Let me just start off this post by saying that weight loss isn’t easy. I struggled for years to lose weight and gain muscle before I figured out how to hack my body’s unique physiology and get to the point where I’m now able to drop 5-7 pounds in a matter of days. So today, although I’m going to share with you some of the techniques that have helped me along the way, I want you to keep in mind that your own results may vary, based on a number of different factors.
Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get down to business!
If you read my last post on how my success at losing weight has helped me to maximize my business progress, you know that the story of how I gained weight in the first place was a pretty common one. Although I’d always been active growing up, working cubicle jobs early on in my career trashed my eating habits and made it hard to fit in the necessary time for exercise.
The result was an extra 40 pounds, which wouldn’t seem to come off – no matter how many short-lived diet or exercise programs I went on!
Eventually, I knew I had to do something to improve my health, which led to the lifestyle changes I described in more detail back in my first post on this subject. After about six months of crazy diets, 10-12 hours at the gym each week and an intense amount of self-discipline, I was finally down to my goal weight.
At first, I was on Cloud 9. It felt great to have finally “cracked the code” on what I needed to do to lose weight, and to have the people in my life notice how much better I was looking as a result of my lifestyle changes.
Unfortunately, that sense of optimism all came crashing down when I realized that my initial weight loss was the easy part. The hard part of the process would actually be keeping the 40 pounds I’d so proudly lost off for the rest of my life!
After coming to the realization that I’d need a long-term plan to sustain the weight loss I’d achieved, I took a few days off of dieting and just brainstormed. I knew that if I was going to keep this up for the next 50-60 years, I’d need a plan that was easy to follow and that could account for things like vacations, traveling and high-stress days at the office. Oh yeah, and did I mention that I needed things to be easy…?
That whole process occurred about a year ago, and since then, I’m happy to report that I’ve found a number of different “hacks” that have helped me to maintain both my weight loss and my better-muscled physique. While these aren’t techniques I use every day, they’re great tools to have in my back pocket in case I fall off the wagon for a few days and need an extra boost to get me back on track.
1. Do math
It sounds silly, but our brains actually use a tremendous amount of energy – equal to roughly 20% of our basal metabolic rates (even though these organs only account for 2% of total body weight). In addition, the neural activity required to form and transmit thoughts uses glucose – ergo, the more mental activity, the more glucose burned.
According to Harry Chugani, a neurologist of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan who was profiled in a 2006 Popular Science article:
“The more energy an area of the brain wants, the more glucose that part of the brain will break down. So yes, if you´re thinking really hard and really struggling with your thoughts, the neurons in the frontal lobes of your brain will be burning a lot more glucose.”
Want to burn more calories? Find whatever subject you struggle with the most and immerse yourself in it. As an added bonus, you won’t be distracted or compelled to eat junky foods out of boredom!
2. Drink caffeine
Caffeine actually offers a number of different weight loss benefits. In the words of Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky, it can suppress appetite, increase your metabolism (which, in turn, burns more calories) and even encourage water loss by acting as a diuretic.
Now, obviously, drinking a couple of cups of coffee isn’t going to take 40 pounds off alone – and if you pair that coffee with a box of donuts, you definitely aren’t going to see an affect. But by pairing caffeine consumption with the other weight loss hacks described here, it is possible to see dramatic weight loss results over a relatively quick period of time.
3. Avoid eating after 7:00pm
Besides powering our resource-hungry brains, a substantial percentage of our body’s energy is diverted to the process of digestion. Breaking down the foods we take in on a daily basis requires a lot of energy – though the specific amount varies based on whether you’re eating too much food or foods that are difficult to digest. If you fill up with foods that require excess energy to process, your body must redirect resources away from tertiary needs (like cell repair, detoxification or fat storage modulation) in order to facilitate digestion.
To stimulate weight loss, we want to free up energy for these additional uses – and one way to do that is to avoid eating after 7:00pm. Giving our digestive systems this time off allows us to maximize the restorative powers of sleep by refocusing much-needed resources on bodily functions that often take a second seat to the needs of digestion. The result, as you might expect, is faster weight loss brought on by this simple trick.
4. Eliminate fruit or carbs after 3:00pm
In addition to giving the body enough time to digest its intake properly, it’s also important to avoid the swings in blood sugar brought on by eating carbs or fruits (which are laden with the difficult-to-process sugar, fructose) late in the day. Avoiding these foods after 3:00pm will help the body to normalize blood sugar levels and reduce the load on the insulin-producing pancreas – both of which can be helpful in dropping pounds quickly.
5. Get angry
This is another little hack I use when I want to lose weight fast. It may sound strange, but being angry increases your heart rate by 10-15 beats per minute – which, in turn, burns more calories.
Now, I’m not saying you should be angry all the time (really, that’s not good for your blood pressure or your cortisol levels). But if there was ever a time to express your upset feelings, losing weight is one of them! For an extra calorie-burning boost, burn off that anger with an intense workout or kickboxing session.
6. Avoid sugar altogether
There’s tons of research coming out right now about just how bad for us sugar really is. In fact, plenty of health researchers believe that the excess consumption of sugar is a causative agent in the development of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and even common cancers.
But I’m not here to lecture you about whether sugar is a harmless sweetener or potent toxin. What I can tell you from my personal experience is that giving up sugar for a few days – and, consequently, getting your body off the constant cycle of blood sugar spikes, insulin production and unnecessary fat storage – is a great way to drop a few pounds quickly.
7. Take a cold shower
Tim Ferriss talks about this one in his weight loss hacking book, “The 4-Hour Body” – and I’ve certainly seen proof in my own life that taking cold showers or cold plunges can help rev up your metabolism.
According to the science behind this hack, when you subject the body to cold water, it compensates by boosting internal temperature – which occurs through the speeding up of the metabolism. Since a higher metabolism results in more calories burned, regular cold showers can give your weight loss efforts an added boost (though, again, you aren’t going to drop 40 pounds using cold showers alone!).
8. Use intermittent fasting (IF)
Finally, one weight loss hack I use to drop weight quickly is intermittent fasting, or “IF.” IF involves incorporating periods of “mini fasts” into my daily routine, typically stretching from 8-12 hours long. Often, I’ll do this by skipping either breakfast or dinner in order to increase the amount of time I’m going without eating by pairing IF with my sleep schedule.
IF works for the same reasons described above in hack #3. By taking brief breaks from consuming regular meals, we give our bodies the chance to redirect their energies to processes that are often cut short in favor of digestion. The result isn’t just weight loss – it’s also a cleaner, stronger feeling of health and wellness.
Again, I’m not a doctor – and I certainly can’t say that these tricks will work for you as well as they’ve worked for me. However, I highly recommend taking the time to get to know your own body in order to learn how to promote fast and easy weight loss. It’s incredibly empowering to learn more about your unique physiology – and it comes in awfully handy before class reunions, conference presentations and other public events!