Joe Warner is an award-winning health and fitness journalist and best-selling author. He is the former editor-in-chief of Men’s Fitness magazine and editorial director of NewBodyPlan.com. We asked him to answer a few key questions about men’s weight loss, muscle building, stress and sleep.
“Every day I get asked a bunch of questions via social media and email from men wanting to know how they can lose weight, build stronger and more defined muscles, and start looking and feeling better than ever.
And while I never cut and paste my answers, it would be easy for me to do so. Why?
Because almost every single question I get asked falls into one of four key categories that affect modern men the most.
So, if you want to take back control of your health and fitness, here are my answers to the most frequently-asked questions I get asked.
Find the one that most applies to you, then put my instantly-applicable advice into action to finally get the results you’ve always wanted!
1. I’ve tried so many times to lose weight but never succeeded. Why do I keep failing?
You need to think of it like this: you’ve not failed to lose weight; it’s the approach you’ve used to lose weight that’s failed you. I bet that your previous weight-loss attempts have used drastic and demoralising strategies: probably ultra-low calorie diets and/or hours of mind-numbing cardio that you couldn’t sustain for more than a few days.
With your motivation levels zapped and willpower drained, you then gorged on all the foods you’d previously denied yourself and threw your trainers in the bin.
Fast forward to the next time you decide you want to lose weight… then the pattern repeats itself. You yo-yo between a few days of food deprivation and all-out exercise, then weeks of mindless eating and inactivity.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times. The good news for you is that it doesn’t have to be like this any longer.
Here’s how you break the cycle: first you must set yourself a challenging but realistic goal. Then simply break that big-picture goal down into smaller achievable weekly goals. From there, you can create a plan of daily actions to ensure you achieve that week’s goal.
It can also be hugely helpful to undertake a health and fitness challenge with a partner or a friend. Having someone support you – and you giving them support back – can make all the difference in achieving the results you want.
No weight loss diet or exercise plan worked for Dan before his 35kg transformation journey at Ultimate Performance. Read his story here.
2. When’s the best time to start a fat-loss or muscle-building program?
Yesterday. Or, even better, three to six months ago, depending on your body composition starting point and your desired end goal. Don’t have a time machine? Okay, then you need to start today.
The number one reason why most people never achieve the results they want is that they wait for this mythical ‘perfect time’ to start. They believe they’ll only see success if they begin at the exact moment the planets align and they’re bathed in a single glorious beam of sunlight.
The trouble is, if you wait for a perfect time to start, you’ll be waiting forever. Because the perfect time doesn’t exist. So most people never take that all-important first step. If you’re waiting for some
interstellar sign before taking back control of your health and fitness, remember this: you don’t need to feel good to start, but you do need to start to feel good.
This leads me to the number two reason why most people never make the changes they want: they don’t have a plan. You wouldn’t start building a house without a blueprint, and the same goes for building a fitter, stronger and leaner body.
You need a plan of action. Not only so you know what to do and when, but also to keep you motivated and accountable by allowing you to track your progress and measure your improvements.
Without a plan, you won’t get the results – it’s as simple as that.
3. I am constantly tired and never get enough sleep. What can I do?
The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of quality sleep per night. Yes, there are some people who can get by on less than that. But, for most of us, failing to get enough shut-eye night after night makes us look and feel awful, and makes even the smallest job at work feel like a task of Herculean proportions. You’ll struggle for focus and concentration, and likely have an insatiable appetite for high-sugar foods to prop up your flagging energy levels. The result is constant fatigue and rapid weight gain. And I’m guessing that’s the last thing you want.
If you’re struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep, then make sure you’re ticking every item on this checklist:
- No caffeine after lunch, including any in soft drinks
- No screens – no TV, phone, tablet or laptop – in the hour before bed
- No alcohol (you may think it helps you fall asleep, but it negatively affects sleep quality)
If you’re already avoiding those three things, then another great tactic is to keep a notebook by the side of your bed. Once you get under the covers, write down what’s on your mind. It might be a quick to-do list for the next day, or any thoughts or feelings that have followed you around all day.
The simple act of committing these jobs or worries down on paper can often be enough to move them from the forefront of your brain, allowing it finally to unwind and relax and get ready for sleep.
Sceptical that such a small act can make sleep come easy? I don’t blame you – I was too until I tried it! It’s one of those no-effort habit changes that can turn your life around overnight. Trust me.
4. I am constantly stressed. What can I do about it?
Sky-high stress is a big problem for many of us, and left unchecked, it will negatively impact every part of your life. There are two main ways to cope with stress: avoiding or limiting your exposure to stress (stress avoidance); and improving your ability to deal with stress (stress resilience).
To avoid stress, your first step is to identify your main stressors and see whether you can turn down the dials on any of them. Chances are there may be some quick and easy wins that don’t take much time or effort but can make a real difference. Sometimes talking – to your boss, partner, parents, kids, or anyone else who’s driving you up the wall – is all it takes to break your stress cycle.
Once you’ve reduced your exposure to stress, you can then improve your resilience to stress. Why? Being better able to deal with the inevitable problems life throws at you (always at the worst possible moment) means that these new stresses can be simply shrugged off your shoulders rather than drag you down.
A quick, easy and free way to improve your resilience is to take a 20-minute walk outside – and the greener your view, the better. I don’t need a study – though plenty exist – to know a quick walk in nature gives me a greater sense of perspective, improves my mood and productivity, and reduces feelings of stress and anxiety.
Another great way to build stress resilience is to train your brain. And just five minutes of meditation can dissipate your negative or overwhelming thoughts. Never meditated before? Don’t worry; it’s easy.
Simply sit down, close your eyes, and focus on your chest moving up and down with each inhalation and exhalation of breath. Allow any thoughts to come and go without judgement. Acknowledge them as fleeing moments of thought, nothing more or nothing less, then return your focus to your breathing. That’s it. Still need convincing to give it a go? Think of meditation like a workout: you never regret doing it and always feel better afterwards.