10 Weight-Loss Do’s and Don’ts
Since losing nearly 90 pounds, it probably comes as no surprise that I am often asked how to lose weight. I’ve offered weight-loss tips before and shared some of my favorite healthy meals. However, some of my basic do’s and don’ts sometimes surprise people.
1. Do log food. Okay, this isn’t one that will surprise anyone, but it’s huge…and, in the interest of full disclosure, difficult for me. I have always, always, always been more successful when I’ve logged my food. Most of us tend to overestimate our activity level and underestimate our calorie consumption. Then, we can’t figure out why we aren’t losing weight.
When we log food, not only do we see where extra calories may be coming from, but it also adds a level of accountability. I almost always eat better when I’m logging food. There are plenty of free services out there, such as SparkPeople or, my personal favorite, My Fitness Pal.
2. Do get some physical activity every day. I try to do at least 30 minutes of some form of cardio (walking, running, riding my bike) at least 5 days a week. I really want to get back to 4 days of walking/running/biking and 2 days of strength-training with one day of rest.
I don’t think it necessarily matters what you do, as long as you get 20-30 minutes a day of some sort of purposeful physical activity – walking, running, biking, Zumba, Wii Fit, jumping rope…something. There are plenty of ways to get a good workout without a gym. Your own body weight is one of the best pieces of fitness equipment around.
3. Do drink plenty of water. The standard recommendation is at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. I usually drink closer to 100 ounces per day. Water does a lot of great things for your body. It:
- Flushes out toxins and impurities (I don’t know if there’s any scientific proof that that, but I feel like it does.)
- Keeps you hydrated – often thirst is misinterpreted as hunger
- Helps you feel full
- Gives you something to do with your mouth – really! If you’re sipping water, you’re not munching something else.
4. Do try new foods. When I first began losing weight, I made it a point to try at least one or two new healthy meals per week. This allowed me to quickly add better choices to our weekly meal rotation, while still providing my family some of their old favorites. Be sure to check out my tried and true tips for eating healthy and feeding the family without becoming a short-order cook.
One of my favorite resources for delicious, healthy meals is Skinny Taste. I recommend it to everyone who asks me about finding healthy meals…and a lot of people who don’t. If I’m talking about losing weight, there’s a strong possibility, I’m going to mention Skinny Taste. She really needs an affiliate program.
5. Do eat snacks. So many people worry about snacking when trying to lose weight, but a little good, healthy snacking can be advantageous. It helps you feel full between meals so you don’t sit down to a meal starving and more likely to overeat. It also keeps your blood sugar steady throughout the day. Some of my favorite healthy snacks include:
- an apple and a piece of string cheese
- an orange and a piece of peanut butter toast
- fruit and a handful of nuts (cashews and walnuts are my favorites)
- jicama and peppers with hummus
I heard or read somewhere recently that a snack should be 250 calories or less. More than that and it becomes a meal.
6. Don’t eliminate entire categories of food. I am a firm believer in “moderation, not deprivation.” In my experience, when you eliminate an entire category of food or put them on a forbidden foods list, your mind begins to fixate on that food. There is nothing I won’t eat (well, that’s not entirely true…I don’t eat things I don’t like and I haven’t eaten at McDonald’s in over 3 years), but there are a lot of things I choose not to eat very often.
For example, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve had Dunkin’ Donuts’ donut holes since I began losing weight and I’ve had even fewer Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Those are trigger foods for me, so I have to guard carefully against over-indulging.
And, I don’t care what people say about sugary drinks. Y’all know I have to have my sweet tea. That being said, I’ve cut down from drinking tea all day long (really…I used to go through a gallon a day) to drinking a glass at lunch and a glass at supper.
7. Don’t get in a rut. When I first starting losing weight, I ate a salad for lunch nearly every single day. I really enjoyed them – at first. Now, I have a rotation of about 7 or 8 lunches and several supper favorites that I really like, so that I don’t have the same meal more than once a week. Having some staple foods that I enjoy helps me to make sure I’m eating a balanced, healthy, varied diet and not eating a favorite until I’m tired of it.
8. Don’t skip breakfast. Okay, this is another area of struggle for me, but only because of our sleep schedule. I do better with my weight-loss and my eating during the day when I eat breakfast, though. I need to get back on track because studies show that people who eat breakfast lose more weight because their metabolism gets jump-started right off the bat. Plus, people who eat before they workout have more energy for a more intense workout than those who don’t.
