You want to get fit, lose weight, increase muscle definition and generally feel better. That’s great, but before you even bother reading on, ask yourself how much you want it. Is it just a fleeting fancy? You wish you’d look and feel better, but how many people really ever lose weight and keep it off? Is it just the time of year? A New Year’s resolution that you’ll forget in a couple of weeks?
WHAT’S YOUR MOTIVATION?
It’s important you ask yourself what you’re really doing, what it is you want to achieve and that you be truthful with yourself. Anything else and you’re just wasting your time. Find out what it is you want and why you want it, because whatever it is that is driving you to get fit, healthy and lose weight is the motivator you will have to call on when the initial excitement wears off, you are discouraged and deflated by a couple of set-backs, and the going is getting tough.
Anyone can lose weight and even keep the weight off. But, it requires planning, effort, and a willingness, belief and determination to succeed. The fact is, losing weight isn’t complicated, but it is hard. Maintaining that weight loss isn’t complicated, but it is even harder. Figure out why you want to get fit or lose weight. Ask yourself if you are willing to put in the work to keep off the weight you’ve lost. Because weight loss doesn’t just stop at losing weight, it never stops. The honest truth is that you could pretty much lose weight on any kind of weight loss plan (how long you’ll last is another story) that employs a calorie deficit, but research shows that the only way you’ll ever keep it off is by permanently changing your lifestyle habits to healthier ones.
A LITTE FORETHOUGHT – PLAN AHEAD
This time don’t just think about losing weight, have a plan for what you’re going to do once you’ve lost it. Because that’s where almost everyone goes wrong, and that’s why almost everyone who loses weight gains it right back. Whichever way you choose to lose weight, slowly start making preparations to maintain that weight loss. Research on people who were trying to learn new habits such as eating healthier and going running, found that on average it took 66 days for the behavior to become unchangingly automatic. In other words, forget the 28 days you’ve heard it takes to form a new habit, you need to work hard creating a healthy lifestyle for at least another 2 months after you’ve lost weight.
Instead of just going to some exercise classes, try taking up a new sport like running in which you can progress and have an ultimate goal such as running a marathon, a half marathon or a 5-K. It’ll mean you’re learning a new activity and have a concrete target so you will feel a real sense of accomplishment, and all the while you’re losing weight. Also, taking up a sport like running will see you through weight loss to weight maintenance. You won’t just be running to lose weight, but also because you enjoy it, have become good at it and like participating in events. Following something like a beginner running program, which guides you through walking to jogging to running, allows you to break down your goal into smaller more manageable stages. Having a long-term plan helps you to avoid feeling overwhelmed and that all-or-nothing mindset. And if you fall behind, you can deal with it easier.
Once you get the hang of healthy lifestyle changes they become just that, a lifestyle – not a chore or an inconvenience. You actually get to learn how to prepare food that is nutritious, tasty and not jam-packed with calories. You’ll get to the point that if you haven’t exercised for an entire week you start to feel those withdrawal symptoms you always hear those crazy fitness fanatics talking about. You’ll get to the end of that beginners running program you’ve attempted 5 times, but never finished. You’re a runner and look great in your workout gear. You no longer are intimidated by going into the gym, you don’t have to learn the same exercise for the umpteenth time, because you found what you are good at and you’re awesome at it.
MAKE IT REAL
Turn the goal of wanting to lose weight into a reality. To lose weight and keep it off, you need to turn your wanting to lose weight into something tangible – physically and emotionally. Too often people are entirely detached from the process of losing weight; it’s why it is so easy to give up. People tend to see losing weight and getting fit as some kind of static, unemotional event. Something that can be compartmentalized. A different, separate part of your life. But it’s not like that – at all. Not if you’re serious. A healthy lifestyle impacts almost all areas of your life – in a good way.
1. EMERSE YOURSELF
To successfully lose weight you need to immerse yourself in it. You need to get engrossed in exercising and learning how to eat better. If you don’t know how to already, learn how to cook food that is tasty, but healthy and lower in calories. Learn the calorie content of your favorite foods. You’ll be shocked. Learn which exercises you like and don’t like. Be proactive. If your dream city was Paris and that trip was upon you, you’d already know everything there was to know before you got there, wouldn’t you? Similarly, if you want to be slimmer and fitter, then get interested.
