The Sword In The Stone was one of the first Disney movies I watched as a kid.
It’s a great story with amazing principles applicable to losing fat and keeping it off long-term.
You see, many tried to pull the sword from the stone using brute force and strength. But, Arthur, using the right tactics (magic of course) was eventually able to pull the sword successfully from the stone and become King of England.
Thankfully, you don’t need magic to lose fat (but it would help). What you really need is to follow sound principles and stick to the basics.
Below are the best laws for losing fat, getting lean, and staying there long-term.
Law 1: It’s All About Habits.
Dr. Oz says you need Raspberry ketones, your friend says you need the fad diet they are on. There is so much misinformation in our world. It’s confusing.
But, it’s important to understand weight loss is easy. Sustaining weight loss is the truly difficult part.
Anyone can go on a grapefruit diet and lose 7 pounds in 7 days. It’s called water weight. The weight comes back, your metabolism works worse than before the diet and you get into the yo-yo dieting cycle.
At Village, our clients follow a habit-based approach to nutrition. We work on implementing one habit at a time until its just that, a habit, and then progress by adding in another habit.
When you add and integrate habits in a sequential manner, it leads to sustainable fat loss that lasts long-term.
Law 2: The Law Of Strength Training
When it comes to losing fat, we lift to maintain lean muscle and cue our bodies to preferentially burn fat instead of muscle.
The last thing you want is to lose 15 pounds and realize you don’t look like you’d hoped (skinny-fat syndrome) and you feel crummy. Strength training will result in faster fat loss and a lean, athletic physique and help you feel strong and vibrant.
Lift heavy (for you) at least 2X per week. At Village, we make sure to hit one movement in each movement category (squat, deadlift, lunge, upper body push, upper body pull, and twist/core). We make sure to use weights which are challenging for each client to ensure their metabolism is running high and their body knows it needs to keep muscle around to lift the heavy things again. Lower reps like 4 to 8 with heavy weights seem to work best.
Law 3: The Law Of Caloric Restriction
You have to lower your calories to lose weight. But it’s imperative not to lower your calories too quickly or drastically.
Fat loss is governed by the balance of energy in our bodies.
The energy we take in comes from food and drinks and the energy we put out comes from our metabolism, and exercise. If you burn more calories than you consume, you should lose fat. This is a simplified version of what’s really going on. But, it’s true.
All diets which lead to weight loss are, at their core, caloric restriction.
Whole 30: you only have a small array of foods to choose from which helps you eat less and lose weight.
Shakeology: Drink these 300 calorie shakes instead of a normal 700 calorie meal 2X per day. They are magical (*not really, they are just way less calories than a normal meal) and you will lose weight.
Law 4: The Law Of Eating Enough
Ok, this may seem to contradict Law 3. But bear with me.
You need to eat enough calories to keep your metabolism running high. This is why it’s of the utmost importance to make sure you are consuming enough calories and not in too drastic a restriction.
I’ll often hear from folks how successful they were with a really low calorie diet like Medifast, Shakeology, Atkins, etc. Then, they tell me how they were unable to keep the weight off after the diet was over. Nearly every time.
This is due to metabolic rebound. When our body senses we are in a state of starvation, it lowers metabolic processes in an attempt to restore energy balance. Once you’re back to eating normally, it takes a while to catch back up. This is what leads to weight gain after a diet stops.
I would recommend simply tracking everything you are eating, eating slowly, mindfully (more on this later), and starting to add in exercise. If these don’t get you fully to your goals, then you can start to think about restricting calories.
Law 5: The Law Of Knowing Why
“There are two ways to influence human behavior. You can inspire it or you can manipulate it.” Simon Sinek, Start With Why.
In order to stay inspired on our journey to lose body fat, we need to know why we started in the first place.
Seeing our blood pressure go down, a leaner mid-section, or having a more toned backside won’t be enough to push through on the days you really don’t feel like working out and eating well.
Something deeper like wanting to feel confident in a swimsuit next summer or taking care of your body so you can be there for your kids and grandkids is much better.
You see, fat loss isn’t the goal. The goal is the results you achieve from losing the fat. It’s the confidence you gain, the feeling of taking care of your body, looking good in a swimsuit or with your shirt off.
Digging deep and looking for motivation can be an uncomfortable exercise. You may not like what you find, but it will be well worth it.
Law 6: The Law Of Food Journaling
Tracking calories and food journaling is a must at some point in your weight loss journey.
Calorie counting is by no means an exact recipe for weight loss. My Fitness Pal, my calorie tracking app of choice, spits out how much you will weigh in 5 weeks if every day were like today. It kills me. It’s unrealistic and sets people up for unmet expectations and feelings of frustration.
It can also lead to neurosis like every grain of oatmeal you consume. It’s not healthy.
But, the law of energy balance, (calories in – calories out = weight gain or loss) still holds true.
