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Tuesday August 23rd, 2016
By Leo Babauta

I’ve created more positive changes in the last 11 years than I can count: from health and fitness to mindfulness and happiness; from productivity and finance to clutter and relationships.

There are lots of factors that are incredibly important in creating any positive change: starting small, taking small steps all along the way, finding motivation and accountability, finding the support of people around you (or finding it online), learning to mindfully notice your urges to quit.

These are all super important. But there’s another factor that most people overlook: how you feel about the change.

This is what I’ve learned in the decade-plus since I’ve been doing this, for myself and helping other people:

  • If you’re not in the mood to take the small steps you need to make the change, you’ll probably procrastinate. Same if you’re overly tired.
  • If you feel excited about the change, you’ll take the steps.
  • If you miss a couple of days, you feel discouraged and are likely to not even want to think about it. We’re very good at avoiding thinking about uncomfortable things.
  • If you can keep the good feeling going, you’ll form a habit or make the change you want to make.
  • Other people can be discouraging, or they can be encouraging. This makes a lot of difference.
  • We ourselves can talk to ourselves (in our heads, what I call “self talk”) in a positive, encouraging way, or we can talk to ourselves in a negative, discouraging way.
  • It’s easy to get stuck in a negative mood, where you just don’t think you can do it and give up caring. Our minds tend towards the negative. We put up resistance whenever we think about making changes.
  • It’s also possible to get into a positive track, where you’re feeling great about the changes and want to keep going. This is amazing. But it doesn’t always last forever, so you have to be mindful of how you’re feeling.

You can see from all of the above how important your attitude is, your mood, your feeling about the change. You can see that it’s affected by how you’re feeling each day, your tiredness and stress levels, how encouraging or discouraging other people are toward you, and how you talk to yourself.

So putting all that together, let’s talk about some actions you can take to get better at this overlooked skill.

How to Be Awesome at Feeling Awesome

It’s not possible to always feel positive and upbeat. I don’t even recommend it — lots of us try to block out or avoid any negative feelings whatsoever, and this means we’re rejecting a whole range of feelings. I used to buy into this idea, but now I let myself feel down. I let myself feel discouraged, sad, frustrated, irritated — and accept these parts of myself instead of rejecting them.

That said, you can take actions to put yourself in the mood for positive changes. It’s helpful to be mindful of your mood and what effect it has on you.

Here are some actions you can take:

  • Practice mindfulness of your feelings and self talk. When you’re procrastinating or resisting taking steps you know you should take, turn inward and notice how you’re feeling. Are you tired, discouraged, stressed? Are you saying things like “I can do it later” or “I deserve a break”? Become aware of what’s going on inside and how it’s affecting you.
  • Be accepting of your mood. Instead of rejecting or avoiding your discouraged feelings, just stay with them. Be a good friend to them. Notice that you’re having a hard time, and give yourself love. In this way, you develop a trust in yourself, and you see that the mood isn’t anything to panic about, it’s just a passing feeling.
  • Learn what puts you in a positive mood. By practicing mindfulness, you can see that some activities get you in a funk, while others might make you feel great. For me, going for a walk or doing a workout always make me feel great. Taking a shower, having a cup of tea, and meditating are other great ones for me.
  • Find encouragement. Surround yourself with people who will support you, hold your feet to the fire, give you positive vibes. When you have a friend like this, hang out with them more. Negative people, hang out with them less. I’ve found they just drag me down. Look to online communities if necessary.
  • Be mindful when you miss a couple days. This is a danger zone, I’ve found. Missing a day is no big deal, but missing two days often feels discouraging and people quit at this point. Ask friends for help if you’ve missed two days. Take the smallest step to get moving again.
  • Take small positive steps. When I’m in a funk, the smallest positive steps are all I need to get myself in a positive mood for taking more small positive steps. Identify the smallest step you can take, and put everything you have into it.
  • Be forgiving. You’ll mess up. We all do. That’s OK — it’s not a straight, linear process, but a messy one. There’s learning, there’s missteps, there’s lots of starts and stops. That’s how life works, be less attached to doing it perfectly and instead grateful to be doing it at all.
  • Find joy in every step. You’re not doing this to get to some great destination at the end. Each positive step can be a joy in itself, a place to smile and breathe and find gratitude. What a wonderful thing to be where you are!

