Don’t expect a miracle
It probably took you a lifetime to reach the size you are now, and that means it might take years to become the healthiest version of yourself, says Alicia Marie, a holistic enthusiast who has dropped more than 100lbs. It may be a long time before you see physical changes — but don’t let that discourage you.
Don’t go on a diet
Embracing an eating plan specifically designed for weight loss is a temporary measure to a permanent problem. “A ‘diet’ is something a person goes on, knowing there comes a time when they go off of it,” says Randy Hartman, a reinvention coach who has lost more than 80lbs. “This only exacerbates the problems and ends in yo-yo weight loss. It’s far better to embark on an eating plan that you can follow for the rest of your life. Consistency over the long haul is key.”
Don’t be drastic
Instead of making lots of big changes, Becky Lehman, who, after losing 100lbs, is now a certified health coach, recommends making one small change a day to move yourself closer to your health goals and avoid becoming overwhelmed. “Drastic changes don’t tend to stick, but the basic concepts of weight loss remain the same: move more, eat more vegetables, drink more water,” she says. “Drinking one extra glass of water today will not cause the scale to drop 20lbs, but those small changes can add up to huge and lasting transformations.”
Make fitness a priority, but go slowly
Naomi Teeter, the blogger behind Inspire Transformation, knew it was a priority to make working out a habit when she began her weight-loss journey — all in all, she lost 150lbs and has managed to keep 125lbs off for seven years. Yet she cautions against going too hardcore. “Too many people live by the philosophy, ‘Go hard or go home,’ when it comes to fitness and beat themselves to the ground when they first start out, causing them to give up more easily,” she explains. “Your workout doesn’t have to be insane to be good.”
Don’t ban specific foods
Making certain foods “off limits” can tempt you even more — and almost always leads to overindulging. According to Lehman, she eats chocolate “almost every single day,” yet has still managed to keep the weight off. “Of course, willpower still comes into play here, but don’t cut your favorite foods out of your diet completely.”
Recruit someone who will hold you accountable
An accountability buddy doesn’t necessarily need to be a workout buddy, but they do need to be someone you can talk to when you’re feeling unmotivated and who can remind you of your original goal, says Kelsey Byers, lifestyle coach and fitness blogger behind Good Morning Fit, who has lost 50lbs. Byers’ husband helped her stick to her goals; social media can also help you find a supportive community if you don’t feel like there’s anyone nearby who can help you as you try to drop weight.
Stop buying food products…
… and start buying whole foods. That means no more things in boxes, simple frozen meals, foods mushed into bar form, and so on, Marie says. Walk around the outside of the grocery store and don’t mess with the inner isles. With the exception of dried beans and coffee, there’s really not much you need in those aisles.
Manage your emotions
Emotions can ruin your day, and subsequently any healthy progress you’ve made, Teeter warns. One bad day at work can lead to binge eating and drinking in front of the TV instead of preparing a nourishing meal and hitting the gym. When you’re feeling bad, Teeter recommends paying attention to why you feel that way so you can comfort yourself in a more productive way, instead of stuffing yourself full of food until you can’t move.
Focus on feeling better, rather than what you see in the mirror
Sometimes “looking good in a bathing suit” isn’t a big enough goal, at least not if you want to keep the weight off for longer than the warm summer months. “It’s important to establish the reason why you want to get healthy. Maybe it’s for your kids or grandkids,” Byers suggests. “Maybe you want to get healthy so you can have a family. No matter where you are in your journey, I encourage you to think about your personal ‘why’ and post it on a vision board where you can see it every day.”
Track your progress with pictures
While it’s important to focus on how you feel over how you look, Byers also suggests taking pictures every week so you can visually track your progress. On a day-to-day basis, you might not notice the changes that a photo will capture. “The scale can be misleading — it doesn’t know if you’re replacing fat with muscle,” notes Byers. “The more muscle you have, the more toned you look as long as your nutrition is on point.”
Don’t eat or drink anything handed to you through a window
Yes, even coffee. Get up and go inside to get your coffee if you want it that bad, Marie suggests. Better yet, go someplace where you can control how much sugar and cream goes into it.
Step outside your comfort zone
Embrace uncertainty, especially if you consider yourself a perfectionist. “Things will not always go your way, no matter how prepared you think you are,” Teeter says. “Many folks throw in the towel after just one setback. But if you condition yourself to expect and embrace [setbacks], you’ll be far happier with yourself and the progress you’re making — even during the difficult times.”
Eat a lean protein and complex carb during each meal
For Byers, that meant lots of grilled chicken with sweet potatoes, grilled zucchini with asparagus, and meal-replacement shakes. “One of my favorite meals is scrambled egg whites with hash browns and green salsa mixed together,” she says. “Another favorite is extra-lean turkey tacos on corn tortillas and avocado slices, plus salsa.”
The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll see results: “There will always be reasons to start tomorrow, or wait until your busy season is over,” Lehman adds. “Fight through your excuses and do something right now.”