Whether you’re at the beginning of your weight loss journey or are getting back on the wagon after a break, knowing how to get going can be tricky. Starting or re-establishing a healthy lifestyle can seem like an overwhelming venture, but try not to let yourself feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Here are some easy, effective strategies to get your eating, exercise and mindset back on track without stress, hassle or wasted time…
1. Form a new habit each week
One of the reasons we find healthy life transformations daunting is because we imagine ourselves suddenly switching from how we’re living right now to something totally different: leaping out of bed at 5 am, downing a protein shake and hitting the gym for two hours before work. But seriously – personal trainers live like this, not regular people. You don’t have to aspire to such things! Commit to making a healthy change each week, like having a healthy breakfast or going for a daily walk, and you’ll start changing your lifestyle at a steady, sustainable pace.
2. Use the 80/20 rule
When it comes eating, I always recommend the 80/20 rule – eat well 80% of the time, give yourself a break the remaining 20%. You can use a similar approach more broadly, too – think of it in these terms: what’s the 20% effort you can put in in order to get back 80% results? This isn’t being lazy or cutting corners, it’s being smart and efficient. For example, choose exercises that give you more bang for your buck and choose meals that are fast, healthy and filling – the time and energy required for these aren’t huge, but they’ll still net huge gains for your mind and body.
3. Be accountable
This is a big one – any weight loss attempt requires you to be accountable in order to succeed. And the most important person you need to be accountable to is yourself. Keep a food and/or exercise diary to help yourself stay on track and to maintain your motivation. Whatever you want to gain from your weight loss journey, remember – you’re the one who has the power to make that reality. So stop thinking and start doing.
4. Get enough sleep
One of the reasons sleep is so important is because it affects your appetite and energy levels. Not getting enough sleep – anything less than about seven hours a night – can create a vicious cycle of unhealthy habits. If you’re tired, you don’t feel like exercising or cooking a nutritious dinner; you also tend to reach for caffeine and sugary snacks to give yourself a boost. Physiologically, your metabolism slows down. Lack of sleep affects the two hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Leptin is the hormone that tells your brain that you feel full, and if you don’t catch enough shut-eye, your leptin levels drop.
Make a conscious effort to go to bed earlier than normal. During the afternoon, avoid anything that might make you feel ‘buzzed’, like coffee or sugar. Avoid exercising in the evenings, too, as this can end up making you feel more alert when you should be winding down for rest. And for about an hour prior to hitting the sack, don’t use your computer or phone, even if it’s just to browse Facebook – looking at a screen before you try going to sleep can also make you feel more awake.
5. Ask for help if you need it
Not sure if you’re doing things right? Don’t know if you’re getting the results you should be? Want to push yourself harder but can’t work out where to begin? Make it your business to find out. That might mean hiring a personal trainer or getting an exercise buddy – whatever you think is going to suit your personality. Health and fitness is an information minefield – full of dead ends – and having someone well informed help you through it can make all the difference.
6. Find your reason why
Why do you want to lose weight? The reasons have to mean something to you – not anyone else (remember that before you fall prey to other people’s judgements – it’s not their body and it’s not their business!). Figuring out why you’re doing this – for your health? For the sake of your kids? To look like a knockout in that dress you used to fit into? Use it to get motivated and develop your healthy living mindset.
The results of all these changes you’re making should be like side effects of what you’re doing – in other words, your journey shouldn’t feel tough or impossible or thankless. It should feel right – of course it’ll be hard sometimes, but the pay-off is worth it, right? And the trick to lasting weight loss is making lasting changes – not finding a few things to do differently for eight weeks before returning to your former habits once you’ve dropped some kilos.
Create your healthy living plan. Implement it in small, manageable steps. And get results that’ll last for life.