Losing weight seems to be a national conversation. Each year, the bestselling books list in the United States seems to contain a variety of diet, health and self-help books. In addition to the obvious improvement in external appearance, the positive physical, psychological and emotional changes associated with healthy weight loss are extremely powerful.
For lasting change with weight loss, there are some key tips for approaching weight loss that can be very helpful to your ultimate success.
Think medium. And long (-term).
If you are overweight, and whether you have gained just a few pounds or quite a few, one of the first things to remember is that it likely happened over a decent amount of time. Though it may seem that the extra 15 pounds (or 25 or 60) appeared overnight, the reality, backed by science, is that the gain was relatively slow and gradual.
Perhaps you changed jobs and had a longer commute, or sit in front of a computer or in meetings much more than you used to. Maybe an important internal or external event left a void that food sometimes replaced. Regardless, it's important to remember and to plan realistically for success: real, sustainable, healthy weight loss needs to also take place gradually. By setting your expectations and understanding in the medium and long term, you can pace and plan effectively for exactly what, when and how your weight loss can happen.
Be realistic. Go slow(er) rather than fast.
Your specific weight loss goals should be realistic. One important factor, besides the amount of weight you want or need to lose, is what kinds of changes you can realistically make, and how many changes are reasonable to expect. This is something only you can answer, but think baby steps at first.
People who lose weight more slowly, through gradual changes and improvements, are more likely to have long-lasting and long-term weight loss, not to mention health and psychological benefits.
Break it down. Write it down. Add it up.
What kinds of situations and behaviors may have led to the excess weight? Often times, by breaking down exactly how weight gain happened, we can recognize where changes can be made that can reverse the course.
Did the new job mean that you're not getting the dog out for her morning walk? Are you eating later than you used to? Is breakfast a cup of coffee and a scone on the ride to work, with lunch usually skipped because of meetings, followed by a voracious approach to dinner? Too many trips to the fast food joint because it's right on the way?
Be specific. Set a goal. Have a plan.
By being specific, we are not talking only about "how many pounds" and your timetable (lose 15 pounds in five months). For example, a recent study out from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that weighing oneself daily and doing thirty minutes of any kind of physical activity a day are two important indicators for those who were able to keep weight off long term. Are you able to incorporate daily activity at some point in your day?
Commit to the activity and the time—walking the dog in the morning each day, for example. With pedometers becoming more popular and inexpensive, one can be specific about how many steps per day as a goal, with a list of strategies daily strategies to get there (park the car farther away, walk with the neighbor after work and before dinner, etc.).
Know where you stand
It is important to know whether and how well you are progressing, and the best way is to buy an inexpensive scale and weigh yourself (do try to weigh yourself at the same time every day, as weight often fluctuates throughout the day). Then write it down. It can be very motivating to look back over time and see the steady, gradual, positive results as you make specific changes.
Be your own best friend and coach.
Don't be too rigid, and be sure to reward yourself. If you're obsessed with all the things you have to give up or cut down on, your focus becomes only negative. Make a list of all of the great foods you can and will enjoy more. Some people love fresh watermelon. Or Manhattan clam chowder. Curried chicken. Mango sorbet. Fresh steamed asparagus. Frozen yogurt. A turkey melt. Corn on the cob. The list of things you can have is longer than the list of things you need to cut down on. What are your favorites?
There of course may be times when you splurge—if it's planned as a reward, enjoy it! But if the splurge wasn't planned, it doesn't help to think you've "fallen off the wagon" and are suddenly, in one quick swoop, starting over from the beginning. Be your own coach—this game is not lost in one play. The important part is to not think that you have failed completely, only that you'll get to the next day, or the next meal, or the next walk, and adjust.