Below are some tips that you can use to help you get started on your own weight loss journey:
- Make sure you really want to do it – Are you really sure you want to make this change. Often we say yes, but our minds and our hearts are not really into it. If you don’t have the right mindset you have failed before you’ve even started. Here’s a tip; stare into the mirror every morning for a week and ask yourself if you are ready to do this. If you can’t answer yes every day for a week you are probably not ready. Also make sure you are doing this for yourself. This has to be about you; if you are doing it for someone else, no matter how noble the thought, you will be doomed to fail.
- Set a date – Don’t just pick next Monday, you need some time to prepare (maybe 2-4 weeks). It took you a long time to get this way, a few more weeks before getting started isn’t going to kill you. Besides, if you really want it (see item #1) then you should start building some excitement around it. If you get yourself ready and you find you still have some time to go, feel free to start early, but make sure you are all ready to go before you start.
- Take some measurements – Record your weight, measure your body, and take “before” pictures. As you progress over time it will serve as reminder of where you used to be and where you never want to go again.
- See a doctor – I know, this is the standard fare for anyone who has ever offered advice about losing weight, but you really should do this. I’m fortunate to have no underlying health issues to deal with, but if you have health problems you may have to adjust your plan to accommodate them.
- Make a plan – Figure out what you want to do and how you want to do it. Set some SMART goals and figure out how many calories your body needs daily. Make a plan for exercise and figure out what adjustments you need to make in your life to accommodate the changes. How often will you weigh yourself? I wouldn’t recommend any more than once a week. Don’t pick Mondays. Even though they represent the start of a new week, Mondays are generally bad as they come right after a weekend and weekends are typically the time most people don’t eat as well as they do during the rest of the week. I weigh myself on Saturday morning for a couple reasons. First, I tend to behave really well on Friday nights because I know I have to be accountable on Saturday morning. Second, Saturday tends to be my worst day in terms of eating. By weighing in on Saturday morning, I leave myself with the entire week to work off any indulgences I might incur on Saturday. Pick a day that works best for you.
- Don’t forget exercise – Create 2 plans for exercise. The first should be a weekly routine that you plan on doing regularly. It doesn’t have to be a lot to start; you could plan 20 minutes of walking 3 times a week. As you progress you can add to it later or change it up to prevent boredom. The second plan should be activities you can do when you have opportunities. Like bike riding? Plan to take long bike rides once in a while. Play basketball, walk the dog, play some golf. The point is to identify activities you enjoy that can help you on your journey and then try to incorporate them as much as possible. Who knows, maybe you might find some new activities along the way that you never even thought about.
- Have a plan for special events – What are you going to do when your friends want to go out Friday night? How will you deal with cookouts and holiday get-togethers? As important as it is to have a plan for your daily routine, you also need to know how you plan to deal with those events that are outside your routine. For me, I try not to have more than 1 event in any given week and I focus on having fun but trying to contain the damage. Being self aware of what you are trying to do before going in makes it more likely that you will be reasonable during the event.
- Prepare for failure – You know that you will not lose weight every week; there will be times when you fall off the wagon. Rather than trying to trick yourself into believing this isn’t true, instead focus on how you plan on dealing with it. How many times have you fallen off the wagon mid week and then told yourself “I’ll get started again next Monday”? After that you proceed to pig out for the rest of the week making sure that you not only fell off the wagon, but then you laid there in the dirt while several other wagons drove over your bloated body. Learn to recognize that you are not and will not be perfect. Those people that pick themselves up the fastest will have a better chance of success.
- Don’t throw out junk food – and certainly don’t eat it all in one sitting just to get rid of it! If you throw stuff out, your mind will instantly associate those foods with being “forbidden”. Instead just stop buying them, and let them run out naturally over the course of time. This is another reason why you need some time before you get started.
- Don’t have “the last supper” – We’ve all done it in the past; you know your going to start losing weight so on the evening before the day you start you go on an eating binge to end all binges, eating every single one of your favorite foods. I’ve actually taken this concept to the extreme before going on binges for the whole weekend before getting started. See my posting on The Final Straw. Though my weeklong binge was not in preparation of a new diet (though it did drive me to change), it still illustrates the potential we have to do bad things in anticipation of change. Having that last binge just reinforces bad behavior. It gives us an “excuse” to behave badly in the name of something better. This is not a good way to start.
- Plan to allow yourself to enjoy food – There should be no foods that are “forbidden”. Remember this is a change in lifestyle, you shouldn’t feel like you’ll never be allowed to taste a pork rind ever again. Once a week I allow myself 1 meal where I can have anything I want. I usually have it later in the week and I always try to remain aware of the quantity I consume. By doing this you won’t feel deprived and you will actually enjoy that food more when you eat it. One caution, don’t treat the meal like the “last supper” and pig out just because you only get it the 1 time during the week.
- Make changes slowly - Make small changes over the first few weeks or months. People tend to go crazy and make huge changes when they get started. If you restrict your calories dramatically, drink 120 ounces of water each day, and exercise for 2 hours daily after years of doing none of those things, you will become so overwhelmed by the change that it will be hard to maintain. Humans are creatures of habit and breaking habits is a slow process. It takes 3 consecutive weeks (21 days) to create a new habit so don’t feel like you have to start everything at once. In my journey, I haven’t even starting exercising yet and my calorie counting has been sporadic at best. Start slow and add new habits over time for a better chance of success. Remember, this is a lifestyle change, start something slowly and build off it over time.
- Look for accountability and find support - Don’t keep this a secret. Most people who decide to change keep it secret because then they don’t have to explain WHEN they fail. This is a self-defeating attitude. Let everyone know what you are doing. Tell your friends and family. Be accountable to yourself but to others as well. Some people will offer their support while others will be relatively indifferent to the whole thing. Identify those people that you can lean on for support, as there will be times when you need a little push.
- Identify the saboteurs - Just as important as finding support, you need to identify those who might sabotage your efforts. It should be mentioned that most of the people in your social circle will not intentionally sabotage you, but they will do it unconsciously nonetheless. Typically these people are usually highly resistant to change themselves and any change you make affects them as well. They also may have the same eating problems and don’t want to lose their “eating buddy”. You don’t have to give these people up in your life, but you need to be aware of those people, as they will make your journey tougher. Be especially on the lookout for those who offer their support but end up really being saboteurs!
- JUST DO IT! – Like having kids or getting a dog, it’s never going to be the perfect time. So just begin and see where it goes. Once the momentum starts it will be a lot easier to keep it going. Along the way you’ll find some things don’t work like you planned. Change them! You need to be flexible to change the things that don’t work and enhance the things that do. Learn more as you go along. You might find new activities that you enjoy that fit your new lifestyle. Your social circle may change some; you might inspire others to change their lives or you might find new friends that fit your new lifestyle better. Get started today and see where it takes you. Good luck!