It’s January. It’s time to set goals. Many will have “Lose X lbs.” on their list so I thought I’d share how I lost quite a bit of weight recently. The secret of my success (yes, like Michael J. Fox) is – drumroll please – eating a solid diet of acai berries! Just kidding. I don’t know what acai berries are other than they appeared in banner ads all across the web in 2009. Acai berries might be magical but my weight loss tips are not. My weight loss came mostly as a result of discipline, which meant stopping bad habits and replacing them with good ones. The following list contains some of the practices, tools, and guidelines I followed while dropping a little over 16% of my body weight over the past five months.
1. Change eating habits before exercise habits
Many will join the local gym and exercise like crazy as they try to achieve their weight loss goal. If this is your plan, stop right now. Get your diet in order before you dive heavy into exercise. If you start with exercise, you’ll likely be hungrier, which means eating too many calories and too many of the wrong calories. Form good eating habits first, lose some pounds in the process, and then move on to exercise (see #6).
2. Aim for a realistic, healthy and sustainable goal
You may think you want to lose 50 pounds in two months, but I can say it won’t be realistic, healthy or sustainable. Simple online tools to help you determine the weight range you should be in and how many calories you should eat each day include:
These tools don’t take into account all the variables. They also don’t take into account things like body fat targets, waist size reduction, and overall fitness. Use the outputs as guidelines and a place to start rather than the answer to questions of your ideal weight and calorie needs. The idea is to set healthy goals that you can achieve and keep up over the long run.
3. Cut carbs drastically at the start
This one is likely to irritate some folks but I’ve found it helps kick start weight loss. Follow the first 2-week phase of the Atkins or South Beach diet. You’ll ween your body off carbs and most processed foods. Think of it as a smoker quitting smoking cold turkey. You’ll likely feel sugar withdrawals and swear that you’re dying but after about a week you’ll condition your body to be satisfied with more nutritious food. After the two weeks, start to add healthy carbs back into your diet, but limit starchy foods like regular pasta, white rice, and white breads. Whole grains are the suggested replacement. Just be careful not to fall for the marketing use of the term “whole grain” prominently featured on many food labels these days. You’ll need to checkout the ingredients to be sure it’s the real deal and not chock full of garbage in addition to whole grains.
4. Track what you eat religiously
I used DailyBurn to track my meals each day. Doing this made me conscience of what I was eating on a daily basis. It showed how many calories, carbs, fat, protein, etc. I was taking in. Make what you eat in your face even after you’ve stuffed your face. You’ll find it changes your eating habits almost immediately.
5. Drink at least 64 oz. of water per day
This is good to do in general but especially important when you’re trying to lose weight. Our bodies need H2O. Drinking lots of water can also help control your appetite.
6. Develop a sustainable exercise routine slowly
Being overly ambitious at the start of a big goal or project is common. When it comes to losing weight this (too often) means a killer exercise routine that inevitably burns out quick with zero positive results. Once you’ve established better eating habits (see #1) then start to establish a sustainable exercise routine. This means finding what works best for you. Can you only afford 30 minutes a day a few days a week? Find exercises that allow you to get a good workout in that amount of time. Only join a gym if you are going to go on a regular basis. Most people will not go to a gym if it’s an inconvenience. My wife goes to the gym regularly and I think it works for her because going to the gym is an enjoyable break away from the kids. I don’t care for the gym. It’s a hassle and exercise machines are boring to me. So I go on long brisk walks instead. That works for me. Find something that works for you, start slowly and ramp it up gradually.
7. Tell others about your goal
If you tell people your goal then you’re more likely to stick to it. I was encouraged and teased relentlessly for announcing my goal and progress on various social networks once a week. I would remind myself of the goal and give an update on my latest weigh in. I found my friends’ and family’s feedback helped me to stay disciplined.
None of the points above are ground breaking. There is no silver bullet. It’s hard work but does get easier as time goes by and new good habits replace the old bad ones. I hope it helps someone out as they strive to drop some pounds and develop a healthier lifestyle. If nothing else, I’ve now got this post for friends to shove in my face if I ever gain back the pounds I lost. That’s what I call motivation!