I have a bit of a bad habit. Every January I commit to getting in shape. I keep it up until I reach my goal, then I treat myself to some pizza here, some Chinese takeout there, and a lot less time being active. See, by then, summer has rolled around and my idea of the perfect afternoon involves relaxing by the pool, not pushing myself on the elliptical. So, by the end of the year I’ve put back all the weight I worked so hard to lose and during the first week of January I step back onto the elliptical feeling like I’ve never worked out a day in my life. And the healthy food on my dinner plate isn’t near as appealing as the greasy fair I’ve become accustomed to.
Sound familiar? Whether you’ve got a chronic case of yo-yo dieting or you’ve put on some weight that you’d like to remove by bikini season – either through a sedentary lifestyle, overindulging during the holidays, or having a baby – it helps to have specific goals in mind. Below are some tips for setting goals that can be reached.
17 Essential Tips for Losing Weight
1. Set specific goals for weight and achievement date.
If I plan to lose 25 pounds but don’t have a date in mind, nothing is going to push me to get there. Look at how much you have to lose, pull out a calendar, and realistically determine how much time it’s going to take you to get there. For me, losing 2 pounds a week is doable. So, if I plan to lose 25 pounds, I’ll set my goal date for 13 weeks out. But that is nowhere near the end of goal setting! You must…
2. Make sure your goal date is realistic.
Losing 2 pounds a week is realistic. You will probably lose more in the beginning if you’re dramatically changing your lifestyle. I go from no physical activity and wolfing down entire Panda Express dinners with 2 sodas to working out 4-5 days a week, eating small servings of grilled chicken and steamed veggies, and cutting out soda altogether. So the first week is a total success as my body goes through the shock of this new lifestyle. But then things slow down and 1-2 pounds is the norm. It’s better to reach your goal early than be nowhere near your dream weight on your goal date, so make it realistic or you’ll end up disappointed.
3. Set mini goals.
Mini goals ensure you’re staying on track. I set weekly goals. This way, I can really take into account those occasions in which I won’t lose – and may even gain – weight, and be sure they don’t keep me from reaching my end goal on time.
There are times that keeping to a workout schedule or eating healthy won’t be practical. If I have a week-long vacation planned, a birthday to celebrate, or a even a weekend out of town, I can anticipate that there will be setbacks. I know that when I travel it’s difficult to eat healthy and control my portions. If I’m in Chicago, I can’t go without Chicago-style pizza (and I can’t stop after 1 or 2 slices) or Duncan Donuts. If it’s my birthday, I’ll be eating a big dinner out and feasting on cake for at least a few days. And that’s OK! Total deprivation isn’t the key to dieting success. Staying committed is. Look at your calendar and see what events, vacations, or special occasions occur between now and your goal date. This will come into play in the next step…
4. Be sure you’ve adjusted your goals for scheduled breaks in routine.
You may have trips or other calorie fests already on the calendar. Don’t let those be an excuse to delay getting started on your program. Just be sure to build them into your mini goals. For example, let’s say that 5 weeks into my new healthy lifestyle I have a 4 day trip planned, Thursday through Sunday. I know that on Wednesday (the night before my trip) by the time I get off of work, get my nails done, run any last-minute errands and finish packing there will be no time for working out. So I basically have Monday and Tuesday to work out, which means I may only lose 1/2 to 1 pound that week. Then, I’ll essentially be reverting back to my old lifestyle for 4 days because I tend to lose all control when I travel. So there’s a good chance I’ll gain 2 or 3 pounds during my trip. So if the week before my trip my goal was 138, my goal for my weigh-in the morning after I return will be 140 max. Then, I’ll get right back into my routine and have a goal of 138 for the end of the week. If I reach it or beat it I’m happy. If you know you can make healthy eating choices on your trip or you’ll only be gone for a couple of days, you may want to plan to maintain the previous week’s weight while you’re gone.
5. Put your goals in writing.
Now that you’ve set specific and realistic goals, put them in writing. Print out a calendar and fill in your goals. Hang it up on the fridge or near your scale so you can easily keep track of your goals.
Fitness Themed Metal Wallet for Weight Loss Goals
Even better – engrave your goals into a fitness themed metal wallet (or mini pill box or bookmark). With an engraved metal wallet, you can put money into your “fitspiration” wallet every time you finish a workout. Then, you’ll have all the money you need already set aside to treat yourself when you reach certain mini goals – like a pedicure after you lose the first 15 pounds.
6. Weigh yourself at the same time.
The best time to weigh yourself is in the morning, naked, before you eat or drink anything and after you pee. If that’s how you weigh in one day, but another day you weigh with clothes on after you’ve eaten dinner, you’re not going to get an accurate reading of how your weight loss is going. And you’re going to be discouraged for no reason! Make it a habit to only weigh in the morning.
