If you haven’t already seen it, see my ‘mentally preparing for weight loss‘ blog post for my thoughts on how to make sure you’re really ready to lose weight and keep it off.
My goal for this blog post is to share my thoughts, advice and just general experience for how to lose weight in a sensible and not yucky or painful way. When you want to make your diet and fitness routine something you can stick with for years, so it needs to be something you don’t hate.
If you’re overweight, diet comes first and exercise second. I often hear overweight people say things like “I eat pretty healthy, I just need to go to the gym more often.” My personal belief is most people saying this are in denial about the reality of their situation. It’s possible to keep at a healthy weight without exercising, so if you have become overweight that means you’ve been eating too many calories for your activity level. Of course, it’s possible to be eating healthy foods and still be overweight, but that means you’re still eating too much of the healthy foods. Yes, it’s possible to increase your activity to lose weight, but if you’ve been over-eating that should be addressed first as that is problematic.
Check calories on everything. A huge part of eating better is to understand what you are eating. I confess that I never used to look at how many calories were in the foods I was eating. Of course, we all know that junk foods are high in calories but once I started reading labels there were some foods that I knew were bad but I didn’t realize they were outright terrible. Other foods I somewhat enjoyed but didn’t love, and realized they were pretty bad for me so it was an easy decision to just avoid those foods all together.
Protein & fiber are your friends. Protein and fiber both help you to feel fuller longer, so eating a high-protein and fiber 1,400 calorie diet will cause you to feel less hungry than if you ate 1,400 calories of other foods. A huge part of Ryan’s success was that he chose to eat a high protein and high fiber diet so he is almost never hungry which makes it much easier to maintain his lifestyle.
Figure out how many calories you should be eating. Use a weight loss calculator or calorie calculator online to find out about how many calories you should be eating each day. Your current height/weight and activity level are huge factors so using the general “2,000 calories per day for adults” suggestion that nutrition labels use is kind of a “one size fits few” number.
Timing your eating. When you’re first starting out on food changes your mind will be focused on food more than usual. This can make you almost hyper-focused on whether or not you’re hungry. Having a set schedule for when you will eat removes the ‘Should I be eating yet?” question. Ryan eats 3 meals and 3 snacks a day and eats about 3 hours apart. If he wakes up at 8am his schedule will be Breakfast 8am, morning snack at 11am, lunch at 2pm, afternoon snack at 5pm, dinner at 8pm and after-dinner snack at 11pm.
Pre-planned meals or bento. If you struggle with choosing healthy foods when you are hungry, setting up a meal plan or even pre-making meals can help. Consider making your day’s meals and putting them in bento boxes or other containers so they’re ready to go and you don’t have to ask yourself “what should I eat?” when it’s time to eat.
Throw away or give away unhealthy foods. Having tempting items out of your house can be really helpful especially during the early stages.
Buy small portions of “treat” foods. The most realistic long-term answer for us has been just admitting and accepting that we will eat unhealthy foods on occasion. We’ve both been pleasantly surprised how rarely we get junk food cravings now but we do get them from time to time. We’ve found that it’s best for us to just indulge a craving if it persists for a few days, but we buy an individual portion. For example, if we’re craving potato chips we buy a snack size bag near the checkout aisle instead of a full bag from the chip aisle.
Avoid temptation with your own cupboard/pantry section if you’re living with others who are still buying junk food. That way you can open to look at your own food without seeing theirs.
Tricks that can help you lose weight and keep it off.
Search low calorie versions of your favorite meals. If you’re struggling to give up something that is bad for you or high in calories, searching “low calorie (meal name)” or “skinny (meal name)” can bring up alternative recipes. We’ve found lower calorie versions for tacos, pizza and several other meal favorites that we enjoy and can eat fairly regularly without going over-calorie.
Am I hungry enough to eat broccoli? Choose a healthy veggie that you can eat but don’t necessarily enjoy – my example is broccoli. Keep your veggie of choice on hand at all times. On days when you are at your calorie limit but considering snacking or eating, ask yourself “Am I hungry enough to eat broccoli?” if the answer is yes, eat your broccoli. If the answer is no, then recognize that you aren’t truly hungry and shouldn’t snack on or eat other foods. This will hopefully prevent you from over-eating too often and also keep you from allowing yourself the ‘excuse’ of being hungry to eat over your calorie level.
Exercise advice to make it less painful:
Try several types of exercise to see what you enjoy most (or dislike least). I personally prefer doing jump rope (adult jump ropes are 100x better than the kid versions!), or my SkipFit for cardio over running, so I focus on that. Ryan likes biking. We bought the Marcy Upright Mag Bike on Amazon for a little over $100 and it’s gotten used at least weekly for over a year and still works great. In my opinion, there’s no need to go all out on buying the more expensive bikes.
Exercise with a friend. I wouldn’t normally consider myself a competitive person but challenging a workout partner can make it into a bit more of a game. It’s also just nice to have someone to talk to as a bit of a distraction.
If you need something to focus on try watching a video or listening to music while working out. I like counting in my head so I have something to focus on too.
Exercise gets easier quicker than you might think! Results come quickly, too. I expected to have to exercise for a few weeks before it would get easier, and I thought it would be longer before I would see results. After just two or three workouts I was able to do more before getting exhausted. I count and write down how many curl ups, jumping jacks, etc I do and how long I jump rope or bike for. It’s a big motivator to realize that you did 40 curl ups today when just two weeks ago you were doing 20. I don’t limit myself to even numbers, as that helps me truly leave myself maxed out. For example, early on I would be beginning to shake at 10 push ups, so I knew I couldn’t get to 20 so Instead of stopping to have an ‘solid’ number I would go to 13 or 17 or whatever I could do.
Take photos for motivation. I wish I had done this when I first started because after just three weeks I started to wonder if I was crazy or if I was really seeing small changes to certain parts of my body. Once I started wondering I took photos and I really can see small changes in just a few weeks time and seeing that is super motivating.
What tips and tricks do you have for maintaining a longterm healthy lifestyle switch?