In the end, none of this is easy. But by shining a light on this process, we can take it from an overlooked area that’s holding us back, to something we explore with curiosity and wonder.

Friday August 19th, 2016
By Leo Babauta

We all procrastinate. The question is how (or even whether) we overcome the tendency to procrastinate, and if we can find focus.

This matters — our lives are brief and limited, and while we don’t need to be productivity robots, running in fear of difficult tasks to distractions and comfort is not the best way to spend our lives.

We can face these fears. We can learn to deal with them mindfully. And in doing so, we can develop an ability to return with courage to the work that matters the most to us, to create something important, something that helps the world at least in a small way.

Distraction and running aren’t useful habits. Let’s learn to overcome them and find focus to create.

The Procrastination Fears

Why do we run from hard tasks? Because of fears:

  • That we don’t know what we’re doing
  • That we’re gonna mess up and look bad
  • That we’ll succeed and then have to face a scarier situation
  • That the task will be difficult and uncomfortable

Basically, we fear discomfort and uncertainty. We want comfort and certainty, and distractions like email and social media and reading news and blogs are easy and we know how to do them. Very well. Distractions are always much more tempting than difficult work, much more comforting than facing fears.

We all have fears, but our habit is to run from them. Avoid even thinking about them. Our minds are very good at this.

We get distracted and then forget completely about what we were supposed to be doing. Our minds are good at forgetting and getting lost.

We try to focus, but then immediately we have an urge to switch to something else, because staying is uncomfortable. Our minds love comfort, hate discomfort, and will run to comfort every time, if we let them.

So that’s why we procrastinate … but how do we overcome this?

Overcoming Procrastination

Our minds are very good at running from discomfort, and most of the time we don’t even realize it’s happening. We just have an urge to switch, and follow the urge immediately.

The trick then, is to catch ourselves when we’re about to switch. When the urge comes up to switch, we have to notice.

Then we have to pause, and deal mindfully instead of mindlessly with the urge.

Here’s how:

  1. Create a practice space. Do an Unprocrastination Session once a day to practice. Pick an important task (any will do — one you’ve been procrastinating on is a good choice). Set a timer for 5 minutes, or 10 if you feel ambitious. Commit to doing nothing but your important task for that 5 minutes.
  2. Don’t let yourself switch. Clear distractions and have nothing that you can do except this one task. You’re single-tasking. When you get the urge to switch (when, not if), notice this! And don’t act on the urge. We can feel an urge and not act on it. How liberating!
  3. Stay with the urge. Instead of acting on the urge, instead of ignoring the urge … just stay with it. Sit still and feel how it feels. Notice the fear of this task that you’re facing. Notice discomfort. Boredom, dread, feeling intimidated or overwhelmed or confused or incompetent. Just stay with it and be curious about the physical feeling. What does the energy in your body feel like?
  4. Return to the task. After sitting for a minute with the urge and the discomfort, they’ll probably die down. Simply return your focus to your task. You didn’t scratch the itch, and the itch wasn’t that big of a deal.

By working on this once a day, you can begin to develop trust that you’ll be OK if you don’t scratch the itch, that you’ll be able to handle the urge without acting on it, that you’ll be fine if you deal with the discomfort of a difficult task. This is quite an accomplishment!

Finding Focus

Focusing on one thing is an incredibly difficult thing to do. Whether you want to focus on writing a report or a book chapter, focus on drawing or practicing music, focus on reading or meditating on your breath … your mind is in the habit of switching to something else.

Focusing, then, is a matter of practicing staying.

