Getting in shape doesn’t have to mean that you never eat a carb again or that you spend three hours a day on the elliptical or treadmill. Starting a weight loss journey can seem daunting or even downright impossible, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be as simple as making a few small changes to your daily routine. I’m no weight loss expert (I truly haven’t even lost that much weight) and I don’t have any sort of training credentials, but I do have a few tips for people who are want to feel, look, and be healthier.
- Drink more water. I cannot stress this enough. Water is obviously a necessary part of life so I’m always amazed by people who say “Oh I never drink water” or “I just can’t drink water, I hate the taste of it.” If you survive on soda, energy drinks, sweet tea, sugary coffee drinks, or sports drinks you are consuming so many extra calories (and so much extra sugar) each day. By cutting those out, or even cutting back, you can save yourself calories and make yourself feel 1000x better. I try to stick to water, black coffee, green tea, and herbal tea. When I indulge on soda or alcohol or sugary coffee drinks, I feel bloated and tired. When I stick to my water, I feel energetic, hydrated, and leaner. Set yourself a goal to replace one soda a day with a water. Slowly increase that goal until you’re getting at least 64 oz a water a day. If you really want to over achieve, you can shoot for a gallon a day like me!
- Nutrition is key. You can work out as much as you want, but if you are not in a caloric deficit (meaning you burn more calories each day than you consume), you’re not going to lose any weight. It doesn’t have to be kale smoothies and cauliflower rice and starving yourself. (Actually starving yourself is a terrible, unhealthy way to try to lose weight and it doesn’t work!) Start by making small changes to your everyday diet. Replace one meal a day with healthier foods. Or snack on fruit and small servings of nuts instead of candy or chips. Gradually, increase the ratio of healthy to unhealthy foods you consume. Sticking to a strict diet and punishing yourself when you binge on junk is not a maintainable way to live a happy, healthy life. Most people recommend an 80/20 or 90/10 ratio where you are eating mostly healthy foods while allowing yourself small indulgences here and there.
- It doesn’t have to be super expensive. Here are the things you need to get in shape: a desire to be healthier (and access to the internet helps, too). Here are the things you don’t need to get in shape: a trainer, a gym membership, an expensive customized meal plan, yoga classes, programs that you have to pay for, a huge budget for groceries, or expensive work out equipment. Those things are great, but not always necessary. All it boils down to is eating healthier foods and moving your body. You can do at-home workouts, you can walk/run outside, utilize your local track, or a number of other things that require no money at all. I know someone who lost over 60 lbs by counting calories and doing workout videos in her basement (Hi mom!). There are TONS of free resources online. Pinterest and Bodybuilding.com are the two that I use the most. I find healthy recipes and work outs on Pinterest. Bodybuilding.com also has work outs but what I use their site for the most is the videos of the weight lifting moves. If I don’t know how to do some move in a work out, I find a video that shows exactly how to do it. The bottom line is: don’t feel like you have to pay a ton of money for a program or a meal plan that might not work for you just because you feel like you can’t do it on your own. You can do it with the help of the internet and a little research.
- Find some sort of exercise that you ENJOY. If you hate working out, you’re not going to want to do it every day. It’s hard to look forward to spending time on the treadmill each day if you don’t enjoy it. There are so many options for exercise: walking, running, biking, hiking, lifting weights, H.I.I.T., yoga, pilates, dancing, etc. If you find something you enjoy, it won’t feel like a chore. For me, I tried strictly cardio with light weights off and on for a couple years. I hated it. I hated being on the treadmill or elliptical and feeling like I was making no progress. I would lose some weight and then get tired of those work outs and fall off and gain the weight back. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve fallen in love with weight lifting. Since I started lifting I’ve been excited to go the gym. I actually crave it. I do have off days where I skip but I haven’t fallen off for a period of weeks or months like I would in the past. I’ve taught myself new exercises using the internet (so many workout videos on Instagram) and I’m lucky enough to have friends who know more about it than me who are always down to answer my questions or help me with workouts. The right exercise can give you a high that almost makes you giddy cause you feel so good (something to do with hormones, science was never my strong suit). Lifting does that for me but you have to find something that works for YOU and that will keep you active day after day. If you’re just starting out, try different things until you find something you like. Then, shoot for 3-4 days a week where you get at least 30 minutes of exercise.
- Be realistic. Don’t expect to lose 10 lbs every week. Don’t even expect to lose 2 lbs every week. Don’t rely on fad diets, “cleanses,” magic pills, or anything else that seems to good to be true. Progress is often slow, but slow progress is better than no progress. Start with making small daily or weekly goals that are realistically attainable. Example: the first week make a goal to replace one unhealthy meal a day with a healthy one or one soda with a water. Hit that goal, and then increase it the next week. By making small changes that you can stick to, you’re less likely to fall off the wagon or be so overwhelmed that you completely give up. In our world of instant gratification, it’s hard not to see results immediately. Be patient, make good choices, and your body will reward you. It has to be a lifestyle change, not a few weeks or months of hard work and then back to a crappy diet and no exercise.
- Finally and most importantly, don’t make it about the weight loss. Make it about wanting to be healthier, wanting to live longer, feeling better, or taking care of your body. Wanting to lose weight is okay, too, but that can’t be the only thing you focus on. Here’s why: if you focus on the weight loss, you will be disappointed. You won’t lose it as fast as you want, or you’ll lose some and then gain it back, or the number on the scale will begin to control you. For the longest time, my fitness goal was to lose 30 lbs. That’s the only thing I focused on. I focused on how much I hated my body and how I so badly wanted to look like the skinny girls I saw on Instagram or Facebook. My weight went up and down, but I never reached my goal. And I never got any happier. Now, my main fitness goal is to make it to the gym 4-5 times a week and eat about 80/20 healthy/unhealthy (as seen above, me eating donuts at the gym). Sure, I still love to see the scale go down. But, I also celebrate other things, like hitting a new max weight on a lift, or seeing new muscles show up, or being able to pull my belt one hole tighter. I’ve only lost around 5 lbs since the beginning of the year but I don’t hate my body anymore. I don’t feel disgusted with myself when I indulge on unhealthy food sometimes. I love my body for what it can do and what it can be. Sure, I’m not at my “goal weight” and I don’t look like an Instagram model, but I am happy and healthy and taking care of my body, so that’s enough for me right now. And I’ve realized that it’s okay to love myself while still wanting to improve myself. Moral of the story: learn to love yourself NO MATTER WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE IN THE MIRROR and you will be happier, healthier, and have a more fulfilling fitness journey.
If you’ve been wanting to lose weight but aren’t sure where to start, think about how you can apply to these tips to your own life. You don’t have to be an expert, and you don’t have to do some crazy crash diet. All it takes to start is a few small changes and the desire to improve your life.