Do you believe it's simple to lose weight? If you listen to the weight loss industry, you've been told over and over how easy it is--just take this pill, follow that diet or buy this piece of equipment and everything will melt away in a flash. In fact, we spend over billions each year on weight loss products and services and yet we're still overweight. In light of this, is weight loss really that simple?
Complex Problems, Simple Solutions
The idea behind weight loss is simple--burn more calories than you eat. This can be accomplished by replacing a couple of sodas with water and adding 20 minutes of walking each day. Sounds simple...and it is. If it's that simple, why can't we seem to do it?
There are a number of factors that contribute to our weight gain that you already know. But it's not just about finding time to exercise or choosing the salad over the burger--it's about genuine commitment to make healthy decisions every day....REGARDLESS of what's happening in your life. If you're not ready to make some changes, losing weight will be hard. Below are 10 things you'll need to look at in order to get yourself on a healthy track.
1. Your Attitude. If you're only on a health kick to lose weight or look a certain way, it will be hard to lose weight permanently. Why? Because, what happens if you don't see results quickly enough? You give up. Weight loss is a great goal, but unless you have something else to motivate you, what's to keep you going if the scale doesn't budge? It takes time to lose weight--how will you motivate yourself in the meantime? Find more reasons to be healthy--having more energy, dealing with health problems or wanting to live longer to be around for your kids. Those are some darned good reasons, if you ask me.
2. Your Workouts. If you don't workout consistently enough, it's hard to lose weight. Yes, it's possible to lose weight through diet alone, but you'll likely hit a plateau. You don't need to spend hours in the gym, you only need to set up a reasonable workout schedule that you can follow each week. It's not about killing yourself with workouts--it's about finding something you like and that you'll continue with for the rest of your life. You have to be willing to be more active on a regular basis--not just for a week here and there. My Beginner's Corner can give you some idea of where to start.
3. Your Eating. Changing the way you eat is another thing you're going to have to do for long-lasting weight loss. You need to be willing to replace unhealthy foods with healthier choices--every single day. This might mean:
Keeping a food journal
Spending more time in the grocery store reading food labels
Spending more time preparing meals
Saying no to extra portions
Making conscious choices about what you put in your mouth.
For permanent weight loss, you need to pay attention to what you eat and make good choices more often than not. Maybe a structured diet eventually ends, but healthy eating never stops...there will never be a time when you're done eating healthy. You might feel you're sacrificing the good stuff (pizza, fast food, etc.) and your life won't be fun if you can't have those foods. Guess what? You can still have them...just not whenever you want. Are you ready to make these changes? Are you ready to stop giving your body the most convenient thing available (and often the most fatty) and, instead, spend time planning what and when you'll eat? Because that's what it takes to get healthy...permanently.
4. Your Lifestyle. If you want a healthy life, you have to be willing to change how you live. It doesn't mean changing everything overnight, but simply being open to new ways of doing things. Some things you might need to change for a healthy life are:
Daily Routines. You may need to get up earlier to prepare your lunch or squeeze in a workout, use your lunch hour for exercise or go for a walk after work instead of watching TV. Are you willing to do this?
Limits. You might need to set new rules for yourself limiting how much TV you watch or how long you sit at the computer. You'll need to pay attention to how you spend your time and where you're out of balance so you can add more movement.
Your Pantry. I'm the kind of person who will eat an entire bag of Doritoes if they're in the house. That means I don't keep them in the house and if someone (ahem...husband) brings them home, he must immediately re-locate them elsewhere. If you want to be healthy, you may need to get rid of those foods you just can't resist.
Your Schedule. If you're not willing to sit down and change the way you live each day to include exercise, time to prepare meals and time to nurture yourself with sleep, it's hard to lose weight. People use busy schedules as an excuse not to be healthy...are you one of them? If you're not ready to take responsibility for the schedule you've created, it will be hard to lose weight.
5. Your Surroundings. Sometimes, you can't control the things around you. At work, you may be surrounded by temptations--donuts, vending machines and the like. That's just one thing you have to deal with...but what about your home? Surround yourself with things that will support you in your efforts to get healthy. That might mean spending some money on home workout equipment, setting up a corner of the house for your gear or commandeering the TV a few nights a week to do an exercise video. Set up an environment that encourages those healthy choices and reminds you of them--just walking into my kitchen and seeing that bowl of fresh fruit is often enough to remind me of all the healthy choices I'll need to make that day.
6. Your Support System. While getting healthy may be something you're doing on your own, it's a big help to have a support system. At the very least, family members who understand what you're doing and are either willing to participate or help. If you have a spouse who wants to continue eating the kinds of foods that tempt you, you need a plan to deal with that so you can still reach your goals and keep your relationship together. Try to surround yourself with people who support what you're doing and avoid those people (like that co-worker who always offers you a donut even though you refuse on a daily basis) who don't. A workout buddy is also an excellent idea for support.
7. Your Spiritual and Mental Health. If you have other reasons for being overweight--past hurts that you've used food to deal with, depression or other problems, it's hard to lose weight. For many of us, food is a comfort and something we've relied on all of our lives to help us deal with emotional problems. If that's the case for you, pinpointing those behaviors and what drives them is important for becoming aware of what you're doing and why. A counselor can help you with this or take some time to read about emotional eating. Be willing to learn why you make the choices you make and to confront them.
8. Your Goals. If you've set impossible goals, you are guaranteed to fail. Weight loss becomes hard to achieve if you feel like a constant failure...who wants to feel like that? If that's how your weight loss experience is, it's no wonder you keep quitting. The key is to set reasonable goals. So what is reasonable? That's going to be different for each person depending on your genetics, eating habits, exercise, and metabolism to name a few. You're better off setting a long-term goal (whether it's to lose weight or compete in a race) and then focusing your attention on daily or weekly goals. Your weekly goal might be to get in 3 cardio workouts, minimum. Pick things you KNOW you'll achieve so you're always successful. It can be as small as you like, as long as it's reachable.
9. Your Flexibility. You hear a lot about lifestyle changes, but it's daily choices that really test you. What happens if you have to work late and you can't get to the gym? Or what if you get stuck in traffic and miss your fitness class? Any number of things can happen in a day that may throw you off track. The trick is to be flexible. It helps if you're always prepared--keep some workout shoes in the car so you can stop off at the park for a quick walk. Keep some food handy so if you get stuck in traffic, you get a snack in before your workout. Often people skip workouts because something comes up and they simply aren't ready for it or they aren't willing to give themselves other options--can't do 45 minutes? Why not just do 10? Something is always better than nothing.
10. Your Willingness to Fail. You will not be perfect every day. As a perfectionist, I have to say that is a frustrating concept for me but, the truth is, everyone (even perfectionists) has good days and bad days. On the good days, you'll eat all your fruits and veggies, say no to that pizza and do your workout even though you're tired. On the bad days, you'll wake up late, forget to bring your lunch, have an extra piece of cake at your friend's birthday party and skip your workout. The bad days will happen if you're a human being. The trick is to never give up, even when you mess up. You're not a loser just because you make some mistakes...you're simply a person trying his or her best to make good decisions.