“Lose 1 pound a day!” “Just say no to carbs!” “Follow this meal plan for guaranteed results!”
I could go on, and on, and on about all the diet and get slim quick claims we are inundated with on a daily basis. I could also tell you that Weight Watchers is the only way to lose weight. But, I am not going to do that. Why? Because this journey is personal. What worked for me may not work for you. Each of us needs to define what healthy means to us. The goal is to find something that is sustainable over time for you. I will tell you what worked for me in hopes it will help you with your journey.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu
One of the many things I loved about the Weight Watchers (WW) program was their initial focus on this journey being a lifestyle change and avoiding the word “diet.” When you think of diet you often think of restriction and all the foods that are “off limits”. But WW teaches you to enjoy your favorite foods in moderation. They focus on helping you learn what a balanced meal looks like, portion control, setting small goals along the way, and increasing your water intake. After that they focus on moving more. I know for myself, exercising was going to be almost as difficult as changing my eating habits because I was lazy. I know you’re not supposed to say negative things about yourself. But, c’mon. When you lay on the couch all evening after work eating fried chicken tenders dipped in ranch… then what else would you call it?
Since I wasn’t used to exercising I needed something that was easy to follow; yet effective. So I purchased a treadmill and started walking 45-minutes to 1 hour a day 5 days a week. Then I would jog as long as I could and then walk when I got tired. Eventually I started running and running is still my main form of cardio. I also purchased exercise DVD’s and followed TV exercise programs. You have to find something you enjoy; otherwise you will not stick to it and working out will feel like a chore you dread. For you, it may be Zumba, Kickboxing, or CrossFit. Whatever it is, make sure you enjoy it.
With the combination of eating better and moving more, I lost about 1-2 pounds per week. For some, that progress may be too slow. But, again, you don’t want to start something that is drastic that you cannot maintain. It took me about a year to lose 50 pounds. I’ve lost about another 10 pounds after that.
On top of being lazy (or if you want to be polite, you could say sedentary), I wasn’t the best cook. But I didn’t use that as an excuse to not prepare healthy meals. The WW site has a huge database of healthy, easy to prepare meals. I also used Google for recipe ideas. I made a list of all the unhealthy foods I liked and then found healthy alternatives for foods such as pizza, French fries, chicken tenders, etc. I even branched out and found recipes from other lifestyles, such as Paleo, Vegan, and Vegetarian. I also followed a ton of Facebook health pages for recipe ideas.
Tracking my meals was also extremely beneficial, because it kept me accountable. If I was having a good week, it was easy to identify what went well. If I was having an off week, I could see what I needed to change. In WW, you track Points®. All foods have a Points® value and you are allotted a certain number of Points® per day based on factors such as height, weight, daily activity level, etc. But if you don’t follow WW, you may choose to count calories, count macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, & fat), or you may simply choose to write it out in a journal. Whichever method you choose, the key is being honest with yourself and mindful of what you’re eating. Tracking helps you determine if your choices are pushing you closer to or further away from your goals. I currently use MyFitnessPal® to help me track my meals, weight, and calories burned during workouts. Some people think you can eat what you want and just exercise. But you cannot undo a poor diet with exercise. Weight loss (and weight maintenance) is 80% diet and 20% exercise.
I also made sure I ate frequently throughout the day. Calorie restriction is not the answer. If you consume too few calories, your body will go into starvation mode and it will negatively impact your metabolism. Plus, think of the embarrassment of fainting in public! Instead, focus on eating 5 meals per day, spaced about 4 hours a part to keep you satisfied and give your body the fuel it needs. Drink your water, too, people! Our bodies are composed largely of water. Start with drinking eight glasses per day and then increase that to drinking half your body weight in ounces. I was a huge juice drinker and increasing my water intake wasn’t easy, so I started drinking sparking water and lemon water instead.
Finally, I encourage you to set small goals along the way. I had an idea of my goal weight, but I broke it down into smaller 5-10 pound increments. This was helpful to me because I had a lot of weight to lose and didn’t want to overwhelm myself with the thought of losing 50 pounds. Create a plan for how you will achieve that goal. Write out your goal and then describe the steps you will take to achieve that goal. It is OK to reward yourself along the way. But make your rewards non-food related. Your reward could be a massage, pedicure, or a new pair of earrings.
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great” Zig Ziglar
When you begin your journey, you won’t have all the answers and there will be bumps along the way. This journey will change and evolve over time. Don’t try and figure it out all at once. Stick with the journey, learn, be patient, and continue with those habits that are helping you; work towards changing those habits that are not helping you. These are habits you developed over time and you cannot change them overnight. Strive for progress and not perfection.
I would love to hear from you! What was, or is, the most difficult part in starting your journey? How can I help you reach your weight loss goals?