When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s not enough to have a vague goal like “start working out” or “eat healthier.” If you want to see long-term results, you’re going to need a set of solid strategies that will help you stay on-track when sheer willpower isn’t cutting it.
How will you squeeze in enough exercise when your schedule is crazy? How will you improve your eating habits despite that tray of cookies calling your name? Here are 11 simple strategies that can help you set yourself up for weight-loss success.
1. Schedule Your Workouts
If you vow to work out “when you have time,” chances are your workouts will probably be sporadic. “When you don’t have a time slot carved out for fitness, it’s all too easy for that time to quickly be eaten up by other obligations,” says Candace Seti, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist, certified personal trainer, and nutrition coach at TheWeightLossTherapist.com. Instead, write your workouts on your calendar and hold yourself to it — if you wouldn’t ditch a dentist appointment, don’t ditch a workout.
2. Make Exercise More Fun
Hate the treadmill? Don’t run on the treadmill. If you dread your workout, Seti says, you’ll be tempted to blow it off. “We stick with an exercise program best when it’s also something we enjoy,” she says. So find something that’s actually fun for you — try a barre workout, join a local rec-league team, or challenge your friends to a step-count competition.
3. Move More Throughout the Day
You can torch a lot of calories in a 30-minute workout, but that shouldn’t be your only activity for the day. Seti suggests the following tips for sneaking in extra movement throughout the day:
- Take phone calls while standing or pacing in your office — or on your cell phone as you walk outside.
- While watching TV, stretch or walk around your couch during commercial breaks.
- Put music on and dance while you’re washing dishes or doing laundry.
- If you’re at a computer all day, consider getting a standing desk or a treadmill desk.
- Bike to work once or twice a week, if possible.
4. Practice Mindful Eating
Mindful eating helps you curb those habits that can make you consume extra calories — like snacking in front of the computer, nibbling at your kid’s half-eaten lunch, or hitting the bottom of the popcorn bag while watching TV.
One easy strategy for mindful eating: sloooow dooown. “Take your time, chew your food thoroughly, and put your fork down between bites,” Seti says. “This will help you enjoy your meal more and feel truly nourished and satiated.”
5. Quit the “Clean Plate Club”
When you clean your plate, you’re relying on visual cues — not your own hunger and fullness signals — to tell you when to stop eating. “Instead of recognizing triggers of fullness, we only focus on empty plates,” says Jared Heathman, M.D., a psychiatrist in Houston. Using smaller plates and measuring out proper portion sizes can help you kick the clean-plate habit.
6. Plan Meals in Advance
It’s hard to make healthy choices when you’re famished, so you may end up rummaging aimlessly through the fridge or falling back on your fast food habit. Plan ahead so you know exactly what you’ll eat for meals and snacks each day — there are plenty of quick and simple meal-prep options that can help you lose weight.
7. Stop Stress Eating
If a bad day at work makes you want to devour a plate of disco fries, then you know how emotional eating can mess with your weight-loss plans. Arm yourself with a few stress-busting strategies that don’t involve food: “Develop a list of ways to de-stress — like listening to music, running, lifting weights, meditating, or socializing,” Heathman says.
8. Enlist a Workout Buddy
You’re more likely to stick to a weight-loss program if you have social support. “Having an exercise partner can help you keep each other on a healthy path,” Heathman says. After all, it’s hard to slack off when someone is counting on you. If you can’t find a workout buddy in your area, join an online community where virtual fit-buddies can nudge you when you need it.
9. Share on Social Media
Don’t apologize for posting workout selfies or food pics. Science has your back here — research shows that support from an online community can play a role in helping you lose weight. The more people cheering you on, the better.
10. Keep a Bullet Journal
You can use a bullet journal to log your meals, plan your workouts for the week, scribble down inspiring mantras, set long-term goals, or pretty much do anything else that’ll keep you inspired. Bonus: Research suggests keeping a journal can have a positive outcome on weight management.
11. Get More Sleep
When you don’t get enough sleep, it can be harder to lose weight. Lack of sleep lowers your metabolic rate and boosts your appetite — and are you really going to power through a high-energy workout when you can barely keep your eyes open?
Sleep is a critical piece of the weight-loss puzzle, so plan your z’s just like you’d plan your meals and your workouts. Here are a few simple ways to make sure you’re getting enough sleep every night:
- Turn off your screens an hour before bedtime — the blue light they emit can interfere with melatonin production and keep you awake.
- Don’t skip your workouts — regular exercise can encourage healthy sleep, especially if you have insomnia.
- Try progressive muscle-relaxation techniques to de-stress before bed.
- If you’re having trouble falling asleep (or staying asleep) on a regular basis, talk to a doctor — there could be something else at play, like anxiety.