1. Assess Your Goal
Why do you want to start losing weight? The why is the single most important motivational factor. If you don’t know why you are doing it, it is highly unlikely you will get there! Maybe you have several reasons, or maybe you just have a vague idea. Maybe your doctor told you to? In most cases, this is not enough. You need a clear picture of what you want to achieve and why. In my experience, to establish a goal sounds much easier than it is. If you need some guidance, please check out my blog post on setting SMART goals.
You need to believe that you can do it. There is no use if your husband, your kids or your whole neighbourhood believe you can do it if you don’t. Of course, there will be days of doubt and questioning yourself. But throwing in the towel at the first sight of an obstacle is not going to help. You need to believe that you can overcome such feelings and that you will achieve your goal.
3. Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal helped me in so many ways in my journey to lose weight. It is a great way to keep track of your progress, and you can read how far you have come. That is especially helpful on days where you are doubting yourself (see above point 2). Whenever I was on a weight loss plateau and I was feeling like I was making zero progress and I started wondering why I kept going, I went through my journal. I read the compliments I had received so far. I read about the new clothes that fit me. I read how happy I felt. That gave me motivation and determination to keep going. I used the book “Adore Yourself Slim” and it really helped me a lot. But of course, you can use any notebook and just fill it with details of your journey. There are so many beautiful notebooks, I find them hard to resist!
4. Eat When You Are Hungry
And not because it is lunch or dinner time. Listen to your body how much you need to eat. Stop when you had enough. Think of children. They eat when they are hungry and stop when they have had enough. Respect your body’s signals.
5. Do Not Diet
Do not restrict yourself to some unsustainable eating pattern (crash diets, juice meals) or exercising regime. Instead try to change your habits which will take time (research indicates anywhere from 21 days to 66 days or longer, depending on the habit). Make it a habit to prepare your own meals using fresh ingredients. Avoid the middle aisles in supermarkets. Try to reduce the amount of sugar you eat (or even drink). Don’t go on a diet where you constantly feel deprived. Create a new balanced healthy way of eating.
6. Eat Aware
Only eat when you know that you do. In other words, do not eat in front of tv, pc or tablet. Eat with your mind engaged in the process and enjoy it. Be in the moment, don’t let your mind rush you through your meal.
7. Write Down What You Eat
I did that for a while too as I was not aware how much I was eating. It really helped, not so much in terms of how many calories I was eating, but in noticing how many unhealthy snacks I was having between meals. Seeing it black on white helped me to make the change to healthier options. Just taking a photo of your meal helps too.
I just wrote a blog about how exercise does not help you lose weight directly. But it helps with the mindset! Moving your body makes you feel better, gives confidence and keeps the weight off. Exercise has other benefits such as keeping you young too!
9. Do Not Snack After Dinner
Night-time snacking leads to weight gain. I guess that is mostly due to the fact that we are having unhealthy snacks such as chips or sweets. I don’t think eating a carrot before going to bed will do much harm though.
10. Make Your Own Lunch
Take your lunch to work. Prepare healthy lunches on the weekend or cook a larger evening meal to take leftovers to work. It is far healthier (you know exactly what is in it!), cheaper and in most cases more delicious too. I have cooked my husband’s meals to take to work for years.
11. Do Not Skip Meals
Much has been said about skipping meals, suggesting that when you do, your body goes into starvation mode, hanging onto the fat reserves and burning less. If you eat consistently you lose more weight, a study published in the The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed. However, I would still suggest to only eat when you are hungry. Otherwise I would rather not (see above number 4).
12. Your Personal History
Compare what happened in the past. Weight loss is very different for everyone. What makes you eat, how stressed are you, how do you deal with stress, when and how have you previously managed to lose weight, what happened that led you to put it back on? A Personal Trainer, a nutritionist, a psychologist could help too.
13. Sleep Plenty
Lack of sleep causes weight gain. Sleep deprivation leads to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases appetite. Nights spent in front of tv or the pc may also involve night-time snacking (see above point 9).
14. Put Temptation Out of Your Way
Do not keep a pantry full with unhealthy options (chocolate, cake, biscuits, candy…..). The further the distance, the less you eat, according to “Impact of sleep, screen time, depression and stress on weight change in the intensive weight loss phase of the LIFE study” in the International Journal of Obesity.
