My message to New Years Resolution-ers or those just getting started on a weight loss plan...
Now that it's January 1st and the New Years resolution of weight loss is firing up in people all across the country, I cannot help but reminisce about the beginning of my journey a couple of years ago. Other than when I was a child, weight loss has pretty much ALWAYS been on my list of resolutions, always. But, for the first time ever, it's not on my list this year. Over the past two years, I actually stayed true to my resolution and achieved the loss I was looking for. YOU CAN, TOO! :)
I bet it sounds like I am about to sell you something... Fear not. I have nothing to sell you. I bring no gimmicks to the table. I am equipped only with some tips and some words of advice, based on my personal experiences. Everyone's journey will be different, but if I could go back and talk to 2-years-ago me, this is what I would say...
1) Welcome to this incredible journey!!! It's going to be just that... a journey. If you are thinking in your head that you'll be a bikini model by summer, let's tone it down a notch. If you truly want to succeed and want to not only lose weight but also gain health, you have to be in it for the long haul. Are you in it for the long haul? Or are you looking for a "quick fix"? Because I have to tell you, if you aren't going to accept that this is going to involve LONG TERM (even LIFELONG) changes, then honestly the chances of you succeeding are going to drop dramatically. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Trust me. I've tried all the fads, the diet pills, the weight loss diet programs, etc. This is going to be a lifestyle change and it's going to take time. Are you with me?? Can we dedicate ourselves to a NEW LIFESTYLE? Good. Let's do it. :)
2) This is NOT going to be easy. I am sure you're think, "I know this already." And you might... But what you have to understand is that the beginning, though hard, is not the hardest part. Sure, it is hard to get going on a new journey, especially one that involves SO MUCH CHANGE. But, this is not the hardest part. In fact, if this is your first day, it is easiest in the beginning! It's new. You're motivated. You've got a fresh start. The hard part comes later. It comes when you lose your motivation. It comes when you see a gain instead of a loss. It comes when no matter what you try, you totally plateau. It comes when you hit a stressful time in your life and turn to food for comfort. THAT is when things get difficult. THAT is when you're going to need to pull yourself up and push yourself through. Be prepared for those days. As hard as you think today might be, it's going to get a lot worse and a lot more frustrating before it is going to get better. Expect a rollercoaster. Some times you're going to feel like a Biggest Loser contestant with pounds falling off left and right. Other times you're going to feel like giving up, like the world's biggest failure. This is NORMAL. What you have to decide is whether or not you are going to let yourself fail or whether you will PUSH YOURSELF even when you don't think you have anything left to give. Start deciding now... which road will you choose. If you already envision yourself likely failing down the line, your chances of reaching your goal are pretty limited. If you already don't 100% believe in yourself, you've got your work cut out for you. Believe in yourself. You can do this.
3) As they say, excuses are like a**holes, everyone's got one. I get it. Maybe you work. Maybe you've got a few kids. Maybe you can't afford a gym membership. Maybe you're tired. Maybe you've got medical issues. Maybe your spouse isn't supportive. All of these things are just excuses -- things you that are mentally bringing you down, convincing yourself that it's not possible to fix the problem. These things don't matter, really. There is always a way. It's about prioritizing. It's about being resourceful. It's about making the best of what you have. If you really want something, you'll find a way. You don't need to be rich to live a healthy, active lifestyle. We're all busy. I once saw a sign posted at a running store that said, "Someone busier than you is running right now." That really struck me. It's true. I loved to always tell myself that I wasn't losing weight because I "don't have time" to work out or I "don't have time" to cook healthy meals. Total excuses. I did have time. I do have time. I just didn't want to make the time. Because I wasn't ready for the lifestyle change just yet. But, there's always a way. Remember that. The sooner you stop making excuses, the sooner you will see success.
