There are only 3 words that summarize fitness (and nearly every other aspect of life): habits, habits, and habits. Big ones or small ones, habits determine nearly every course of action in your life. This rule doesn’t change when it comes to your physique and health. If anything, it is a prime example of what happens when you build good or bad habits. So, what are the most important habits most, if not all, lean individuals adhere to when it comes to their bodies? Here they are! (in no order of priority).
- They exercise on a regular basis
From my personal experience over the last 11 years this habit seems to be the easiest for most people to follow. Why? It’s the simplest rule: start moving. Going for a jog, a few laps in the pool, a spin class, a bootcamp session, or just whatever you feel like doing in the weight room. The point is you need to get moving and stay moving. Ideally, you’ll eventually find your rhythm and the style of exercise that suits you best. Don’t worry about perfecting the best workout (they don’t exist). However, there are workouts that are effective than others depending on your goals. Only be concerned with finding an activity you enjoy doing 2-4x a week. You’ll experiment and find your groove.
- They stay aware of their body stats
There are several ways to do this but what matters is that you’re consistent with the metric you use to measure progress. You can use photos (very popular option), body measurements with a tape measurer (I would have a professional help you do this properly), how your clothes fit (especially, if it’s a tighter fitting outfit you want to wear again), or body measurements (calipers, Dexascans). The last one is the most accurate way to track results simply due to its ability to highlight when you’ve made progress but are not noticing drastic changes in the mirror. The grand results most people seek with fitness takes months and years to achieve. Micro changes in body fat and muscle mass will help keep you motivated.
A prime example was a client who recently completed 3.5 months of training. He said his clothes were fitting loser, felt stronger, more energetic, etc. However, he said he didn’t think there was much change in the mirror. I explained that he has physically changed but you look at yourself in the mirror daily. It’s hard to notice the changes because they’re sublte. So, we do a InBody scan. While he only lost 9lbs on the scale (he was not happy with only 9lbs) we measured his body fat percentage and muscle mass. Turns out he lost TWELVE POUNDS of pure FAT! He added 1lbs of lean muscle tissue while losing 4% body fat. The look on his face said it all; he was much happier knowing he’s been making progress this whole time
- They eat similar foods most days
OK, this is the part most of you don’t want to hear but it’s 100% true. If you want to have a lean physique you’re not going to stray too far from the staple foods that help make and keep someone lean. Yes, there are a multitude of websites out there which can help you spice up the variety of foods so you can enjoy the diet but, as you’ll see below, the time is takes to make a dozen different dishes can be very time consuming. You’ll want to keep things simple at first but you can always expand upon the diet. To help you out here are a list of the food categories and foods that you will find in most lean individuals homes:
PROTEIN: All fish (tuna, salmon, etc.), seafood (shrimp, scallops, etc.), chicken breast, turkey breast, any beef/steak/turkey that’s 90% or leaner, egg whites, low fat/fat free cottage cheese, low fat/fat free Greek yogurt
VEGGIES: Broccoli, spinach, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, various peppers, asparagus, cabbage, pickles, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, Brussels sprouts, green beans, mushrooms, yellow squash, and carrots.
HEALTHY FATS: Nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios, etc.), avocado, olive oil, and any natural nut butter.
HEALTHY CARBS: Whole grain bread, brown rice (sometimes white), whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, quinoa, and any fruit (ideally, post workout).
That’s it! If you really look at it there are hundreds, if not thousands, of combinations you can do with the food list above. If you’re still thinking, “This is boooring,” then I have to ask you, “What did you eat for breakfast today? How about yesterday? The day before?” I’m willing to bet you ate the same thing every morning. I’d venture to say you ate the same lunch most days of the week as well. So, you’re already used to eating the same foods.
- They know how to control hunger
This takes some practice. Knowing that you’re “hungry” because you’re either bored or thirsty is no longer a trade secret. Enough studies and pop culture articles have pointed out that most of the time you’re trying to kill time or you just need some water instead of food when you think you’re hungry. But, that still doesn’t make it easy to resist the urge to reach for the jar of M&Ms ® at the office or the bag of chips in the cupboard at night. There are a few simple tricks that can help you through those moments of weakness.
First, figure out what time of day you begin to feel the hunger. It’s usually the same time most days of the week. Second, have a prepared healthy snack alternative ready for you. A few examples would be a protein bar, apple, banana, cup of greek yogurt, or any varied nutrition bar (nutri-grain doesn’t count!). Ideally, you want a snack that’s easily transportable, purchasable, and high in either protein or fiber. Stick to that and you’ll be ok.
- They prioritize their workouts and meals
You’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy! Yet, I still meet the single mom with 2 kids who finds time to meal prep and workouts. So, if she can do it you can do it. Yes, that means you might have to get up earlier than you like to workout. Yes, it means you’ll have to spend a few hours on the weekend meal prepping instead of binge watching the latest show on Netflix. The point is you do have the time to do both. That doesn’t mean you have to make extravagant gourmet meals or workout at the local gym for 2 hours a day. Cook large batches of food and do at-home workouts (there are numerous versions of these workouts online or you can hire me J for remote programming).
As an example of someone who wanted to continue working out but was finding little time is my younger brother. He’s married with a newborn and he works 45 min. from home, often working long hours and not getting home until 8pm. He wants to spend time with his wife and newborn so he realized the only time he can workout that doesn’t interfere with quality family time was at 530am. That means he needs to be up by 5am at the latest. He throws his gym clothes on, downs some coffee, and hits the gym. So, a husband/father with a long commute and long working hours figured it out. So can you.
- They always get back on track
Guess what? Lean people screw up from time to time! They’re not perfect. They’ll over indulge when it comes to eating out with friends or being lazy and not working out. Sometimes even lean people can get into a rut. However, there is a huge difference between their “rut” and yours; they don’t let the “rut” consume their life for very long. Typically, when a lean person falls off the wagon of meal prepping, training, etc. they get right back up with 1-2 weeks. Very, very rarely does the “rut” take longer than a few weeks. Another difference is the lean persons “rut” cycles happen once in a blue moon, sometimes once a year. If you plan on becoming and staying lean then remember to get back on the wagon ASAP and not fall off for an extended period of time.
STAY FIT MY FRIENDS!