15. Do Not Eat Anything That Has An Advertisement
Do not eat packaged food. It is full of empty calories because it is highly processed and offers little in terms of nutrition. Try cooking with fresh ingredients. I know it is difficult, but there are so many healthy recipes of meals you can throw together in no time. Even within packaged food products there are “better” options than sugar and trans-fat loaded ready meals.
16. Stay Away From Alcohol
If you have read my story, you know that alcohol is not helpful when trying to lose weight. Neither are soda drinks. Here is what happens when you stop drinking alcohol: http://www.prevention.com/health/what-happens-when-you-stop-drinking-alcohol.
17. Find Yourself a Buddy
Find someone in the same situation that has similar goals like you. People are more successful losing weight when they do it together. That is for example one of the reasons that the Weight Watchers concept works for so many. There are people to encourage you and to listen when you struggle as they are facing the same problems.
18. Shop When You Are Full
Do not face temptation hungry. Do not go shopping with an empty stomach. Do not go into a bakery when you feel like a snack. Make sure you eat a decent meal before you go to a party where you know there will only be crisps and peanuts to nibble on.
19. Involve Family
Get your family involved. I do not think I would have succeeded if my husband had insisted on sausage rolls and French fries for dinner. Plan your meals together and get the children involved in preparing healthy food. They can wash vegetables, peel and chop potatoes and carrots, and slice apples for example.
20. Accept Plateaus and Setbacks
There will be plateaus. And that is ok and normal. You may even gain weight due to adding muscle to your body. See my tip on using clothes and measuring tape to check on your progress in my story. And do not be afraid of lifting weights and adding muscle (see my blog on why women should weight train).
21. Allow a Treat
Do not deprive yourself completely. Just add plenty of healthy food. A piece of chocolate or a biscuit if you crave it, is totally ok if you have a healthy meal first. If you deprive yourself of something you crave, you will only want it more. You may be able to resist for a while using all your willpower. Chances are though that at some point you give in to temptation and end up binge-eating a whole block of chocolate or pack of biscuits. Afterwards, you are likely to feel guilty and bad, and maybe even give up on your goals altogether. It’s a vicious cycle and therefore I think it is smarter to allow yourself a little something from time to time.
22. Add a Starch
Add resistant starch to your meal. Resistant starches are types of starches that are resistant to digestion. Some research says this helps to make you feel full and reduce abdominal fat: “Resistant starch and energy balance: impact on weight loss and maintenance” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4220782/). The way you prepare starch-containing foods affects their starch content, as cooking or heating destroys most resistant starches. However, you can “recapture” the resistant starch content of some foods by letting them cool after cooking. These include oats, rice, natural whole grains, beans, potato starch, potatoes, green bananas, Hi-maize flour.
23. Throw Out Kids’ Leftovers
Do not eat your kids’ leftovers. I used to eat what was left in my kids’ lunchboxes. Or what was left on their plates at dinner time. It wasn’t easy to learn to stop doing that as I grew up in a family where you had to finish what is on your plate. Throwing out food was considered a waste. However, I want my children to stop eating when they’re full. But that didn’t stop me from finishing their plates for them! Quite silly really, as I should stop eating too when I’m full! Now I try to put their leftovers in the fridge for later or I throw them out. Still with a bad conscience, but I do it.
24. Eat Slowly
As with 23 above, this one is a struggle for me. I happen to be a really fast eater. But the benefits of eating slowly are confirmed by several studies. These benefits include consuming less calories (the brain needs 20 minutes to register that we are full), enjoying your meal more (do you need another reason?), improving digestion (the more work is done in the mouth, the less needs to be done in your stomach) and improving mindfulness (it’s basically point 6 above). There is a very popular quote going round on social media that comes to mind here: You are what you eat. So don’t be fast, cheap, easy or fake.
25. Do Something Not Related to Food
I have always loved cooking. And baking. I love to host big lavish dinner parties and bake with my children. Which is not very helpful when you try to watch what you eat, especially when you end up making brownies every weekend! There is nothing wrong with this hobby, as I prepare almost all meals myself and therefore know exactly what’s in them and I can use fresh ingredients. But it may be helpful to also find activities that do not involve food.