In America, we want everything NOW — fast food, breaking news and next-day delivery. Our desire for quick results from exercise is no different. So what do we do? We restrict our daily caloric intake to unsustainable levels and exercise to burn additional calories. The pounds start to melt off and we’re thrilled! But here’s the problem with that approach: Calories are a form of energy and when you reduce them to extremely low levels, guess what else is reduced? If you guessed energy, you get a gold star. The truth is, crash or fad diets don’t work and aren’t good for your overall health and vitality.
Losing weight takes time, commitment and a lot of patience. Here’s how it works: 1 pound is equal to 3,500 calories, therefore, you need to burn 3,500 more calories than you consume (that’s a caloric deficit) in order to lose 1 pound. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends a healthy weight-loss goal of 1 to 2 pounds per week. You’ll need to burn 500 more calories than you consume every day to reach that recommendation. (500 calories per day x 7 days per week = 3,500 calories per week). There are no quick fixes when it comes to permanent weight loss. The best way to release weight and maintain a healthy BMI: Commit to a lifestyle that incorporates a nutritious, Mediterranean-style diet of appropriate portions and be active every day. Here are some tips to help you get started on your journey to a longer, healthier life.
Set SMART goals. Make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. That means you’ll want daily or weekly goals. For example, aim for taking at least 10,000 steps a day and doing some strength training at least 3 times per week.
Start small. Setting a goal to lose 50 pounds is great, but it’s going to take time and you will become frustrated if you focus every day on those 50 pounds. Start small by setting a goal of eating a nutritious breakfast made up of whole foods every day for a week. Breakfast truly is the day’s most important meal because it gives you the energy you need to get moving, and it fires up your metabolism.
Make it personal. If you need to lose weight, chances are that you already know it but haven’t found the motivation to do it yet. Give the goal meaning and intrinsic value and it will be easier for you to stay the course when you’re struggling to maintain your healthier habits. For example, maybe losing the weight will allow you to run around with your kids or grandkids and enjoy time with them more. Or perhaps it will make it easier for you to participate in an activity you love to do.
Write it down. Tracking what you eat is one of the best ways to learn and understand your habits. It will reveal your eating patterns (e.g. do you mindlessly snack during your favorite TV shows?) and help you assess if what and how much you’re consuming is helping you reach your goals. There are journals and smartphone apps that will help you with this effort.
Have a plan. Don’t drive to work in the morning asking yourself, “What am I going to eat today?” Be prepared. Planning your meals and snacks ahead of time will help you manage the amount and quality of the food you eat.
Make exercise fun. If you don’t like broccoli chances are that you do not eat broccoli. The same principle applies to exercise. If you don’t like it, you are not going to do it. Find activities that you enjoy. You’ll look forward to doing them instead of dreading them.
Losing weight is challenging, but it is not impossible! Find a buddy and use some of these ideas to begin living the healthier life you deserve.