As the New Year quickly approaches, one of the resolutions topping lists again this year will be to lose weight and get fit. So many folks will start out gung-ho, completely devoted to the fitness cause, yet fizzle out before spring approaches. What is the key to being successful in a weight loss journey? Noone should make a life-altering decision without research, thought and preparation. Losing weight and becoming fit is just that … a change of lifestyle. Set a starting date and use the time prior to prepare yourself!
1) Start planning your weight loss strategy several weeks in advance. Research various diets and exercise programs. Join online support groups. Decide which plans YOU can adhere to and have this decision made prior to your start date. You’ll want to begin collecting recipes and building a support team of friends with similar weight loss goals. Pick up a few fitness magazines and start flipping through them to determine which ones you find motivational. A few popular women’s magazines to try are: Fitness, Shape and Oxygen.
2) Choose your goals, but make them attainable. A fixation completely on scale weight is not necessarily the best strategy. You’ve heard it time and time again and it is true: muscle weighs more than fat! Focus on measurements, body fat percentage, clothing size or even an athletic goal. Set mini-goals as well … it’s much easier to stay motivated as you are reaching each individual goal than waiting to reach one distant goal. Be sure to allow non-food rewards as you reach each goal, and put these in writing to remind you what you are working towards. Treat yourself to a manicure/pedicure, massage, new lingerie, slinky dress or other perks.
3) Document your “Before” self. Have a friend or spouse help you take your beginning measurements. At a minimum, measure chest, waist, upper arm and upper thigh. Be sure to note your body fat percentage as well. Most gyms will perform this measurement for a small fee and it is vital to track your body fat for a more accurate portrayal of your true progress. Take photos of yourself in a swimsuit or sports bra and shorts. These will be extremely important to compare along the way and show just how much progress you are truly making!
4) Find the perfect body and plaster it everywhere! Perhaps you have a photo of you from your youth. Maybe there is a fitness model that has the shape you’d like to have. Again, be realistic about the body you choose, but once you find a body type that fits your desires, post pictures all around you as reminders. Tear out a magazine ad and tape it to the refrigerator. Find that pre-baby picture of you in a bikini and post it on your computer monitor. Use these as constant reminders of what you are trying to accomplish.
5) Join a gym or pick up the necessary equipment to workout at home. Joining a gym can be strong motivation to stay on track with your fitness plan for several reasons. The most obvious is that you have to watch that monthly fee come out of your checking account for at least a year in most cases! If you are going to be paying for it, you might as well use it, right? There are such a variety of exercise opportunities at a fitness center that you will be less likely to become bored. Most offer free weights, weight machines, aerobic classes, and a variety of cardio machines, at a minimum. Many also offer personal training instruction and swimming pools. Over time, you will probably form friendships that will help motivate you to continue working out regularly.
6) Accustom yourself to writing down everything that you eat, good or bad. You may be telling yourself that you really aren’t eating “that” bad, but can’t figure out why your weight loss is slow or non-existent. Pick up an inexpensive food scale and begin weighing and measuring your portions. Quite often, looking at it on paper, you can pinpoint your problem times and trigger foods. There are many sites online that offer food journaling, including FitDay.com.
7) Begin weaning yourself from your bad habits early. Living a healthy lifestyle will most likely be enough of a shock that you will not want to “go cold turkey” with all the changes at once. Use the weeks prior to your goal date to begin making subtle changes. If you are a heavy soda or coffee drinker, begin cutting back one or two a day, then as you adjust, cut out another, etc. If you are a chocolate fanatic, begin cutting back or perhaps replacing with sugar-free items. Teach yourself to eat five or six smaller meals throughout the day instead of the normal three large ones. This will help keep your blood sugar stable, preventing cravings and deterring binge eating.
Most importantly, take this time to prepare yourself mentally. Use the weeks leading up to your starting date to make sure you are emotionally ready. Look at it as the last opportunity to eat certain foods without guilt. A healthy and fit lifestyle change is not going to be easy, but it will be less difficult if you have convinced yourself mentally that you are prepared and that you will be successful.
Dawn Lloyd is the mother of three children and owner/editor of several family-related sites including [http://www.PersonalFitnessZone.com]. Please visit her site for weight loss and fitness information, tips and support.