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New Year, New You: Staying in Shape in the New Year

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There’s no better time than now when it comes to achieving a new year, new you physique.

This year, things will be different. No more excuses, it’s time to put you first.

Have you got a poor diet, struggle to find the motivation to put a serious dent in your gym training, or just can’t quite seem to drop the pounds as quickly as you’d hope to?

When it comes to throwing everything into your new year fat loss plan you need to cover every angle.

And that’s where this comprehensive guide comes in. From diet and training, to motivation and lifestyle, we’ve got your back.

In this article we tell you not only how to lose fat, but keep it off too. If you’re determined to make this year really count then this is the guide for you.

It’s time for a full body transformation.

Let’s get going…

Mindset – The Most Important Part of the The New Year, New You Journey

Before we take a look at the intricacies of how much to eat and how to exercise for maximal results, we need to take a look at mindset.

Have you ever found yourself starting a new year weight loss diet full of focus and motivation only to struggle to keep on track by the end of January?

If you have then you’re not alone.

Why is this?

It’s plain and simple down to the psychology of habit and adherence.

If you take a look at the research behind successful body transformations, the ones that fall by the wayside are the ones that set unrealistic targets. They choose to dramatically change out all of the ‘bad’ habits they have at once rather than ‘drip feeding’ them. .

They ditch the junk food that fills their fridge and go from coach potato to pro athlete in the gym in a matter of days.

The problem is that while you might be motivated to make these changes in the beginning, you’ll very quickly find it difficult to sustain.

Set an achievable plan and realistic targets

Having structure helps to build positive habits.

But if you’ve lived an unhealthy lifestyle for a while you can’t expect to change too much and your body just accept it striaght away.

If your diet currently consists of takeout, ready meals and unhealthy snacks then don’t immediately swap it all out for kale smoothies and fruit salad desserts.

It’s just not sustainable.

The cravings will get so strong that you’ll eventually fall off the wagon.

Make gradual changes such as reducing daily treats to three per week, or ditching a takeout a couple of times a week. Set a plan that still involves the things you enjoy, but reduces them over time.

Three times a week will quickly become two. Then one. And then zero.

If you barely take part in physical activity, don’t start hitting the gym four times per week right away. Gradually introduce the gym to your routine and complete just a couple of session per week to get your new year, new you journey started.

As your confidence and fitness increases you can then begin to turn up the dial.

Flexibility means success… but restriction is a recipe for disaster

There’s an abundance of research to show that restrictive dieting and excessive exercise will lead you down the slippery slope of failure and feelings of guilt.

For example, research from a Canadian journal found that “intentional efforts to lose weight through rigid restraint are very cognitively and emotionally taxing and will likely fail eventually [1].

And research from the journal Appetite suggests that gradual, more flexible changes to new year weight loss result in less overeating, feelings of guilt and depression [2].

Be more flexible and patient and the results will come.

Young, pretty brown-haired woman smiling at the camera outside in the grass

Bottom Line: Don’t try to change too much, too soon. Be patient and make subtle changes to begin with that help you build positive habits. New year, new you bodies take time.

Stumble, Don’t Fall: Catastrophe Theory and Diet Success

One of the issues faced by all new year, new you dieters is catastrophic thinking.

This is the common scenario when you’ve let your cravings get the better of you and decided to cheat on your diet a little – maybe you had a dessert after lunch or you just couldn’t say no to a slice of chocolate cake before bed.

How should you react to this as a successful dieter?

That’s right, just forget about it, don’t feel guilty and get back on your diet as soon as you can.

But what does the unsuccessful dieter do?

They throw the towel in.

“If I’ve fallen from my diet already I might as well eat these cookies, chips, soda and ice cream too. It doesn’t matter now!”

Only it does.

Because while the odd treat here and is fine, having a catastrophic mentality to dieting will leave you feeling guilty and ultimately lead to failing your new year, new you targets.

Use cheat meals to keep on track

Planning the occasional treat and cheat meal every now and then will allow you to have the foods you enjoy without feeling guilty.

You’ll not be ‘giving in’ to cravings, rather just rewarding yourself for doing so well by eating some of the foods you enjoy.

Again, a more flexible approach to dieting will give you better results.

Bottom Line: Learn how to use cheat snacks and meals to your advantage. And if you have an unplanned diet break, don’t feel guilty.

Set Your Calories

When it comes to successful fat loss, calories are king.

When you eat foods with carbs, protein and fat you give your body energy in the from of calories.

The laws of thermodynamics suggests that energy balance works like a seesaw, with the calories you put in your body on one side and the calories you burn on the other.

If you eat too much you’ll fall into a positive energy balance, or what’s called a calorie surplus. The result is that any excess energy is converted to triglycerides in your fat cells and you’ll shift the scale towards weight gain.