9. Don’t expect perfection. Too often, we let perfectionism paralyze us. If we don’t make perfect eating and exercise choices all week, we figure, “Why bother?” So, we allow a few poor choices to throw us completely off track. I like the 80/20 rule of thumb – if I make good food choices 80% of the time, I can enjoy a few well-chosen treats 20% of the time.
The same with my workouts. If I’m giving my all 80% of the time, it’s not the end of the world if I choose a less intense workout 20% of the time. Riding the stationary bike while watching Friends is still better than doing nothing.
10. Don’t quit! I’ve said many times that the only difference between this time and all the times before that I tried to lose weight is that, this time, I didn’t quit. I made changes that I could actually maintain, long-term, and I kept going. I thought about that a lot when I was training for my first half-marathon during the summer of 2011. People would ask how I ran 8, 9, 10 miles and I’d say, “I just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I just don’t stop.”
That’s how you successfully lose weight. You don’t decide that you’re going to “try” to lose weight. You decide that this time it’s going to be different. And, the difference is that you start out taking the steps to change your life and you just don’t stop.
If you’ve successfully lost weight, what tips would you add? If you’re still struggling, are any of these areas of struggle for you?
This post is linked to Top Ten Tuesday.
You’ve hit on a few things here, Kris, that I’ve never considered. I especially like the tip about 250-or-fewer calories for a snack. Himself is in a weight-loss contest with some guys from work — and there’s money involved! So he’s been really motivated recently. He’s actually inspired me. As do you! Thanks!
Great post. I too have been on the path to lose weight. My intial goal was 20 pounds which I have reached but now am working on 10 more pounds which will put me at 146. I allow myself to have chocolate everyday. It is my treat and it is a small block but it helps. My trigger foods is definitely baked goods. I used to bake a lot of home made stuff, but not much anymore. When I look back on how many cookies I ate a day – I can now see where the 20 extra pounds came from. Also I totally agree with getting exercise everyday. That has helped more than anything. I Zumba 3-5 times a week, do the Just Dance workout with my daughter, and have recently set up a circut training schedule for us both to do 1-2 times a week. Now if I don’t exercise I just don’t feel right for that day.
Way to go on your weight loss! I know what you mean about exercise. It just has to become part of what you do. I had a friend tell me recently that she just couldn’t imagine me not working out. That’s funny because that’s something this same friend never would have said about me a few years ago.
I’m saving this one! We always need to revisit what got us to our weight loss goals and what will keep us there. This post hits the nail(s) on the head! I’m on my proverbial journey and will always be which is why I’m saving this to refer to over and over again when I need it. I usually pick up my favorite book about weight loss that was so monumental to my weight loss but now I have this. Thanks!
Thanks, Stephanie! I’m glad it was helpful. I think you’re absolutely right. We do have to revisit the steps we took to get where we are because those are the same things that are going to keep us here. One thing about the weight-loss “journey” is that you never really arrive at a final destination. If you don’t keep making the right choices, watching what you eat, and staying active, you’re going to be right back at square one. And, that’s a place I never want to visit again.
100% agree! I hate logging my food and I am not a fan of water AND I am a busy homeschool mom. However, I have been drinking almost 80 oz of water/day, exercising 5-6 times/week and logging all calories and exercise since Jan 2. 12 pounds down, two to go. Then, I will continue this new lifestyle to maintain my weight. Can’t wait to check out Skinny Taste. Headed there now!
One thing to be careful of when losing weight is to not lose too rapidly. My husband lost 80lbs in about 6 months through diet and exercise, and ended up with gallstones! I’ve blogged about it here:
These are all GREAT tips. I’ve lost 15 lbs. since January 1 and have another 15 to go — I’m finding that slow and steady wins the race. It’s all about common sense, isn’t it?
Recently found your blog while searching through home school ideas. I too am trying to lose weight and am curious how many calories you eat a day. I was eating 1400-1500 as recommended by MyFitnessPal but not having any luck with my weight budging, and considering a drop in cals. I am assuming from your posts you are counting them and not doing WW which of course counts points. THank you!
