We’ve All Been There…
We’ve all thought about losing weight because we knew something needed to change. Perhaps your clothes got a little tight or you couldn’t do something you once could with ease. Maybe your doctor recommended it, or, worse, someone posted a picture in social media and you just could not believe it was you and decided right then and there something had to change. Whatever the reason, you are not alone. The majority of the American population wants to optimize their health. Many of us need to lose weight as part of that. So how do we go about that? Sometimes just getting started is the hardest part. You’re not quite sure how or where to begin. Maybe you know the basics, maybe you don’t. Just in case, I’ve identified the 7 top things you can do today to get going!
1. Eat Less
Yes, eat less. If you want to lose weight you have to eat less than you burn during the day. It sounds too simple, but it’s the number one thing I did to transform my health. At its simplest form, that means if you eat fewer calories than you burn today, tomorrow you will be on your way to weight loss. Start by cutting out one thing everyday you know you don’t need. Maybe it’s the frappuccino (most are 600+ calories) you customarily get on the way to work or the side of guacamole at lunch. Whatever it is for you, try removing it and see what happens when you do. I’m not suggesting you give up things that you truly like. I’m recommending you make the things you like to eat work for you. If you love that donut, by all means have a donut. I don’t recommend more than one and not everyday when your goal is weight loss and you’re just starting. Let me say, it is possible to lose weight and eat a donut a day if you know beyond a shadow of a doubt what your intake and burn is and make adjustments to your macronutrients to allow for it. I’ll go into that in depth in a later post. For the purpose of this one, I’m assuming you’re just starting so let’s start by mastering these good habits!
2. Move More
When you want to lose weight, a direct correlation to calories in, calories out (increasing calories out) is to get in more activity. For you this could be a few simple changes. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, a walk in your neighborhood, a pretty nearby park or at the beach. Enlist a friend to go with you and chat away. You won’t even notice you’ve been working! Getting in activity each day will do wonders for your outlook and will likely motivate you to do more. Try adding a little more distance everyday, then a fitness class the next week or some other activity that interests you and so on, until it becomes part of your new routine. You’ll be surprised how just a few hundred extra calories burned each day in conjunction with a calorie deficit will effect your health and body composition!
3. Log your Food
How can you know where to make changes if you aren’t looking at the big picture, i.e. what you put in your body? Take a week and just log your food. Don’t worry about cutting anything out yet. Just get used to logging everyday. Be honest and get it all out there so you’ll know how many calories you’re really eating. You’ll be surprised how eye opening this one task can be. Many of us, myself included, don’t realize how much we’re eating if we’re not reporting it. Through no fault of our own, we just don’t realize. It’s so easy to eat hundreds of extra calories “snacking” on something in as little as five minutes. I recommend My Fitness Pal (MFP). It’s a free app and has so many useful features. Besides logging your calories and seeing your macronutrients at a glance, you can track your weight loss, import your recipes so you’ll be able to include them and add “friends” providing built in accountability and extra support toward your goals. Think of it like a video game, one you use to crack and master your calories and macronutrients each day. There’s also a feature that allows you to scan any food you buy at the grocery store or elsewhere that has a barcode. It automatically pulls up all the nutritional information. All you have to do is hit “add.” It’s a huge timesaver. I promise, you’ll use it everyday!
*Important! While I endorse MFP for logging, I do not recommend adding back in your exercise calories burned as the app will lead you to believe you can do. If your goal is weight loss and you’re in a calorie deficit to achieve this, DO NOT EAT THESE CALORIES BURNED! If you do, your weight loss will slow and possibly stall altogether.
