Take 9 Steps to Lose that Stubborn Weight!
Tis the season to be jolly, to enjoy family, and to enjoy food. Along with that, for many, this is the season of weight gain. It’s almost unavoidable, but there are several things you can do to either avoid it or recover from it. Below are 9 steps you can follow to set yourself up for success to avoiding or losing those stubborn pounds.
Step 1 – Get Motivated
Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows that success is directly related to how determined you are. Here are some strategies to get you pumped up and ready for your endeavor:
- Identify with a motivating phrase and say it often (e.g. “I’m on this”, “I’m rockin’ it”, “these pounds are history!”)
- Watch motivating videos of amazing people
- Amazing people doing amazing things (Google “Team Hoyt” and see if you don’t get some motivation)
- Footage of your favorite kind of sport/activity (I like to watch previous Ironman world championship races – there are so many amazing stories of triumph!)
- Commit to your goals publically and post your progress along the way
- Take before pictures and keep them visible somewhere to remind you of your cause
Step 2 – Set reasonable goals
Healthy weight loss, where you lose fat without compromising muscle or other important aspects of your health, usually results in a reduction of 1-3 pounds per week. Make sure to set a goal that is achievable and keeps you motivated. In addition to setting goals related to your weight loss, set some that revolve around things that will do to support your weight loss. Examples:
- “I will lose 2 healthy pounds per week”
- “I will drink a full glass of water BEFORE snacking on something”
- “I will get at least 3 days of activity in per week”
- “When I want a cookie, I’ll grab an apple first – every time”
- “I will only eat out for lunch one day each week”
Step 3 – Write it all down
Writing down everything you eat may seem like a burden. But once you get used to it, it can be quite easy and exceptionally effective. According to a study done by Kaiser Permanente (as cited in NBC News Online) “a new study that found that people who kept daily food diaries lost twice as much weight or more as those who didn’t keep a tally of their meals” [article here]. With results like that, it’s crazy not to try. Here are the take-aways:
- Be aware of what you put in your mouth
- Don’t discount anything – think about every morsal before it crosses your lips
- Details like writing down every calorie may help. However, you don’t have to count your calories to be successful. Simply commit to writing everything down and be aware of what you eat
Step 4 – Get good at meal planning
Be smart about meals. As much as possible, plan ahead and make sure you have good options available to you at all times. Here are some tips for meal planning throughout your day:
- Don’t skip meals (skipping meals can actually reverse your weight loss attempts)
- Eat several small meals versus few big ones. There isn’t a magic number, but generally 6 smaller meals will help keep your metabolism steady
- Bag up portions ahead of time. If you can grab a bag of 12 crackers versus take the whole box with you, you’re much less likely to over eat.
- If you go out, take a look at the restaurant’s nutritional values ahead of time and pre-select a few options.
- Keep healthy snacks where you work. That way if you don’t get time to go to lunch, you don’t have unhealthy alternatives at the vending machine to contend with.
Step 5 – Get moving
Cardiovascular exercise burns calories, and that can mean weight loss. Especially effective is combining exercise with a safe reduction caloric intake (which you’ll be doing already by writing everything down). There are many exercise options to choose from including running, cycling, swimming, rowing, basketball… the list is endless. Find something that you enjoy and get moving. Here are some tips to get moving and keep moving:
- Find an exercise buddy to keep you accountable
- Get a training plan and stick to it – they can provide structure and sense of accountability
- Sign up for race and tell everyone you’re doing it
- Record your workouts and publish them publicly
Step 6 – Get Stronger
Although cardiovascular exercise burns more calories than strength resistant exercise, the muscle gained from strength resistant has a better long term affect in terms of burning calories. According to Kenney (2011), “the higher the fat-free mass, the more total calories expended in the day” (p. 120). So, building muscle, which is fat-free mass, will increase your calorie burn. Combine this with cardiovascular activity and recording your intake, and you will be a fat burning machine! Here are some tips for building strength:
- Choose exercises that use your own body weight and utilize more than one muscle group. Examples:
- Use slow, purposeful movements to engage as many muscle fibers as possible
- Shoot for 8-10 repetitions of each exercise and 2-3 sets per week
- Start slow, and don’t overdo it – a little bit goes a long way
Step 7 – Quench your thirst
Make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Rather than aim for a specific number of ounces, pay attention to your body and make sure to drink when you need to. Sometimes your body may mistake thirst for hunger, so staying on top of your hydration may also help avoid extra calories. Here are some tips to stay hydrated:
- Make hydration part of every meal
- Keep water available and convenient with you all day so you’re more apt to sip all day long
- Make sure you are hydrated before a workout so you don’t get too depleted
- If you are “snacky” and feel like eating something you shouldn’t, try drinking a glass of water and waiting 5 minutes. Sometimes the craving goes away.
Step 8 – Make sure to cheat… sometimes.
It’s hard to do something right all the time. For many people, trying to be “good” 100% of the time may actually increase your probability to fall off the wagon, and stay off it. If you allow yourself to cheat a little bit, you can avoid the possibility of failure. Here are some tips:
- Allow 1-2 meals per week to eat something special. Don’t go crazy, just treat yourself. And make sure to spread these “cheat” meals apart (i.e. don’t do them both in one day, don’t do them on consecutive days)
- Allow some low calorie “treats” on the days you don’t cheat. A few small squares of dark chocolate may hit the spot after dinner, and stop you from going further
Step 9 – Measure your results
This is the best part. When you start seeing results, you may be more motivated than ever. But be sure not to set yourself up for failure by doing it too often, or expecting big results. Here are some things to keep in mind when weighing in:
- Keep your weigh-ins to once per week. Your weight can fluctuate from day to day and seeing the small increases may demotivate you. A seven day period will average it out and show the real progress
- You can use a scale that measures fat percentage; just know that they are not always very accurate. The main thing is to use the same scale and reduce your fat percentage based on what it says, whether it is accurate or not. In other words, even if it isn’t accurate, it is probably consistent
- Celebrate all progress, and don’t stress about small set-backs.
All of these steps can be done all in the same day or spread out over time. The main thing is to keep a positive outlook and keep it going. You can do this!
USAT Certified Level 1 Coach
Writing down every morsel doubles weight loss – Health – Diet and nutrition | NBC News. 2013. Writing down every morsel doubles weight loss – Health – Diet and nutrition | NBC News. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.nbcnews.com/id/25573436. [Accessed 05 December 2013].
W. Larry Kenney, 2011. Physiology of Sport and Exercise with Web Study Guide, 5th Edition. 5th Edition. Human Kinetics.