Hi, Kelly. I would never recommend dropping your calories lower than the 1500 point range. I consume between 1500-2000 calories per day, usually. I am a firm believer that severe calorie restriction is counterproductive and sets people up for failure. You can read more about my thoughts on how many calories a person needs. If you’re having trouble getting the weight to come off, I would suggest either increasing your activity level (or the intensity of your workouts) or increasing your calorie intake for a week. The whys behind that are linked to in the post I recommended about calories, too.
Those are my suggestions, for what they’re worth. I hope it helps! I know how frustrating it is to work hard and not see the scale move, but just keep doing the right things and eventually your body has to respond. One more thought – are you measuring your body? A lot of times you’ll find that you’re body is toning up and getting smaller even when the needle on the scale isn’t moving. Don’t judge your progress solely on the scale.
I read your post, I will keep at it! Trying your pasta bowl this weekend. Thanks for sharing
Love the tips! I have a friend who swears by food logs! Very eye opening. But your tip about not expecting perfection is exactly what I needed to hear for ALL matters in life. So often I will just not do something if I can’t do it right. Funny, I fuss about one of my kids – he is the same way but I never realized that I am like that. Wow – eye opening!
I’m glad I could help! 🙂
Thank you so much for this post! I have a lot of weight to lose, and I am trying to implement many of the things you mentioned (myfitnesspal! snacks, variety, etc.). I was so excited to read this and know that that these things really can work over the long haul and that even after reaching your goal they are still things you do everyday. One question, what are your thoughts on using community (especially sisters in Christ!) for accountability and encouragement?
I’m not sure I’d have succeeded my weight-loss this go around without the support and accountability of my blog readers. Really. I should have included that one. I definitely thing having a support and accountability system is vital.
I know you wrote this a while ago but I stumbled upon it and had to comment that I love it! At one time in my life, prior to 2004, I weighed almost 300 lbs. I lost about 20 pounds on my own (just by cutting out Mountain Dew so I *get* your tea addiction!) started Weight Watchers, first on my own (meaning I didn’t go to meetings; I used a friend’s books and tools), losing 67 pounds, got pregnant in late 2005, tried to get back into the weight loss groove after my son was born, couldn’t quite get there, so I officially joined WW in Jan of 2013. Since that January day I’ve lost about another 66-67 lbs–for an overall total of about 150-154 lbs. While I could not agree more with your entire list one thing I so wanted to especially applaud you for in your post is the idea to not eliminate any foods (unless it’s for obvious health reasons outside of normal weight loss needs).
Oh, and #9 and #10 speak right to me. I am a perfectionist and I had to fight the feelings of defeat if I didn’t lose weight every single time I weighed in (which is an impossible standard to reach for because, even at our best, when we’re eating correctly, our weight naturally bounces around).
And #10! This was never an option for me. Even when I struggled, even when it was hard, even when I had set backs, even when I wanted to eat an entire container of Jif peanut butter (one of my trigger foods) I refused to give up. It might have been an uphill battle but giving up, giving in, was only going to push me back to where I was or leave me stuck where I was–neither of which I was willing to settle for.
And if *I* could give any word of advice to people who want to lose weight but feel the battle is just too hard to even start I’d say in a month from now, or a year, you can be better or you can be, still, right where you are. So what if you only lose X amount in the first 6 months or the first year? Won’t you look back and say, “Hey, I’m *still* ahead of the game! I still weight less than I did before!” That feeling of victory is one that is worth every single second of struggle!
Thank you so much for your comment, Lisa. I don’t write many weight-loss posts anymore – mostly because I’ve been at this awhile and I feel like I’d be saying a lot of the same stuff over and over – but I should write them. Comments like yours re-inspire me and I need that. Thank you!
I came across this today and it was the reminder I needed. The statement about it working this time because you didn’t quit especially resonated with me. I’ve been struggling for 4 years to lose weight (in fairness I have had a pregnancy in there) but not been successful. In looking at past efforts I have quit when progress was slow, if I had kept going I would be where I want instead of continuing to struggle.
Thanks for the tips 🙂 Your post reflects a holistic approach to losing weight and it’s great! People tend to think that in order to lose weight, all they need is to cut their caloric intake. However, this does not lead to permanent healthy weight. Again, thanks for sharing this great post.