But if you burn more energy than you put in your body, you trigger a negative energy balance or calorie deficit.

The result is that you free up the stored energy in your fat cells and ultimately lose fat.

Successful fat loss is balancing the seesaw in favor of a deficit.

You can use our comprehensive and well-researched calorie calculator if you’re unsure how to target the right daily calorie count.

Male hand drawing a seesaw showing an imbalance with one end lower than the other

Bottom Line: You need to achieve a calorie deficit in order to trigger fat loss.

Lift Weights

Once you’ve nailed your calorie intake the next important thing to focus on is maintaining as much lean muscle tissue as possible.

Whether it’s through a basic full body routine or something more advanced like high intensity resistance training (HIRT), strength training is essential for keeping your metabolic rate firing through your new year, new you diet.

Muscle is highly metabolic.

The more you have, the more calories you burn each day – even at rest.

If you achieve a calorie deficit and don’t lift weights your body will start to use lean muscle as fuel. Instead of just emptying out your fat cells for energy, you’ll start using chunks of muscle tissue as well.

And of course over time your metabolic rate will suffer, making it harder for you to drop body fat.

You don’t have to get huge muscles to burn more fat

The key here isn’t to try and achieve a new year, new you body by bulking up.

In fact, even if you wanted to build a body to rival Arnie you’ll find it tough in a calorie deficit because there just isn’t enough available energy to build new tissue.

If you’re a woman you’ll find it impossible to throw on slabs of muscle because of a lack of anabolic hormones such as testosterone.

All you’ll achieve is a toned and shapely figure that shows of your lean curves.

What’s a good starter strength program?

This example will get you going. It’s simple, easy to perform and will help you build confidence at the gym through fast results.

Strength Training Program for Fat Loss

ExerciseRepsSetsRest Time
Dumbbell Bench Press8360 seconds
Leg Press8360 seconds
Lat Pulldown8360 seconds
Leg Curl8360 seconds
Dumbbell Shoulder Press8360 seconds
Goblet Squat8360 seconds
Seated Row8360 seconds

Woman lifting dumbbells to lose weight and drop body fat

Bottom Line: Lifting weights help you maintain muscle mass when dieting and keeps your metabolic rate firing on all cylinders. All new year, new you journeys should include strength training.

Keep Moving

Lifting weights and throwing in some cardio training are great ways to burn calories, maintain muscle and give your body every opportunity to tip those triglycerides out of your fat cells.

But frustratingly that might still not be enough if you aren’t moving throughout the day.

Components of energy expenditure

  • Basal metabolic rate (BMR) – this is the energy burned to maintain basic functions such as heart rate, brain function and muscle mass. It accounts for 60-70% of your daily energy expenditure
  • Exercise – whether it’s cardio or an intense circuit class, exercise accounts for a surprisingly low 15% of the calories you burn each day.
  • Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) – this refers to the calories you burn just moving, whether it’s walking, fidgeting, gardening, taking the stairs etc.

NEAT can account for an astonishing 30% of you overall calorie burning on a daily basis [3]. More if you try your best to be active.

That’s double what you burn in an hour of hard work in the gym.

We’ve suggested that you incorporate strength training to maintain muscle mass and of course we’ve made it clear that combining weight lifting with a calorie deficit will make a big difference to fat loss.

But you can supplement this with low intensity NEAT too.

Use NEAT to speed up new year, new you fat loss

To maximize the new year, new you figure you need to try your best to continuously be on the move.

You don’t need to over-complicate it either – any opportunity to increase physical activity will have a drastic effect on energy expenditure.

Here are a few ways you can incorporate NEAT into your daily movement plan:

  • Get off the bus one stop early and walk to your destination.
  • Put some music on while doing the housework – you’ll soon be dancing away the calories.
  • Use a standing desk at work or get up every 10 minutes and stretch your legs.
  • March on the spot when brushing your teeth.
  • Ditch your car whenever you can. Walking is great exercise.
  • Spend intimate time with your significant other.

Man and woman walking through the park on a summer's day

Bottom Line: One of the most adaptable ways of burning extra calories is to up your NEAT. Add in some low intensity activities throughout the day and you’ll soon be flaunting your new year, new you body.

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  1. Stotland, S et al. Restraint, moderation and the stages of weight self-regulation: Implications for CBT for obesity. Canadian Journal of Diabetes. 2011; 35(2): 154
  2. Smith, CF et al. Flexible vs. Rigid dieting strategies: relationship with adverse behavioral outcomes. Appetite. 1999; 32(3): 295-305
  3. Levine, JA et al. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (Neat). Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002; 16(4): 679-702