The weight-loss industry has exploded in this country, as the average American’s waistline has expanded over the years. However, beware of gimmicky quick-fix programs that promise rapid weight loss. These can cause adrenal fatigue, intense hunger, muscular deterioration, constant weakness and lethargy, and nutrient deficiencies.
Instead, talk to your doctor about any issues your body may have with a particular weight-loss program, trust and listen to your body, and use these simple steps to guide you toward better overall health and sustainable weight loss.
First of all, what is sustainable, healthy weight loss? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those who lose weight gradually and steadily at a rate of one to two pounds each week are more likely to keep it off. Healthy weight loss is more than a diet or program.
There are no quick fixes or rapid results that can be maintained over time. If anything, you are putting your body at substantial risk any time you buy into a diet plan, weight-loss supplement, or extreme exercising plan. Real weight loss that can be maintained over long periods of time involves much more than that. Weight loss and health require commitment to ongoing lifestyle changes.
These seven lifestyle tips will help set you up for real long-term success.
Set realistic goals
Many individuals suffer from poor self-image. We tend to be our most brutal critics. When we make weight-loss decisions from a place of self-loathing and fear, we are more likely to make poor, irrational decisions that could hurt our health and actually set us back further from our goals.
Some people who want to lose weight quickly will cut calories to the point that any physical activity will leave them feeling faint. Although caloric deficiency leads to weight loss, extreme caloric deficiency starves the body of vital nutrients, causes your body to take nutrients from your own systems, and will damage your metabolic and immune function. As a result, you increase your chances of illness and make it difficult to eat a morsel of food without gaining weight.
Instead of holding onto that goal of a six-pack or glutes of steel, start small. Coming up with realistic goals within a doable time frame sets you up for success as long as you stick with it. Write down what your ideal weight is, and calculate how long it would take to get there. Then, break that down even further into bite-sized tasks that can be easily accomplished.
Doing this will boost your confidence in your ability to achieve your goals. Once you reach a goal, you can continue to challenge yourself with larger goals.
Select healthier options
One of the first steps you should take when adopting a healthier diet is to release the idea of “dieting.” When you are trying to lose weight, you should choose healthy foods that you feel like you could continue eating one year, two years, and five years down the road. Removing junk food from your diet will help you eliminate the processed foods that promote weight problems and may cause chronic health problems. Instead, replace them with whole foods. It’s easy to do!
All you need to do is shop along the outer rim of the grocery store where the produce, fresh meats, dairy, and juices are kept. When you have a craving, look online for recipes to make healthier versions of your favorite foods. That way, you’ll never feel like you are sacrificing flavor for your health. You can still enjoy your favorite foods, just in a different way.
Focus on your food
The majority of weight loss comes down to your eating habits. These include what you eat, when you eat, and how much you eat. Exercise is important for long-term weight loss and maintenance, but the most efficient way to achieve a calorie deficiency is to focus on your diet.
One way to focus on your food is to tune out the chatter and actually enjoy your meal. Take your time to savor each bite and make the experience more pleasurable, thus reducing cravings. When you take time to chew more thoroughly, you also are making your food more easily digestible. Eating slowly allows you to be more aware of when you are full, which will be sooner than if you are eating on autopilot.
Yet another way to focus on your food is to recognize the difference between hunger and cravings. When you are truly hungry, you are more focused on satisfying the need for food rather than searching for a specific food. When you are craving a food, you can convince yourself that you are hungry, but you are really on the hunt for a target meal. By focusing on your food, you can recognize the difference and make smarter decisions.
For instance, when you are fixated on a craving and feel like you must have it, take a few deep breaths and ask yourself if you are truly hungry. If you realize it is just a craving, wait until you are hungry and ask yourself if you really want to fulfill that craving. If you do, find a recipe online to make a healthy, homemade version using fresh, whole ingredients.
Find exercises you love
Although food should be the focus for weight loss, exercise is also crucially important. Cardio can help you burn fat and help eliminate excess calories, while toning and strength training can help you build muscle to keep the fat away and maintain a healthy metabolic rate. Gaining muscle on the lower half of your body can help you burn fat even as you sleep.
Using both cardio and toning exercises provides the balance your body needs to be healthy and maintain a healthy weight. If you overexert yourself to reach unrealistic goals and burn calories too quickly, you are more likely to injure yourself. This could cause you to halt your workouts for a period of days or weeks, and would thus negate the benefits you thought you had.
So, instead of hitting it hard, take it easy and find effective, enjoyable exercises that can be sustained over a long period of time. The key is to find exercises you love in the areas of cardio and muscle-building. There’s something for everyone! Just find what you can stick to and be gentle with your body.
Once you have set a goal and found healthy recipes and exercises you enjoy and can stick with, make a commitment to continue even when it’s not convenient. Create habits and structures to prepare you for times when you’re in a hurry or feel tempted to fall off the wagon. These structures and habits could include planning your day ahead of time, making meals for the week to reheat and eat quickly, looking at menus online before eating out, and finding healthier versions of common cravings.
It can be hard to stay motivated, especially when you are first starting. Just be gentle with yourself if you fall, and don’t use it as an excuse to stay off the wagon. Most people fail because they don’t stick with it. Find things that motivate you and don’t let negative thoughts overcome your will to succeed. Sometimes we are on the right track and just don’t know it. If you are trying, then you are already ahead of where you were yesterday. Don’t look back, head forward.
One of the best ways to stick with a diet and exercise regimen is to find a support system. You can talk with family members or friends who have similar goals. If you know someone who has lost weight, ask them how they did it and what advice they have for you. Join a gym or a group of people who bike or jog in the mornings. Weigh in together and share recipes online or in person. Join local healthy potluck groups or start your own to stay inspired.
Sometimes, if you aren’t losing weight at the rate you thought you would, you may feel discouraged. Talk about it with someone you trust, or seek out a trained doctor or dietician to pinpoint anything that could be setting you back. Discussing your changes with a professional can help in these situations; otherwise, journaling or talking with supportive people can help you stay focused.
Monitor your body and mind
Monitoring your progress helps you in three ways: it helps you realize what is working, recognize what is not, and keeps you motivated when you notice slight changes in your body weight or workout performance. It is important to monitor how you feel when you do new exercises, add more weights for resistance, decrease the amount of time it takes for you to run a mile, increase the distance that you run, incorporate new ingredients, or discard more unhealthy foods from your diet.
Some foods will disagree with you. You may find that by eliminating a certain food item that you feel lighter and healthier. You could realize that your diet is lacking a vitamin or nutrient. You could overexert yourself and need to scale back. By writing it down, you can compare and realize that it’s not a big deal if you aren’t exactly where you think you should be, because you are still ahead of where you were.
Writing things down can also help your doctor determine if there are changes in your bodily functions. If you suspect there are problems, you can show your doctor your notes for easier diagnosis. You can also find patterns more easily and better determine what is causing your symptoms if you are keeping track of changes. By understanding your body as it experiences these changes, you can stay motivated and will not be afraid to keep going.
The most important thing is staying with the program you choose, and creating habits that encourage a lifestyle instead of a quick fix. All you have to do is believe in yourself and try. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
—The Alternative Daily