The start of a new year means the beginning of weight loss programs for millions of American looking to shed weight or extra holiday pounds. Many will join a gym and commit to working out every day, others will count calories and measure food intake, and some will do both.
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But it’s that take-no-prisoners attitude that actually sets them up for failure. Instead of making extreme resolutions that are hard to stick to, experts say the most effective way to lose those unwanted pounds is to create a realistic weight loss plan.
“You have to think about what’s going to fit into your daily lifestyle and break it down into smaller steps you take,” says Rachel Berman, director of nutrition for CalorieCount.com. It’s not realistic to set a goal of going to the gym everyday if you work 80 hours a week.
The same rules apply for dieting: starving yourself or cutting out all sweets is a surefire way to lose weight in the short term, but it’s not sustainable. “If you are depriving yourself you are much more likely to over indulge later on,” says Berman. “If you do one change at a time it’s more likely to snowball into more changes and become a life style.”
Preparation is the first step for a successful weight-loss plan. “Whether you are the CEO of your home or CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you know that the odds of success increase with preparation,” says Eudene Harry, the medical director for the integrative and holistic Oasis Wellness and Rejuvenation Center in Florida. “One of the biggest missteps is to depend on will power.”
Harry recommends purging the refrigerator and cabinets of any tempting snacks or leftovers that won’t help meet weight-loss goals. Restock with fruits, vegetables and raw nuts, which all make easy and healthy snacks. You can take it even further by dividing the nuts and other snacks into single serving sizes so you won’t over indulge.
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Harry also suggests preparing meals for the week ahead of time to ensure they are balanced, healthy and ready. “If you already know what you are going to have for breakfast, you’re less apt to skip this meal, which sets you up to overindulge the rest of the day,” she says. “If you know that you’ll be eating out this week, take time to look at the menu items and nutrition facts for the restaurant online. You can also use the time to plan appropriate substitutions.”
The types of food you eat will also help you from slipping up on your diet. Combining high-fiber foods with lean proteins will keep you fuller longer and will maintain your energy metabolism. “Pick foods that fit within your likes or else it’s not something you’ll sustain,” says Berman.
Equally important to shedding unwanted weight is increasing your level of activity—easy to do if you pick something you enjoy doing. If going to the gym is tedious, that habit will only last a couple of weeks.
Harry says to pick an activity you like and focus on consistency rather than quantity. “Starting out with an hour a day may feel overwhelming and exhausting,” she says. “If 10 minutes four times a week allows you to be consistent, then start there and build up.”
Weight loss isn’t only about cutting calories and getting exercise it’s also about having a positive attitude. Even if you gained 10 pounds during the holidays or you fall off the diet wagon on day two of your weight loss plan, take note of the mistake and move on.
“Instead of constantly looking for proof of why you are going to fail, look for evidence of success,” says Harry. “Remember Einstein’s rule: You can’t solve a problem from the same mind frame in which it was created.”