When it comes to weight loss and healthy living, everyone has their own tips and tricks that work for them. I decided to get a little creative and wanted to come up with something for every letter of the alphabet. After some thought and creative liberties, here are 26 tips, tricks, or plain old facts of life that I use to find success in my weight loss journey.
When it comes to losing weight, attitude is everything. If you come from a negative space about food, fitness, and your body, it’s could be 20 times harder to find the success you’re looking for. A positive attitude about your body and about the journey you’re on will definitely keep your sprits up and the scale down.
B- Baby Steps
You will not lose 50 lbs in a month or drop 2 sizes by Saturday. You could also set yourself up for failure if you try to dive in all the way in everything on day one of your weight loss journey. If this process seems overwhelming to you, try taking it one step at a time. Feel like counting Points or keeping track of all macros is a little overwhelming? Start by simply writing down what you eat; no measurements, no calories. Just the food. Then, next week, add something else. Try adding one extra serving of vegetables in every day before trying to get all 5 servings in if you’re not used to them. Baby steps will help you train your habits, which will create long term success.
Want to lose weight? Cardio, cardio, cardio. I have found that the more cardio I do, the more success I see in my body and on the scale. Cardio gets your heart pumping, oxygen flowing, and your body burning a lot more calories. Trust me, getting that heart rate up even a few days a week will make a difference. Run (or walk for that matter), swim, take a Zumba class, or hop on the elliptical. The possibilities are endless and the results are awesome.
D- Don’t Deprive Yourself
In my experience, one of the most sure ways to set myself up for a binge later is to regularly deprive myself of the things I really want. Now, that’s not to say that I give myself all the treats I want every day, but I definitely have not cut out things like pizza, chocolate, or cupcakes from my diet just because I want to lose weight. Instead, make eating that delicious treat and experience worth savoring. If you deprive yourself from all of the foods that you love to eat for the sake of losing weight, odds are one day your willpower will run out, you’ll crack and the result will be a binge that will set you back further than when you started. Don’t deprive yourself of your favorite piece of cheesecake. A healthy lifestyle is something that you practice forever. Don’t spend forever being miserable because you can’t have your piece of cake. Everything in moderation.
E- Environment Control
One of the easiest ways to set yourself up for success when you’re trying to lose weight is to control the environment around you. Make sure that all of the spaces you most commonly spend time in are set up to aid you in your journey. In the kitchen make sure the food scale is sitting on the counter and easily accessible, and put all of the junk food is hidden behind a cabinet door or out of your reach (out of sight, out of mind really does work). At the office, keep a drawer of weight-loss friendly snacks at your desk, and figure out a path to the bathroom that doesn’t pass the break room full of cake and donuts on the way. Have a candy dish? Swap it out for fruit bowl, then you will have healthy choices at your disposal when a craving strikes. Controlling your environments makes it incredibly easy to stay on plan without even having to think about it.
Healthy living as a lifelong journey. Odds are, at one point or another, you are going to do something that is not on plan (breakup comfort food, get a little out of control at the holidays, skip the gym for a few weeks..), and it makes you feel guilty or shameful. When you do, you have two different options: beat yourself up and feel guilty sending yourself into a downward spiral of more bad behavior, or forgive yourself and move on. Trust me, option number two is the healthier way. If you spend the rest of your life feeling bad whenever you have a slip up you’re going to be miserable. Instead try this: “Self, I know that we made a wrong choice, but I am human and imperfect. You are forgiven, and will make a better choice the next time around.”
I am a firm believer in goals, plans, and rewards. I think that setting goals, big or small, can be very encouraging and motivating. Whatever your weight loss goal may be, start with one or several attainable goals. Workout 3 times this week, or lose 5 lbs (even if you have 60 more to go). Setting goals that can be reached is important, because if you set goals that are too ambitious (go to the gym 7 days this week) and you don’t reach them, it’s easy to process that as failure, get discouraged, and it will likely slow your progress. Set long term goals (and reach for the stars) and short-term goals, and reward yourself when you reach them.
Staying hydrated is so incredibly important even if you aren’t trying to lose weight, but I find that making sure you get your water intake in for the day has great benefits for those of us trying to manage our weight. There’s a long list of reasons to stay hydrated, and the weight loss benefits are just the tip of the iceberg. Water keeps your body running properly, helps you feel a bit fuller, energizes you, and could even help your skin look a bit more glowy. Not bad for something you get out of the tap in your kitchen. Not a water fan? Here are a few tips to get you started.
I- Find Inspiration
Why do you want to lose weight? Find your inspiration and have constant reminders of it in plain sight, whatever it may be. Personally, I have a Pinterest board that is full of different things that inspire me: quotes, other people’s success stories and photos, etc. I also bought a cute pair of jeans in my goal size on clearance and hung them in a place I’d always see them, so I’d always be reminded that someday I would fit in to those jeans. Let me tell you, the day I zipped those babies up I did a happy dance and felt amazing. What motivates you? Looking good naked? Fitting into that dress before a wedding? A big trip to the Bahamas where you want to sport a new swim suit? Looking forward to running around with your children or grandchildren rather than sitting on the sidelines? Whatever your inspiration is, tap into it often to stay inspired to work hard.