4. Wear an Activity Tracker
If you don’t already have one, buy an activity tracker. It’s like having the inside track on how your body, your machine is working each day. You have a step (12,000) and calorie deficit (burn) goal everyday. At any given time of day you can check your progress, and, if need be, push yourself to find ways to get more movement in. When you don’t wear one you have no idea how much you’re moving. To illustrate how much we actually move vs. how much we think we move, I submit myself as Exhibit A. As you know I love to bake! On heavy baking days I spend the entire day in my kitchen, standing, walking back and forth. I used to imagine those days would be off the charts for steps because I literally never sat down and was constantly moving. Imagine my surprise the first time I wore my activity tracker on a baking day and only got 2,300 steps? I had to take an extra long walk that night and I was already exhausted! It’s just a lesson in how much we “think” we move during the day versus our actual “reality.” One of the best things an activity tracker provides is knowledge and built in accountability. They push you since you know where your deficit is and what you need to do each day to get to your goal. I like to make it a game and challenge myself to reach and exceed my daily goals. I use the apple watch but many of my friends swear by the fitbit. You can look into it on Amazon here.
5. Drink Plenty of Water
This may seem super simple, and it is. Many of us don’t get enough water each day. In addition to that deficit we drink too many sodas or coffee which have a dehydrating effect on our bodies. When you’re trying to lose weight you need extra water each day. Water is important to the body as it helps our bodies function more efficiently. Whether your goal is weight loss, increasing muscle or maintaining performance proper hydration is more important. Your body can’t adapt to dehydration and that impairs every functioning organ in your body. You retain water and sodium when you’re dehydrated, directly effecting your perceived weight loss on a scale. With proper hydration your body flushes out the extra fluid, nutrients are distributed throughout your body and overall body functions improve, allowing for a healthier you and your efforts to show up on the scale!¹
6. Get Rest
Getting a good 7 to 8 hrs of sleep each night can help you lose weight!² Yes, just sleeping. Think of your body as a machine. If you don’t give it proper rest it can’t recover and performs less optimally. This spills into everything. How alert you are, your mood, and yes, even weight loss. Without enough rest your appetite can also increase. This comes from a change in two of the body’s appetite regulatory hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates appetite and leptin suppresses it. Without enough sleep, ghrelin levels rise and leptin levels decrease, which increases your appetite.³ When you’re overtired you’re more likely to skip a workout too, leading to another stall in weight loss. You need rest to be your best!
I can’t say this loud enough… lifestyle, fitness, weight loss, etc. is a marathon, not a race. You can do it. You have the tools necessary. Your body is more than adequate, in fact, it’s exceptional. Believe I’M POSSIBLE instead of impossible, I CAN instead of I can’t. If you shift your mindset over time to focus on those things when doubt creeps in and stay the course, you’ll see the results you are after. The fact that your transformation may take awhile is to your benefit. It takes time to build new, good, strong habits. Habits you’ll need to lean into in times of stress or busyness. I highly recommend The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It goes into great detail and explains how building new habits work and how to go about reinforcing them. You can purchase it on Amazon here. I’ve been there and lived firsthand how those good habits just take over in moments of stress, when in the past and in absence of mindfulness I have reverted to doing something that wasn’t in alignment with my goals. It is for that reason I included Mindset in this list. It’s just as important for change as any action is!
Need More Resources?
Any additional questions? I love comments and will do my best to answer you right away. I hope this lists helps you! I want to hear how you’re doing if you’d like to comment. Also, if you want more information on what a good daily calorie and macronutrient goal should be for you based on your goals I recommend two things.
- Personal Trainer – If you have a gym membership or access to a Personal Trainer you trust ask them to give you an assessment, find out your body composition, talk about your goals and get recommended daily calories and macronutrients from them.
- Me – You can comment and send me your email and I will get you in touch with the information.
¹2014. NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. Fourth Edition Revisited. Burlington, MA. Jones & Bartlett Learning.
²St. Onge M, McReynolds A, Trivedi AB, Roberts AL, Sy M, Hirsch J. (2012). Sleep restriction leads to increased activation of brain regions sensitive to food stimuli. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 95(4)818-824.
³Taheri S, Lin L, Austin D, Young T, Mignot E. (2004). Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS Med 1(3): e62. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0010062
Disclaimer: The opinions stated in this article are mine and not influenced by any brand. I’ve included Amazon affiliate links to make it easier for my readers in case they are interested. These tools have been a benefit to my transformation and I want to get that information to others who desire it. I do make a small percentage off any sales related to those links.