In the Unprocrastination Sessions I described above, we talked about how to practice staying. In addition, I’d like to offer a few more practical tips:

  1. Have a deeper motivation. The thing you are focusing on shouldn’t just be “nice to do,” but should really feel meaningful to you.
  2. Remember your motivation as you get started. This task doesn’t just have fear in it … there’s a great deal of love as well. Let the love drive you past the fear.
  3. Use external motivation if needed. While love is the best motivator, sometimes you just aren’t feeling up to it. So use external deadlines and accountability. Promise to email something to a friend or colleague by a deadline or you have to do something embarrassing. Put your reputation on the line. Join an accountability group. Don’t let yourself off the hook.
  4. Allow yourself to get into Flow. This is the state of mind where you are lost in the task. It’s easy to only be halfway into a task, with your mind flitting around and wanting to do something else. But if you can get fully into a task, you’ll truly love doing it. That means clearing all distractions, and really putting your mind into the task. I find it helpful to have a challenging task, and one that requires me to visualize. For example, if I’m writing a story, I should be imagining how the story is going, visually, not just thinking about the words.

Focus isn’t a magical quality that you can just acquire. It is a skill that takes daily practice, and you get better at it but never completely master it. You’ll slip up and get discouraged, but you can just practice some more.

In the end, all the practice will be worth it, because you’ll learn to focus on things that truly matter. And that is a life worth living, in my experience.

Need Some Help?

If you’d like to go deeper into this practice, and learn to overcome the obstacles you might face, I’m teaching a six-week course called Unprocrastination + Focus in my Sea Change program.

We’ll have twice-weekly video lessons to go deeper into motivation, distractions, dealing with urges, focusing on important tasks (and how to choose them), Flow, and more. We’ll get into some skills like interval training, pausing, resetting and more.

In addition, we’ll have:

  • Daily challenges and reminder emails
  • A forum to discuss the lessons and problems you’re having
  • A live video webinar with me where you can ask questions
  • A challenge to do a daily Unprocrastination Session for the duration of the course

I hope you’ll join me — try Sea Change for a week for free (then $19/month after that).

Monday August 15th, 2016
By Leo Babauta

On Twitter I met a struggling soul who shared a lack of friends, family, motivation, self-esteem and confidence.

I feel for him because I know what it’s like to struggle, to feel down and even depressed, to have no motivation. I have suffered from confidence problems, many times.

So I’m writing this for him, and all my fellow human beings who are struggling.

You are struggling, maybe even hurting. And that is really difficult. It can feel hopeless, lonely, confining.

These feelings are very real, and really hard. How do you climb out of this when you don’t have the motivation to change? How do you make friends who can help you if you don’t feel the self-esteem and confidence?

I am sorry you’re hurting and struggling. But know that even if you feel alone, you are not alone. I, for one, am connected to you because I’m thinking of you, all of you. I’m connected to you because I too have suffered in similar ways. We have shared pain, shared hopelessness, shared loneliness.

And it’s not just me: every single human being who is alive has felt this kind of pain, hopelessness, and loneliness at one time or another. We are all connected through this shared pain and struggle. We feel alone, and in this we are connected.

The feeling of being alone, separated from the rest of the world, is an illusion. Sure, it’s an illusion that feels very very real. But it’s not true.

Consider: you are supported by millions, even billions, of people. You are using electricity that is powered by an electric company, with thousands of employees working to give you that electricity. You drink water brought to you by yet more thousands of people. You eat food raised and harvested and brought to you by thousands of people. Brought to you on roads built and maintained by thousands of people, on vehicles (ships, trucks, cars, planes) built and run by thousands of people. You wear clothes, use gadgets, sit on furniture, all built and brought by thousands of people. And all those thousands and thousands of people are themselves supported similarly by thousands more.

You are supported by millions of people, and those millions are supported by millions. The entire world supports each other. We became the people we’ve become only because we’ve had that support, we’ve connected to share ideas, learn from each other, serve each other.

I believe this is a miracle. We each are supported by a miracle of connections to every other person on the planet. We feel alone, but it is only an illusion.

The way to rise from this struggle is to turn from your own pain to the pain of others. Who else around you is struggling? How can you offer them love? How can you help them, ease their pain in some way?

By turning outwards, toward the pain of others, we can fill our hearts with love for them, wanting nothing but happiness for them. Then, by this simple turning, we have hearts filled with love. I think that, too, is a miracle.

I can’t take away your pain, but I can offer you two miracles: the love that comes from turning toward other human beings, and the connection we have to everyone on Earth. I feel connected to you, and my heart is filed with love for you.

Wednesday August 10th, 2016
By Leo Babauta

When we go about our day, we tell ourselves a story about what’s happening … and at the center of that narrative is a single person.