Food journaling gives you awareness of what you are eating. This can be a major asset in the battle to lose bodyfat.
Most of the folks I sit down with for consultation at Village think they are doing everything well. Then, they track calories.
Maybe the culprit is the extra scoop of almond butter or the 1/4 of cream in the combined 4 cups of coffee you drink in a day. You really can’t know until you start tracking.
Nearly every person I know who is lean and used to be overweight tracked or tracks their calories.
Law 7: The Law Of Eating Slowly and Mindfully
Slow down for satisfaction and successful fat loss. When you eat slowly, you’ll discover you need less food.
Take a moment and pause while you’re eating, think about the food you are eating, how it tastes, the textures. Maybe this is all too touchy-feely for you. No problem. Just slow down a bit. It will help with your fat-loss journey.
Paul, a client of ours, has been super successful in his weight loss journey (link to paul). He’s lost over 35 pounds in his 6 months as a client at Village. The only two changes he’s made are eating slowly and stopping at 80% full. Those habits were game changers for him.
Law 8: The Law of Long-Term
This one is all about making a mind-set shift.
If you think about a diet as something you go on and then go off, you’re not going to lose fat and keep it off long-term.
Changes made slowly and over time may mean you progress towards your goals slower, but you’ll be much more likely to stay at your goal weight or look the way you want to look for years.
Law 9: The Law of 90%
You don’t need to get it perfect 100% of the time.
But, you do need to eat well and exercise most of the time. 90% of the time is a good goal.
If you set out to exercise and eat a balanced diet of lean protein at every meal, 3-5 servings of veggies, healthy fats, eat slowly, and in the right portions each and every day, you’ll be successful.
But, there will be days where you just don’t feel well or something more important than exercise comes up. There will be special occasions where you eat ice cream or have a glass of wine. Totally fine.
It becomes problematic when nearly every day is a special occasion or you justify not working out for weeks on end because you have other things going on.
The moral here is to not strive for perfection, because you’ll let yourself down. Instead strive for excellent 90% of the time. Then, if you decide to not exercise, make a less healthy food choice, or whatever, you don’t have to beat yourself up over it.
Law 10: The Law of non-linear progression
Progress is rarely a straight line. Lets say you want to lose 30 pounds in 6 months.
I love the graph below (its in Kilograms, btw). It depicts expected weight loss (black line), average weight loss (burgandy? line), and actual weight loss (red line). It shows the daily ups and downs. Sometimes there are a few days in a row where it seems like you’re gaining weight.
If you go into a fat-loss goal know there will be ups and downs, you won’t be devastated when you them. Ups and downs are a natural part of losing weight. Ride them out and wait a few weeks before you throw in the towel and decide your fat-loss plan isn’t working.
BONUS* THE LAW OF DIETING BACKWARDS
You can’t be in a caloric deficit without running the risk of slowing your metabolism a bit.
Metabolic adaptation is a change in your metabolism that makes fat loss near impossible, even if you’re in a caloric deficit.
This is a familiar story I hear:
“I started a diet and…I lost four pounds the first week. Then, another three in week two. But by week six, no weight loss. I need to do something drastic!”
These folks proceed to eat less and less, sometimes spending years in virtual starvation mode whilst brining their metabolism to a screeching halt.
Think Biggest Loser. Every contestant who lost a significant amount of weight gained nearly all the weight back and then some. They even had a slower metabolism (by about 500 calories per day) than folks of a similar weight and height. This is metabolic adaptation. When you diet long-term, hormones like cortisol increase and make our bodies more and more efficient at running itself. Efficiency is not a good thing when it comes to fat loss.
To prevent this, don’t put yourself in caloric restriction forever. Folks who have a meal each week where they eat out or simply eat whatever they want once a week tend to avoid or prolong the metabolic slowing often seen in chronic dieters. Some call it a reefed, others a cheat meal. Call it whatever you want, but it’s a signal for your body to keep running the metabolism on high.
At some point, you may need to do what I call a backwards diet. Instead of eating less and less calories, you start to eat a little bit more each week until you’re back at a maintenance level of calories. This is a tactic designed to get your metabolism back up and running at full go.
Here’s an example. Mary was eating 2200 calories per day and not losing weight. Now, she’s been restricting her calories down to 1300 for 6 months. She lost weight at first, but recently has not been able to lose any more.
Week One:1400 Calories
Week Two: 1550 calories
Week three: 1700 calories
Week Four: 1850 Calories
Week Five: 2100 calories
Week Six: 2200 Calories
Focus On The Basics
When people come to me and say, “Matt, can you help lose 30 pounds and make myself feel 20 years younger in the next month?” I say no.
People often want results very quickly. But results which last don’t often come quickly.
The slow, steady progress is the progress which lasts long-term.
Play the long game.
To community and long-term results,