Have you ever committed to a diet, determined to lose weight, only to feel defeated when the pounds returned? You’re not alone. The fact is, dieting doesn’t work. According to a report in American Psychologist, the majority of dieters will lose 5 to 10 percent of their weight initially, but will gain it back—often with extra pounds to boot.
Long term weight loss and maintenance come from long term lifestyle changes. Best of all, these changes let you enjoy food and are really doable! Focus on one to two changes at a time—trying to change everything at once is a recipe for failure. Be patient with yourself, celebrate your progress (even if it’s just a little bit!), and look forward to a good life of health, energy, and happiness!
1. Choose whole foods over “diet” products
The only “diet” that’s held up after all the others have faded away isn’t really a diet at all. Healthy, enjoyable eating revolves around eating whole foods (i.e. not processed), lots of produce and “colors” (think colorful veggies and fruits), complex carbohydrates, and lean proteins. Shopping “the perimeter” of the supermarket is one way to fill your cart up with healthier foods (steering clear of the processed foods in the middle aisles). Also, beware of “reduced fat” or “diet” foods, which often compensate for slashed fat or flavor by hiking up sugar content or adding chemicals.
2. Cook at home
Cooking at home might be the number one thing you can do to eat more healthily, according to author Michael Pollan. He cites scientific studies that show people who cook at home have healthier diets than people who don’t. Feel like you don’t have the time (or skills) to cook at home? Keep an eye out for an upcoming post where I’ll be sharing tips to make home cooking more manageable, delicious, and (gasp) fun!
3. Drink LOTS of water
Water keeps our bodies working properly, flushes toxins, helps us stay energized, and satiates hunger. Mayo Clinic recommends that women drink about 2.2 liters of water per day (that’s about 4.5 standard plastic water bottles). Keeping a reusable water bottle with you throughout the day is a great way to ensure you’re getting all the H2O you need. Drinking a glass of water when you wake up and just before bed is another trick for upping your water intake.
4. Cut down on sugar
If you’re going to start cutting down on one thing in your diet, make it sugar. Sugar is a toxin to our bodies, and it’s highly addictive. It makes us lethargic (thwarting our exercise plans) and leads to weight gain, high blood pressure, and even diabetes. Shockingly, the average American consumes about 130 pounds of sugar each year! Be on the lookout for hidden loads of sugar in juices and sodas, processed foods, and reduced fat and nonfat food items.
5. Don’t deprive yourself!
Many of us need to stop seeing food as an enemy—something to be resisted or conquered. There is no need to say “never!” to any certain food. In fact, forbidding yourself from ever eating something again often drives you to overindulge in that very food! You’ve heard it before, but “everything in moderation” couldn’t be truer. It may not be easy at first, but you can work toward a healthier relationship with food. If you find yourself having trouble sticking to “moderate” consumption of certain foods, seek support from a trusted friend (more on this later).
6. Exercise three to five times a week (30 minutes minimum)
Shocking, I know—but the truth is, healthy eating and exercise are both necessary for losing weight for the long term. Take an honest look at your current weekly activity and exercise. If you don’t see much there, start by committing to exercising 30 minutes a day, twice a week. If you’ve already got that down, then up the ante and commit to three to four days a week. The point is progress and developing the routine of an active lifestyle. One secret to success is choosing activities you enjoy. Your friend loves yoga, but you can’t stand it? Don’t go to the studio! Try walking, running, or swimming instead.
7. Keep a food journal
Keeping a log of what you’re eating and drinking everyday can be immensely helpful and eye-opening, especially in the beginning stages of making lifestyle changes. Choose a format that works for you and don’t get too bogged down in the details (no need to calculate every single calorie). The journal should give you an idea of where you need to incorporate more whole foods, produce, complex carbs, and lean proteins, as well as highlight things you need to cut down on. For additional accountability, schedule regular times to share your journal with a close friend or your spouse. If you’re not sure where to start, AMPT has created a food journal that can get you started in the right direction.
8. Confide in a friend
You know that friend that comes to mind the second you feel like you need to talk to someone? Yeah, that one. Ask that friend if you can talk to her on a somewhat regular basis about your progress in making healthier lifestyle choices. Share with her your goals, and then be honest with her in your successes and moments of failure. Make sure that the friend you choose is loving, gracious, and supportive—steer clear of critical, negative friends for this role.
9. Celebrate your progress
Remember Bill Murray in the movie What About Bob?—“Baby steps to the elevator, baby steps into the elevator…” (You don’t? Aw, too bad! 😉 The point is, real, lasting change takes real time. It’s so tempting to expect change to happen overnight. This kind of mindset leaves us defeated, and we easily give up on our goals and dreams at the first sign of difficulty. Instead, celebrate each tiny baby step you make in the right direction. How to deal with setbacks, you say? Go on to number 10!
10. Be gracious with yourself
Newsflash: You’re human. That means, you’re going to mess up. And that’s a good thing! It’s freeing and should relieve you of unnecessary feelings of anxiety and pressure. Try to let go of the “all-or-nothing” mentality, which lets us abandon our health goals and return to self-destructive habits when we make one little mistake. Genuine change is a journey. You will get there if you stay positive, believe in yourself, and keep moving. Be sure to offer yourself grace along the way.