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If you’ve followed the first four weeks of our 12-Week Fat Loss Nutrition Guide, you might be saying to yourself that 2017 is off to the best start of any year that you can remember. Your pants should be a little looser and you probably feel healthier and more energized than you have in a long while.

But if you don’t, as a result of going off course with your nutrition, fear not. There’s plenty of time left in the program to right your ship and get ripped by the start of spring.

Part 2 builds on the habits and practices we wanted you to establish in January (if you missed it, go back and start HERE). These were the first three “Rules of Eating For Rippedness.” Just to review, here they are again:

#1 Only eat when it’s time to eat. Limit your feedings to breakfast, lunch, and dinner—and post-workout snacks when necessary.

#2 Control portions with your hands. Eat one handful of protein, one of starch, and two of fruits and vegetables every meal.

#3 Start each day with protein. Put having a high-protein breakfast first on your to-do list every morning.

These simple steps alone will certainly help you lose a few pounds and feel dramatically better. Assuming they’re the “new normal” for you now, it’s time to do what I like to call “leveling up.” Let’s improve on what’s great and start being truly awesome. By adding a few more easy-to-follow rules to your routine, you’ll start to really carve out your abs, and you’ll find staying the course with your diet to be even more enjoyable and effortless.

Your Rippedness Rules #4–8

New Year’s Resolution Series: 12-Week Fat Loss Nutrition Guide, Part 2

Rule #4 Be A Boring Eater

Variety may be the spice of life, but it can also be the match that lights the fuse that blows your diet to smithereens. You’ll have an easier time sticking to a healthy eating program if you simply limit the options you have to eat.

Think about a buffet. Do you eat more or less when faced with gobs of variety?

If you said more, you’re correct. Multiple trays of food, many of which you don’t make at home, call your name with their cornucopia of flavors. You end up trying a little of this and a little of that and before you know it you’re stuffed. You know what they say: “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” And the more types of food you allow yourself to eat, the more food you’ll end up eating, period.

When we eat, we need what nutritional science and human behavior researcher Brian Wansink, Ph.D., calls a “pause point.” This is that moment during a meal that makes you stop and think, “Do I really want more? Am I still hungry?”

If you’re faced with a wide variety of food choices, that pause point will be hard to reach and harder still to acknowledge and respect. For example, let’s say you go shopping for the week and you plan to have yogurt and fruit for breakfast on Monday, oatmeal with raisins and a protein shake on Tuesday, a Denver omelette on Wednesday, lox and a bagel on Thursday, and so on. Knowing that you have all that food in your house at one time increases the odds that you’ll eat at times that you shouldn’t, and eat more at meals when you already have enough on your plate. Tuesday’s raisins could easily become a snack on Monday when you don’t need one, or find themselves added to Monday’s fruit serving with your morning yogurt.

I’m not saying don’t plan your meals ahead, but to be wary of how much food you allow yourself to be around at any one time. The trick is to narrow your options down to two choices for each meal that you really, REALLY enjoy. If you have the same monotonous (but at least deliciously monotonous) meal every day, you won’t be so eager for other options.

Pick your two favorite breakfasts (that conform to rules we reiterated above). For me, that’s eggs, smoked salmon, and berries (breakfast option A), and Greek yogurt, nuts, and berries (breakfast option B).

Now those are just my preferences, so pick your own (unless we like the same foods), and make them your two daily breakfasts for at least a week. They’re consistent, great for you, and you’ll look forward to them. After a week, you can pick two other options if you like, but you don’t have to.

Remember: the less variety you have, the less likely you are to overeat.

Rule #5 Get More Sleep

New Year’s Resolution Series: 12-Week Fat Loss Nutrition Guide, Part 2

At first, it sounds like this has nothing to do with nutrition, but if you’re not getting enough sleep—in terms of quantity AND quality—you’re going to struggle to stay on track with both your workouts and your nutrition.

One study published in the November 2016 European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that participants who logged fewer than five and a half hours of sleep per night ate 385 more calories the next day. That’s equal to slurping down two and a half 12-oz cans of Coke, three Twinkies, or about one and a half slices of pepperoni pizza.

Interestingly, the sleep-deprived folks in the study chose different foods that next day than the well-rested subjects did. They skimped on protein and instead ate foods higher in empty calories… foods along the lines of

Coke, Twinkies, and Pizza!

