Introduction

When you are searching for how to lose weight, most advice suggests that we should “eat less and move more”.  Perhaps you are also convinced to ditch all of the delicious things you love and go for the chicken and broccoli.  Or maybe you heard that one “diet” is superior to the other. If you’ve tried any of those suggestions, how have they worked out for you?

I’m not saying there isn’t at least some truth to all of those things (at least for a little while!), but I think most of us have tried things and were disappointed with the results. Rather than embrace a new lifestyle and incorporate some suggestions, what we probably did was ditch the gym, the nutritionist or the personal trainer.  I have done all of those things! When you want to be successful in reducing excess (fat) weight, it’s worth it to look at it from all angles.  

When reaching a healthy weight, there is a lot of advice out there. If I were creating a strategy for my weight loss journey today, these are the easiest steps to get started. They are exactly what I would incorporate, and in fact, at every milestone, I return to these ideas over and over again.

It is totally within you to reach a healthy weight – a weight that you feel good at – but I believe that you must create an anchor that will help you keep your eye on the ball.  That anchor begins with why you want to lose weight, as in what’s in it for you. Any weight loss or fitness strategy should begin in this way. It’s not enough to know what you want – you need to know why you want it, so let’s begin there.  

lose weight

1. Start with why

Almost no one talks about the “inside job” of weight loss, so let’s start there.  Before you do anything, contemplate WHY you want to lose weight.  Trust me, don’t skip this step nor take it lightly because it will always be the driving force behind every single decision you make regarding creating your healthy body.  

Ask yourself why you want to lose weight?   Why is it important for you?  Is it as simple as wanting to feel good?  Is it that you want your clothes to fit better?  Or, dare I say, do you long to simply define your own version of sexy and feel good in your own skin?  Whatever it is, write it down.  And then go a bit deeper.  Why is it important to you?  

Starting with why you want something is a great way to anchor your decision, and that “why” is something you will want to connect to every day.  Another important piece to the “inside work” is the self-efficacy part of it, or the belief that you can achieve your goal and have what you want.  Why you want something is important to establish, but if you doubt you can lose weight, the “why” won’t hold a lot of meaning.  You must get to the place where you believe you can do it.  Allow your mind to be open to new ideas and run with them!

Your Amazing Body

Part of this mindset section should absolutely include showing daily love for your body.  When I first heard this concept years ago, I literally laughed out loud.  I thought, how in the heck would that help?!  And who says I didn’t actually love my body anyway?!  

Can we step back for a second?  Just for a sec.  We know that the words affect others (both humans and pets!) because when we say them we either get a result or we don’t.  We can see the changes in someone’s face with the words we use (and the feelings behind them!).  If we back up even further, we know that those words come from what we think – the thoughts that we habitually have.  So, if our words and emotions affect others, how would they not affect you and your body?  They do.  But here’s the thing:  our bodies continue on in spite of us much of the time.  

A healthy body comes from a healthy mindset.

Certainly disliking something or hating something can be a driver towards an outcome, but there isn’t much joy or fun in that. But what if you considered what’s possible for you, right here in this moment?

Try on these thoughts for a moment by picking up this meditation titled “What’s Possible”.  You can pick up that special meditation here. Start feeling into those emotions and try to create thoughts around that and just watch what happens!

Plan for Success

2. Plan for Success

You’ve heard the old saying, “Fail to plan, plan to fail”, right?  We know this is true.  We could take a simple inventory of our lives and contemplate which outcomes might have gone differently if we had a plan!  The weight loss journey is no different.  If you want to have weight loss success, you can’t just wing it.  You must a strategy and a plan for success!

Create a food plan

Listen, this doesn’t have to be difficult and boring, but creating a food plan is paramount.  Do whatever is easy: you can plan out the entire week, you can plan the day before, or a few hours before. 

Here is an example:  Every Sunday, we prepare my husband’s lunch and breakfast for the week.  This means we don’t just think about it, but we actually cook it!  You don’t have to cook enough food for 5 days, but it certainly makes those food choices easier!  For me personally, I always have chicken breast cooked and ready to go.  I know more or less daily what I will eat for all three meals, even if I switch them around.  