7. Use goal tracking tools to chart your progress.
Print out a calendar, download a fitness app on your phone or tablet, or join a website like SparkPeople that tracks your weight loss.
8. Keep a log of your workouts and eating habits.
You’ll lose weight faster if you pay attention to what you’re eating, how much you’re eating, and what types of workouts get results for you. Write down everything you eat and drink daily as well as what specifically you did to work out. If you’re on the treadmill, jot down how far you went, how long it took you and how many calories you burned. Did you do weight training? Make a note of it. Then, you can review your most successful weight loss weeks and see what types of foods and exercises contributed to that success.
Not only does keeping a workout log help you determine what blasts fat the fastest….you’ll love seeing the improvements in your physical fitness as time goes on. When you’re running 5 miles it will feel good to look back at when you struggled to get through 1 mile. And that will inspire you to keep going.
9. Switch up your routine.
Doing the exact same routine day in and day out not only gets boring, but after awhile it won’t get results. So switch it up. If you typically use the treadmill or elliptical, take your workout outside for sprints in the park. Pop into some of the classes your gym offers. Sign up for boot camp. Borrow a friend’s P90X or Insanity DVDs. Browse the web for circuit workouts. Grab a friend and hit the basketball or tennis court. Go hiking with your dog. There are lots of ways to keep from getting bored and prevent yourself from reaching a plateau.
10. Know that interval training is best.
Intervals are always better than a steady pace. Sprints followed by periods of rest burn more calories and boost your metabolism more than going at a steady pace for your entire workout. This can be done while running in your neighborhood, on a track or treadmill, or on an elliptical or exercise bike. Go as hard as you can for 1 minute, then rest for 3 minutes and then repeat 6 times. You can adjust the times as needed, but be sure to give yourself enough time to get your heart rate down between sprints.
11. Don’t forget your muscles!
Strength training is key. It doesn’t matter if you are female and don’t want to “bulk up” and your only goal is to shed the lbs. The fact is you’ll lose the weight faster if you have more muscle. Muscle boosts your metabolism which means your body burns more calories when you’re at rest if you’ve been weight training. So grab some dumbbells and start sculpting some muscle!
12. Music matters – create a killer playlist.
I can’t tell you how many times I was ready to end my workout but then got re-inspired by just the right song coming through my headphones. Create a playlist that keeps you going. If there are songs that really get you fired up, save those for 1/2 way and then for 3/4 of the way through your workout – they will help get you to the finish line. Sites like ClickMix allow you to adjust the timing of your favorite songs so they’re fast and upbeat enough to keep you going.
13. Reward yourself!!!
Choose certain milestones (like every 10 or 20 pounds lost or fitting into a certain size of clothing) and reward yourself when you reach them. Go for a pedicure or massage or buy some new clothes – this will give you something extra to look forward to.
14. Find the time that works for you.
If you’re a night owl, setting your alarm for 5:00 a.m. and expecting to burst out of bed and fit in a workout before work is only going to set yourself up for failure. If you’re a morning person who is in bed by 9pm, doing a post-work workout isn’t going to work either. Think about what really fits into your schedule. For some people it’s the morning, for others it’s during a lunch break or after work, and some of us do our best at 10:00 p.m.
15. Dress the part.
Obviously you aren’t going to try to work out without the right attire. But when you put your workout gear on can make a difference. Put your gym clothes on right when you wake up (for an a.m. workout) or before you leave the office. If you’re already in your gym clothes when you head out the door, you’ll be less likely to talk yourself out of your workout.
16. Plan mealtimes around convenient workout times.
If you plan to work out after work, but you’re starving, you’ll be more likely to hit the McDonald’s drive thru than the gym. Or, you’re going to be so distracted and weak with hunger that you won’t give it your all. I have breakfast before work, a snack during the morning, and a very late lunch so that I can go straight to the gym after work and it’s only been 3 hours since my last meal. Find meal and workout times that don’t conflict.
17. Don’t beat yourself up when you get off track.
There will be days when temptation is too tough to resist. Maybe your boyfriend or husband brings home pizza or your dining out with friends and the chocolate dessert can’t be passed up. It’s OK to sneak some junk food here and there as long as it doesn’t lead to a week-long gluttonous feast in which you revert back to a sedentary lifestyle. Eat your bad meal – enjoy every bit – and then get back on track. You’ll often find that just 1 meal doesn’t lead to a setback.
Follow these 17 weight loss tips and you’ll be showing off that thinner you sooner than you think. Be consistent. Stay motivated. And remember, once you reach your goal, don’t be like (the old?) me. Yes, sneak in some of your old favorite treats like pizza, fries, or donuts, but don’t overdo it and don’t cut off all physical activity at the same time. Let’s reach our goals and keep the weight off together.