2. SPRING CLEAN
Start by cleaning out all the unhealthy, high-calorie foods from your kitchen, that includes your secret stashes, wherever they may be. Throw out all the crap. It makes cravings much easier to deal with. If you don’t have it to hand, you can’t eat it. Let’s face it, you make the decision to eat cookies, chocolate or whatever your drug of choice when you buy them in the store, not when you grab it from the cupboard. And whatever you do: Never go grocery shopping hungry.
3. FIND OUT WHY
To keep weight off you also need to address why you are eating more than your body needs. If you’re eating high calorie foods such as chocolate because you find them comforting and calming, replacing them with healthy food options such as salad isn’t going to last long. You need to find a better way to feel comforted and relaxed. If you’re struggling with your eating habits a great book to read is “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works”.
4. WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS
This makes it more real. It’s not just an idea in your head. Make a list of what you’re setting out to achieve and the reasons why. You can stick this list on the fridge or somewhere you’ll see it regularly. You can add fuel to your motivation by inspiring yourself with fitness images that grab your attention. We’re spending increasing amounts of time online and as such a great way to remind yourself of your motivations is to use a website such as Pinterest, which is very much image driven and has an overall positive and inspirational vibe. They can be incredible tools to keep you motivated and find like-minded folk. Pinterest, for example, is a fantastic visual tool, in which you can collect all the things that inspire you in one place, be they motivational quotes, fitness routines or images of athletes and other fit people. These visual reminders can help keep you on the straight and narrow.
5. SOCIAL NETWORK
Have a support system in place. Choose friends and family who you can talk to, who are supportive and will make you accountable, which will help keep you on track. When you’re facing temptation, feel disheartened or want to give up, having the encouragement of friends who are cheering you on can help you get through. If you don’t have family or friends who can cheer your efforts, think about joining a weight loss support group. Having an exercise buddy is another great source of support. Research shows that having a friend you can exercise with, helps you stick to your exercise routine.
6. EMOTIONALLY REAL
Make getting fit and losing weight emotionally real. If you’re not emotional involved, it’s easy to give up. You need to turn up the heat on yourself. You need to make it uncomfortable staying the same. It’s the only way we really ever change. So, instead of waiting for someone to say the exact wrong thing to you, for someone to treat you incredibly badly or for some life-changing event to happen to you, make it uncomfortable for yourself. Mentally gather together all the times you’ve been treated badly, have been expected to failetc. and turn it into something that drives you forward. It doesn’t matter if it happened in 5th grade and it really hit anerve, and feels almost as raw then as it does now, or if it happened yesterday. Have a, “they thought I couldn’t do it, but I did and I will” attitude. Every time someone puts you down or makes you feel inferior, channel it into something positive. It’s no bad thing to have critics, naysayers and competitors. Often a foe can drive you to your goal where a friend could not. Would there be a David, without a Goliath? Equally, imagine reaching your goal and use that as impetus to keep you going. Some days you’ll be mad and you’ll have an “I’ll show them” mind-set, other times you’ll just be looking ahead. It just makes sense to cover all your bases. If these emotions are strong, they’ll help you prevail in your weaker moments when you want to give in to bingeing on pizza or skipping another workout.
LAST, BUT NOT LEAST…
Be mentally ready and up for a challenge. Because, weight loss is a challenge. You can’t dread what lies ahead; otherwise you’ll fall by the wayside at the first hurdle. You need to have a can-do, bring-it-on attitude. That way you’ll be looking for solutions when you face setbacks, not excuses to quit.
The great thing about getting fit and making your body strong and healthy is that everyone is in the same boat. It’s a great leveller. Poor, rich, ivy-league educated, high-school drop out, old or young. No one can do it for you. Money can’t buy you strength, fitness or health, nor can power. And that’s what makes this great. Your body and what it can do is entirely down to you. As Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman says, “If you have a body, you are an athlete.” So use it.
Some help to get you started:
The weight loss infographic below has some more info on how to lose weight and keep it off, and has a resource box.