The holidays were harsh for me this year.
There was plenty of delicious food, and it was too cold to want to get outside much – the perfect recipe for weight gain.
I blog about weight loss because I’ve figured out plenty of ways to actually lose weight and (for the most part) keep it off. But I’m only human, and occasional lapses happen.
Starting on New Years, I dove in hard to lose those extra pounds, and have been steadily losing weight since.
These days, weight loss for me is easy. I don’t say that to brag. For years, I tried to lose weight and failed. It was frustrating, discouraging, and to be honest, it was depressing.
But I’ve learned what works. Now, if I notice I’ve gained some weight, I hold myself accountable. I don’t sit around wishing I were thinner – I attack it head-on. It’s the only way to see results.
Life’s too short to waste time wishing you had something you don’t.
It helps that I’ve learned exactly what to do to lose weight, of course. It’s less discouraging when you know what to do.
So, here’s what I’ve been doing lately. Maybe this will encourage you to make some progress as well!
#1: Log what you eat.
Every single bite. This one thing is all most people need to do to start losing weight.
I use Fitday.com to log every bite I eat, every day.
It all has to be measured for accuracy to avoid giving yourself room to cheat. If you have a bowl of cereal, break out a measuring cup for both the cereal and milk, and log it right away.
I don’t even have to set goals. Simply being aware of what I’m eating is enough to keep myself on track with calorie restriction and to make healthier food choices.
This method of keeping a food diary is known by doctors to work extremely well.
We’re all prone to something called Cognitive Dissonance – where you hold two conflicting thoughts at the same time. For example, you know that eating too much makes you gain weight, but at the same time, you don’t fully believe that what you’ve chosen to eat today is really that unhealthy.
By writing down everything you eat, you become aware and accountable, which are the first steps to results.
#2: Eat a solid breakfast.
I lose the most weight when I make breakfast count. It’s worth waking up 10 minutes early and cooking some real, healthy food to start the day off right.
Today, I had scrambled eggs, black beans, and cottage cheese. Here’s what it looks like in my Fitday log.
I aim for plenty of hearty food that’s high in protein and fat (there’s nothing wrong with healthy fats), even if the calories are a bit higher.
(You can keep a food diary on paper, but isn’t it great to have beautiful charts like this?)
I do this for a few reasons:
- Blood sugar regulation. Having a bunch of protein in the morning keeps my blood sugar stable, providing steady energy throughout the morning. I even notice coffee doesn’t make me as jittery.
- Appetite suppression. Fat and protein both take a long time to break down. If I have a bigger breakfast, I more than make up for it by eating less later in the day. It’s easy to have a light lunch and skip afternoon snacks, because I’m still pretty full.It also makes it easier to stick to a diet if I’m not spending all day hungry, craving unhealthy food.
- Psychology. Starting the morning with healthy food just feels good. I feel like I’ve accomplished something that day, and why would I want to throw that away by pigging out later in the day?
#3: Give yourself a cheat meal.
All week I’ve been craving a big platter of nachos. Not just a serving – a platter. As much as I can eat. Smothered in cheese. Tons of sour cream and guacamole and salsa.
And on Thursday, I’m going to have it.
Is it loaded with calories? Yup. But it’s guilt-free, because I worked hard for it and I deserve it based on how well I’ve done.
If I didn’t plan a cheat meal ahead of time, I probably would have lapsed from my diet by now. By planning a cheat meal in advance, instead of craving foods I can’t have and feeling depressed over it, I can get excited for it.
Thursday is the light at the end of the tunnel. On that day, I can have whatever I want for dinner. Instead of being frustrated about craving foods I can’t have, I get to look forward to satisfying those cravings. And that just makes me want to eat healthier so I can enjoy that reward.
Isn’t this dangerous?
Not really. A cheat meal might be unhealthy, but one meal can only do so much damage – and if looking forward to it has kept you going for the last week, it’s a net win.
The best diet is one you’ll stick with. If having a cheat meal helps with that, then that’s your best diet.
Also, you’ll be surprised how much faster you will feel full after dieting for a while, so you can’t stuff yourself as much.
While the idea that your stomach “shrinks” is a myth, the stomach does lose elasticity (making it harder to expand) after prolonged calorie reduction, and psychological factors also come into play that reduce your appetite.
So, have a cheat meal. Stay sane. In the end, you’ll lose weight faster.
#4: Regularly schedule some fun exercise.
Exercise is not as helpful as dieting in losing weight.
You won’t lose much weight by exercising alone – you need to watch your diet.
That said, adding exercise to a diet will certainly help you lose more weight in a shorter window of time. If you’re like me, you probably struggle a lot with getting started (but once you do, it’s habit).
Here are the tricks I’ve been using to actually get myself to work out:
- Pick something fun. Exercise needs to be something you’ll actually do, so don’t make it more intense than you can handle. I wanted to jog every morning, but that was difficult and it felt like I might quit soon.
So, I decided to just go for a walk, and periodically sprint when I felt like it. Committing only to walking has made it easy to get out the door and enjoy the fresh air. Once I get going, I’m in a better mood and start doing some jogging just because it feels good.
Once you make exercise something you “want” to do, rather than something you “have” to do, you’ll have an easy time with it. I used to dread having to push myself and sweat every morning. Now I look forward to my nice walk among the trees in our local park, and I find it a much more positive ritual.
- Don’t exercise to lose weight. Wait, what? Isn’t that the whole point?..
The human brain is funny. Studies show that people who exercise for weight loss tend not to stick with it. However, people who exercise to extend their lifespan, be happier in life, and to feel better are drastically more likely to continue working out.
So, switch your mindset. Read up on the health benefits of exercise and commit to a workout in order to feel better in life. If It helps you lose weight (which it can only help), then bonus!
This is what I’ve been doing to lose weight this year, and it’s been great!
If I can do it, I know you can too!