Here’s the deal, there is no secret to weight loss. It has been more than a year since I planked and jogged more than 60 unwanted pounds off my body and I am still running into people asking me the same question, “What’s you’re secret?” You know exactly what you need to do if you are serious about losing weight this year: eat healthy, reduce portions, drink plenty of water and exercise, exercise, exercise. What it really comes down to is committing to a healthy lifestyle. Since it’s December 30, 2011 and we are about to be inundated by news articles about “sticking with your resolutions” and “miracle weight loss stories”, I’d like to share some of the tips and tools that really worked in making my big lifestyle change. These are the practices I continue to use each and every day, as I strive to be the best I can be – with cupcake in hand. 😉
The first thing that you lose on a diet is brain mass.”
No pressure! Set realistic goals. To start, 1 pound a week is a healthy goal. Consider anything you lose above that a bonus.
Give yourself a 3 week start. Weight-loss is a lifestyle, you have to give yourself some time to get into the groove of it all. The first few weeks are brutal. Your stomach is shrinking, you will feel hungry and cranky. Your muscles and joints will ache. Get over it, after about 3 weeks your body will adapt and you will feel SO much better.
Count your calories. Some will recommend you watch the percentage of fat or carbohydrates, whichever works for you. The important thing is that you acknowledge the nutritional facts of the food you are eating. Calorie counting worked best for me.
Download MyFitnessPal (or any other effective tracking app). There may be no “secret” to weight loss but I consider this app my “secret weapon” for the process. MyFitnessPal is the application I installed on my phone to track all of my calories in and out. A piece of cheese pizza at 240 calories will require about 30 minutes of running to burn off. The sooner you start appreciating calorie and fat values of your food, the easier it becomes to make smart food choices.
Portion sizes. From now on have your measuring cups handy. Follow the nutritional guidelines on all your products and track your calories accurately. Pay attention to the recommended portion size stated in the nutrition facts on the packaging.
Limit processed foods. If there are more than 5 ingredients listed, it will likely be high in fat and calories. Enjoy as much real meat, real grains, real fruits, real vegetable as possible. Just keep it real, man.
Cardio! Stretching is vital, strength building is great but if you’re about shedding the pounds, cardio is your only solution. Speed walking, bike riding, jogging, whatever works best for you. Give it your all at least 3 times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Ignore the scale. Your body is a miraculous machine. If you consume a meal heavy in salt, your body will retain water to fight dehydration and the scale will actually add a couple of pounds. It is incredible how many factors go into your weight; a pound more here, a pound less there. You cannot put too much pressure on the scale. If you insist on using it, make sure it’s at the same time of day each time (preferably morning) and don’t be upset if it’s higher than you expected.
Cut corners everywhere. No more cheese on your burgers, cut out mayonnaise, drink your coffee black. These spoonfuls of 40 calories here and 80 calorie slices there add up. You don’t need them. If you don’t already, learn to love mustard. Mustard is just crushed mustard seed and water and offers O calories, a tasty way to avoid a dry sandwich.
Water!! 8 glasses a day will change your life.
Don’t drink your calories. When you are thirsty, drink water. Drink water as often as you can. If weight loss is the goal, juice is not your friend. Get your vitamin C boost directly from the delicious orange (about 65 calories), avoid giant glasses of orange juice (110 calories per 8oz, most people drink 16 oz in a glass of juice). What about booze!?! ALL alcohol offers calories, even a shot of straight vodka has about 70 calories in it. When you’re out for drinks just make smarter choices. i.e. vodka sodas, light beer and be sure to drink water between cocktails.
Take a class. Gym memberships scare the hell out of me: the commitment is intimidating, they cost a ton (regardless of the bargain you received by “just signing up”) and the contracts are a nightmare to get out of. I recommend signing up for a class at your local community centre or privately owned studio. Affordable, good people at similar fitness levels and a class once a week is easy to stick with. I always like to register for something on a Monday or Tuesday evening to motivate me for the rest of the week.
Pilates. I fully credit that first Pilates class I took at a local community centre to saving my life. It made me believe that I could change my life and launched me into my own fitness routine.
Set a routine. Wake up, stretch, 20 mins. cardio, eat a large breakfast, work, lunch, dinner, play, stretch, bed. However you fit your exercise routine into your schedule, make it a routine for every day so it is easy to accept as just part of your day.
Enjoy a large breakfast. This old saying has stuck with me, “Feast like a King in the morning and pick like a peasant in the evening.” When you eat full, hearty meals full of protein and fiber early in the day you have energy to sustain yourself for longer periods of time, you avoid snacking and it’s easier to burn those calories as you’re active through the day. Come dinner time, stick to essential nutrients and lower fat content.
Get the kids involved. It was easier to work out at home when the girls were babies and I could distract them with a vibrating chair and Baby Einstein videos. Nowadays, at 2 and 4 years old, they think Mom planking is an invite for a horsie back ride. I’ve learned to embrace their 30-some-pound bodies as my weights with “airplane lifts” and “baby arm crunches” and they both like to practice a few yoga poses with me. You should see how I gush when Edie, 4, shouts in a public place, “Look, Mom, tree pose” as she balances perfectly on one leg. It’s a beautiful thing.
Practice Yoga. Yoga will benefit your life in greater ways than just weight loss. A calm mind is a happy mind, the body will follow.
Be naked. Don’t be afraid to stand in front of the mirror naked. You have to love yourself every step of the way. The sooner you learn to accept every roll today, the easier it is to envision your realistic goals for tomorrow.
Donate the clothes that no longer fit. Only look ahead, don’t look back to those jeans that are now 4 sizes too big. Get them out of your closet.
Set up a support team. This is the time of year that your friends and family are their most motivated, use it. Walk together, sign yourself and friends up for a boxing class, go play touch football in the snow… Make exercise a fun, social activity and you will be less likely to give it up.
Treat yourself! Healthy weight loss is all about finding a balance. If you hit up Cousin Sue’s extravagant wedding and go to town on the gourmet buffet, don’t freak out and give up! Just be prepared to work out a little harder leading up to it and afterwards.
I am not a certified Dietician and by no means a fitness pro, I am just a woman who quit looking for the secret to weight loss, stopped making excuses and took control of her own body.
I gained 80 pounds during my pregnancies and felt so lost as a new mom with a body that I resented. Calorie counting lead me down this awesome path of food awareness and exercise has brought me more energy and happiness than I ever thought it could. Most importantly, I’ve learned to love myself and all that I am – including the stretch marks and sexy muffin top.
It feels great to like the way you look. Feeling healthy and fit makes everything else in your life better, so don’t give up on yourself. Enjoy the process and dream of the big picture. It’s not easy but nothing worth while ever is. Good luck and HAPPY NEW YEAR!! xo
If you have any tips and tricks for healthier living, please share them in the comments section below. These tips are just as much for you as they are reminders for me, it’s been a very festive holiday season and I have a not-so-jolly jiggle to be jogged off. We’re in this together.
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