I’ve gotten a few emails from folks just beginning their weight-loss journey and wanting advice on where to start. Whether you have 10 pounds or 200 pounds to lose, the same principles apply. There is no quick fix (well there is….but they don’t work long-term, hence quick fix. Haha). I didn’t think I had that much to say on this topic, but after I typed out my responses I was shocked!
Here are my thoughts on how to start, please add your own!
Food stuff first:
Write down EVERYTHING you eat and drink for a few days/week. Be normal. Don’t “diet”, just do exactly what you would do on an average day. Plug that data into a website like sparkpeople.com or myfatsecret.com (love this one because it works on my HTC Evo). Your goal is to see how it stacks up to where you should be calorie wise. Don’t get too freaked out if it’s higher/lower than Spark recommends, just use it as a guide. Look at what you normally do and see where you can make little tweaks. Little tweaks yield big results, honestly.
Now, here are some little tweaks worth implementing into your life!
Don’t drink your calories. I used to drink 1000 calories a day, without even realizing it! Orange juice, smoothies, frappachinos….little things add up big time. Most drinks are empty calories. Water is 0 calories and amazing for your body. Embrace H20! If you drink soda – stop. Seriously. Soda is just terrible for you (even diet). Water might be boring for some (my bro!) but you can spice it up – lemon, lime, crystal lite…etc.
I am a super coffee lover – so much so that I could sustain myself on coffee alone. My old beverage of choice was a Venti Iced Mocha w/ Whipped Cream – 510 calories a pop. No lie. That’s how many calories I eat for LUNCH now! I was drinking 2-3 of those a day! (No wonder I wasn’t losing weight! LOL). Now my Starbucks beverage of choice is a Venti ice coffee w/ a cream and 2 sugars. More on my coffee choice here. Alternate tasty options: Skinny Iced Caramel Macchiato or Skinny Iced Caffee Mocha. (Skinny = skim milk, no added sugar).
Here are 20 Starbucks beverages under 200 calories: http://www.starbucks.com/menu/nutrition/20-under-200
Always try to have protein with your snacks (peanut butter, lean meats, hard-boiled eggs, hummus, cottage cheese etc). You should never snack on carbs alone, they don’t keep you full. I will normally have veggie crisps with cottage cheese or grapes, pita chips and hummus etc. Keep snacks handy so you’re not tempted by things that won’t fill you up. I always have nuts and a granola bar in my purse at all times. KIND bars are my favorite. http://www.kindsnacks.com
When you’re buying snacks that are pre-packaged, check out the ingredients CAREFULLY. Avoid anything with HFCS when possible. Avoid ingredients you can’t pronounce. Look for whole, natural things like raw almonds, peanut butter made of only peanuts and oil etc.
If you eat out a lot, try getting an appetizer as an entrée and pairing it with a salad. If you’re a fast food person – try choosing grilled options whenever possible. 🙂 If you’re eating someplace with crappy appetizer options, split your meal in half and save half for lunch the next day (or split it with a friend/significant!). When I say salad I don’t mean caesar with cheese and croutons…I mean actual veggies! I prefer spinach salads or minestrone soups personally. I try to opt for veggies over pasta or fries but if no veggies are available to accompany my protein I will go with a baked potato.
When you do eat out, read the menu before-hand. I am FANATICAL about this. If my friends opt to go someplace where the menu isn’t online, I Yelp it and see what dishes people have had so I get an idea of what the place offers. Here are words you want to opt for: grilled, baked, roasted, broiled. Words to avoid: au gratin, fried, battered, mayo/aoili (I personally despise mayo with ever fiber of my being, so it works out well that it’s awful for you too!).
I’m a HUGE dessert fan, and couldn’t deal with giving it up entirely. I tried a few things (low-calorie versions of my favorites, having a little of what I wanted etc) and finally decided the best thing for me is to only have something GOOD once a week. I will have fruit, fruity ice pops or an iced coffee on regular nights if I NEED dessert. Some nights it is truly mind over matter. I see dessert on TV so I want it. If I don’t think about it, I don’t want it. If I’m going out for coffee with a friend and craving dessert, I opt for something small like a Cake Pop (birthday cake is my fav) – 170 calories, 3 bites and delish. Salted Caramel Squares are rather delish too and only 190 calories.
“The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.” – So true. Especially in weight-loss. I cannot tell you how many times I would keep eating the same foods or doing the same exercise and wondering why I wasn’t feeling any different. If you keep doing what you always did, you’ll get what you always got (great WW saying).
Now exercise stuff:
First and foremost – find something you like doing. Hate the treadmill? Don’t use it! Not a “gym” person? Find an alternative!
I have tried a million workouts – tai chi, yoga, aerobics, Pilates, dancing, zumba, weight-training, cardio classes….the list is longer than my arm! For me, I need something interesting and easy for my body to do. I had a terrible time doing yoga despite being rather flexible, I couldn’t get my body to morph into the poses and hold them (because of my fat? Unsure).
My current routine: cardio walking, barre n9ne virtual workouts (and soon to be in person workouts) and strength training at the gym. Those work for me, and I enjoy them. Everyone is different.
If you like workout DVDs, I can recommend a bunch (I should post that list soon!).
If you’ve never exercised before, buy a cheap pedometer or look for an app for your phone (Run Keeper comes to mind). Go for a walk, track your steps and see where you are on average. The ideal # to hit is 10,000 steps a day. Work up to it like I did. When you’re bored with one activity, find another. I am usually someone who only does any one thing a few times before getting bored. Tanya has built the barre n9ne workout for my attention span. She does a ton of different exercises in random order and always throws in new things. I LOVE getting up to work out with her! 🙂
Lastly, a few things to keep in mind overall:
Don’t call it a diet. Honestly. You end up setting yourself up mentally to fail. You’re not dieting, you’re making healthy changes to your life.
If you need support look for a community (like Spark or My Fat Secret) and find folks to chat with. If you’d prefer in-person I do recommend WW, although I am not a member anymore I will vouch for the meetings being helpful as a newbie.
Enlist the help of the people closest to you in changing your behaviors. Always get together for trivia, beer and wings on Tuesday? Try eating before you go – and drinking water or a low-cal beer. Letting everyone in your life know you’re trying to change may enlist people to change with you (now it could cause them to bitch too – because change is tough…but that’s their issue not yours!).
Realize that you will not be perfect 100% of the time. I am an “all or nothing” person, so when I slip up I have a HARD time forgiving myself. Mistakes happen, that’s life!
Everyday is a new day to make better choices <— remember that one! 🙂