Journaling (or tracking) what you eat is super important when you’re trying to lose weight. Studies show that people who record what they eat actually consume 30% less calories than people who don’t. What a statistic! Even if your journal doesn’t contain any calorie or Points information to start, just write down everything you put in your mouth for a week and see if there’s any difference. Odds are there will be. Once you’re comfortable with taking basic notes on your food, you can upgrade to adding calories, Points values, or macros depending on what you want to track. There are plenty of apps out there (Spark People, Weight Watchers, My Fitness Pal, etc) that make tracking food incredibly easy, but you can also just grab a notebook and write things down too.
Your kitchen is the heart and soul of the house and the heart and soul of your weight loss journey. Make sure your kitchen is fully stocked with healthy food options for all occasions. Have pre-cut produce in the fridge, healthy options in the pantry, quick and easy proteins in the freezer for dinner, and a few good “easy” meal options for the days you’d rather hit the drive through. Have your food scale on the counter and all the junk food hidden away. The way your kitchen is set up could make or break your efforts.
L- It’s a LIFESTYLE
This is the big one! If there is one thing I want you to take away from this article, it’s this tip right here. Weight loss and healthy living is a LIFESTYLE!! There is no such thing as a quick fix and there is no such thing as a temporary diet to lose weight. The fact is this: if you return to the way you were eating before you lost your 50 lbs (or whatever number), you WILL gain the weight right back. I (like many, many others) am living proof of this fact. You will maintain your weight loss only if you maintain the lifestyle you developed while losing the weight. Sure, you get to eat a few more calories per when you hit your goal and no longer wish to lose, but the number of calories it takes you to go from losing to maintaining is likely smaller than you think it is. This is why it is so important to figure out how to incorporate your favorite foods (I’m looking at you pizza and cupcakes) into your weight loss journey. You need to learn how to be able to treat yourself while living your healthy lifestyle. This journey will not end if you want to maintain your success. Healthy living is a lifestyle, and that’s a fact. Deal with it.
Going along with what’s above, moderation is so important. When you’re losing weight can you have your favorite deep dish pizza? Yes! How about a trip to the local ice cream shop, your favorite restaurant, or a giant piece of cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory? Absolutely (but you need to bring me cheesecake too!..just kidding)! Since this whole healthy living thing is a lifestyle, it is important that you learn how to work your favorite foods into your eating plan. Can you have these things? Of course. Can you have them every day or every week? Probably not. Save the delicious goodies for a special occasion and make them feel like a true treat. I once knew a woman (Weight Watchers employee and excellent at living the lifestyle) who had one way she loved to indulge: a giant bowl of homemade popcorn with an entire stick of butter meted over it. She treated it like a ritual and enjoyed every second and every calorie and felt completely guilt free about it. The catch? She only did this once a month. That way she could enjoy her big treat(completely guilt free) but managed to maintain her weight. Everything is okay in moderation, but once moderation disappears, so does the weight loss.
N- Non-Scale Victories
Because we spend so much time obsessing about the scale when we’re trying to lose weight, we fail to celebrate the non-scale victories (NSVs) that coincide with our weight loss. It is important to not only notice our NSVs, but we need to be sure to celebrate them. Do your clothes fit a little looser? NSV. Did you only eat a few bites of dessert? NSV. Did you run your first 5k? NSV!! Get it? Make sure you take the time to acknowledge the little (or big) victories during this process, even if they have nothing to do with the scale.
As I said before, it’s all in the attitude. Your weight loss journey is not going to be a quick one, and there are bound to be some things that knock you off the path along the way. Having a little bit of optimism will help greatly, especially during the times of struggle. We are often very quick to give up and mark ourselves as failures as soon as something goes wrong or gets difficult, and with that attitude, I promise you will fail. However, if you can look at your setbacks and struggles optimistically, as a chance to learn, grow, and do better next time, you will find your struggles actually make you stronger and more successful in the long run. You CAN do it.
Protein is a supper essential nutrient. Not only is it important for daily function of your body, but it also helps you build up your muscles and keeps you feeling fuller for longer than high levels of carbs and sugar will. A high protein, lower carb (don’t get rid of them completely) diet is, in my experience, an essential to successful weight loss. I have a few snack recommendations that can help you with your on the go lifestyle that have high levels of protein to keep you full and fueled until your next meal.
Q- Quit the self-hate
One of the harder battles for many along their weight loss journey is hating their body throughout the process. One of the primary reasons someone decides to lose weight tends to be to improve their body image and self confidence (I’m definitely in this category). While this is a great thing to want to improve, you also have to be careful to not shame yourself into your diet or workout. If you practice self love, you mentally approach your weight loss journey in a different way. It’s approached with a positive “I’m worth this weight loss” rather than from a shaming place of you needing to lose weight to be worth anything. See the difference? Trust me, learn to love yourself before you see the goal number on the scale, and the journey will be easier, kinder, and feel twice as sweet.
