I believe success begins with good habits. I never used to floss my teeth. It just seemed like such a pain and waste of time. Then I thought about how simple it was with such a big return (things like prevention of cavities and heart disease), so I decided to start. At first it was difficult, but after a few weeks of consistently doing it, it’s automatic. In fact, I can’t go a night without doing it. That’s how powerful a habit can be.
Here are 10 simple but powerful habits to help burn fat.
1. After your feet touch the floor in the morning, say your “WHY” – I know what you’re thinking “How is talking to myself going to help me burn fat?” Hear me out on this one.
Why do you want to improve or? Lose weight? You need a very strong motivation – wanting to have better health so you don’t suffer or set a good example for your kids. If looking good is not a motivator, feeling strong or empowered may be.
The fact is, if you don’t have a strong “why”, you’re much more likely to fail. By repeating your “why” first thing in the morning, you program your mindset for that day. So when something gets difficult (i.e. you get a sugar craving or consider skipping a workout), you fall back on your “why”. It motivates you to do what you need to do to burn fat.
2. Eat a high-protein breakfast (20-30g or at least 40% of your breakfast calories) – Consider this your battery’s jump-starter. Protein not only boosts your metabolism, it keeps you full longer, and decreases carb impulses. Starting with carbs in the morning can increase hormones that lead to fat gain. Protein also contains amino acids that build lean muscle, and muscle burns fat. So eat some eggs (with yolks), drink up a protein shake, or both in the morning.
3. Skip breakfast once in a while – It’s called intermittent fasting (IF). IF has a hormonal response that causes your body to release more growth hormone, which helps to preserve lean tissue and increases utilization of stored body fat. In addition to fat loss, IF’s potential benefits include improved cholesterol numbers and insulin sensitivity; promotion of cellular, increased lifespan (in animal studies), better athletic performance, and better appetite control.
There are many variations to this but the most common is a compressed feeding window, often eating all your meals somewhere between four and eight hours. The timing of this window varies depending on the individual’s schedule and preferences. After the IF period, listen to your body – you don’t have to make up for “lost calories” but don’t be afraid of getting the same amount of calories that you would normally get. This isn’t so much about total calories as it is about the episodic deprivation.
Once you become fat adapted (burning fat as fuel rather than sugar - learn more here), this becomes much easier than you would think. Try it once a week for a month and see if it works for you. I typically do this twice a week, eating from 11AM-7PM (16/8).
Note: Before attempting IF, make sure you’re getting good and sufficient sleep, minimizing or mitigating stress, and exercising well, as IF can be an additional stressor on the body.
4. Workout on an empty stomach – When you wake after sleeping for 8 hours, your body has most likely burned through its stored carbs and coverts to burning fat. When you work out first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything (except water, plain tea or coffee), your body taps into your stored fat for fuel.
CAUTION: You may not be able to immediately start working out on an empty. If you feel sick or don’t have the energy, try drinking a light protein smoothie before working out and eventually eliminate that. I like drinking evolved coffee before working out if I feel I need something in my stomach.
5. Remove all unhealthy (processed) food from your home and work – If it’s not there, you can’t eat it, especially when bored or stressed. This works. Since you probably spend a majority of the time at these two places, 80% of the temptation is eliminated. If you stick to this habit, treat yourself once and a while when you’re out.
The key is not to starve yourself but to replace processed food with healthy options. Having healthy snacks on hand and always available will allow you to avoid temptation.
6. Drink water and tea throughout the day – Water keeps you satiated and hydrated which reduces the possibility of binging or unnecessary eating. Water also ensures optimal liver function for fat loss. I like to use a water infuser like this one to keep my water flavored and boost its antioxidant content.
7. Get your cortisol under control (sleep and stress) – Cortisol is the stress hormone. If you’re consistently getting poor sleep or not managing your stress properly, cortisol can increase. This causes your body to store fat. Acquiring good sleeping habits and stress management techniques can put fat-burning on autopilot.
8. Try to get in at least 10,000 steps in every day – You don’t have to work-out intensely every day - just the act of moving often throughout the day can change your body composition. Pick up a FitBit or some other activity tracker and try for 10,000 steps each day. This is my secret weapon for fat loss and it’s really simple. Set reminders to stand up and walk if needed.
9. Read all ingredient labels - Familiarize yourself with everything that you put into your body. When you become cognizant of what you put into your body, you’ll be less likely to eat what makes you fat. Avoid labels that have ingredients with forms of added sweeteners, real or artificial (honey, agave nectar, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, sugar).
Also avoid forms of processed grains or gluten like bran, germ, malt, starch, modified food starch, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP), texturized vegetable protein (TVP), binders, fillers, natural flavoring. Avoid unhealthy oils like soybean and other seed oils like corn, canola, sunflower, safflower, and grapeseed oil along with margarine or low-fat, low-cholesterol “spreads.”
10. Mindfully eat – Mindfully eating involves chewing slowly (30-45 chews) and being intentional by putting your fork down after each bite. Taste all the flavors of your food – experience its feel, its weight, its appearance, its dimensions, its texture and taste, and don’t drink while chewing. Also, be mindful of the amount of carbohydrates and processed food you eat. You may be surprised. Being mindful can help you reduce the amount you eat (and probably need). You will become more conscious of WHAT you eat as well.
Commit to making small, incremental improvements - rather than pressuring yourself into thinking that you have to do it all at once. If you're interested in incorporating more fat-burning habits into your life, click here.
What habits would you want to incorporate into your daily routine? Are you interested in learning more about using habits to burn fat and live a healthier life?