So you want to lose weight. This is one of the best decisions you can make. It’s simple, right?— eat less, move more. Ha. If it were only that easy. Health is a skill that must be learned. Skills are learned first with curiosity and then passion. Nobody learns to play the piano overnight. Health skill depends on knowledge, self-awareness, self-compassion, humility, and building new habits.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
Weight loss is not a diet. It’s creating sustainable, new everyday habits that make eating healthy easy.
How much you eat is much more important than exercise. It is consistently eating less calories than you burn. It takes an hour of walking to burn off a 200 calorie chocolate bar. Exercise is key in maintaining weight loss as it can increase metabolism and allow less rigidity with food in the long term.
Weight gain sneaks up on you. Many people gain 3 or 4 pounds a year. Over ten years, that’s 30 or 40 pounds.
There is no quick fix to losing weight. Weight loss takes months to years of different, and healthier, daily behaviors.
You can’t change what you don’t measure. Scales that automatically log your weight privately online make tracking your weight as easy as stepping on a wifi-enabled scale. Apps like LoseIt! help you log your calories.
Remember, you’re not giving something up, you’re gaining something huge. There is a long, fulfilling lifetime of goodness that comes from eating well, being active, and maintaining a healthy weight. It’s helpful to keep the other benefits of your new lifestyle in mind when starting the weight loss journey. What you eat and how you move also impact things like mood, vitality and even cognitive function and creativity.
YOUR ENVIRONMENT CAN MAKE IT OR BREAK IT
Your environment is setup for your current weight. This means the food in your home, the snacks at work, the friends and family you eat and drink with, your go-to routine meals, and how much you exercise, watch TV, or peruse Facebook— they are your daily habits. And each habit contributes to your mind and body.
Most importantly, it’s best to mindlessly eat better, instead of obsessively eat right. We all have our weaknesses that can be categorized into meal stuffing, snack grazing, party binging, restaurant indulging, and desktop dining. Our stomach has only three settings: 1) We either feel like we’re starving, 2) we feel like we’re stuffed, or 3) we feel like we can eat more. Most of the time we’re in the middle, we’re neither hungry nor full, but if something’s put in front of us, we’ll eat it. So the secret is to set up your environment for success. Here are some examples of changes to your environment.
- Having junk food around means you’ll eat it. If you do buy something unhealthy store it somewhere out of view. Place your healthier choices in your line of sight and in easily accessible containers.
- Lay out your workout clothes or bag your gym bag the night before if you plan to workout in the morning.
- Hang out with your healthy friends to increase the amount of time you spend with friends that encourage your healthy habits. Your habits are heavily influenced by the 5 people you spend the most time with.
- Use smaller plates, cups, and dish out smaller servings to eat less. Also keeping the serving dish off the table so you have to get up for a second helping will decrease the amount you eat.
- Ban distractions from the dinner table. Removing distractions like computers, phones and TVs eliminates mindless eating which encourages overeating and can add significant calories to your total daily calorie intake.
THIS AIN’T EASY— THE BIGGEST OBSTACLES
We’re used to quick fixes. But, depending on how much weight you want to lose, weight loss can take a good bit of time. And after you’re down to your goal weight, you’ve got to maintain it with new daily habits. Knowing the most common pitfalls can maximize your persistence:
Giving up too quickly. You’re not going to see immediate results. Losing weight takes time. That’s why it’s important to focus on achievable short-term goals.
Setting unrealistic goals. If your work life doesn’t allow for an hour at the gym every day, trying to accomplish that goal will set you up for failure.
Believing that it’s a short-term change. Creating long-term, sustainable healthy habits is the secret to fundamental change.
Bad information. It’s not about the latest unsustainable fad diet. It’s pretty simple. You’ve got to burn more calories than you consume.
Exercise-enabled eating. Your body wants to maintain the status quo. That’s its job. So when you exercise and work off some calories, you want to eat. Recognizing this and resisting the urge to eat more after exercise is important.
Gradually losing focus. The gym on January 2 is packed. But three weeks later, it’s back to normal. Choosing the right thing to focus on and staying focused is key.
Dieting woes. Dieting sucks. Getting healthy and accomplishing goals rocks. It’s important to focus on what you’re getting, because you’re not giving up anything good.
FIND THE RIGHT TOOLS
You’ve got all the tools you need with you at all times— scales, apps, books, blogs, cookbooks, delivery services, online communities, and Sherpaa. Here are a few of Sherpaa’s favorites and why.
Withings Smart Body Analyzer. You buy it, set up a Withings Account, connect the scale to the internet, and every time you step on the scale, it uploads your body metrics to Withings. You can’t change what you don’t measure and Withings is, by far, the easiest way to track weight.
Fitbit Aria. Another great option.
Lose It! The most important thing to understand is the amount of calories you consume every day. For two weeks after signing up, you easily log your calories in the best calorie tracker app you can get. This gives you and Lose It! an understanding of how many calories you typically consume. After two weeks, you set up a goal weight and when you want to reach it. Lose It! then tells you how many calories you should eat/drink per day to accomplish your goals. Continuing to track your calories helps you understand, over time, what a 1,500 calorie a day looks like vs. a 2,500 calorie day. You friend people on Lose It! and get involved in competitions. It’s as well-designed as they come. But you can try some others like MyFitnessPal and SparkPeople.
