? Are you eating nutritiously – not perfectly – and moving your body regularly and getting enough sleep? If so, your body’s going to find its natural weight. When people are trying to lose those last five or 10 kilos, sometimes what they’re actually doing is fighting against their body. If you’ve spent five years trying to get there, it might be that what you actually want is not to lose five kilos but to improve your body image. And that comes from learning to embrace the body you have now from a place of love and acceptance.”
“People who manage their weight best in the long term are intuitive eaters. They ask what their body is telling them – if it’s hungry, it’s saying I need to eat nutritious foods. When it starts to get full, that’s a natural sign to stop. How is a food is going to affect them? Not is it ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘allowed’ or ‘not allowed’, but will it make them feel satisfied and energised, or sluggish and tired? Intuitive eaters don’t have avoided foods; they just listen to their bodies. Be present, pause and ask, ‘is this food a good choice for me?’”
Get your mojo back
“Hypnotherapy is fantastic for motivation. It’s not someone controlling your mind; it’s just a process you go through with a qualified hypnotherapist that allows your mind to open to new ideas that are right for you on deeper levels. It’s very relaxing. Try a light self-hypnotic process at home – close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and imagine how you want the day to go. For example, you imagine yourself feeling stressed and tired at work, but then going for an afternoon walk and feeling good. In a relaxed state, you’re suggesting to yourself that you’ll actually do that.”
Expand the picture
“For most people, their ‘why’ or the reason they’re making changes is weight loss, and that’s not always helpful long-term. As soon as you get [to your goal], you often lose motivation. Your ‘why’ can be important, but try zooming out from the number on the scales and looking at <all> of the ‘whys’ – the multiple reasons it’s wonderful to take great care of yourself, like health and how it makes you feel.”
Tune into emotional eating
“Part of intuitive eating is noticing the non-hungry eating cues, so all of those other reasons we eat, whether it’s just because a food is there, somebody offered it or you’re emotional. Start to notice and deal with these cues. Actually acknowledge that emotional eating won’t make you feel any better (it’s like double dipping on a bad mood) and use it as a signal – ‘I’m having a food craving, I’m not hungry, so let’s look at what’s going on behind that craving’. If you’re not quite sure what you’re feeling, try free association writing – just get a piece of paper and start writing whatever comes into your mind. After a page or two, you’ll get to the issue.