Assemble your plate

There are some great strategies to how you should assemble your plate with veggies, protein and fat.  There is no reason to not include each one of those in each meal.  Without getting into the weeds, carbohydrates, protein and fat all play different roles in the body – and they are each digested differently.  Ensure you are consuming from all three food groups when you are planning your meal. 

Here are some examples of my meals:
  • Breakfast:  125g of spicy lentils + kale + egg omelet (1 egg + 3 egg whites)
  • Lunch:  150g of spicy lentils + kale + 4 oz cooked chicken + 100g Brussels sprouts + 40g of avocado
  • Dinner: a very large salad (cabbage variety + kale or spinach) + fresh onion, bell pepper, celery, cucumber, cherry tomato + avocado + 6 oz top round steak

If you plan to be calorically conscious and responsible, there are a myriad of resources out there that will provide some guidelines for you, such as freedieting.com or calculator.net. If you would like more examples of how to build your plate, you can check out this website for a deeper dive.

Disclaimer: Always consult with your physician before starting any weight reduction plan and stay in touch with your physician or general practitioner throughout your journey!

3. Use a food journal

Nothing has proven to be more beneficial to me than using a food journal, like My Fitness Pal (I’ll use MFP for short). I have used it to track food intake and to create accountability since 2014!  In terms of food intake, I have used MFP to ensure I was eating enough (when I get busy and forget to eat!) and for periods when I wanted to ensure I was being calorically conscious and responsible (strategic planning!).

 It’s easy to pretend “it didn’t happen” when food doesn’t get logged.  After all, we are grown ups, and technically no one is there to ensure we won’t eat something that we decided is off-plan.  I mean, who’s going to squeal on me, the cat?!  Well, maybe, but no one understands her but me anyway! 

I am serious when I tell you that although I’ve been on this leg of my journey for 10 years, I still use MFP.  The benefits and insight you will gain as a result of using it are immeasurable. There is a “notes” section at the bottom where you can include miscellaneous notes, like readings for blood glucose or ketones, if those are numbers you track. 

It doesn’t really matter how you track your food, only that you do it.  That said, if you have decided to track caloric intake or macros, then I recommend allowing an app to assist you with the process.  And if not, then a notebook will suffice.  The simple habit of writing things down can reveal trends in eating and your habits over time, and if you resist this part of the process, it’s worth it to begin asking yourself why.  

Eat Real Food

4. Eat real food

Surely it’s not the first time you’ve read a recommendation to reduce ultra-processed food in your diet. (And by “diet”, I am referring to what you habitually consume daily.)  Nearly everyone who cares about health recommends that white refined sugar and ultra-processed foods be reduced in the diet.  Let’s be clear:  most of these ultra-processed items contain extra ingredients you don’t need, such as extra sugar, additional fats and words many of us simply can’t pronounce.

You don’t have to liberate your cabinets and fill up your trash can with oodles of bags of chips, cookies and cake mixes to the point that you experience psychological distress! You can begin this process in a small way, such as not replacing those items once they are gone. Each time you make a decision, understand why you are doing it and reiterate your commitment in a loving way to yourself.

When shopping, there are complete grocery store aisles that you can simply avoid visiting because there is nothing that will assist you in reaching your health goals.  And I am referring to the aisle that has the cookies and crackers, and the one that has all of the breakfast “goodies”, like oatmeal, cereals, bars, etc.  Not only are those items made to be highly palatable to keep you coming back for more, but they can be calorie dense and nutrient poor!  One final point: Be sure you can pronounce the words in the ingredient list of the items you purchase and that you actually know what they are.

Find a way to replace the things you love with delicious, healthy recipes!

Do yourself (and your body!) a favor:  Begin to incorporate as many minimally processed foods as you can in your daily diet.  You will feel fuller for a longer period of time, your blood glucose levels will be more stable, and you will have more energy for that vibrant life you desire!  