4) You are your own cheerleader. YOU have to be motivated from WITHIN YOURSELF to do this. If you are looking for motivation from your spouse, your best friend, a family member, etc., you aren't doing yourself any favors. It's not about them. Not at all. Sure, it's a bonus when they motivate you or when they support you on your journey. But, let's be real. Just because YOU decide you want to get healthy and lose weight, that doesn't mean everyone else is going to change their lives for you. They aren't going to stop eating unhealthy foods around you. They aren't going to be pushing you to go to the gym when you don't want to go. They shouldn't have to either. It's not their responsibility. It's YOURS. You have to be the one to get your bum off the couch and get busy. YOU have to be the one to make healthy choices, even when you don't want to, even when you're surrounded by temptation from every side. It's all about you. So, dig deep inside yourself... write down all the reasons you want to do this for YOU. Are you wanting to wear a certain bathing suit someday? Maybe a special dress? Are you wanting to fit in some old clothes you used to wear? Is there an activity you want to be able to do that you can't do right now? Are you looking to feel a certain way about your body? Write these motivators down. Save them. You'll need them on the days you forget why you're doing this... those days when you just want to give up.
5) You need to PACE YOURSELF. If you think you're going to start a diet today and start working out 5 times a week, too, while also giving up soda and dessert, you're crazy. That is just too much change at once. If you overload yourself like that, you are just setting yourself up for failure. Do you need to start eating healthy? Yes. Do you need to start working out? Yes. Should you try to drop bad habits that affect your health? Yes. Do you need to do all this RIGHT NOW? No. Please don't. You'll make yourself crazy. Trust me. I've tried it. Take it slowly. Make a list of all the things you'd like to change, and be specific. Then ease yourself into it one thing at a time. Maybe you eat out a lot right now -- lots of fast food. A good way to start is to say you're going to cut back to eating out just twice a week instead of 5 times. This might involve more meal planning and thinking ahead... so start working that into your routine. Slowly cut back from there. This is just one example. But give yourself 3-4 weeks with your first big change before tackling the next. Ease into it. As for workouts... the same rule applies. Ease into it. Don't think you need to get out and run a 5K today when you haven't worked out in a couple years or more (or ever!). Don't exhaust yourself. In fact, fat burning zones (for your heart rate) are the LOWER zones. If your heart is racing so fast you feel like it is going to bust out of your chest, that is a sign you are working yourself too hard. You are in too high of a zone, which means you are going to be burning SUGARS/CARBS and NOT STORED FAT. Slow it down. Try some interval training (example would be: walk 2 minutes, power walk 1 min, run 1 min and repeat the process for 30 mins or longer if you can). My point is, don't over work yourself. This is going to be a long journey, so why rush into the change so fast?
6) Strength-training is your friend. You will not "bulk up". You will not look like a body builder. I promise. I had trainers tell me this, and I was VERY reluctant. I just wanted to tone up. I didn't want to "get big". Only the "big guys" at the gym do weights, right? Wrong. You NEED strength training as much as you need cardio. You don't have to be at a gym loaded with weights to do strength training either. You can do resistance training using your own body weight. Push-ups are just one example. Google strength workouts for women and you'll find a ton of options out there. Definitely do strength though. You won't necessarily see the muscle right away. It might take a long time... but it'll be there, waiting for you, once you burn off the fat that is covering it. Then you'll be REALLY glad you did it. It's not just for bodybuilders. Besides, when you're building muscle tone, you're BURNING FAT.
7) Journal your food, even if just for a while. MyFitnessPal.com and other sites like it make journaling SO easy and you can even do it on your phone. You need to start really looking at WHAT you are eating and HOW MUCH you are eating. It's crucial. Do you need to use these websites for the rest of your life? No. They are helpful for LEARNING and they are a great support during the weight loss process. But after a while, you get to know about what level of calories certain foods have, etc. Eventually you will not need these anymore. But you likely did not get to where you are by eating healthy foods in appropriate portions. Chances are you are unaware of just how bad the foods you are eating are... or how much you are eating. Dust off those measuring cups and spoons. You need to start MEASURING out your foods. If you have the means for getting a food scale, GET ONE. READ LABELS. Look up restaurant menus (for chain restaurants) BEFORE going so you know what you're getting yourself into. KNOW what you are eating and where it is coming from. And I can hear some of you thinking, "I don't eat that bad... I don't need to do this." Trust me. I thought the same until I started seeing how often I was going WAY overboard OR way UNDER. Eating healthy DOES NOT MEAN EATING LESS. If you are doing some 1200 calorie per day diet, you are liking NOT EATING enough. You need to determine your BMR to see how many calories you should be eating based on your height, weight, age, and normal activity level. You'd be surprised at how many calories you need to be eating to lose weight. It may even be more than you thought. Check into it. If you are feeling fatigued and irritable while on some "diet", it's probably becase you aren't eating enough or getting enough nutrients. When you undercut your calories, you risk SLOWING your metabolism (your body's defense system for preventing you from starving away).
