The most important thing I learned throughout my weight loss journey is that if you take a fast and unsustainable approach, you will probably fail. Being naturally thin isn't just about genetics; it's also about basic habits that support a lean body. Read on to learn what they are.
When I was training for my competition, I “bulked” for several months. That essentially means, I ate like a linebacker while lifting a ton of weight with the goal of building muscle. Then, 8 weeks before the show, my coach started my fat loss process, or “cutting” as it’s called in the industry. I have to say, without a doubt, those were the most miserable 8 weeks of my life, and I NEVER want to feel that way again.
My fat loss process included calorie restriction, lots and lots of cardio sessions (2 a day towards the end) and very few carbs. I couldn’t think straight, I was constantly tired and hungry, and my body hurt from too many workouts without proper recovery nutrition.
But I lost the weight. I got pretty lean.
And then guess what happened?
I gained it all back.
Yup. I lost about 14lbs in those last few weeks, and they all came back over the course of the next year. Not because I was lazy, or irresponsible, but because I had not built sustainable habits that would keep me at that weight. I just starved myself. A lot. Then started eating “normally” again, after the show.
Clearly, this is a recipe for disaster.
My Post-Competition Coach Experience
Shortly after my show, I hired a non-competition coach. She was a registered dietitian and a really smart gal. She told me to scrap everything I learned and:
- eat three square meals a day (no snacks)
- not to worry about bulking to gain muscle and just lean out to a point that I could maintain all the time
- adopt lean life habits over the traditional bodybuilding methods and following a meal plan down to the size and seasoning
But guess what - I thought it was too simplistic, so I went back to my traditional bodybuilding coach.
That was a mistake.
Wiser & Healthier
Now my mindset has shifted. I’m no longer struggling to get lean for a particular show date. I want to be lean for life. So I’m focused on the small habits I make every single day that will eventually add up to a long-term lean body that is sustained without feeling deprived or having to think about food all. the. time.
It might take longer than the 8 weeks it took me last time, but that’s okay. I’ll take long-term leanness over a quick and fleeting dose of skinny any day.
Guiding Principles For Living a Naturally Lean Life
Here are some guiding principles that I believe are universally effective for being naturally lean and thin. They may seem overly simplistic, but the reality is that healthy living isn't complicated. It's just a matter of habit and conscious decisions. That's it.
- Eat 3 or 4 normal sized meals a day (eating 6 or 7 tiny meals is a waste of time and you will never feel satisfied)
- Optimize healthy fats and proteins over carbs to manage hunger, cravings and hormone balance.
- Sleep like a boss to keep hunger and cravings in check and just to keep me sane and functioning.
- Move daily - not always balls to the wall, but at least get out for a walk or do 20 minutes of yoga if I can't fit in a proper workout
- Prioritize weight lifting over cardio. Cardio isn't bad, it's just not as effective in the long run.
- Always find new ways to challenge yourself physically and to keep healthy food interesting
- Make healthy choices as simple as possible. Meal prep, grocery shop, don't keep junk in the house.
- Stay positive and to the degree that you can, make the journey fun. Living a healthy life shouldn't feel miserable. It should feel awesome.
Just some food for thought. I hope you find it helpful!
Caren is a certified yoga teacher, fitness instructor and author of The Fit Habit. Here she shares simple, low carb recipes, quick home workout ideas and practical ways to foster mind + body wellness.