Want to Lose Weight? Start with Five Simple Steps
- 4 Minutes Read
Five steps are identified and described to help you get started with weight loss or to help kick start a stalled effort.
On a particularly cold and icy day, I decided to go to my local gym for a run rather than risk injury by running on ice. While I was waiting for my husband in the lobby, I noticed a poster from Colorado's Weigh & Win program prominently displayed. The poster was aptly entitled, "New Year New You: 5 Steps for Healthy Change." As I read the poster, I thought to myself that these steps are exactly what I teach with weight control. Let's take a look at each one.
What are you currently doing now in terms of activity and eating? Before starting a new plan, identify where "you are at."
Physical Activity. Identify the type, amount and frequency of physical activity. If you are not sure, then log for 1-2 weeks. Consider using a pedometer (step counter) to track your average number of steps per day.
Food & Drink. What are your current eating habits? Do you dine out a lot? Eat well but portions just a bit too large? Log everything you eat and drink before implementing a weight loss plan to see what you typically do when you are not losing weight.
Once you know your basic food and activity habits, you can decide what needs to change first to help you lose weight. If you are already physically active most days of the week, then chances are good that targeting calories intake is probably a good place to start. If you already eat well and are sure that you are controlling your calories, then perhaps working on a physical activity goal would be wise. If you need help in both areas, then pick only one or two small goals to work on first. Rome was not built in a day!
Setting small stepwise goals is not the same thing as setting your sights low. Setting stepwise, achievable and realistic goals is a smart way to meet health milestones, build confidence, and eventually meet your long term goals.
1st Weight Goal. Consider losing 7% of your starting body weight as a significant health-based goal. That would be 0.07 x starting body weight = # lbs or kg to lose
1st Physical Activity Goal. If you are a dyed-in-the-wool couch potato, then perhaps a good first goal would be to start increasing activities of daily living. You could start by increasing the number of steps you walk by 500 from the baseline you identified in Step 1. Read my article at MyNetDiary for more information on physical activity.
1st Eating Plan Goal. Look at your food log from Step 1 - can you identify particularly high sources of calories consumed regularly? Work on reducing those sources first. For instance, when I was first tracking, I discovered that no matter how careful I was at portion control, my restaurant dinners were high in calories. So my first step was to decrease the number of times I dined out for dinner. Another big calories sink that men report is alcohol consumption. And of course, yet another is snack choice - chips, sweets, and pop.
What tools will help you meet your goal identified in Step 2? Support your efforts by investing in yourself.
Time. This is probably the most important tool for most people reading this post - secure time to work on your health goals. You have to prioritize your health in order to schedule time for activity or healthier food choices.
Support. Ask for support from those you trust. Changing habits can be threatening to others who have not yet made the decision to be healthier. Try to surround yourself with people and environments that support your decision to be healthier.
Devices. Activity trackers, simple pedometers (step counters), and tracking apps are all tools that can help you lose weight. Since the bottom line for weight loss is calories, the least expensive and practical tool is a smartphone tracker app since you can track at your fingertips with a device (your phone) that is always with you. And many food trackers now integrate with activity devices. For instance, I use MyNetDiary Diabetes Tracker integrated with their Running app. But I will also be using a Fitbit Force wristband as an additional motivator to move more throughout the day (and I can choose to integrate Fitbit with MyNetDiary if I wish).
Structured Programs & Counseling. This includes individual diet counseling, weight loss classes, commercial programs, and medical weight loss programs. If you have health insurance, ask what type of weight loss benefits are included. You might be eligible for free or reduced cost weight control services such as classes, support groups, or individual appointments with a registered dietitian.
Try to take advantage of all the tools you need to support your effort and plan to lose weight
Losing weight when you are overweight is rarely just about hitting a target weight - it is living better and longer. A commitment to lose weight is a promise to improve the quality of your life.
What will help you keep this promise to yourself? Will you be accountable to just yourself or will you also be accountable to others? Will you join a support group so that you help support and are supported by others in the same boat? Will you seek the services of a therapist when you feel that you have encountered something in your past that keeps haunting and sabotaging your efforts? Share your commitment with those you trust to support your efforts.
Tracking. Tracking progress allows you to determine if and when you will meet your goal. It helps identify adjustments that might be needed - both to the plan to achieve your goal as well as possibly the goal itself. Tracking in its literal sense is monitoring what is going on - whether it is calories intake, calories burned, exercise minutes, waist circumference, body weight, clothing size, blood pressure, etc. What and how you decide to track is decided by you, perhaps with input from your health care provider. For tools to help you track, review Step 3.
Reward. How will you acknowledge or reward yourself for meeting your goal? Will you post your success on a forum or other social media outlet to share with friends and family? Will you buy yourself something special - like clothing or electronics? Will you keep a scrapbook of your journey in both pictures and words?
Please reconsider a binge meal as a reward for losing weight - it sets up a shaky dynamic. But if food is your grand pleasure, then perhaps treat yourself to a fine dining experience. The goal with this experience is pleasure with small portions of exquisite foods rather than a big blow out binge.