Why does this happen? The exact answer isn’t clear, but other studies have suggested that fatigue leads people to seek out foods that offer fast bursts of energy or increased alertness—i.e., sugar and fat.

Your goal should be to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night. If you consistently come up short of that, here are some strategies you need to employ.

Power down. Turn your phone, TV, iPad, computer or whatever other electronics you use off at least 30 minutes before bed. Most experts suggest unplugging at least 60 minutes before bed, but I’m a nice guy. Start with 30 and see if you can increase your time without technology gradually from there. Furthermore, make sure your phone is either completely off or at least on do not disturb/airplane mode so people can’t text or call you when you’re trying to wind down.

Go to bed earlier. No, it’s not the most exciting tip, but it’s one of the most valuable. Aim to be in bed 30 minutes earlier every night from this week going forward until you’re getting at least seven solid hours of sleep.

Rule #6 Lose the Liquid Calories

New Year’s Resolution Series: 12-Week Fat Loss Nutrition Guide, Part 2

In the first four weeks, I recommended that you limit your alcohol intake to two days each week and only when you’re with friends.

My advice on alcohol still stands, but lattes, juice, sodas, and sports drinks are now completely verboten. If you drink milk or other dairy beverages that contain protein, that’s OK, but anything that offers zero nutrition and a lot of sugar is out of the question.

Research shows that people drink about 400 calories each day, mainly from liquid sugar.

Apart from dairy, another exception to the rule would be a post-workout shake. Note that I’m not talking about one of those smoothies you get at your gym that has everything in it but the kitchen sink, including 100+ grams of sugar (yes, they’re out there). But a basic protein, milk, and fruit-blended beverage is still a good meal replacement after a weight-training workout.

Generally speaking, though, I want you to eat your calories, not drink them.

Rule #7 Eat Slow: 15 Minutes Per Meal

New Year’s Resolution Series: 12-Week Fat Loss Nutrition Guide, Part 2

When you eat, the brain sends signals to your body about your level of fullness. No matter how fast you eat or how much food you wolf down, the sensation of fullness takes about 15 minutes to kick in.

If you shovel down food absent-mindedly, you’re bound to overeat because your body doesn’t have time to send out the SOS that it’s satisfied.

The solution is to value each bite you take. Don’t rush your meals. Focus on the food itself, savoring it, maybe the company around you if you’re with others (your phone doesn’t count), and take things slowly.

It’s kind of like dating. When you meet someone you like, you (hopefully) ease into things. You get to know the person, listen to what they say, go out on dates, etc. A person isn’t an on/off light switch.

Food is the same.

When it’s taken slowly, savored, and fully enjoyed, it’s much more satisfying.

Here are three tricks to make this ritual work.

• Put your fork or spoon down between every bite. If you’re drinking a shake, put it down between sips. This forces you to take your time.

Eat with chopsticks whenever possible. You can’t take in as much food per bite this way.

Avoid distractions. Think about the food you’re eating (the aroma, the texture, its nutrition and how that’s bringing you closer to your goals), or the people you’re eating it with. Don’t eat while texting or web surfing. You’ll forget that you’re even eating and you risk taking in far more calories than you need—in that meal or the next.

Rule #8 Drink 2 Cups of Water Before Meals

New Year’s Resolution Series: 12-Week Fat Loss Nutrition Guide, Part 2
Virginia Tech researcher Brenda Davy, Ph.D., R.D., tested an experimental new liquid that was thought to curb appetite. It was called “water.”

In the study, Davy and her colleagues found that drinking 2 cups of plain, old-fashioned H2O right before eating a meal resulted in people consuming up to 90 fewer calories in that meal. That’s the equivalent of about half a cup of ice cream!

When you eat three meals per day, you can see how this adds up fast.

In this particular study it added up to a loss of five pounds for the subjects over a 12-week span. That may seem insignificant until you remember how easy it was for them to lose the weight—simply drinking two cups of water before each meal. Imagine if the subjects had added weight training and the seven other tips in this program.

YOU’RE the experiment now.

One Thing At A Time

For as easy as these rules are to adopt into your life, I don’t expect you to absorb them all at once. Pick one to start and spend a week mastering it. Then work another one in, and keep going until you’ve got them all down.

Come back next month for the conclusion of the program, where we’ll put the finishing touches on your spring break body. And, as a reminder, if you missed Part 1 of the program, check it out HERE.

Lastly, if you want a workout plan to pair with it, go HERE.

Fat Loss Nutrition Guide