R- Reward Yourself
It’s important to reward yourself throughout the entire weight loss process. As I mentioned back in goal setting, you should set goals (both big and small ones) and then reward yourself when you reach them. Important note: Do NOT reward yourself with food! Make sure the rewards are things that will still keep you on track. Here are a few suggestions: A mani/pedi, a massage, a new lipstick. Did you hit a weight loss milestone? Maybe celebrate with a new outfit or some new workout gear. Even a nap or spending an hour reading rather than doing housework can be valuable rewards. When we receive praise or rewards we are programmed to do whatever action gave us that result again. Reward yourself for a job well done and they’ll keep coming.
S- Strength Training
I know I emphasized the importance of cardio, but just because getting your sweat on is great for weight loss doesn’t mean it’s the only exercise you should be getting. Building muscle will help you get lean, toned, and even boost your metabolism. Try and get some strength training and toning in a few times a week. There are so many options out there from free weights and machines at the gym to resistance training and workouts like barre or PiYo. There’s bound to be something out there that works for you.
I find that it is easier to keep my eating under control when I don’t allow myself to get too hungry during the day. In order to do this, I eat something every few hours. I’m not saying it has to be a whole meal, but a snack of carrots and hummus or an apple with some high protein peanut butter can definitely keep me from having a major snack attack later in the day. Tune in to your body and check in with your own personal timing to see what routine might work for you. I suggest a little something every 3-4 hours.
U- Unique to You
While there are many weight loss plans that work for many people (I’m talking Weight Watchers because it’s what I know personally), you need to understand that even within a successful “universal” program, everyone’s journey is completely unique. You might battle with a mean sweet tooth as your biggest struggle, while the person next to you can’t seem to stop the nighttime snacking cycle (which you don’t have a problem with). One person might benefit from the accountability of others while someone else can manage their diet without having to answer to anyone but themselves. Understanding that your journey is unique to you will help you defeat the comparison monster before it even shows up. Don’t get discouraged if some technique or thing that is working really well for someone else doesn’t seem to help you at all. Instead, accept that it isn’t for you and focus on finding something that is.
Ah, veggies. I’ll be honest, I’d much rather have pizza than a bowl of vegetables any day. The reality is, however, that vegetables (and fruit) are essential to weight loss and a healthy lifestyle. Not only are they full of nutrients your body needs, but they also allow you to eat larger portions of food without sabotaging your diet. You can eat an insane amount of broccoli for the same number of calories in 2 Oreo cookies. Seriously. If you want to feel full, you go for the broccoli. I know not all of us love veggies, so you might have to come up with creative ways to eat them. One of my biggest veggie game changers was getting a spiralizer. I now spiralize zucchini and eat that instead of spaghetti and I am completely satisfied with my meal. I’ll also use the Zoodles (the spiraled zucchini) to bulk up pasta dishes like mac n cheese. Twice as much food for barely any extra calories.
W- Weigh In
This one seems obvious, but I needed to throw it in here anyway. Since you’re trying to lose weight, you should probably hop on the scale every so often to check your progress. Yes, there are definitely ways to track progress that don’t involve the scale at all (like measurements or monitoring how your clothes fit), but lets be real, if we have a goal number, we need to check in to see if we are moving closer to that number. Now, don’t obsessively weigh yourself, as that’s not healthy for anyone’s mentality. Our weight can fluctuate by several pounds in a day. My advice is to pick a weigh in day, and weigh in at the same time of day. For example, I weigh in on Friday mornings after getting up and going to the bathroom. Since I’m already there (and likely in pjs that don’t weigh much), I hop on the scale, record my weight, and can figure out what is or isn’t working for me.
X- Avoid eXtreme dieting
Remember that whole “it’s a lifestyle” thing? That means that your quick fix crash diets that make you lose 10 lbs in a week do NOT work. Something like that usually involves eating an unrealistic amount of calories or spending an excessive amount of time in the gym. This is something many of us could do for a short period of time, but you better believe as soon as you return to your regularly scheduled life, the weight is going to come right back. This is why so many people (like the ones on Biggest Loser, a show I love, btw) gain their weight back after their extreme weight loss experience is over. Slow and steady really does win the race in this case.
At the end of the day, you only live once, so make sure you’re living life to it’s fullest. If you’re trying to lose weight at the same time as your 2 week trip to Italy, please don’t let the weight loss get in the way of you fully experiencing that trip. Eat the gelato and amazing pasta dishes without guilt. Try everything that the world has to offer you if you really want to. The key to this life long journey is balance. Maybe after indulging in that amazing 4 course Italian meal at a fancy restaurant in Rome you take a 30 minute walk around the local square. Do not let your diet get in the way of experiencing the amazing gift of life. As your journey progresses you will discover amazing ways to live your fullest life and your healthiest life at the same time.
Sleep is so incredibly important for your body on so many levels. When you get enough sleep, both your body and your mind are well rested, which will set you up for success no matter what the day brings. I notice that when I am tired I am more likely to reach for food mindlessly (and usually poor food choices at that) in an effort to keep my brain and body going. Try to get 7-8 hours a night, and be super excited when you actually do.