Are you someone who sabotages your own health for the sake of losing fat? Is there a better way for you to take steps towards achieving your weight loss goals that you can feel positive about? Do you know that some of the 'harmless to your health' items in your fridge, the ones you unintentionally binge on occasionally, are the very reason you are not losing the weight?

Here are some simple tips you can follow to lose weight without sabotaging your health.

1. Cut Down on Processed Food

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If you are like most people, you've developed eating and cooking habits over the years without necessarily realizing the consequences of these habits. Starting some new habits will take some time - but this is one of the best places to start. Processed foods are simply not a good choice to consume if you are looking for fat loss. To make it easier, try cutting down on processed food, one step at a time. If you are used to eating processed food regularly, start by setting a goal to only eat this type of food once a week. By developing this practice, the habit and your desire to eat processed food will diminish slowly and steadily, and you will gradually find you no longer have the urge to eat those foods. What makes this a good fat loss tip is you can set your own pace, you can pick one thing at a time that is sabotaging you, and eliminate that food item from your diet.

Usually, the middle aisles of grocery stores house all kinds of processed food. So, when you have made up your mind to cut down on foods that are stopping you from achieving the fat loss you desire, you will inevitably have less and less reason to visit the middle section in the grocery store. The list of processed foods that contain ingredients such as, white sugar, dairy products, GMO wheat (though it won’t tell you it’s GMO) GMO corn (same story), corn syrup, soy, soy lecithin, food dyes, any and all kinds of artificial flavours are quite simply, foods to be avoided.

A great tip to avoid processed food temptation is to have your stomach full before you head out to the grocery store. This way, your hunger will not lure you into buying any temptation foods that are not good for fat loss nor contain any nutritional value.

When eating out, be cautious of what you eat. Beware of artificial flavouring ingredients, grease and sugary foods which are used in many restaurants and all kind of eateries as well. You can always opt for freshly grown produce that is used in the preparations of these foods. A few restaurants use locally grown produce to create their menu every day. However, the best way to avoid consuming processed foods and artificial ingredients is to eat at home. 

Drink loads of water instead of carbonated drinks. If you drink pop or other carbonated drinks regularly, you are adding unwanted calories to your diet. So, make it your goal to replace pops and juices with fresh and clean water instead. Like the processed food tip, try by reducing the frequency or quantity, one step at a time. 

Coffee drinkers - this one is for you! Did you know that coffee creamer even when used in lower quantity does not have any health benefits? It simply adds ups calories. Best to use low-fat milk or skim milk if you are a coffee drinker. An even better choice is to switch to drinking herbal teas. They come in a variety of flavour options and have loads of health benefits. There is green tea, black tea, oolong tea, matcha powder, and many more flavours of herbal tea available in your grocery store that you can try. You can also try drinking water flavoured with citrus fruit or iced green tea if you need a caffeine boost.

2. Sugar

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If you are conscious of fat loss, you'll want to avoid sugary foods like you would the plague. The right kinds of sugar and the right quantity of sugar intake create energy and are important to survive. But, having sugars in excess or in inordinate quantity is unhealthy. Fruits and vegetables have the sugar that is healthy for a human body. You will have enough energy if you make fruits and vegetables a part of your diet. And as an added bonus, there is no harm in adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet every day.

The sugars to avoid are in foods that contain processed sugars, like; popsicles, breads, dressings, sauces, fruit snacks, chocolates, crackers, syrups, flavoured drinks, etc. All these tempting foods contain artificial flavouring and an unhealthy amount of sugar that is not good for fat loss nor for your overall health.

Raw food is a good idea for keeping you healthy while increasing fat loss. Eat more raw nuts, sliced veggies with hummus, apple and carrot slices with almond butter, homemade smoothies, green juices, raw cacao, melons, avocados, etc. Eating these kinds of foods will stop your food cravings for sugary (processed) foods.

Beware of fake health food. Things like energy drinks, granola bars, and frozen yogurt only give you an impression of being healthy choices. In reality, they are loaded with hydrogenated oils and sugar. Frozen yogurt has less fat than ice cream, but, it is loaded with sugar. You would be better off having a whole piece of fruit and a handful of nuts instead of 'enjoying' these commercially advertised energy/health foods.

3. Grains/Gluten

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Grains and gluten-based foods are highly inflammatory to the digestive tract. They contain lectins which are actually anti-nutrients. They also contain enzyme inhibitors and phytates which stop the breakdown of food and irritate the lining of intestines. They decrease the absorption of vitamins and minerals and are responsible for causing conditions like leaky gut and celiac disease. In fact, whether people know it or not, most of the population is naturally gluten sensitive. When people cut down on gluten and improve the nutritious content of the foods they do consume, they experience less bloating, better digestion, clearer skin, and even fat loss.

