If you’ve ever watched a weight loss commercial, you have been told over and over how easy it is to lose weight; just take this pill, follow that diet, or buy this piece of equipment, and everything will melt away like magic. Literally, billions of dollars are spent each year on weight loss products and services, and yet millions remain overweight.
If you struggle with weight loss, you know that there are no shortcuts. The concept remains simple: burn more calories than you eat. As easy as that sounds, it usually isn’t. It’s not just about finding time to exercise or choosing the salad over the burger; it’s about making a genuine commitment to health every day of your regardless of the ups and downs.
To this end, here are 10 things you’ll need to look at in order to get yourself on a healthy weight loss track:
If you’re only on a health kick to lose weight or look a certain way, it will be hard to lose weight permanently. Weight loss is a great goal, but unless you have something else to motivate you, what’s to keep you going if the scale doesn’t budge?
It takes time to lose weight and you need to motivate yourself throughout the journey. One way is to find more reasons to be healthy. Remind yourself of all the benefits of exercise, including increased energy, better moods, and an improved night’s sleep, just to name a few.
Keep an exercise journal and write down every single success, whether you’re losing weight or not. What you think about yourself and exercise is the key to staying committed. No one wants to do something they see as miserable, so think of how you can turn it around and look at exercise in a different way.
If you don’t work out consistently enough, it’s hard to lose weight. Yes, it’s possible to lose weight through diet alone, but you’ll likely hit a plateau at some point.
You don’t need to spend hours in the gym; you only need to set up a reasonable workout schedule that you can follow each week. It’s not about killing yourself with workouts—it’s about finding something you like and that you’ll continue with for the long-term.
That means getting rid of activities you hate and building a program around what you enjoy, even if it doesn’t exactly follow the exercise guidelines. You have to be willing to be more active on a regular basis—not just for a week here and there.
Current U.S. guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week. Aerobic activities should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes.
Changing the way you eat is another thing you have to commit to for long-lasting weight loss. That means working to replace unhealthy foods with healthier choices and doing that most of the time.
Some ideas to help include:
- Keeping a food journal
- Spending more time in the grocery store reading food labels
- Spending more time preparing meals
- Understanding proper portion sizes
- Making conscious choices about what you eat, rather than mindless eating
For permanent weight loss, you need to pay attention to what you eat and make good choices more often than not. Maybe a structured diet eventually ends, but healthy eating never stops. In other words, there will never be a time when you’re done eating healthy, at least not if you want lasting weight loss.
In the end, it’s not about cutting out everything you love. You can still enjoy your favorite foods, just not every day. It really comes down to being willing to take an honest look at your diet and, even if you just change one thing at a time, figuring out how you can reduce the calories you’re eating.
One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. To lose a pound per week, you need to cut 500 calories per day, ideally by reducing your food intake in combination with exercise.
If you want a healthy life, you have to be willing to change how you live. It doesn’t mean changing everything overnight, but simply being open to new ways of doing things. Among some things you might need to change for a healthier life:
- Break unhealthy daily routines. You may need to get up earlier to prepare your lunch or squeeze in a workout, use your lunch hour for exercise, or go for a walk instead of just sitting. People use a busy schedule as an excuse not to be healthy. Don’t fall prey to this trap.
- Watch how you spend your free time. You might need to set new rules for yourself limiting how much TV you watch or how long you sit at the computer. You’ll need to pay attention to how you spend your time and where you’re out of balance, so you can add more movement.
- Clear your pantry of junk food. No matter how committed you are, having something unhealthy in front of your face is only going to make things harder. You have to set up your surroundings so they support your goals rather than sabotage them.
Sometimes, you can’t control the things around you. At work, you may be surrounded by temptations—donuts, vending machines, coworkers bringing junk food, and the like. That’s just one thing you have to deal with, but what about your home?
Surround yourself with things that will support you in your efforts to get healthy. That might mean spending some money on home workout equipment, setting up a corner of your house for your gear, or commandeering the TV a few nights a week to do an exercise video.
Set up an environment that encourages those healthy choices and reminds you of them. Sometimes, just walking into your kitchen and seeing a bowl of fresh fruit may be enough to remind you of what you’re trying to accomplish.
Your Support Systems
While getting healthy may be something you’re doing on your own, it’s a big help to have a support system. Get weight loss support from friends and family who understand what you’re doing and are willing to participate or help.
If you have a spouse who wants to continue eating foods that tempt you, you need a plan to deal with that so you can still reach your goals and keep your relationship together. Try to surround yourself with people who support what you’re doing and avoid those people who don’t. A workout buddy is also an excellent idea for support.
Consider forming or joining a weight-loss group. Ask friends, relatives, or co-workers to join you. You can start or find a group on Facebook, Meetup, or via the non-profit Obesity Action Coalition.
Your Mental Health
If you have other reasons for being overweight, maybe past hurts that you’ve used food to deal with, depression, or other problems, it’s hard to lose weight.
For many, food is a comfort and something they have relied on all of their lives to help them deal with emotional problems. If that’s the case for you, pinpointing those behaviors and what drives them is important for becoming aware of what you’re doing and why.
A counselor can help you with this or learn more about emotional eating and how you might be doing it without realizing it. Be willing to learn why you make the choices you make and to confront them.
To find a qualified weight loss counselor in your area, speak with your doctor or use the online locator provided by the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy.
If you’ve set impossible goals, you are guaranteed to fail. Weight loss becomes hard to achieve if you feel like a constant failure. No one is going to feel very motivated if he or she feels like a failure all the time.
If that’s how your weight loss experience is, it’s no wonder you keep quitting. The key is to set reasonable goals. What is reasonable is different for each person depending on your genetics, eating habits, exercise, and metabolism, to name a few.
You’re better off setting a long-term goal, like losing weight or competing in a race. Then focus your attention on daily or weekly goals. Your weekly goal might be to get in three cardio workouts, minimum. Pick things you know you’ll achieve so you’re always successful. It can be as small as you like, as long as it’s reachable.
You hear a lot about lifestyle changes, but it’s daily choices that really test you. What happens if you have to work late and you can’t get to the gym? What if you get stuck in traffic and miss your fitness class? Any number of things can happen in a day that may throw you off track.
The trick is to be flexible. It helps if you’re always prepared. Keep workout shoes in the car so you can stop off at the park for a quick walk. Keep some food handy, so if you get stuck in traffic, you get a snack in before your workout. Often people skip workouts because something comes up and they simply aren’t ready for it or they aren’t willing to give themselves other options.
If you can’t do a 45-minute workout, give yourself permission to do what you can, even if it’s 10 minutes. Something is always better than nothing.
Your Unwillingness to Fail
You will not be perfect every day. If you’re a perfectionist, this is a frustrating concept to accept, but we can’t control every aspect of life.
On the good days, you’ll eat all your fruits and veggies, say no to that pizza, and do your workout even though you’re tired. On the bad days, you’ll wake up late, forget to bring your lunch, have an extra piece of cake at your friend’s birthday party, or skip your workout.
The bad days will happen if you’re a human being. The trick is to never give up, even when you mess up. Work on overcoming your fear of failure and remember that you’re not a loser just because you make some mistakes. You’re simply a person trying his or her best to make good decisions.