Eat Like It Matters: The Lean Phase
The third of the three phases of the Eat Like It Matters Program is the Lean Phase.
When you’re within ten pounds of your ideal body weight, the details of diet and exercise become critical. The truth is, there’s very little wiggle room when you’re so close to your goal weight.
Really, everything matters if you want to stay at goal. There’s much more going on at this level of the game than just “calories in, calories out.” I’ve said before that it’s easy to get caught up in the nutritional science that surrounds weight loss. (e.g. “What’s the right ratio of protein to carbohydrate in my diet?”) When in the Transformation Phase or the Gear Up Phase, those questions are less important than how much we’re eating and moving. But in the Lean Phase, we need to be on the right side of nearly every healthy living decision we’re faced with.
As a quick review, the Transformation Phase is for those who have 30+ pounds to lose and works on:
- Unpacking and understanding emotional eating (primarily denial, but also fear, hopelessness and shame)
- Learning proper portion control (how much we eat is more important that what we eat, in this phase)
- Managing hunger
- Evaluating bad habits
- Establishing new habits
- Setting up our environment for success
- Removing obstacles to success
- Re-learning meal planning, shopping, cooking and eating out
- Educating ourselves about nutrition
- Beginning an exercise program (but gently)
The Gear Up Phase (for those with 10-30 pounds to lose) assumes that you’ve mastered all of the above skills, and further emphasizes:
- Ramping up exercise: increase length and intensity of cardio workouts and add strength training, if you haven’t already
- Seeking out workouts that are fun; if you don’t’ intrinsically enjoy it, it won’t last
- Experimenting with a variety of workouts: cross-training is key to overall fitness
- Investing in the best quality exercise equipment you can afford
- Becoming a fierce advocate for your new lifestyle – no apologies, no regrets!
- Beginning exploring new recipes and expanding your palate
- Solidifying your new habits as part of your everyday lifestyle
The Lean Phase of the Eat Like It Matters Program is a combination of the skills learned in the previous two phases, plus:
- Exercising and eating right consistently. Like I said, there’s virtually no wiggle room at goal. (Except for a few genetically gifted people. Who the rest of us hate.)
- Learning as much as possible about proper nutrition and integrating those principles into everyday food choices.
- Understanding how our own bodies react to specific dietary and exercise regimens.
- Adjusting those dietary and exercise behaviors to fine tune and improve results.
All of this is to say that, to stay within ten pounds of goal weight, we’ve really got to have all of our ducks in a row. Not surprisingly, this phase requires a tremendous amount of discipline. (Not willpower; there’s a huge difference.) Discipline isn’t white-knuckling it through deprivation. It’s a set of skills that we learn as we do the hard work in the Transformation Phase and the Gear Up Phase.
And I think this is why most diets are doomed. From years and years of failed attempts I know that most diets approach weight loss from the point of the end game; that is, they start at the Lean Phase. They hand us a couple of weeks worth of meal plans, a stack of recipes and / or a mile-long list of eliminated foods.
They have it entirely backwards.
And I hate to bring this up – it’s like salt in the wound – but those of us who have ever been overweight and / or obese will always, always, always have to work much harder to maintain our goal weight (or even close to goal) than someone who may weigh the same as we do but has never been overweight.
It’s so unfair, I know.
I will say, many people decide that staying exactly at their goal weight is simply too difficult. It requires a lot of sacrifice, and a degree of adherence that most of us simply will not tolerate. As for me, I figure if I’m within 5-7 pounds, I’m good. That amount of wiggle room means that I can have a beer every once in a while, or even the occasional Girl Scout cookie eating frenzy. Besides, I’ve learned that striving perfection is a fool’s game and I’m perfectly fine with “close enough.”