You know from the ingredient list, that the variety of breads and pastas that are available in the market are full of preservatives, additives, and chemicals to make them taste better, feel softer, and also last longer. When you eat a loaf of bread, you are adding loads of unnecessary ingredients to your diet. If you are looking for a leaner physique, then avoid the intake of these empty carbohydrates and substitute instead with organic foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Your choice of foods that are full of nutrients, vitamins and minerals will save you a lot of calories. Avoiding non-starchy food also helps you in fat loss gradually. 

4. Exercise and Training Using Weights

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The typical cardio heavy option that most people default to for fat loss is a chronic choice. They spending seemingly endless amounts of time in the gym, walking on the treadmill, or exercising on the bike, and they do not see any results for months. The only thing we know for sure is, long, strenuous cardio like that increases the stress hormone called cortisol in your body. Cortisol is responsible for many chronic diseases and impedes the body's ability to shed fat. This is one reason why straight, intense cardio is one of the most ineffective ways to reduce weight.

But don't feel bad if this is you. Lots of people have fallen for the myth that sweating it out on the treadmill will help them reduce weight fastest. A lot of people make the mistake of choosing to focus on cardio over resistance training. In truth, resistance training can much more successfully be correlated to weight loss when you lift moderately heavy weights.

Encouraging muscle growth while losing weight is good because by doing so you are keeping the muscle tissue metabolically active. The effects of resistance training can last for up to 24 hours because of the excess oxygen consumption or the EPOC which burns more calories even after you've stopped working out. So, even when you are at rest, you burn a greater number of calories each day by keeping the muscle tissue active through physical weight or resistance type training.

Multi-joint movements, such as squats, bench presses, and rows, require more of your energy because multiple muscle groups are working in coordination at a time. If you want to burn more calories, keep the workout duration short while keeping your heart rate elevated. Mix and match the types of multi-joint movements - but keep your intensity up. When you pick a weight training program or any daily exercise that increases your metabolism, you will begin to feel less fatigue and gradually, more energetic every day in your pursuit of a healthy life. 

5. HIIT Cardio vs. Steady State Cardio

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The EPOC mechanism in the HIIT(High Intensity Interval Training) cardio helps you consume more oxygen and burn more calories. This is achieved by undertaking an intense cardio activity within an interval. For example, you will be performing an exercise in an interval of 30-60 seconds (30 secs work/60 sec rest) and the focus is on every movement being at an maximum effort.  As you increase your level of fitness, you can stretch the duration of work portion and shorten the interval (the rest periods) that you take.

One of the biggest bonuses is you can do a HIIT based work out just about anywhere - hotel gyms, your backyard - and whether you have some equipment to work with or not. Try doing outdoor sprints, bench step-ups, chair push-ups, planks, dumbbell/water bottle cleans, or even burpees.

The key to burning more fat is found when you can get your heartrate up - and keep your muscles working. Adding a few more reps or pushing your pace can amp up the intensity without extending the time of your overall training session. 

6. Hormones

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Hormones change as a human body ages. This applies to men and especially to women. As women get older they experience hormonal issues, such as, hot flashes and mood swings. Hormonal changes affect the entire body and our metabolisms. As you age, your ability to gain muscle decreases because energy and cell metabolism drops.

And for women especially, as she ages, her estrogen levels naturally begin to drop and the body tries to compensate for this loss by increasing fat in the body. This estrogen drop also explains why most women experience an increase in their appetite.

Estrogen is a powerful energy booster. Low estrogen levels mean low energy. When a woman is low on estrogen, it can make her feel sluggish and almost, lazy. Estrogen levels also have a profound effect on the psychology of your brain. Once in an estrogen deficit or decline - it becomes a lot harder for your body to handle things like late night stress, alcohol, late night parties, etc.

The result - you now have to consider cutting down on alcohol, eating smaller meals, and reducing caffeine and sugar. Try to include more fiber in your diet. Options such as healthy choices like adding flax seeds, coconut oil,  and green leafy vegetables to your daily meals. And - these may be much harder to accomplish but, go to bed early, and find time to rest and rejuvenate yourself. Your choice of exercise should also focus on things that accelerate fat burning and build strong and toned muscles, without wearing out your energy.

