Five Strategies for Starting a Successful Weight-Loss Plan
Turn on the television, and you’re sure to see commercials promoting weight-loss plans and programs which promise to make you skinny, attractive, and glowing with health in just weeks if you follow their instructions and eat their special (and especially expensive) foods. Walk into a bookstore, and you’re sure to find shelves full of books promoting “scientifically proven” diets based on anything from wholefoods plant-based meals to no-carbohydrate diets packed with meats, eggs, and cheeses. Even your favorite social media platforms are not immune: how often do you see blog posts, links, and advertisements promoting a particular product or plan that purports to solve all your weight-loss woes?
The difficulty with most of these options is that they offer an external solution. They ask you to take a particular pill, or trust a guru, or sign up for weekly sessions, reinforcing the idea that weight loss is something you need someone else to control for you. Negative emotions that often accompany the decision to try to lose weight include guilt or shame over “letting it get this far,” anxiety over how you will cope with new dietary restrictions, or fear of failure. You become convinced that you need an outside authority to control your weight loss, and that can make you feel inadequate and incredibly disempowered.
But there’s another way.
You can choose to take charge of your weight-loss plan, harnessing your power to make the changes you want to make. You can consider your motivations, focus on your strengths, educate yourself, choose fun ways to get active and build routines which work for you, your family, and your lifestyle. You can, in short, start from a position of strength and positivity, and set yourself up for success. Here’s how to get started.
Strategy 1: Know YOUR Motivations
The most successful weight-loss journeys begin with strong personal motivation. If you want to lose weight to please someone else, avoid criticism, or fit in the clothing size you feel you “should” be wearing, then your focus will be on your worries and anxieties. That won’t help you to feel powerful and in control of your health as you move forward.
A much better option is to focus on things which are truly meaningful to you as an individual. What would you love to do that is currently difficult or impossible because of your weight? Gorilla trekking in Uganda? Running a marathon? Fitting into your favorite brand of jeans? Reducing your risk of the type 2 diabetes that runs in your family? Be honest with yourself about what you want. You don’t have to explain your motivations to anyone if you don’t want to, and being genuine here will pay off in the long run.
What do I do? Write a list of three or more things which genuinely motivate you to want to lose weight. Keep the list somewhere you will see it regularly, or find other ways to remind yourself of why you’re putting in this work. For example, you could set your computer desktop image to a picture of a Ugandan jungle, to remind yourself of your gorilla trekking dream.
Strategy 2: Focus on Your Strengths
Don’t fall into the trap of considering yourself a failure because you are carrying a few extra pounds. You already have a range of habits, personal preferences, tools, and skills which will help you to succeed once you take the time to recognize them. Some things you might like to consider include:
• Will any of your favorite foods fit well into a healthy eating plan? For example, if you love fresh fruit, you already have an excellent option for nutritious snacks and desserts,
• Do you enjoy cooking? Think of all the new recipes you’ll be able to try, and how satisfying it will be to use your skills to create meals that support your goals.
• What habits do you have which will strengthen your weight-loss plan? Things to think about here include drinking lots of fresh water, getting plenty of sleep, only buying things you’ve written on your shopping list, and regularly participating in a fun exercise class.
• What are you good at doing? Are you good at making plans and setting achievable goals? Establishing new habits? Doing thorough research? Rewarding yourself for making progress? Forgiving yourself and bouncing back from mistakes? All of these can be helpful as you seek to lose weight.
• Do you have a reliable support network that you can call on when you need them?
• Can you name times in the past when you have successfully changed your habits, such as undergoing a digital detox, quitting smoking, or learning how to work efficiently from home?
What do I do? Write a list of your strengths, and how each of them will help you in your weight-loss journey. Include everything, no matter how small it seems. Remember: you already have many of the tools you need to succeed.