Ourselves.

When I talk to myself about how so-and-so is inconsiderate or treated me badly, when I tell myself that it’s OK to procrastinate because I’m tired and not in the mood … I’m at the center of this movie. It’s an ongoing story about my life and everything around me, with me at the center.

I’m sure you can relate — you’re at the center of your movie as well. It’s natural, and there’s nothing wrong with doing this.

But some difficulties can arise from this self-centered view of the world:

  • We interpret other people’s actions as it relates to us, so that they are helping or harming us … giving us what we want or getting in the way of what we want. But their actions aren’t really about us — their actions are about them, because they are at the center of their own stories. When we interpret their self-centered actions through the lens of our self-centered view, the actions often make no sense, and frustrate, hurt or infuriate us.
  • When someone makes a comment that we take as an attack on something about ourselves … we then feel the need to defend ourselves. “I’m a good person,” we think, “and they shouldn’t imply that I’m not.” But this interpretation is just a self-centered way of looking at it … we could also see it as saying something about the other person. And if we try to understand where they’re coming from, instead of seeing what it says about us, then we’ll be less defensive or offended.
  • We interpret everything else around us — from bad traffic to Internet comments to terrorist attacks — by thinking about how it affects us. “This sucks (for me),” we think. But we could also remove ourselves from this story and just see that there are things happening in the world, and be curious about them, try to understand them, and see that they are not about us.

Again, it’s natural and normal to interpret everything this way … but you can see that it can cause problems, inhibit understanding and empathy, and make us unhappy at times.

So what can we do?

First, become aware of the stories we tell ourselves.

Next, see that we are putting ourselves at the center.

Then see if we can remove ourselves from the center of the story.

What would the story be without us in it? For me, that story becomes something like:

  • Things are happening — how interesting! What can be learned from them? What can be understood?
  • Someone else is doing something or talking, and it’s probably about them. How can I understand them better?
  • There is difficulty and unhappiness in what other people are saying and doing. How can I feel compassion for them and offer them love?

When I remember to do this — and I very, very often don’t — it lifts the difficulty that I’ve been facing internally and shift my focus to understanding and empathizing with other people, seeing how I can give them compassion.

Of course, I’m not really removed from the story. I’m still there, but just not necessarily at the center of it. Instead, I focus more on my interconnectedness with everyone else, everything else, and see that they have supported me in becoming the person I am, and that I can support them as well.

Thursday August 4th, 2016
By Leo Babauta

Yesterday afternoon, I set off on a long walk.

I’d been having an off day, tired from lots of activities and unmotivated and my mind fixated on one thing … so I decided to walk.

I put some snacks, a book, and some water in a backpack, put on some running shorts, a long-sleeve running shirt, some good shoes and a hat. The weather was hot but not at peak intensity, at 5 p.m.

The start was really nice — it felt so good to be moving, to be outdoors, that I couldn’t help but feel liberated from the funk I’d been in. I passed other walkers, cyclists, kids playing in playgrounds, and loved seeing fellow human beings enjoying being outside.

I walked for about an hour before taking a snack and water break, and reading my book. By then, my left foot had developed a hot spot in the forefoot, but I ignored it, probably foolishly. The sun was going down a bit and the shadows were lengthening, but it was still warm.

After a break, I headed out again. My mind was calmed from all the walking, and my legs were getting a little tired, but not too bad.

After a couple hours, I started to feel some discomfort — I hadn’t walked like this in awhile, and my mind started to push back against my body’s discomfort. It was good for me to feel uncomfortable, though, so I just kept walking. Let my mind complain. It can handle it.

The sun became a bright pink, a dazzling neon red that reminded me of the 80s for some reason. It was breath-taking, and I stopped for a photo, though my phone’s camera couldn’t capture the beauty. Oh well, I’d just have to enjoy it without documentary evidence or the ability to share it with others.

I stopped for another break in a small batch of redwoods, and read. I had a few cookies, well-earned.

I kept walking, marveling at the purple and orange sky, and the ridiculously pink sun. No one else around seemed wowed by this sun, but I felt awe and joy.

My legs were tired now, but I was still about four miles from home, so I kept walking.

