5 Steps To Master The Skill of Body Composition
In the world of body composition change or just simple weight loss or gain, there are heaps of advice and quite a few seemingly magic potions. But you, like the majority of working and/or studying adults know that it is not so easy in the context of our daily lives. For example, by the time I see my last patient, drive an hour to the gym and exercise for another hour and come home, you bet the last thing on my mind is the proper vegetable/protein ratio for dinner. I just need to eat something, pronto.
Many of us have tried, failed or may have had short-term success in changing body composition but progress stalled. We can be easily swayed by “trustworthy” individuals who promise everything from turning us into a size 4 to gaining 20 pounds of muscle in “a month all in 4 simple steps.” A certain overly enthusiastic someone may tell you that diet X has worked for them and it will work for you and yes, you should begin immediately. The concern with this advice, although often given out of kindness and desire to help, is that your physiology is very different from theirs.
As human beings, we are anywhere from 99% to 99.9% alike (1). However, this small difference can make a big impact: anything from hair and eye color to whether you're a slow or a fast caffeine metabolizer, for instance. Point being, your goal should be to find what works for you which has to happen through trial and error. Below you’ll find some advice worth trying.
You’ve heard this one before: change takes time. I couldn’t possibly tell you how many times my expectations got the better of me. Learning to calm the wanting mind whose only goal is to get to point B without regard for consequences will serve you tremendously in anything you do. We also have to keep in mind that progress doesn’t always occur in linear fashion constantly; bad days do happen (and quite often!) and your body will plateau at some point.
Small steps done consistently will compound over time. For example, I recommend patients/clients make small changes every 2 weeks. The first step is often taking between 15-25 minutes to eat each of your meals. If you’re gaining, eating faster is the way to go. This doesn’t seem like much but how many of us do this on a daily basis? Try it, you’ll be impressed.
Learn to view body composition change as a skill. You didn’t learn to play a sport in one sitting; you learned the rules, then the bare minimum to play and then built on it slowly over time. It takes habit changes and practice to learn a new skill. Add or subtract something every two weeks and don’t move on until you’ve mastered that task/skill. An example here could be as simple as eating a serving of veggies with each meal for 2 weeks.
And finally, take measurements in the beginning and monitor them as you go along. At the end of the first month, did you improve? Tangible changes can make a big difference in your motivation to continue. Tailor and change your program if it’s not working.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but it’s a start. Some of this may seem like common sense or something that you’ve heard before but haven't truly implemented in your life. Put what you learn into practice instead of reading and filing it away as something you’ll think about later. I have always had the tendency to try to learn everything I possibly can about a subject before actually beginning and it has hindered my progress many times. Don’t make that same mistake and get started right now. Be slow and deliberate in your approach. Don’t rush though the fundamental first stages. But most of all, be kind to yourself, you deserve it.
(1) Levy S., et al. The diploid genome sequence of an individual human. PLoS Biol. 2007 Sep 4;5(10):e254.