The problem with a quick, easy solution to losing weight is that it usually leads to quick, easy weight gain shortly thereafter. There are hundreds of weight loss tips out there, and you may be tired of hearing the same advice repeated over and over. The truth is, there are no new weight loss tips. The same honest truth of yesterday is the truth today. Losing weight requires that you change your eating habits, exercise more, and live a generally healthy lifestyle. A particular weight loss program can help you lose the initial pounds you need to shed, and give you advice on how to keep them off, but the rest is up to you. Going straight back to your old habits is not going to help you stay in shape, or stay healthy.
Before you choose a weight loss program, let’s go through those tips one more time. This time, put them into practice – lose the weight, and keep it off.
1. Lose weight for the right reasons
Before you even look at a diet plan or exercise schedule, look at why you want to lose weight. If you want to improve your health, look and feel better – great! If you want to be able to play with your kids more, that’s super. Trying to get your ex back, look better than the next door neighbour, or because your partner says you should – not so good. The best motivation to lose weight is to do it for yourself – nobody else. Health reasons should be foremost, because being overweight can cause health issues that will be with you for the rest of your life.
2. Choose a weight loss program carefully
You must be realistic when you choose how you are going to go about losing weight. Your lifestyle may not suit every type of program or diet, and choosing one that you cannot adjust to or cope with is setting yourself up for failure. Look at your current eating habits, level of physical activity, work schedule, family and social life.
Think realistically about how much change each of those areas can withstand. For example, if you do no exercise at all, you’re going to struggle with a weight loss program that requires intense exercise from the get-go. If you eat out regularly, you’ll need a diet that allows you a wider choice of food types to accommodate that. Counting calories can be time consuming, so if you have a busy schedule, you may want a diet that either lays it all out for you, or gives you more flexibility. Try not to be sucked in by the promise of losing a certain number of pounds in a specific time period – everyone loses weight at a different rate, and the only way to guarantee you will lose any weight is by following instructions to the letter.
3. Set realistic goals
This cannot be repeated enough. Setting goals that are nigh impossible to reach just sets you up for failure, disappointment and misery. Break your goal up into smaller, more achievable steps. Monthly or weekly goals are easier to achieve. Make sure that your goals represent a healthy weight loss – which most often means gradual weight loss leading to a healthy weight for your age, gender, height and body type.
4. Write it all down
Whether you call it a food diary or a success journal (personally I prefer the latter), get into the habit of recording your eating habits – and preferably start doing this before you go on a weight loss program. Record what you eat, when you eat – and why you eat. Why you eat will help you identify what triggers the unhealthy eating habits that may have led to your weight gain. Boredom, loneliness, anger, frustration and stress can often lead us to unhealthy snacks and comfort food, even though we know it’s not good for us. Use your diary or journal to record your goals, and your progress.
5. Program for success, but expect some bad days
Forget about all the diets you’ve been on in the past! Program yourself for success on this one, but accept that there will be bad days – and even bad weeks. Nobody is perfect, and you will have a day or two where it just gets too much for you. You may skip a workout, or find yourself unable to resist the donuts your colleague brought to work. It’s okay to slip up! It is NOT okay to give up. One bad day, one poor decision, or even a string of them, does not mean you have failed. It just means you had a bad day. Tomorrow does not have to be the same, so just get started right away.
6. Get support
Whether it’s friends, family or an online group, make sure you have people to support and encourage you – especially on those bad days. There are thousands of people in online groups who share their experiences with different diets and weight loss programs, have been through the same difficulties you may be facing, and many who have succeeded. Read their stories, chat to them, and learn from their mistakes.
Whether you like it or not, some form of physical activity must be included in a healthy lifestyle. Not only does it help you lose weight, but it will help you maintain the weight loss. Of course, the health benefits are a big factor – even if you’re thin, exercise is good for you. You will find that the usual recommendation is between 30 and 45 minutes of exercise three times a week. Recent research indicates that those thirty minutes can be broken up into three 10 minutes sessions, with the same results. 10 minutes is often easier to fit into a busy schedule, and the exercise you do will keep your metabolism boosted throughout the day. Your exercise program should involve activities that you enjoy doing. If you don’t enjoy it, you’re going to find any excuse not to do it, or be miserable when you are. One of the three factors most likely to lead to successful weight loss is having home exercise equipment, so that may be an avenue to investigate too.
Whether you are following a specific diet plan, counting calories, or just cutting down on the ‘bad’ food, there are a couple of things that can help you.
Eat slowly. It takes 20 minutes from the time you start eating, for your brain to register feelings of fullness. If you gulp your food down in less time, you won’t know you’re too full until it’s too late. Stop eating when you feel satisfied – not full.
Watch those portions – especially when you are eating out. Eat half the meal and take the rest home in a take out box. At home, use smaller plates – a great way to make sure you don’t serve too much, but your plate will still look nice and full.
Go easy on the salt, limit high fat foods, replace red meat with lean poultry and fish, and drink lots of water. Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast, as that’s the meal that wakes up your metabolism and gets it going for the rest of the day.
9. Chart your progress
Keeping track of your progress, including any slow or stalled loss periods, will let you see what helps you to succeed, what causes problems, and when to celebrate. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, even if they are following the exact same plan as you. Everyone loses weight at a different rate, due to metabolism, muscle tone and body type differences.
If your progress has stalled, particularly towards the end of your diet, you may have hit a plateau. The best way to overcome this is to change something. Exercise in the mornings instead of the evenings, swop carbs for proteins and vice versa in a few meals, or even take a few days break altogether. A plateau means your body has settled into a routine, and often all it needs is a little jolt to get it working at losing weight again.
10. Maintain, maintain, maintain!
It is common sense that once you’ve lost weight, going back to your old habits will bring the weight back on, but so many fall into that trap. Either their diet was so radical it is impossible to continue in real life, or the weight loss program failed to explain how the dietary changes made to lose weight can be adapted to maintain your new weight. After your ‘diet’ is finished, you should have a better idea of what to eat, when to eat, and how to eat it. You should be feeling the benefits of regular exercise, and in fact be able to do more exercise because you are now fitter and stronger. Adapting your weight loss program to a weight loss maintenance program and a new healthy lifestyle should be a priority.
Although these tips may seem like common sense, old hat or just another repetition, that doesn’t mean you’ll take heed. Most of us know when we’re eating the wrong food or not exercising enough, but that isn’t always enough. You have to take action in order to change your life, and there is no shortcut. A weight loss program can help you get the weight off, but you have to keep it off. It is not easy to lose weight, and no-one takes kindly to change, but if you want to improve your health and well-being, you are going to have to put some effort into becoming healthy. The results will, however, definitely be worth it.