The light faded to twilight, then night, and I was walking in the dark. It was quiet, and I was alone, and I wanted company but couldn’t have any.

I finished the walk, 12 miles and about four hours later (including reading and snack breaks), and had a well-deserved beer. And slept as well as I’ve slept in a month.

A good walk can clear your head, push you into discomfort, and help you appreciate the majesty of life in a way that you rarely do while at home. I can’t wait to go on another today.

Monday July 25th, 2016
By Leo Babauta

There’s a hidden mechanism that creates unhappiness, difficulty changing habits, relationship problems, frustration, anger and disappointment.

Barely anyone is aware of this hidden mechanism, even though it’s happening all the time, in all of us.

It’s the stories we tell ourselves.

We do it all day long: we tell ourselves a story about what’s happening in our lives, about other people, about ourselves. When I call them “stories” … that doesn’t mean they’re false, or that they aren’t based on the truth. It just means we’ve constructed a narrative based on our experiences, a perspective on the world around us, an interpretation of facts as we see them. Not false, but not necessarily the entire truth — just one perspective.

A different person could look at the same situation and tell a very different situation.

A few examples:

  1. You might have a story about how your boss is very supportive and praises you a lot, which means you are doing a good job and like your work environment, and this story makes you happy. Another person might look at the same situation and tell a story about how the work area is messy and people are always interrupting him and he’s tired and the clients are rude and smelly.
  2. You might be upset with your spouse because she was rude to you or didn’t clean up her messes for the last few days. Another person might have the same experience but tell themselves a story about how his spouse has been working hard at her job, has gone out of her way to cook a nice meal for you, and is tired and needs some comforting.
  3. You might have a story about how you keep procrastinating, keep failing at being disciplined, never stick to a workout routine. Another perspective might be that you have gotten some great things done despite getting distracted, you’ve been passionate about learning something and that’s taken a priority over work tasks you’re dreading, and you are tired and need some rest before you can tackle exercise with vigor.

Each of these examples have very different stories about the same situations — it’s about which details you pay attention to, and how you shape the narrative of those details.

Now, telling ourselves stories is natural — we all do it, all the time. There’s nothing wrong with it. But if we’re not aware of the stories we tell ourselves, we can’t understand how they shape our happiness, relationships, moods, and more.

Becoming Aware of Your Stories

Throughout the day, you’re telling yourself stories about what’s going on, about how wrong other people are to do what they do, about how good or bad you are at things.

My challenge to you is to start to notice what you’re telling yourself about everything.

It’s important to be aware of what those stories are, and how they’re affecting your happiness. If a story is making you happy, and you’re aware of that, then great! If you’re not aware of it, it’s not such a big problem if it’s making you happy, but what happens if the story starts to make you unhappy with your life? Then if you’re not aware, you have difficulties.

So start to become aware of your stories, good and bad. Notice them throughout the day.

Notice when you’re getting stuck in the story, spinning it around and around in your head. So and so shouldn’t have done this, and on and on, making you frustrated and unhappy with the person.

When we get hooked on a story, it’s hard to break away from it. But becoming aware of being hooked is the most important step.

What We Can Do

So what can we do if we’re hooked on a story? It can be very difficult to break out of that trap. I know, because it happens to me all the time — I see the story I’m telling myself, but it seems so solid and real that I can’t just let it go.

The first thing you can do is regard it as a dream. That doesn’t mean it’s false, it just means it’s not so solid. It’s something you’re playing out in your head, just like a dream, with very real emotional results. See it as a dream, not solid, and see if you can come out of the dream to the physical reality of the world around you in this moment. What sensations are happening right now, as opposed to in this dream?

The next thing you can do is not act on the story. Even if you’re caught up in it, that doesn’t mean you have to lash out at someone, or run away to distraction or comfort. Just sit with the story, notice how it’s making you feel, notice the physical sensations in your body. Notice that you’re caught up. But don’t act, just stay with your awareness.

There is another way of being: where you don’t cling to the stories but instead drop below them, and are just aware of the moment as it is, without interpretations, judgements, preconceptions. Stories will still come up, but you can notice them and not get caught up. Or if you do get caught up, notice that and don’t hold so tightly to it, coming back to the present moment.

