Most of us are in a constant weight loss battle with ourselves. I don't care how "thin" we are—we're still are not happy with how our bodies look. And I don't believe this unhappiness is unique to our times. Body image woes have plagued people for centuries.
Should we just love ourselves and our bodies for what they are? While self-love is important for true happiness, it can also become a cop-out to improving our lives. We allow our minds to give in too easily to our mediocre perceived effort. We are so used to luxury and laziness, that even the slightest unease will convince us to give up. And when I say "luxury" and "laziness", I don't mean lounging around eating bon-bons all day. I mean most of us are sitting at a desk working all day, watching 3 hours of TV at night and then getting our 7 hours of sleep at night and doing it all over again the next day. We eat for comfort, cravings and convenience. And although we aren't necessarily happy, it's a rut and the thought of squeezing in exercise or eating something that doesn't come in a pre-packaged container quickly gets dismissed.
The CDC reports that thirty-five percent of American adults are considered obese and almost seventy percent are overweight. Some people argue weight and BMI standards are unrealistic and flawed. Regardless of what you believe, we still have a problem.
The underlying question you should be asking yourself is "am I healthy?" And is the only reason you do consider yourself healthy because you are already on cholesterol, high blood pressure or insulin medication that has been prescribed due to an unhealthy lifestyle (I am not talking about hereditary or autoimmune disease conditions)? Can you keep up with your children? Can you walk or bike a mile without getting winded? Are you "outgrowing" your clothes before they are wearing out?
I was twenty pounds heavier than I am now at my highest weight. Maybe that doesn't seem like much to some people, but I am a small person and that twenty pounds equated to an additional eight pant sizes. I could walk a few blocks without getting winded, but every year I had to buy new pants because they kept shrinking in the wash! It wasn't until I made a lifestyle change that I took the weight off and kept it off.
You have to want to get healthy—and I don't mean just want it like you have the hundred other times you said you wanted to lose weight. Set a goal, tell people around you of your goal, and get a buddy to do it with you. Make the decision to do it and then do it. It's not going to be easy so don't give up when it gets hard. There is no "lose weight fast and keep it off" product out there. Yes, there are products on the market which will help you jump start your weight loss and I am not necessarily adverse to incorporating them in the beginning. However, making an actual lifestyle change is how a weight loss plan will truly improve your health and help you maintain a healthy weight for years to come.
Step 1: Change your Diet. You can exercise all you want, but until you change how you eat you won't lose weight and your general health will not necessarily improve. Can you lose weight and improve your health on a vegan diet? Absolutely, and obviously I highly support that idea. Can you lose weight and improve your health on a diet where you eat dairy, eggs and meat? Absolutely. Losing weight is a numbers game—calories in, calories out. Burn more calories than you consume and you lose weight. It's that simple. Change your diet by primarily eating food from the perimeter of the grocery store (or better yet, solely from the farmer's market). Eat mostly greens and whole grains, some fruit, and occasionally lean meat (if you aren't to the vegan point yet). My number one advice to you is to cut all dairy from your diet (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc). Remember, dairy is meant to double the size of a calf within it's first 45 days. Yeah, that's not what we want. Give it up. Try to stay away from white processed foods—sugar of course, but also white breads, pastas, and rice. Eat whole grains instead.
Step 2: Add in Exercise. Yes, you will lose weight by dieting alone. But all those wiggles and jiggles (which even thin, fit people have) won't go away without exercise and your poor cardiovascular health will still prevent you from walking that mile without getting winded. Start simple so you don't get frustrated. Get up and walk first thing in the morning or right when you get home from work. Studies show that people who exercise first thing in the morning succeed more than those who don't. Get it out of the way early, then you don't have to think about it for the rest of the day. The most important thing to remember is to meet yourself where you are. Setting unrealistic goals will only result in failure. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day 4-5 times a week, but also get in the habit of making everyday changes like taking the stairs instead of the elevator and getting up to relay messages in your office instead of using the intercom. Whatever type of exercise you chose, make sure to challenge yourself a little more each week. Feel free to use my beginner's 5k plan for extra motivation!
Step 3: Track EVERYTHING!!!! I love the program My Fitness Pal for tracking your food, exercise and water intake. People who track their daily food are more likely to lose weight and generally lose twice the amount than people who don't. Yes, it takes time and energy. Remember, if this was easy everyone would be healthy and fit. Once you start tracking your food, you will be amazed at how many calories and how much fat and carbs are in your everyday foods and it will help you make informative choices on what to eat. Take my word, it's important. I don't really have an opinion on fitness tracking watches like the Fitbit. If it helps you stay on target and motivates you, then wear one.
Step 4: Get Plenty of Sleep. You probably weren't expecting sleep to be on this weight loss plan. But think about it—what are you like when you are sleep deprived? I'm lazy so I eat junk food. I'm bitchy so I eat comfort food. And I'm exhausted so I lay on the couch watching Netflix all day. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night is important because it keeps you refreshed and in control of your mind and your emotions. It also enables you to get your butt out of bed in the morning to start your day off by exercising.
Step 5: Treat Yourself! If you don't have cheat or splurge days, then you won't stick to a plan. Remember, this is a lifestyle change. Life is also about having fun and enjoying treats. Different people are motivated by different things. One person might be motivated to succeed by the reward of a shopping spree or a spa day. Another person might be motivated to succeed by having one meal a week where they can eat whatever they want. Find out what motivates you and start setting your goals.
The most important thing to remember is to be patient. You might feel your pants are looser before you start dropping actual pounds. If you are following these steps, you will get healthy and subsequently start to lose excess weight. And if you do it right, you will only drop a few pounds a week. That's where patience comes in. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
Make sure to talk to your doctor before starting a diet or exercise plan.
Have some weight loss and/or healthy lifestyle tips to share? Feel free to use the comment section below! xoxo