Staring in front of the mirror, twisting left and right trying to find that perfect angle—being satisfied with your figure is something that we all want. Why do you think there are so many different diets? From the normal ones, like Paleo, to the more outrageous diets, like Caveman dieting, there really is no end.
Sure, losing weight seems like it’s all about the food, and it’s undeniable that food is an important aspect of weight loss. Because, let’s be honest, you can’t lose weight unless you cut back on your Krispy Kreme intake.
But there’s more to successful weight loss than simply eating less. You can develop behaviors—ones that are more effective and keep the weight off longer—that have nothing to do with your dietary habits.
While I could go on for days about tried and true health hacks, here are my eight favorite.
1. Get Enough Zzzs
Did you know that if you’re not getting a solid amount of beauty rest you may actually be ruining your chances of losing weight? It’s true, just use it as an excuse to skip that networking event you’ve already been dragging your feet to. Several studies found that people who don’t get adequate sleep tend to snack more, consuming unneeded calories, which typically leads to unwanted weight gain. It almost goes without saying that it’s even more true when your snacks are unhealthy ones, such as chips and cookies instead of apples and carrots
The reasons for the association between sleep and weight issues are not fully understood but researchers believe that appetite, hormones, and metabolism are negatively skewed when you’re tired.
If your yawns are more frequent than you’d like, maybe it’s time to investigate if the sand man really is visiting you and doing his job.
First, keep track of how long you’re getting some beauty rest, and, yes, there is an app for this. Fitness trackers or the sexy smart watches can even monitor this for you! But, if you’re wanting to keep it old school, journal your hours each morning. Take special consideration and possibly even make a note next to days where you’re feeling extra-tired. And no, it’s not a coincidene if your hand keeps edging to your opened bag of chips. If you’re having trouble keeping your snacking to a low, that too means you need to count more sheep.
Second, make a list of reasons you might not be getting to bed at a reasonable time. Your list might include your kids’ routines, working late, lack of a solid nighttime routine, watching television, or just surfing the internet.
Third, decide what behaviors you might need to change to get to bed earlier. If you are like me, you might need to develop a set nighttime routine to help facilitate getting to bed at a reasonable hour.
2. Pick a Goal Outfit
I always listed “getting healthier” as one of my main reasons for losing weight and it was toward the top, but in my heart of hearts, I wanted to lose weight to look better and wear cuter clothes. Because let’s be real, it is hard to find really attractive clothes in size 3X or 28 like I used to wear. I remember shopping with my smaller-sized girlfriends wishing I could pick out clothes with the ease they did. Instead, clothes shopping was always a struggle when I weighed 300 pounds. Nothing seemed to fit the way I expected it to when I saw it on the hanger and if it did fit, I was often unhappy with how I looked in the garment.
To inspire yourself to keep moving forward with your diet, I encourage you to find an outfit that you’d like to wear once you lose weight. It can be pants and a shirt, a fabulous jacket, a skirt, or a dress.
If you have a lot of weight to lose, choose an outfit that is just a couple of sizes down from where you are now. I don’t want you to get so discouraged at the thought of going from a size 28 all the way down to a size 10 that you give up before you make it down to a size 22. So be realistic when choosing a goal outfit.
You can either go ahead and purchase your goal outfit or simply pick it out from your favorite online retailer and save a picture of the outfit. If you decide to commit fully and buy the outfit now, hang it up in a prominent place. I hung my goal outfit right in the middle of my closet so I’d see it every time I reached in to get something to wear. It was very motivating to see that dress hanging there and try it on every time I dropped a few pounds.
3. Have a Grocery-Shopping Schedule
The grocery store is ground zero of your weight loss success or failure. Many of my clients tell me how they loved to go grocery shopping every single day so they could slip ice cream, candy, and cookies into their carts. They would put the forbidden foods on a high shelf at home or in the back of the freezer and eat it when no one else was around. They didn’t want to share. I confess to doing the same thing.