7. Stress and Cortisol

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There are many reasons and situations in life that can cause you stress. You know what they are - things like finances, relationship challenges, work, and kids. Let's not forget dietary habits and lifestyle choices - you get it. Stress puts our bodies into a fight or flight mode. When you feel stressed, your body reacts by releasing a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol increases blood pressure, and due to the increase in blood pressure,  blood diverts from the internal organs and digestive system. If this happens for a short period of time - you can still handle it and survive. But, if you are living in a constant state of stress, then over time it will deplete you of both your mental and physical energy and cause damage to your long-term well being.

Make a list of things in your life that are causing you stress and take steps towards eliminating them. If it is not something that you can eliminate immediately, then look for alternative options or ways to minimize the time you spend in that activity/environment. Look instead for activities and people who make you feel good and positive about yourself - things that help you work through stress and any negative emotions. Though you can't eliminate stress from your life entirely, you can learn how to use positive coping mechanisms to help you deal with any stressful situation more successfully - and most significantly without letting it affect your health. Start by making small changes in your life that make you happy and gradually increase the time you spend doing those things.

8. Sleep

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Sleep deprivation can cause a lot of health problems. Your qualtiy of sleep is affected by a number of factors - common ones include high caffeine consumption and late night eating habits. In our digital age, one of the biggest culprits is blue light - the light eminated by all our devices - phones, laptops, tablets etc. If you want to clean up your sleep regime - try starting there first and cut down on the digitized world an hour or two before going to sleep.

Hormones are also impacted by the quality and quantity of sleep that you get. Ghrelin is a hormone that makes us feel hungry. When you sleep the hungry hormone goes up and leptin which makes you feel full, goes down. When your sleep is out of balance - hormones like ghrelin and leptin stuggle to balance themselves and you'll find yourself hungry when you should be sleeping! Sleep deprivation also impacts insulin levels negatively - insulin being what maintains the glucose levels in your body. Sleep deprivation can also increase blood sugar levels making the sleep deprived person more susceptible to diseases like diabetes. Lack of sleep can also affect the immunity of the body making you less able to fight any kind of illness or infections.

Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep as much as possible. This will reset the body’s natural circadian rhythm and help to keep your blood vessels and heart healthy.

9. Realistic Timeframe

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When you are looking at healthy fat loss, do not expect instant results. There is no such thing as quick fix. Weight and fat loss is a slow process and takes time. Always take it slow when it comes to fat loss and do not try to expedite the process.

Building a strong body takes hard work, discipline, regularity, and a strong will power. Whenever you choose a fat loss program, you need to be determined enough to work through the entire program   - there is no halfway. It's not that you won't feel tempted to leave - half way through. That's a natural reaction to the change in habit and hey - no one said it was going to be easy.

Be realistic about your nutritional program. You might attend events and occasions where you cannot choose the foods that you eat. Deviations, or 'cheats' happen. This is ok - as long as it happens once in a while and not as a rule. You can get your diet right back on track by following it the next day. You can only use a finite amount of will power every day. Since, you have many day to day things to deal with, they will take up your time, and your will power will be segmented into maintaining these things. So, watch your diet instead of struggling to keep a healthy diet. If you dislike a particular food, then replace it with another healthy option instead of forcing yourself to eat what you don’t like. Maintaining a healthy diet does not mean gobbling down healthy foods you don’t like. Doing so also increases the stress hormone in the body. Remember, whatever you do, aim to do it consistently.

10. Stay Committed

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The fact of the matter is that for most people, committing to a weight loss program is in and of itself - stressful. You worry about giving up foods you like, and how to find the time in your already busy day to give up to exercise. And it's fair to guess, not everyone has actually found an exercise they 'like' doing. So, how do you learn to stay committed, juggling all of the above, so you can achieve your goals?

Start with choosing an exercise/program you find enjoyable. Join a group exercise class or get private training - whichever suits you best. Some people need the help from a group/social community to stay committed and others just want to do their own thing. Once you choose a program - stick to it. Analyze the results after a solid commitment of time and effort, and only then modify or change the program if needed. Effort is key here - and that means more than just signing up - it means showing up too!

Have a diet/nutrition plan and focus on making healthy choices. Look for truly healthy food that you actually like/enjoy eating. Take steps towards eliminating the unhealthy snacks and drinks and habits, replacing them with better choices. Your body will thank you for it.

String together good food choices, disciplined and consistent exercise and you will be well on your way to leading a healthy life.

PS: If you feel that life is pulling you in every direction, and this decision to commit to a fat loss program is feeling like an impossible goal and just one more thing you're going to fail at... then STOP. Take a step back. Breathe. Focus first on finding some balance - forgive yourself for being busy, make a pledge to yourself to bring your own needs forward. One step at a time - make a commitment to thinking about weight loss when you can make your health and wellness a priority without sacraficing your sanity to do it.