Simplify Meals

5. Simplify meal creation

Everyone is busy, no matter if you work outside the home, inside the home, or both!  But if your health is important to you at all, then find a way to cook your meals.  If you “can’t” do it, that’s probably a story you are telling yourself.  I urge you to find a way!  I ended up weighing 100+lbs more than I needed to because I told myself I couldn’t cook, wasn’t a cook, didn’t know anything about cooking, or spices, blah, blah.  There are so many resources out there now between YouTube, apps for your phone or iPad, cooking shows, and kitchen tools that there really aren’t too many excuses left!  

You don’t have to create a 4-course meal.  All you need is to ensure you have a protein, some carbohydrate and some fat with each meal. Don’t get caught up in what you see on any cooking show and think you must create those or somehow your meal won’t taste good.  C’mon.  We live in the real world where things get hectic, so save those fancy cooking ideas for your week-end.  Invest in a couple of kitchen tools that either make your life easier, create healthier options, or make cooking more interesting and fun!  

Read about spices and experiment with them to find your favorites because who wants bland food?!  Not me!  Also, I can’t think of a spice that doesn’t offer some sort of health benefit.  My lentils are seasoned with salt, turmeric, paprika, Jamaican curry, white pepper, and garlic.  My lentils are so delicious that I never tire of eating them!

All of the examples I have above in point #2 Plan for Success will provide some ideas for you.  Those are VERY simple ideas – and I am okay with that!  Everything I eat is very tasty, which also makes it very difficult for me to want to dine in a restaurant, ever!

Lift Weights

6. Lift weights

Throughout my research, many studies show that there is some muscle loss during weight loss, and weight training can help mitigate that loss. During weight loss, and particularly if you are eating less food, your resting metabolic rate will eventually begin to decrease.  (The resting metabolic rate is the rate that your body burns calories while you are resting.) Lifting weights increases the resting metabolic rate via growth of the muscles – and yes, you want this! What’s more, your resting metabolism may remain elevated for many hours post training, adding to your calorie burn bank.  

Weight lifting also changes the shape of your body!  If you observe anyone who runs regularly (and rarely lifts weights) and compare it to someone who mostly lifts weights (and performs moderate amounts of cardio), the body shape is very different.  I have noticed this with my own body.  It has never mattered how much cardio I did, the fat weight on my thighs did not budge.  My thighs only began to slim down when I spent more time lifting weights.  (I had some other tricks up my sleeve, but weights moved the needle in a massive way.)

Food for thought:
  • Lifting weights does actually burn calories!  While “calories burned” with a fitness tracker are estimated and highly variable, the calories burned during 45 minutes of cardio is vastly different when I compare it to 45 minutes of lifting weights (providing the weight is heavy enough to spike the heart rate).  Without getting into the weeds, the calorie burn is not the only thing  that’s important here. 
  • Focusing on an activity that makes you feel really good helps make your health a priority.  You might notice as I have that it’s easier to select food choices that support a healthy body. You don’t need to spend 2 or 3 hours in the gym to see results, either.  A training program of just 3 days per week will make a tremendous difference! 

Disclaimer: All of the benefits mentioned here are important. Before you begin any type of exercise, and particularly weight training, always consult with your physician or practitioner.  Then, find someone to show you how to properly use the weights to ensure proper form and avoid injury.

You will be pleasantly surprised at how much stronger you feel and how good you will feel in your body.  You will start to feel proud of your willingness to try something new…and you just might feel sexy again!

Hydration

7. Stay hydrated!

It’s no secret that every cell in your body needs water.  Your body depends on it.  The days I feel less energetic, it’s almost always because I didn’t hydrate myself sufficiently the previous day.  While drinking sufficient water isn’t the only reason one can feel a drop in energy, it’s the first place I look.   

You also likely know that we lose body water through natural processes like sweating and urination.  All of those losses must be replaced, so that your circulating blood volume will continue to deliver adequate nutrients to all of your organ systems.  As it turns out, water also has a connection to weight loss.  Based on my research, it’s an indirect connection, but an important one nonetheless.  