However, this is a pretty advanced skill, and most of us can’t stay in this mode of being for very long. For now, just focus on awareness of your story, regarding it as a dream, and not acting on the story as much as we normally do.

In this way, you’ll be less caught up in whatever is causing unhappiness and frustration, and more present in the current moment.

Tuesday July 19th, 2016
By Leo Babauta

I was talking to a 19-year-old recently and he has been struggling with motivation.

His problem goes like this: he gets excited about starting a project or plan, and is very motivated at the start … but after a few days, that feeling dies down, and he starts procrastinating.

He really does want to do the project or follow through on the plan, but the motivation inevitably drops away.

I told him this is something he should devote some effort to figuring out, because very few problems are as important to solve as this one.

I suggested experiments in motivation. Every person is motivated differently (and in fact, that can shift), so finding methods that motivate you personally is a matter of experimenting.

I’m writing this post for him, and anyone else who might want to try these experiments.

How does it work? You try each experiment for a week, and note the results. After a couple months of doing this, you know more about your personal motivation style than ever before.

Here are eight motivation methods you could try:

  1. Un-ignorable Consequences. Set a deadline for the task(s) you want to complete, and a consequence you won’t be able to ignore. It’s best to share this deadline and consequence with an accountability partner or publicly. Example: I post on Facebook I’m going to write 1,000 words in my book every day this week, or I can’t watch TV for a week. (That only works if you really care about the consequence.) Another example: if I don’t write my first chapter by Saturday at midnight, I have to donate $200 to Donald Trump (or whichever candidate you don’t like) and post about it publicly. The idea is that the consequence should be embarrassing and something you can’t just ignore.
  2. Completion Compulsion. Many people, myself included, have a strong desire to complete a list. For example, if you’ve watched 15 out of 20 episodes of a show, you might really want to finish watching the show. This is “completion compulsion,” and I think everyone experiences it sometime — especially if finishing the list seems doable. So the method is this: make a list of 10 small actions (10 minutes or less to complete) that you want to finish this week on a certain project, or 5 small actions you want to finish each day, and make it your goal to finish the list. You could combine this with the un-ignorable consequences method (if I don’t finish my list each day, I can’t have wine).
  3. A Powerful “Why”. Understand the deeper reasons you want to complete this goal or accomplish this task. It should be a reason that really resonates with you, that you deeply want to achieve. Now write your “Why” in a phrase (like, “compassion for myself” or “to help others in pain”), and post it somewhere visible, so you won’t forget it.
  4. Get Excited Daily. It’s easy to be excited about a project or goal when you first start, but that dies out. So renew it! Each day, start by setting a goal for the day that you can accomplish and that you care about. Find inspiration, visualize your accomplishment, find some music that motivates you, find an inspirational quote or video … anything to get you excited to accomplish your goal for the day!
  5. Focus on Being True to Your Word. One of the most important things in life is to be trusted, to have people believe that when you say you’re going to do something, you’ll do it. If people don’t trust in that, you won’t have good relationships, romantically, with friends, or at work. Imagine hiring someone and not knowing if they’re going to show up, or do the work if they do show up. So you should make it one of your priorities in life to live the motto, “Be True to Your Word.” That starts with small things: tell someone you’re going to do a small task that will only take 10-30 minutes. Then do it. Repeat this several times a day, building other people’s trust in you and your own trust in yourself. Post the motto somewhere you won’t forget it.
  6. Find a Group. Humans are social animals, and you can use that to your advantage. Create an accountability group of friends or colleagues who want to achieve a goal or finish a project. Agree to set daily or weekly targets, and check in with each other daily or weekly (form a Facebook group or subreddit, perhaps). Set rewards and/or embarrassing consequences for hitting or missing the targets. Have weekly “winners” for those who did the best at their targets. Encourage each other and help each other when someone is faltering.
  7. Focus on a Sense of Achievement. With every task you complete, pause at the end of it to savor your feeling of accomplishment. This is a great feeling! Share your victory with others. Savor the feeling of building trust in yourself. As you start a task, think about how good you’ll feel when you accomplish it.
  8. Small Starts, Quick Rewards. Create a system where you have to do short tasks (just 10 minutes) and you get a small reward at the end of it. For example, I just need to write for 10 minutes, then I get to have my first coffee of the day. Or I clear my email inbox for 10 minutes, and then I get to check my favorite sites for 5 minutes. Don’t let yourself have the reward unless you do the task! The smaller the task, the better, so you won’t delay starting.

