Weight loss is a lifelong journey. It can seem daunting, difficult and unpleasant, but it doesn’t have to be. Many popular diets gain their appeal by promising quick results and a short term plan. This is often comforting, knowing that you can make some short term sacrifices, lose weight, then go back to life as you know it.
Until six years ago, I used to fall into this cycle. I’d try a new workout program or diet, and about a month later, I was back where I started. It was never a great feeling. I wanted to lose weight, and was motivated to, but I just couldn’t stick with anything to get results and maintain them.
The truth is that, your current lifestyle isn’t helping you lose weight and keep it off, so a short term fix won’t either. To lose weight for life, it’s all about making lifestyle changes. Below you’ll find ways to help you not only achieve your goals, but maintain them and enjoy the journey.
1. Have The Right Mindset
Long term weight loss starts and continues with mindset. To set yourself on the path of achieving your goals, first, overcome fears of failure and perceived difficulty and visualize clear goals of losing weight. We try to protect ourselves from failing, but instead of considering setbacks as failures, expect them to happen and treat them as learning experiences. This will help you learn what works best for you and continue to move forward.
Visualizing an end goal is helpful in maintaining motivation throughout your journey; it’s the reason for each small change you make. Visualize what losing weight will mean for you, rather than simply making a goal to lose a set number of pounds in a set amount of time. No one really wants to eat an apple over a cupcake, but it will help you achieve your goals, and reaching that moment is much more satisfying than giving into temptation.
It wasn’t until I decided one day, that I wanted a life that losing weight would give me, more than I wanted any one particular food or habit. This was the first step, visualizing what that life would look and feel like, and then making changes that would help me get there. Once I started having small victories along the way, it made all the changes worth it and I didn’t miss my old habits at all.
2. Eat Healthier
This is one area that is highly confusing. The basic principles to healthy eating are choosing nutritious foods and not eating too much.
Nutritious foods are not processed, or at most minimally processed, and are typically found in the outer perimeter of a food store. Including foods from a variety of sources in a variety of colors, will help you get the nutrients you need, which will help your weight loss efforts. Foods that are responsibly grown and raised are more nutritious, so shopping from local farms and farm markets is beneficial. Refined sugar, not sugar from fruits, serves no purpose in the diet (aside from making things taste delicious). It can interfere with weight loss efforts, so foods with added, refined sugars should be avoided. Read all food and beverage labels and avoid foods with unpronounceable ingredients and added sugar as much as possible. Sugar is hiding in many unsuspecting places (even organic foods), so it’s helpful to read all labels before buying.
Overeating is something many people trying to lose weight struggle with. Some ways to overcome this, are to practice mindfulness, prepare ahead and plan portions. Mindfulness is simply being more present, so rather than mindlessly snacking or eating, pay attention to each bite and appreciate the flavors and textures of what you’re eating. This will help you to slow down allowing you to stop eating when you’re full and satisfied. Planning and preparing ahead will help you have healthy meals and snacks for when you’re short on time and busy. Pre-portioning is one of the most helpful tricks out there. If eating in a restaurant, split everything in half and ask for a container right away, so you eat only half in that moment. Portion meals and snacks and put the rest away, so you only eat what has been portioned.
3. Live Healthier
There are other aspects of healthy living that are important in lifelong weight loss. The main areas are exercise, adequate sleep and managing stress. Each of these play a big role in weight gain and loss as well as overall health and wellbeing, so they are important to consider.
We have so many exercises and programs to choose from, the key is to choose the best for you. The first change I made in my own weight loss journey, was committing to walk 2-3 miles a day and to take the stairs. I lost 5 pounds over the course of a month, but aside from that, I felt amazing. I proved to myself I could lose weight, and that I started a habit I could stick with. After this, I was ready to make more changes, which helped me further achieve my goals. Sure, there were hard core exercise programs that could have helped me lose more weight, but it wouldn’t have worked for me then. Find exercises that you actually enjoy sticking with so you form a sustainable habit.
We all live high stress lives, but we also have the power to control the sources and how we react. Evaluate all the sources of your stress (relationships, jobs, commitments, social media), and eliminate or decrease exposure to those you can. For the ones still standing, work on your mindset. Identify what is stressful about them and how it can be decreased. Meditation and positive thinking (focusing more on positive event rather than negative ones) are also powerful tools in managing stress.
Getting enough good quality sleep each night will help your weight loss efforts. This is the time when the body repairs, regenerates and balances hormones, all crucial for healthy weight loss. For those with trouble sleeping, adopt better sleep hygiene. Go to bed at the same time each night, avoid bright light (including the tv, phones and tablets) and use lavender scents an hour before bed. Meditation and warm baths can be helpful too. Maintain the same routine each night, even if it doesn’t work perfectly at first.
Getting back to basics with weight loss can help you not only achieve your weight loss goals, but maintain them and also enjoy the process. Within the lifestyle plan, you can still allow some of your favorite indulgences and not let it throw you off track. It’s all about finding balance, learning enjoyable and sustainable and not being too hard on yourself. As long as you stay focused on the end goal, and make changes that help you get you there, you should find success.