8) Do not fall into the trap of beating yourself up. You're going to mess up. Accept it now. You might have a bad meal. You might have a bad day. You might have a bad WEEK. Heck, you might even have a bad MONTH. But there is ALWAYS the option of turning things around. Always. Berating yourself. Calling yourself fat. Telling yourself you're ugly and always will be. These things will not help you. This is only going to slow you down. DO NOT TELL YOURSELF ANYTHING YOU WOULDN'T SAY TO SOMEONE ELSE! Respect yourself. Would you call your best friend a fat ass and tell her that she can't do this? No. So why treat yourself that way? Tell yourself, "I had a bad (day, week, month, etc), and I CAN turn this around. I am in control of my choices and I can fix this." Believe it when you say it, too. ;) That helps.
9) Don't OBSESS over the scale. Please don't. I know they say "it's just a number" and this is so true... but I also know how important that number can feel while you're trying to lose. It does matter to you when you're losing weight. I mean, that's the whole point, right? Getting the number to go down? Yes, that is part of it (along with getting HEALTHY, which should be up there, too!). But you cannot obsess. Don't weigh yourself daily. It'll drive you CRAZY. I would recommend weekly, if you must. But no more than that. Also, your weight WILL fluctuate throughout the month. Just because a number goes up, doesn't mean it is a gain. Heck, I lost all my weight already and I STILL fluctuate 3-4 lbs throughout the month. It's totally normal. It's when you're consistently going up that you need to worry. Also, water weight and water retention and hydration levels can play heavily into the number you see on the scale. Remember that. If you're dehydrated for one weigh in and then you feel like you gained 2 lbs overnight, that is not the case. You may be 2lbs heavier, but you don't gain 2lbs of FAT overnight. It's water weight. This is why you shouldn't obsess over 1-2 lbs on the scale. You're going to bounce around a lot. Please, please keep this in mind. Also keep in mind that INCHES matter. You could stay the same weight and drop a pant siz.e This is totally possible. As you start to lose, your body is going to shape-shift. So, doing measurements of your body is another way to follow your progress so you can see changes even when the scale isn't moving.
10) Find activities YOU love. Not everyone is a runner. Not everyone likes Zumba. Not everyone is cut out for P90X. Find out what works for YOU! But in the process, please keep in mind that sometimes it takes TIME for you to develop a love for something. With exercise and physical activity, it is not always "love at first sight". Keep an open mind. If you didn't like something the first time, give it another few tries before giving up on it. Keep trying new things all the time. You might be surprised at what ends up being YOUR love. :)
11) Keep living your life. Losing weight does not have to mean giving up all the things "bad for you" foods you love so much. You can still have a piece of cake. You can still drink a glass of wine. You have to live your life. Deprivation will only strengthen your desire for these things and you will likely end up binging on the foods you're depriving yourself of. Instead, work on proper portions and if you're going to splurge, bank some extra gym time to off-set those extra calories. Living a healthy lifestyle and losing weight doesn't have to mean a life free of all things you once loved. It's all about balance and moderation!
I realize this is crazy long. Sorry about that. These are just thoughts I had as I was at the gym, thinking back on my experiences and what I've learned along the way. I wish you all the VERY BEST! I don't want to say good luck, because luck doesn't really have much to do with it. It's not luck. I wish you a heart full of motivation. I wish you a mind full of focus. I wish you all the stamina in the world. You CAN do this. :)