Strategy 3: Plan for the Future with Trustworthy Nutritional Information
Fad diets are everywhere, and you may have tried many of them in the course of your weight-loss journey. However, they aren’t the best option for long-term, sustainable weight loss. Many fad diets are restrictive and difficult to follow, increasing the likelihood that you will regularly “fall off the wagon” or give up entirely. Some are also downright unhealthy, ignoring well-established nutritional guidelines and making health claims not supported or accepted by reputable medical sources.
To avoid the pitfalls of fad diets, don’t think of a short-term plan that will help you shed pounds. Instead, aim to find a way of eating which is nutritious, appealing to your tastes, and sustainable over the long term. Ideally, you want to develop a way of eating that you can maintain for the rest of your life without feeling deprived. Before you can make any such plans, though, it’s essential that you understand what excellent nutrition looks like so that you can make informed choices.
What do I do? Educate yourself about excellent nutrition, and make a pact with yourself to steer well clear of fad diets. Reliable sources of dietary information include your doctor, a dietitian, guidelines issued by national medical associations, and books written by reputable medical sources.
Strategy 4: Find Your Fun
As well as finding an eating plan which works for you, exercise is an integral part of any sustainable weight-loss plan. Modern lifestyles tend to be quite sedentary, without the regular physical labor that people in the past accepted as the norm. If your job involves sitting at a desk or computer for most of the day, finding ways to get more active will help you to kick-start (and maintain) your weight loss.
In the early days of your weight-loss journey, the activities you choose may seem insignificant, but if you are up and moving more and more as time progresses, you’re on the right track. Jumping into a new sport or challenging exercise routine isn’t right for everyone, and it can be particularly tricky for those who have the most weight to lose. Taking it slowly and taking the time to find something you’re passionate about is a much better option than trying to do too much, getting overwhelmed, and giving up.
You may have tried in the past to improve your fitness by going to aerobics classes or signing up for a gym membership. These are fantastic options — for some people, but perhaps not for you; the key is to find something which is a better fit. Just as with your plan for healthy eating, it’s vital that the ways you choose to get active are things you can imagine yourself doing well into the future.
What do I do? Brainstorm fun ways to get active, then choose at least one to get started on today. It could be something as simple as dancing to your favorite song in your kitchen, or as ambitious as signing up for an intensive yoga course. The most important thing is to get started.
Strategy 5: Set Yourself Up For Success With Good Routines
Routines are enormously helpful because they reduce the number of times in a day when you have to make a decision or exercise willpower. It takes a few weeks to get a new routine solidly established, but once it’s in place, your life will become more manageable as well as healthier. If you are tech-minded, there are a variety of apps available for both iOS and Android which will help you to track your progress toward establishing new habits.
Useful weight-loss routines center around food choices, exercise, and other aspects of a healthy lifestyle, such as getting enough sleep and managing your stress levels through relaxation or meditation. Begin by thinking about which of your current routines (e.g., snacking on corn chips while you watch a movie); identify what aspect of this routine is working for you (it’s fun to snack while you wait) and what is not (the calories from all those corn chips go straight to your waistline). Finally, look for ways to incorporate the good aspects while eliminating the bad (e.g., snacking on raw veggies or air-popped popcorn instead of the chips), and plan how you can make this a new habit.
What do I do? Choose one new routine which will help you succeed in developing healthier habits and losing weight. Think about what you will do, when you will do it, what you will need, and what the benefits will be. Take the time to establish this new routine until it feels normal and natural before moving on to something else.
Over to You: Get Started on Your Journey
Your weight-loss journey is yours, and yours alone. Other people can assist you by providing accurate nutritional information, support, or practical help such as childcare or cooking healthy meals, but your results ultimately depend on you. That might seem frightening at first, but it is indeed incredibly empowering. You are in charge, and it will be your motivations, your strengths, your decisions, your passion, and your daily habits that lead you to success.
Don’t let fears and anxieties prevent you from reaching your goals. Get inspired, get informed, and get started — today.