We live in a fast-paced, competitive world. At times we’re all guilty of taking on more than we should—we try to be superstar parents, spouses, and employees all at once. Finding time to finally tackle weight loss can feel akin to preparing to climb Mount Everest. And whether you’ve got a little or a lot of weight to lose, you might find some inspiration and pointers on social media, but you might also start to feel overwhelmed and uncertain about where to start.
The key to starting your weight loss journey is this: creating a detailed plan, and stick to it.
Here’s that five-step plan.
For more weight-loss tips check out Openfit’s workout programs, and try one free today. Each comes with a nutrition plan to keep you on track!
Step 1: Determine daily calorie intake
Before you start a new diet, it can be helpful to track your current eating habits for two weeks so that you can spot any unhealthy trends. Maybe you’ve been slamming an extra sugary coffee drink after more long meetings than you realized, or it could be that you’ve been having dessert on more nights than you intended. Identifying the things you need to change gives you direction as you decide on a diet plan that will work for you.
Then talk to your doctor or dietitian about the daily calorie intake that you will want to hit to meet your weight-loss goals—and rather than trying an extreme or unsustainable fad diet, focus on getting your calories from clean, healthy ingredients as part of a diet plan that you’ll actually stick with. Experts consistently recommend that you reach for minimally processed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy sources for fats and protein.
Keep in mind that an all-or-nothing mindset can sabotage your weight-loss goals, which is why Openfit takes an 80/20 approach—as long as you’re eating clean 80 percent of the time, it’s OK if you cut yourself a little slack the other 20 percent.
Giving yourself that wiggle room can also take the power away from your biggest cravings. “We always want what we can’t have, so when we take the restriction away, the draw to have it doesn’t seem so strong,” says Krista Haynes, R.D., Openfit nutrition manager.
Step 2: Plan to increase your physical activity
It’s okay if you need to start slow, with regular walking or light jogging—getting ahead of yourself with unrealistic goals will only set you up for failure or risk of injury.
But if you have a solid fitness base, there’s a lot to be said for high intensity interval training (HIIT). Australian researchers found that women who did a 20-minute HIIT workout three times per week burned nearly six pounds more than the women who exercised at a steady pace three times a week for 40 minutes at a clip.
And don’t underestimate the power of muscle. Weight lifting doesn’t just make biceps look bigger, it turns them into fat-burning machines.
Talk to your doctor about which exercise program is appropriate for your current level of fitness and your weight-loss goals.
And as with your diet, it’s important to find a program that actually appeals to you, because sticking with it is the most important thing.
Step 3: Decide how you’ll track your progress
When we see real, tangible movement in the direction of our goals, we tend to be more motivated to keep putting in the work necessary to achieve them. While it can be unhealthy to obsess over how much and how fast you’re losing weight (some fluctuation is perfectly normal), setting some benchmarks can be helpful.
There are countless ways to monitor your weight loss. This might mean weighing yourself regularly or taking your measurements at predictable intervals. It could also involve a pair of skinny jeans, a wedding dress, or another garment that you are hoping to fit into once you shed the pounds.
Whatever method you choose, make sure it motivates you in a positive way. Decide how often you’ll weigh yourself or try on your jeans (maybe once a week), and keep a detailed log.
Work with your doctor or dietitian to make sure the goals you set are realistic, and keep in mind that real progress comes from putting in the effort to eat clean and exercise over a sustained period of time. So don’t get discouraged if you don’t see instant results.
Step 4: Get organized
Once you’ve defined the changes you want to make and how you’ll track your progress, make a list of the proper tools you need to execute your plan. This might include
• Fitness trackers or apps
• A scale
• Recipe books
• Healthy cooking tools and utensils (for example, a blender for protein shakes)
• Exercise equipment like dumbbells and resistance bands (if you plan to work out at home)
In addition to the exercise gear listed above, be sure you have the clothes and shoes you’ll need to exercise regularly. Research shows that clothing can impact the wearer’s psychology by impacting the way he or she performs while wearing the items. You’ll likely feel more competent and confident in workout clothes that are comfortable and fit properly. No, you don’t need a drawer full of overpriced nylon and polyester to exercise. But if you’re wearing 10-year-old shoes and old cotton sweats with holes in them, treat yourself to a new ensemble so you feel good getting ready.
Another good idea before you get started: Take a look at your shelves and your pantry. Remove the tempting foods you want to avoid, and replenish your kitchen with the healthy options that will fulfill the goals of your diet plan.
Step 5: Get started
And now, you’re ready to get started.
Taking a measured and patient approach sets you up to achieve your long-term goals. So take a moment to write down one or two unhealthy behaviors you want to eliminate your first week, and one or two you want to eliminate the next week. This is a great way to ease into your your longer-term goals.
And congratulations: The journey ahead may look long and challenging, but getting started is often the most difficult part.