Grocery shopping has the potential to break your diet as it did some of my clients, or make your diet wildly successful. If you can train yourself to develop a regular habit of shopping for all the healthy foods you need in one trip, you are well on your way to having a positive dieting experience. The other part of the equation, of course, is actually preparing and eating the healthy food you buy in the right quantities.
I understand that it is tempting to head to the grocery store every day or a few times a week to pick up something you want or forgot. But, as you well know, the grocery store is full of tempting foods.
I want you to try shopping one time a week for all the food you need to prepare healthy meals instead of going whenever you want. Shopping just once a week not only limits your exposure to a store laden with tempting foods but it also has other benefits.
1. Gets you in the habit of meal planning.
2. Enables you to take your time and think through your choices because your weekly list will be longer than a daily list.
3. Saves you money because you won’t be as likely to buy ready-to-eat foods that are usually more expensive than home prepared foods.
4 . Keep Your Hands Busy
I don’t know about you, but boredom was often one of the reasons I used to reach for junk food, even when I was supposed to be dieting. Many people I talk to about weight loss share the same bad habit of eating from boredom. And this habit can be a killer for your weight loss, especially if your snacks are high in calories.
The urge to eat from boredom may strike when you are just halfway watching a television program, surfing the internet lackadaisically, or just standing around your kitchen or office looking for something to do.
All of a sudden, the urge to eat strikes.
And then, you can be in trouble in terms of controlling your calorie intake. I tended to snack on sweet foods like chocolate bars, hard candy, or cakes, but I’ve had a lot of clients whose boredom snack of choice was salty foods like chips or crackers. My snacks and those of my clients often averaged 400 calories, which is a good chunk of a 1,200 or 1,500 calorie diet.
It’s important to get a handle on boredom eating because a few sessions of mindless snacking each week can wreck your diet.
When I finally lost my weight, one trick I used to stop eating from boredom was to keep my hands busy. It’s almost impossible to be busy with your hands and eat at the same time—at least it is for me.
Find activities to keep your hands busy. Here are some ideas:
· Playing games with your kids
· Scrapbooking or editing pictures for printing
· Practicing a new craft such as calligraphy or drawing
· Writing in your journal or diary
5. Exercise Five Days a Week
I used to hate exercise. I hated getting sweaty, I felt uncomfortable in exercise clothes (assuming I could find any that would fit), and I didn’t like being out of breath. But most importantly, I honestly thought exercise would not really make a difference when it came to losing weight.
Boy, was I wrong to hate exercise the way I thought I did. Once I started adding regular exercise into my daily routine, I felt more committed to my diet and saw incredible physical benefits.
If you are like I was and having trouble convincing yourself that exercise can make a difference to your weight loss effort, consider this statement from the Mayo Clinic website:
“Not only does regular exercise aid in weight loss, it reduces your risk for several chronic diseases and conditions.”
Exercise is a win-win in terms of weight loss and health. But you’ve got to make a commitment to do it or you may start out the week with good intentions of exercising and end the week having done just a single day or none at all.
There is a difference between intending to exercise and actually doing it. It’s one thing to say you are going to “try” and exercise this coming week and another to do it.
I want you to make a firm commitment to exercise in some fashion five days this upcoming week. Here are a few tips to make that happen.
Exercise within your fitness level and comfort zone. If you are very overweight like I was, walking is a great way to start. Actually, walking is a great exercise for anyone as long as you walk briskly and don’t just stroll along.
Be open to new exercises and workouts. Options to try this week include: Bicycling outdoors or on a stationary bike indoors, doing 30 minutes on a stair stepper or elliptical, swimming, rowing, lifting weights, doing Pilates, taking an aerobics or kickboxing class, or running.
Write down your commitment to exercising in some fashion five days this week. Schedule a time on your calendar that works for you. I had to exercise first thing in the morning because I had young children but afternoons or evenings may work better for you.
6. Get Rid of Too-Big Clothes
Admit it, you’ve got some clothes hanging in your closet and sitting in your drawers that no longer fit. They may be too big or too small, but I’ll bet most of you have a few.
