Losing weight is challenging no matter what. But when you have a hectic schedule full of appointments, errands, and random time-sucking obligations, nailing your weight-loss goals can feel straight-up impossible.
Here’s the good news, though: You don’t need to quit your job and ditch all your other responsibilities to free up time for losing weight. There are a few simple, healthy habits you can work seamlessly into your busy schedule — so you can keep hustling and still hit your goals.
Here are 11 tips for losing weight with a busy schedule.
1. Plan Ahead With Meal Prep
Every Sunday, block off a few hours to plan and prep your meals for the week. Meal prepping doesn’t just save time and energy — it’s also key to ensuring you stay on-track with your nutrition goals.
Start by making a weekly meal plan and picking up the groceries you’ll need. Chop and dice any veggies — you can snack on them raw throughout the week, and they’ll be ready to add to any recipe, says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, New Jersey.
You can also prepare meals like soup, stir-frys, and casseroles ahead of time to store in your freezer. “I like to make crustless muffin-size quiches and freeze the extra portions so I have healthy meals on hand,” says Gorin.
2. Store Healthy Snacks in Your Desk and Bag
The key to resisting mid-morning cravings at work is to have satisfying, nutrient-rich snacks at the ready. “This way, you’re not relying on whatever’s available at the corner market or vending machine,” Gorin says.
3. Drink More Water
Research suggests that drinking water before a meal can help you feel more full. An easy way to check that off your list is to carry a reusable water bottle with you at all times. Refill it regularly, and aim to drink half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces each day.
If you’re notoriously bad at hydrating, here are 25 easy ways to drink more water.
4. Keep Fruit in Plain Sight
Same goes at work: Replace the candy bowl with some fresh fruits. Try apples for fiber, bananas to sneak in some potassium, or pears for a sweet, lower-calorie snack. And don’t forget about seasonal options like grapefruit, oranges, and kiwis.
5. Make Your Workouts Consistent
Although diet plays a major role in losing weight, pairing it with a workout plan is critical if you want to optimize your success. But how do you squeeze in a sweat session when your day is jam-packed?
“Figure out a time of day when when you can work out consistently, and then schedule exercise for that time, prioritizing it like you would an important meeting or event,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Openfit’s director of fitness and nutrition content. “You have to make working out a non-negotiable must-do.”
Try streaming a workout at home — you’ll have loads of options at your fingertips, and it’s harder to make excuses.
6. Eat at a Table — No Phones Allowed
Instead of eating lunch at your desk as you catch up on email, walk away from the screen and sit down at a table. (Novel concept, right?!)
It might seem counterintuitive to carve out precious time to eat when you could be multitasking. But research shows you’re more likely to consume greater amounts of food if you eat while you’re distracted. Paying attention to your food — and only your food — can help you avoid mindless eating.
7. Maximize Your Time With HIIT Workouts
No need to spend an hour on the treadmill. “The most effective method is to combine cardio and strength training by doing high-intensity intervals— sets of several exercises performed back-to-back with little or no rest in between,” Thieme says. “Not only will you burn tons of calories during your workout, but you’ll also raise your metabolism for more than 48 hours afterward.”
If you’re in a serious time crunch, high-intensity intervals can help you can get an effective workout in as little as 10 minutes.
8. Have a Game Plan for Temptation
When your calendar is filled with office lunches, dinner dates, and drinks with friends, you’ll inevitably encounter sweet treats, salty snacks, and high-calorie meals.
The key to sticking with your nutrition plan is not to deprive yourself completely, but to be sensible about how much you indulge. So to give your willpower a fighting chance, have a plan for how you’ll deal with temptation.
One easy trick: Split appetizers, desserts, or sides with someone else to cut down on how many calories you consume. “The first bite or two is always the best, anyway,” Gorin says.
9. Stock Your Kitchen With “Emergency Food”
On particularly chaotic weeks, you may not have time to meal prep. And even if you have plenty of healthy ingredients on hand, sometimes you don’t have the patience or energy to cook.
That’s why Gorin recommends stocking your pantry with quick and easy “emergency food,” like cans of reduced-sodium soup, canned tuna packed in water, canned reduced-sodium beans, and whole-grain crackers. There are healthy packaged food options out there; just make sure to check the ingredient list.
10. Move Around More
The most successful weight loss plans entail not just eating more healthfully and exercising more intensely, but also moving more throughout the day, says Thieme. Your goal: To keep your metabolism humming in a higher gear during more of the 23-and-a-half hours you aren’t working up a sweat.
If you sit in an office all day, take a short break — even if it’s just three minutes — every hour to walk around the building or do a few squats and stretches at your desk. Instead of sending emails to coworkers, pay them a visit. If you have a phone call with a client, walk as you talk.
And don’t limit this sort of creative thinking to your workplace — do calf raises while brushing your teeth, foam roll while watching TV, or take your dog for a walk while you chat on the phone. Do anything you can to spend more time on your feet and less time on your rump.
11. Rethink Your Beverages
A full day of commitments often requires a caffeine boost (or two… or three) to make it through. But make sure you’re not relying on sugary coffee drinks with little nutritional value.
Instead of sipping half your daily calories through a plastic straw, opt for infused water or tea. “That might reset your mood and your commitment to healthy eating,” Gorin says. If you really need that cup of coffee, swap the cream and sugar for milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Bottom line: Achieving your goal of losing weight doesn’t mean you have to make a bunch of huge, life-altering changes all at once. Sometimes all it takes is making smaller, smarter choices throughout your day to get you moving in the right direction.