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.