There are many reasons people decide to lose a few pounds. Sometimes, weight management is required to mediate a diagnosis, such as Type 2 Diabetes or Cardiovascular Disease, sometimes you need to lose a few pounds to improve your hormone levels and your body’s response to stress, and sometimes you want to lose some weight to improve the way you feel about yourself. Whatever your motivation, here’s a quick overview of the steps to take to achieve the sustainable weight loss that leads to increased health and vitality.
- Make a Commitment: Ask yourself why you want to lose weight and make a commitment to do so. Some people feel more empowered when they sign a contract with themselves, and some prefer to tell their friends and family their goals as a means of holding themselves accountable. Do whatever works for you. Just make sure that you are making a commitment to yourself to lose the amount of weight you want to lose for the reasons you want to lose it. Never lose weight for others, only for yourself.
- Determine Your Starting Point: To appreciate any results from your efforts, you need to know where you began. Grab a piece of paper and jot down the following information, including the date, and, if you’re brave enough, a “before” photo of yourself.
- The Numbers: Make a note of your current weight, body measurements, and biomarkers such as BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels (if available).
- The Food: Write down everything you eat for three days before you begin your weight loss efforts. This way, you’ll be able to identify quick changes you can make to your diet that will help you achieve your goal.
- The Challenges: Write out a list of challenges that may interfere with you achieving your goal. Is there a holiday coming up that involves a big meal? Do you need to feed your children different foods to suit their nutritional needs? Now identify ways to overcome these challenges as they arise. Perhaps you can volunteer to bring a lighter dish to the big holiday dinner, ensuring that you’ll have something satisfying to eat that keeps you on track. Maybe you can prepare meals for your family that quickly adapt to your needs as well; serve the kids mashed potatoes and yourself a double helping of veggies instead.
- The Help: Identify the places, people, and information sources you can turn to for help in reaching your goal. Is there a gym near your office that you could use before work or during lunch? Is there a friend you can talk to when you’re feeling frustrated? Lining up your resources before you begin will make overcoming obstacles easier when they arise.
- Set Realistic Goals: Make sure that the goal you have for total weight loss is achievable in the timeframe you choose. Don’t expect to lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks. Even if you could pull it off, you won’t be able to sustain it for the long term. It’s also helpful to establish a set of smaller milestones to hit along the way. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, set a benchmark for every five you drop, and take the time to reward yourself for doing so. Don’t use food as a reward. Instead, get your nails done, see that show you’ve wanted to see or buy the new pair of shoes. Do something to mark the occasion. Remember that milestones don’t need to be big. Small changes add up to big changes over time. Be patient.
- Check on Yourself: Establish a system to check on your progress. Weigh yourself weekly to make sure that your efforts are having a positive impact and evaluate your plan. How is it going? Do you need to make adjustments? Perhaps those morning workouts are too hard to fit in. Maybe you should go for a walk at lunchtime instead. Take a minute to ask yourself these questions.
- Improve Your Food: Look back on that food journal you kept for three days. Is there anything you could do without? Are you relying on candy bars to get you through stressful moments? Be brutally honest with yourself and adjust what you’re eating to:
- Include more fruits and vegetables
- Eliminate fast food and junk food
- Convert your protein to leaner cuts of meat or protein-rich vegetables
- Replace unhealthy fats with healthier options
- Reduce your portion sizes to eat just enough to feel satisfied
After two weeks, ask yourself if you notice an improvement in how you’re feeling. Are you less bloated than before? Do you have more energy? Are you sleeping better? These are all areas that can benefit from improving your food choices.
- Increase Your Activity: No, you don’t need to sit in a gym, pounding it out for hours to see a benefit. Simply make sure you are active every day. This could come in the form of working out with a trainer or simply walking your dog around the neighborhood. Just make sure you move.
- Stick with It: Don’t focus on what you’re missing during this weight loss journey. Focus on what’s improving. Remind yourself of your goals and your motivation for setting them. Envision yourself feeling better, looking better, and being full of confidence at the end of this journey. You can do it!
Of course, there are caveats to each weight loss plan:
- You should check with your doctor before beginning any weight loss or exercise program if you are currently under their care for any disease or condition.
- Don’t fall for fads or extreme diets, such as the KETO diet or the Whole 30 (an elimination diet). These diets are designed for use when medically necessary. Unless a trained health care professional has recommended one of these diets to you, you will only create nutrient deficiencies by adopting it independent of medical direction.
- There are no pills or potions that burn fat or reduce weight. Don’t fall for the expensive and sometimes dangerous scams that say otherwise.
- Beware of the impact of external imagery as you move through this journey. Your rate of weight loss and the accompanying benefits in health status will differ from others. Don’t get down on yourself for not looking like those glossy pictures you see on social media. You do you and be proud of what you accomplish and how it improves the way you feel.
In the end, losing weight can be a simple and gratifying experience if you approach it in the right way. Make sure that your motivation is genuine, set realistic goals, evaluate the food you eat, increase your activity level, track your progress, and celebrate your accomplishments. If you approach your weight loss journey from the right perspective and employ common sense to achieve your goals, they will result in sustained weight loss, reduced risk of disease, and a happy boost in self-confidence.