It might take a while to develop the habit, but reaching for water first when you feel hungry can mute the hunger for a while.  Drinking several ounces of water can stimulate the stretch receptors in the stomach, making you feel full. Certainly, if you are hungry, you will want to eat. But if you find yourself automatically reaching for the bag of pork skins, try reaching for several ounces of water instead, and then eat something.

Note that this is not meant to convince you to drink water rather than eat, but sometimes hunger cues are really thirst cues – and we can’t tell the difference.  It’s very easy to rip open a bag of something (mine was pork skins!) and go to town, easily consuming more than 700 calories on something that isn’t very satisfying. Drinking a half liter of water allowed me to wait until actual dinner rather than uncontrollably consuming calories that didn’t fit into the program strategy I had created.   

Also worth noting is that mild dehydration may affect the fat-burning process called lipolysis.  This makes sense because if the body isn’t functioning optimally, why would it burn off fat stores?  You will definitely want to ensure you are consuming enough water when weight training, so that the muscles can contract and expand.    

There are many other benefits to drinking water – too many to list here.  The challenge might be finding ways to ensure you are drinking adequate water for your unique body and needs.  You will absolutely feel a difference in your body when you are properly hydrated with water. 

loving community

8. Join a loving, supportive community

One thing that always makes an astounding difference in one’s journey to a healthy weight is to join a loving, supportive community.  It’s worth it to find a community who respects you and helps you honor your commitment in the most loving way.  You may have to try a few communities out to see how they feel, but lean in to those communities that aren’t using extreme tactics to lose weight.  You have your own Internal Guidance System, so you will know what feels supportive to you. Overall, being able to connect with others, even if it’s a single person, can make a difference in your continued progress.  If you would like some recommendations, please reach out to me.

9. Mindset Journal (10 minutes daily)

Writing in a mindset journal is a habit most of us don’t have or have never developed.  You already know that the thoughts you constantly reiterate in your life eventually manifest in one way or another.  Writing in a mindset journal for a few minutes can help reinforce thoughts you want to have in a conscious way.  Why is this important?  Believe it or not, too often we have so many thoughts that work against our desires, which clearly don’t support our goals.

Here are a few that I used to say often:
  • “I can’t do this anymore”
  • “Losing weight is too hard”
  • “It takes too much time to cook”
  • “I feel deprived of all the things I truly want to eat”
  • “I can’t have…”
  • “The scale won’t budge!”
  • “I can’t lose weight!”
  • “I can’t seem to get this right!”
  • “I don’t have any extra time to increase my activity/movement”

When we get our thoughts in line with what we want, we get closer to the goal.  Have you ever noticed that?  If we have a lot of thoughts that seem to oppose what we want, then that goal is often more difficult to achieve.  Writing in a mindset journal or in a simple notebook can help create thoughts about what you want in a deliberate way versus just allowing the same ole’ thoughts to persist. Take inventory of your daily thoughts…which ones constantly show up?

I implore you to be deliberate in the creation of your healthy body, and you can start by being deliberate in the way you think about weight loss, what you want, the process, the journey, or whatever feels supportive and loving to yourself in the moment. This is a great time to mention once again the meditation I created to explore what’s possible for you. You can pick it up here.

10. Don’t beat yourself up

Too often when things don’t go as we had planned, we beat ourselves up about it.  We feel guilty.  We may ask ourselves why.  “Why didn’t we follow through with the commitment?”  “Why did we eat the entire box of cookies when cookies weren’t even part of the food plan?” And we may even go as far as asking, “Why can’t I ever get myself to get this right?”  It’s not inherently “wrong” to ask questions.  Good questions create reflection and keep us neutral.  But questions that sound and feel like self criticism can create that downward spiral.  

