We have all hit that point before, especially after quarantine, where another year has rolled by trying to lose that pesky weight. Maybe you have wanted to lose ten pounds over the past ten years, or maybe it has been a life-long struggle. “I’ll start on Monday,” we say as we gorge on that chocolate cake on Saturday.
What is it about trying to lose weight that has us all digging our feet into the ground? Maybe it is because we are fed these “lose weight quick” schemes without being shown how to lose the weight and keep the weight off.
It doesn’t take much to reach your long-term happy weight. However, it does take time, dedication and some lifestyle changes. No, you can’t shed those pounds while sitting down. No, you can’t squeeze into those pants after eating those low-carb oatmeal bars. No, you are not going to get a six-pack following those “Get Abs in 6 Weeks With These Exercises” Pinterest boards. Anything that says you can do anything “easy” is a scheme, and you need to ignore it.
If you want permanent weight loss, you are going to need to take it low and slow. Below are just some of the many ways that you can really switch your mindset to finally drop that 10, 20 or 30 pounds you have always wanted to lose. The best part is these habits will help you to keep them off.
Set Small, Obtainable Goals
When we step on that scale, we all have a number in our heads. Usually that number is not what pops up. You need to be real with yourself.
You might not be able to be that same size you were in high school, or before getting married, or before kids. At least not right now. You might have a way to go. You need to first set small, realistic obtainable goals about your weight loss journey.
Regardless of whatever you have seen, you cannot lose 50 pounds in 3 months. If you can, you are doing something wrong—like starving yourself. Instead of 50 pounds, try 5 pounds in one month. Give yourself time and flexibility to reach that goal. Maybe you want to lose 20 pounds in 6 months—this is more doable, and it ensures that you will lose that weight for good. This is a process that takes time, and you need to feel proud of yourself when you accomplish your goals.
For one day—try writing down everything you ate, how much water you drank and how long you exercised for. These numbers might surprise you—for better or for worse.
Try doing this for a week. Two weeks. By doing this tracking, you begin to observe your behaviors. When you have your goal set for the year, you can pinpoint your problem areas. Maybe you need to drink more water, or maybe you take in too many sugary, salty or fatty foods. These bad habits aren’t going to allow you to lose weight.
When you write down your behaviors either in a notebook or in a smartphone app, you take accountability for your behaviors. Once you have done this, you really can begin to improve. There will be cheat days, there will be mistakes, and there will be emotional eating weeks. Instead of 100% perfection, you can strive for 75% perfection with better results.
Whether you work out for two minutes a day, or two hours a day, there are some exercises that you absolutely hate. Maybe it is lunges, or ab crunches, or pull ups. Sometimes, this difficult exercise can be an absolute deterrent from working out. Who wants to put themselves willingly through that torture?
Instead of just not exercising though, you should seek an exercise you enjoy doing. Exercise is customizable to your needs—it could be swimming, dancing, bicycling, or even running. This will help you immensely to find an exercise routine you can stick with. Maybe you thought running was the only cardio exercise that would help you lose weight, but fast walking actually burns fat at a quicker rate.
When you get bored of your routine, try to swap out exercises with something like strength training to boost your metabolism and build sleek muscle. Interval training, like walking, swimming or running simple errands, will keep you moving and shredding pounds without even realizing it.
Eat, Eat, Eat
One myth of losing weight that has drifted around is that losing weight comes from eating less. This couldn’t be less true. In fact, it is more important than ever to eat if you are losing weight correctly.
If you are participating in some high-energy exercises, you want to supplement those calories, nutrients, and minerals you have lost. A pocket of nuts, some carrots and hummus, or one of those low calorie diet shakes are necessary to help your body heal after a good workout.
Eating frequently is not counterintuitive to keeping pounds off, because your body might start building on its fat resources to make up for what it is losing. Starting with breakfast and enjoying healthy snacks throughout the day keeps your blood sugar level and allows you to manage your hunger, something that could lead to dangerous binges. You want to keep your metabolism moving, not stopping and starting it.
You’ll want to make sure you are following the plate meal also: half of the plate should be fruits or veggies; a quarter should be a source of protein (either meat or plant based), and the other quarter should be a carb. Brown rice, starchy veggies, or brown rice/lentil pasta are great examples of healthy, complete carbs with fiber.
Get Your Sleep
It is not coincidental that when your number of hours sleeping goes down, your BMI steadily goes up. The number of studies connecting sleep and a healthy body weight have steadily risen because there is an ambiguous relationship connecting the two.
There are several theories, including how sleep alters our appetites, the irregulating of important neurotransmitters that tell your body it is hungry or full and the type of food we crave when we are hungry (carbs). While there is not a definitive answer, studies have still shown that inadequate sleep has the potential to lead to weight gain.
If you are getting enough sleep, you will wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start your day. This might not be a full 8 hours but maybe 7 hours. Try figuring out where your sweet spot is and give your body what it needs: a full night’s rest. Your weight and your mind will thank you!
Avoid Fad Diets
It is not uncommon for a dieter to regain all of the weight they lost. These fad diets are meant to be a shortcut, or a band-aid. Fad diets often disrupt the balance of our body by depriving us of essential nutrients. Nearly 18 and 30% of dieters tend to regain the weight they loss within two years of their fad diet!
You can tell a fad diet by the promises it makes, like losing weight extremely fast, boosting your metabolism or digestive track to crazy fast speeds, “fat burning,” or promoting a magic food or ingredient. If you have seen these marketing ploys plastered all over a pill, or a food supplement, or a subscription, chances are this is a fad. You might see the results fast, but they won’t last forever. Instead, you might end up dehydrated, lacking in nutrients and minerals, fatigued or nauseous.
Don’t Get Discouraged
One of the hardest things to do while losing weight is to stick with it! Depending on how extreme your habits are changing, you might experience irritability, fatigue or restlessness. This might be your body detoxing. Try not to get discouraged! You might fall off the wagon a couple of times because of vacations, holidays or stressful life situations, but you need to just pick up where you left off afterward. Always just try to commit getting back on the wagon—this is a marathon, not a sprint!