OK, these are eight experiments, but you might think of others, like the Seinfeld Method or the Pomodoro Technique. All that matters is that you try the experiments, and note the results. At the end of each weekly experiment, write a brief review of how it went. Rate your productivity on a scale of 10. Then try another experiment.

At the end of these, you’ll have tried a bunch of great methods, and figured out what helps you most. You might combine methods, or use different ones at different times. And maybe after all of this, you’ll have a trust in yourself that’s so strong, you don’t need any methods!

Friday July 15th, 2016
By Leo Babauta

I think I’m not the only one among us who wants to lose fat. I’m embarking on a 2-month fat-loss plan, and I thought I’d share it with you in case you’re interested.

Some background: when I started this blog, almost 10 years ago, I was overweight but had already made a lot of progress in losing that weight. Changing my diet to a healthier, vegetable-based diet was a big part of it, and learning to exercise regularly was another. And learning not to overeat so much was also pretty huge.

I lost 70 lbs. at one point (almost 32 kg, for you non-Americans), and all was great. However, I wasn’t that strong, so I started lifting weights. That helped me gain some of the weight back. Lately, I decided to intentionally eat more to gain more muscle, and it worked … except I also gained some fat. That was expected, and it’s not a problem. Now I’m going to try to lose most of that fat.

Finally, I should say that I’m not anti-fat. I prefer to be lean, because it helps me run better and move better, but having some fat on my body isn’t a big problem. I don’t think anyone should feel bad about having fat on their body, though I understand that feeling. In the end, it’s about moving towards a healthier lifestyle, and figuring out what works for you.

This plan is what works for me.

Here’s the plan:

  1. I eat a calorie deficit. You can’t lose fat if you’re not in an energy deficit. So I first calculate my Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), then subtract 500 calories. I suggest you start by subtracting 250 calories, and then adjust downward if that isn’t too hard or if you’re not losing enough fat after a few weeks. For me, I know that 500 calories is a good number for me.
  2. I plan out my daily diet. Some people don’t like to eat the same thing every day, and don’t like to plan. I know I work best if I just figure out an eating plan and stick to it, without having to think about it every day. So I create a spreadsheet, and figure out how much I’m going to eat on training days and rest days (more calories on training days, though this isn’t absolutely necessary for everyone). I eat the same thing for breakfast every day, and eat the same thing for lunch and dinner. I don’t count green veggies in my spreadsheet, though I eat a lot of them. As many of you know, I also eat a completely vegan diet, and really love this way of eating.
  3. I lift weights. If you want to lose mostly fat, and not a lot of muscle, it’s essential that you do strength training. You probably won’t gain a lot of muscle on a calorie deficit (unless you’re new to strength training), but the idea is to retain the muscle you already have. For me, that means a simple plan: three full-body workouts a week, focusing on just a handful of key lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press, bent-over barbell rows, weighted chinups). See the plan at the bottom of my spreadsheet. I try to add weight or reps to each lift every workout, so I’m progressing each week.
  4. I keep protein high. I’ve found that eating a good amount of protein helps you retain muscle while you’re on a calorie deficit. So I eat about 150g of protein a day, which isn’t as ridiculously high as bodybuilders often go, but is good enough for my purposes (it’s about 1g of protein per lb. of lean bodymass). To do this, I eat seitan, which is a good source of vegan protein, along with PlantFusion protein powder and soymilk.

I also go running, just for health and fun, and let myself eat out about once a week or so just so I’m not crazy strict on myself. If I’m hungry in between these meals, I’ll eat an apple or have some tea, and that helps tide me over.

So I eat the same thing every day, which is a caloric deficit with high protein, and lift weights three times a week. That’s about it! I didn’t invent any of this (lots of it I got from Dick Talens), but it seems to work for me. I hope this was helpful to some of you.

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aredey
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99thin
Very useful information. Thank you for sharing it.
Thanks
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