Personally, I had both too big and too small clothing. As I gained weight, I held onto the too small pants, dresses, and shirts in the hope that they would someday fit. They did, but by the time I lost 158 pounds, they were woefully out of date and I ended up getting rid of them.
And as I lost weight, I held onto my size 3X stretchy pants and my size 28 dresses. Why did I keep them?
Just in case I gained back the weight I had lost.
I had a valid reason for holding onto the too big clothes because I had lost and gained back the weight many times before. However, holding onto those clothes also gave me less of an incentive to keep the weight off because I knew I had something to wear if my new size 22 pants stopped fitting.
I’m issuing a challenge to you right now. Get rid of any clothes that are too big for you. You can keep the too small ones because hopefully you will fit into them before they are out of style, but get rid of the ones that are too big.
This is a hard non-food behavior for some people, but it’s vital. Keeping them around serves no purpose other than to give you a “fall back” wardrobe should you regain weight. As a caveat, you can keep one or two of your biggest clothing items as a comparison as you lose weight, but get rid of the rest.
7. Be Introspective
On the surface, successful weight loss is all about making healthier eating and lifestyle choices. Choose vegetables over chips, fruit over candy, and a low-calorie smoothie instead of full-fat ice cream and you will begin losing weight. Add in regular exercise and you will lose weight a little bit faster because of the added calorie burn.
It seems simple, doesn’t it?
However, like many difficult endeavors, there is more to weight loss than meets the eye. Successfully losing weight almost always involves understanding why you struggle with your weight in the first place and having a plan to deal with each issue you identify.
In case you aren’t sure what personal or childhood issues may affect your weight, ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I use food as a comfort?
2. Was food used as a reward when I was a child?
3. Do I display disordered eating such as bingeing, highly restricting, or purging?
4. Did my family celebrate with food or use food in place of meaningful conversations about issues?
It is vitally important to identify what is at the root of your food issues to successfully lose weight. While going to see a qualified therapist or nutritionist can be helpful, you may be able to work through some of your food issues on your own. I do want to say that you should not hesitate to get professional help if you feel as though you need more directed guidance or suffer from disordered eating.
When honing in on your personal issues with food, I want to encourage you to spend time with your own thoughts. It can be uncomfortable to pinpoint why you tend to overeat or turn to food in times of stress, but once you know your own issues, your weight loss effort may be easier.
I discovered some childhood issues surrounding food that were affecting me, as well as habits related to emotional eating.
Try meditating, praying, journaling, or visualizing how you will move past the issues you uncovered and visualize how want your weight loss journey to go. Imagine yourself at your goal weight and mentally go through the steps you will need to get there.
8. Find Fun Without Focusing on Food
Our culture often links food and fun. If you think about it, almost every fun event you attend has food. State fairs, football games, weddings, get togethers with friends, family reunions, office parties, Easter celebrations, Bar Mitzvahs, Hanukkah parties, and Christmas celebrations all revolve in some manner around food.
This focus on food at social events makes it really hard to stick to your diet. But I’m telling you that you have got to learn how to find the fun in the event irrespective of the food that is there.
If you don’t, you might end up eating more than you want every time you go to an event or spend time with friends just because food is part of the celebration. And if you do this a few times a week, you will have a really hard time losing weight. Do the math: If you take in an extra 500 to 800 extra calories over your normal weight loss intake every time you are at a social event, your weight loss is going to stall or go backwards.
Here are some ways you can learn to have fun times without focusing on the food.
1. Focus on the people you are with. Really spend time talking with the people there and look at the food as secondary to the relationships.
2. Get your food after you’ve been at the event for a while or visited with your friends. This gives you a chance to focus on the fun and people instead of the food first.
3. Be selective in what you eat. Make smart choices and don’t just haphazardly grab whatever looks good.
4. If you are ordering at a restaurant, order before all your friends do. It might seem rude to jump in when the waiter asks who is ready, but it’s better that than being influenced by your friend’s non-diet friendly choices.