Losing weight is not so much of a physical journey as it is a mental one. You must be in the right frame of mind, track your progress, have the right motivation and do it for the right reason. We discuss all these things and more in this article.
Get in the Right Frame of Mind
One thing that sabotages many peoples’ weight loss efforts is wanting to lose too much weight too soon. It takes time to lose weight if you want to do it right. The weight did not come on overnight, nor should you expect to lose it that fast. At 1 to 1 ½ pounds per week, you can do the math based on the amount you have to lose; you can see about how long it will take. Slow and steady progress wins the race every time.
Another trick used by many people trying to lose weight is to switch from thinking one is fat to thinking what one will look like when at goal weight. Post a picture of yourself on the refrigerator when starting your weight loss journey and again at various milestones along the way. This gives you visual motivation that you are making progress and more reason to stay the course. You could also post a goal photo of how you would like to look. Be realistic in choosing the right photo.
Changing habits takes time; experts generally agree it takes anywhere from 21 to 30 days to instill a new habit. This period is critical as it is easy to “fall off the wagon” and revert back to your old ways before the change becomes a habit.
When changing habits set-backs can and do occur. If you have a bad day, chalk it up as a learning experience, get back on track and keep progressing forward. Bad days happen but they shouldn’t define your goal or imped progress.
Track Your Progress
To stay accountable to a weight loss goal, there must be a method in place to track weight loss and then continue with that method to maintain that weight (or close to it) once at goal. A fluctuation of a few pounds up or down is normal. But without a tracking method, those few pounds up repeatedly over time add up to a lot of gained-back weight.
Case in point: In a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health, they found a significant number of women did not recognize a four to eight-pound gain over a six-month period. A tool used by many people both losing and maintaining weight is the bathroom scale. But don’t have a love-hate relationship with it. Use it for what it was meant for – not only to show you how much you weigh at that point in time, but to track a weight trend. If your weight is consistently going up over the course of a week let’s say, then it is time to relook at everything to figure out why and to get back on track.
But also use a cloth measuring tape in conjunction with your scale. By tracking measurements such as waist, hips, upper thighs and arms, calves and bust, you will know if you are making progress or not. The reason for measuring is because a gain on the scale could be from losing bodyfat and gaining muscle. Muscle weighs more than bodyfat, so while you are making progress, you would never know it unless you are tracking measurements too.
At the core of weight loss is burning more calories than you take in during the course of a day. However, if you are not tracking calories burned verses calories consumed, you don’t know if you are burning more or not. So tracking calories is a must. The easiest way to do that is by using a food journal or one of the many apps available for your smartphone.
Smart weight loss is losing around 1 to 1½ pounds per week. To do that you must burn on average 3,500 more calories in a week than you take in. Breaking that figure down into a daily one, you find the magic number is 500. There are a few different ways to get a 500-calorie daily deficit. The first and most obvious is to reduce the number of calories eaten per day. Not ideal because you can end up not getting the required nutritional value you need each day for energy.
The second way is to increase the number of calories you burn in a day. Again, not ideal because you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, meaning if you don’t also change the way you are eating, it is hard to burn those extra calories.
The most desirable and best way is to use a combination of the previous two: eat 250 fewer calories per day and burn 250 more calories through exercising.
Tracking calories can be as simple as recording what you eat, how much and the calories in a notebook or journal. Some like a more technical approach and use a smartphone app like MyFitness Pal, Lose it! or SparkPeople. Regardless of how you do it, tracking weight loss, fitness and food is one of the pillars of reaching your weight loss goal.
Manage Your Weight for the Right Reasons
Working toward a goal is always a good incentive to stay on track with losing weight, but make sure you are doing it for the right reason. Many times, a person will decide to lose weight because of an upcoming function, such as a wedding, cruise or school reunion. And that can be a great motivator at the time, but what happens once that event is over. Your motivation is gone and, in many cases, the weight comes back on (and sometimes more than before).
It is the same thing with most diets. While on the diet, it is a great motivation to keep working toward goal, but once at goal, what happens? The motivation is gone, the weight comes back (because you reverted to your old eating habits) and you choose another weight loss program, to start losing the weight gained back. This is known as yo-yo dieting and is worse on your health than carrying around a little extra weight.
Choose a healthy eating plan that you can live on for the rest of your life – a lifestyle change … because that is what it is. A perpetual healthy eating plan that never ends until you die. It differs from a diet in that no foods are off-limits. Instead, it is all about portion control, a change in eating habits and making wise (healthy) food choices. Because no foods are denied, you won’t get the cravings you get when on a diet. And as you know, food cravings will win out every time.
Instead go on your weight loss journey with the goal in mind to get healthy and fit. You will never fully reach the end of that journey and always have something to look forward to. In the end it is not about a diet to lose, but a healthy lifestyle to gain … for health and longevity!
Exercise with A Friend
Having a weight loss/exercise buddy is a great way to stay motivated. There will be days when you don’t feel like exercising, but still do it anyway because you don’t want to let your fitness friend down. If the truth be known s/he may not have wanted to exercise that day either but did so to not let you down. Regardless, having a friend with a similar goal to work out with is a win/win for both of you. Each of you can be a sounding board for each other or lend a sympathetic ear to each when necessary. Having that bond can do wonders for your motivation to stay on track and keep working toward goal.
This is a secret that many trying to lose weight seem to miss. A strong motivator is getting a reward for your efforts. But sadly, many only look toward one big reward when they reach their goal. However, for many they lose interest along the way and not only don’t reach their goal, but they don’t get their reward either.
A better way is to break down your goal into smaller bite-size mini-goals or milestones and get a smaller reward when you reach each of these smaller goals. It is the motivation to propel you to the next one and the next one and … you get the picture. Just be sure that the reward you choose doesn’t sabotage your weight loss efforts. In other words, you goal should not be associated with food.
Instead for example, buy that new workout outfit that you have been eyeing or get a spa treatment or maybe a mani/pedi – anything else that provides motivation to keep going toward the next goal but not food-related. Once at goal, collect your big end-of-journey reward, like a trip, cruise, etc.
Remember the Health Benefits
Improved health from losing weight and getting fit is reward enough for some people. Many people reap the following health benefits:
- Fewer allergy and asthma symptoms
- Less foot, knee and hip pain
- Healthier looking skin
- Less arthritic pain
- Improved mood
- More mental clarity
- Better sleep
- Reversal of Type II diabetes
Losing weight and getting fit is a journey; the goal is the destination. With the right frame of mind, tracking your progress, having the right motivation and doing it for the right reason, it is a reasonable and attainable goal worth pursuing. You can do this!