The journey to creating a healthy body takes time and requires renewal every day.  It’s necessary to understand that you may have spent years building up the muscle of habits that you now have that won’t be “undone” in a few days, or even weeks.  This type of journey requires some self-reflection and a lot of willingness to be playful and curious, and ask, “What happens if I do this?”  There is no reason to beat yourself up over a box of cookies or a pint of ice cream.  (Do you think you’re the only one who has accomplished this?!) 

Give yourself the grace and space to simply move forward. 

Try sitting in the moment without judgment. Simply take note of how you feel, and you may write it down to go deeper, but be careful with your words.  Think about it this way:  how would you guide your new puppy after it peed on your floor as it wagged its tail and jumped for joy because it was happy to see you?  We are all still learning, so create a joyful journey and show yourself some compassion, just like you would a delightful puppy who is beginning its training journey.

Celebrate every win

11. Celebrate every win!

I am guilty of being hard on myself – and I rarely celebrated anything that could be considered a “win”.  It didn’t matter if it was a 2lb weight loss or a 50lb weight loss – I was always asking, “Why wasn’t it more?”  I have learned to recognize the progress in my own journey, and I understand now that it has been fairly unique to me.  In other words, I had to give up comparing my own journey to other’s journeys.

That said, I recommend that you celebrate everything, even things that seem small.  Write them down.  Keep them in a notebook or in an electronic note app.  Why?  Because one day you will search for some extra motivation or inspiration, and a great place to go is by connecting to your own list of wins.  Plus, celebrating things raises your vibration and puts you in that space of receiving and welcoming the next win!  

Your celebration moments don’t have to do with progressing in your weight loss journey, they can be about anything that you feel is a “win” for you!  

Here are some that I wrote down in my electronic journal:
  • “Doing TurboFire is getting easier!  I can do this!”
  • “I can’t believe that black dress with the square neck finally fits – and now it’s too loose!”
  • “I am proud of what I accomplished today.  I said I would complete a kickboxing routine – and I kept my word!” 
  • “I found a business coaching program that feels aligned, and I am excited that it runs for an entire year!”
  • “I am thankful our offer was accepted on the house we saw today.  Out of the 41 properties we looked at, it truly was the best option.  Thank you Universe!”  

It might sound odd to focus and celebrate other things, but celebrating things that have nothing to do with your weight loss journey is definitely worth doing.  Sometimes we get so caught up in the weight loss goal, and if we get frustrated with our progress, that frustration can spill out into other areas of our lives.  The same is true of the opposite.  If you celebrate other wins regardless of “size”, those feelings that come with the wins spill over into your weight loss journey.  Don’t believe me?!  Just try it!!!  You’ll see!

Summary

After losing and regaining the same 50+lbs over a period of three decades, I have figured out that there is certainly more to the “how to lose weight” story. If the journey to a healthy weight was about a single concept, I would have mastered it a long time ago. No one ever told me there were so many pieces to the puzzle – and that mindset was the most integral piece of all.

The good news is that you don’t have to do incorporate everything at once. You can start where you are and where it feels best as you keep your eye on the end result you want. Ask yourself every day, “How do I want to feel today, and what choices can I make to support my desire to reach a healthy weight?”

If you make feeling amazing your goal as you implement some of the suggestions here, then you will soon have your own compelling story of how you created your healthy body through compassion and strategic action! And you will absolutely find the inspiration to keep going!

Resources

  1. https://www.news-medical.net/health/Why-Should-We-Avoid-Processed-Food.aspx
  2. https://www.lhsfna.org/the-many-health-risks-of-processed-foods/
  3. https://www.uclahealth.org/news/what-you-need-to-know-about-processed-foods-and-why-it-is-so-hard-to-quit-them
  4. https://3strong.com/2018/08/27/5-reasons-why-weight-loss-requires-strength-training
  5. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cardio-vs-weights-for-weight-loss
  6. https://marathonhandbook.com/lifting-weights-to-lose-weight/
  7. https://hub.jhu.edu/at-work/2020/01/15/focus-on-wellness-drinking-more-water/
  8. https://www.emetabolic.com/blog/eat-well/water-eight-glasses-a-day-will-keep-fat-away/

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