Show Cooking Some Love
Cooking is, by far, the easiest way to fall in love with good, healthy food. If you’re no chef, you can get started cooking by visiting Michael Pollan’s very useful guide. Then start simply with Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express, a cookbook with 100 recipes per season that are no longer than a paragraph, take less than 20 minutes to prepare, and rarely call for measuring spoons. Planning meals and making grocery lists can take some time. But there are some apps that make it easy. Try Plan to Eat, Cooksmarts, or Paprika. And, finally, there are delivery services that plan healthy meals for you and deliver to your home pre-measured, fresh ingredients where all you have to do is the cooking. Try Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, or Plated.
Decode Restaurant Menus and Order Healthy
Thanks to Obamacare, most chain restaurants are required to post calories for their menu items. There are also apps like Grellin to help you choose healthy options at popular restaurants. But what about the local restaurants? Learn how to decode menuspeak. Combine this with LoseIt!’s calorie tracking and you’ll get a solid understanding of how to eat best when you’re not preparing your food.
Read our favorite books
FOLLOW A FEW RULES
Michael Pollan famously outlined a wonderful food philosophy: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Expanding on this, he published Food Rules, a 30 minute read chock full of simple rules to live by. But always remember, the secret to weight loss is consuming less calories than you use. There are simple ways to eat less without even noticing such as serve yourself 20% less, eat protein for breakfast, and don’t eat from the package.
Some Things are Worse Than Others
Calories can hide in places, especially drinks. Fruit juices, soda, and alcohol are chock full of calories and it’s easy to drink a lot of them. One of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules is “have a glass of wine with dinner.” But it’s important to understand how many calories are in various forms of alcohol and drink accordingly. There’s almost the same amount of calories in an ounce of butter and an ounce of hard cheese. If cheese is your thing, typically, the softer the cheese, the fewer the calories. It’s also easy to eat a lot of bread which is also very high in calories.
DETERMINE YOUR LONG-TERM VISION
Do you want to be healthier? Do you want to be more comfortable in your body? Do you want to be in a better mood? Do you want to be fitter? Do you want more confidence? Do you want to live a longer life? Do you want more energy? These are all really wonderful visions, but let’s get clear on how our minds work. Take “I want to be more confident in myself.” This often progresses to “When I lose 10 pounds, I’ll be confident in myself” and soon can become “If I don’t lose 10 pounds, then I CAN’T be confident in myself.” It’s important to remember to NOT tie your reasons to your weight goals— as if that number on the scale determines the joy you can have in life. While having a vision is vital, it’s far more important to create small, achievable goals. Think next week, not two years from now.
DETERMINE YOUR SHORT-TERM GOALS
After making up your mind to lose weight, setting short-term, achievable goals is the most important thing you can do. Remember S.M.A.R.T.— goals must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic & Relevant to your life, and Timely.
Stay specific: A good goal includes specific details. For example, a goal to exercise more is not specific, but a goal to walk 30 minutes after work every day is specific. You’re declaring what you will do, how long you will do it, and when you will do it.
Make it Measurable: If you can measure a goal, then you can objectively determine how successful you are at meeting the goal. A goal of eating better is not easily measured, but a goal of eating 1,200 calories a day can be measured. A goal of riding your bike is not measurable. A goal of riding your bike for 30 minutes three days a week is measurable.
Avoid the Impossible. An attainable goal is one that you have enough time and resources to achieve. For example, if your work schedule doesn’t allow spending an hour at the gym every day, then it wouldn’t be an attainable goal. However, two weekday trips to the gym and two weekend trips might be attainable. If a particular type of exercise, such as running, is physically too difficult for you, then running every day would not be an attainable goal.
Fit your life. For most people, a realistic outcome goal is losing 5 to 10 percent of their current weight. Setting an unrealistic goal may result in disappointment or the temptation to give up altogether.
Make it trackable. Goals are best achieved if you keep a record of your progress. If you have an outcome goal of losing 15 pounds, record your weight each week. If your goal is to eat 1,400 calories a day, use LoseIt! to track your calories. Keeping track can help you evaluate your progress and stay motivated.
Here are examples of bad goals:
I want to lose weight. I will exercise 3 times a week. I will eat less calories per day. I will follow a diet until I lose those extra pounds.
Here’s an example of a good SMART goal:
Over the next month (timed), I will lose 4 pounds (specific, measurable, action oriented and realistic) by cutting calorie intake to 1700 calories/day and briskly walking 30 minutes a day (specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic). I will track my progress by using LoseIt! and documenting how much I exercise each day. I will weigh in every Monday morning and document my weight (action oriented and measurable documentation to provide feedback).
FINALLY, LET’S GET STARTED
Learning how to get healthier is easier when you’ve got Sherpaa to support you and hold you accountable. Sherpaa will regularly check in with you to see how you’re doing. And, remember, you can always reach out to us for anything. So, let’s get started. First, what is your first SMART goal? Second, what are three small changes in your environment you can make to mindlessly eat better?
Join Sherpaa and get started today.