Losing weight seems to be an ongoing issue in the lives of so many people these days. The problem, as I see it, is that every day there is a new fad diet or extreme exercise program that tricks people into trying crazy and sometimes dangerous things in an effort to lose weight. Some of these things might even work in the short term...but let's face it, you can't go carb free forever and I'm pretty sure a "cabbage soup diet" is a bad idea.
I think the most difficult thing about losing weight is knowing where to start. It seems like such a monumental task and most people feel doomed before they've even begun. I'm a firm believer that you should start small and gradually incorporate change. You know that old saying that it takes 21 days to form a new habit? I really believe that it's true. We are creatures of habit. If you can make some simple changes, you'll see big changes not only on the scale, but you'll feel better too.
Where do I start?
The first place that I would start is by going through your cupboards and your refrigerator. You can't possibly expect to eat healthy if your home is overloaded with junk food. I'm not saying that there shouldn't be snacks and lots of options for food. What I'm saying is that maybe you should toss the chocolate bars and high fat foods and give yourself some healthier options for snacking that will still satisfy the need for something sweet.
I've ditched the junk food...now what?
Once your cabinets are free from the really bad stuff, you can begin to fill them with things that you can eat without guilt. You should never feel deprived or you aren't doing it right. If you are miserable you'll never stick to it. The goal is to make simple changes that you can live with forever.
Here are some simple swaps that are sure to get you started.
1. Swap out white bread for 100% whole wheat bread. Try to look for the brands that specify that they do not use high fructose corn syrup.
2. Swap out white pasta for 100% whole wheat pasta. Whole wheat pasta has more fiber and will fill you up faster. When you are full faster you'll eat less!
3. Trade the regular soda for a calorie free drink. If you *must* drink soda, purchase the diet variety to avoid drinking so many calories and sugar. The preferred options would be water, green tea, or seltzer which is great if you want that fizz you get from soda.
4. Swap high fat meats for lean meats. This essentially means less red meat and more lean white meats. Boneless chicken breast, turkey tenderloin, turkey breast, some cuts of pork tenderloin and ham (watch the sodium) are all good options.
5. If you love to snack, make healthy choices. If you love potato chips, look for a healthier variety. I've found that Cape Cod 40% reduced fat chips are an amazing alternative to regular potato chips. They are only 140 calories for 19 chips and only .5 grams of saturated fat per serving. As an added bonus, they are also gluten free!
Snack on things like hummus with veggies, grapes, or Laughing Cow cheese wedges with Special K crackers. If you typically dip your veggies and chips in high fat sour cream based dips, trying substituting the sour cream for Chobani plain yogurt instead. Simply mix the yogurt (1/3 cup) with some ranch dressing mix (from the packet) and stir in enough to flavor it to your liking (maybe 1/4 of the packet). Use this dip with your veggies and Cape Cod chips. You wouldn't believe how good it tastes. You'd never believe that it's also fat free, low calorie and loaded with protein!
6. Plan your meals. If you plan ahead for what you will be eating, you'll be less tempted to make impromtu stops at the drive-thru. This will also help guide you when you go grocery shopping. Make a list of the items you need for your meals and stick to it!
Now that you've made some basic dietary changes, you can begin thinking about other ways to lose weight.
Start with the basics. If you aren't used to exercising, don't try to jump into a difficult exercise program right off the bat. Start by walking for 30 minutes a day. If you have a treadmill, great! If not, walk in your neighborhood or head to your local mall and walk while you window shop. Once you've gotten used to incorporating 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine you can start to look for a fitness program that works with your level of ability.
Some of the best fitness programs that I've tried were from Jillian Michaels. She has programs that fit almost everyone. They aren't too hard for a beginner, but they also incorporate additional levels for a more advanced workout. The first Jillian Michaels program I followed was "The 30 Day Shred".
I followed all 30 days of this program and saw huge results. I highly recommend giving this one a try. The price is reasonable and you're guaranteed to see some amazing changes in your body if you stick with it.
What's most important?
If you take anything at all away from this article, just remember to never give up. If you fall off the wagon, get right back on. Don't get discouraged and throw your hands up in defeat. Tomorrow is a new day. If you can even manage to stick with everything here for just a week, you'll see changes and it will motivate you to keep going!! It's also a good idea to find a friend to follow a program with you. It can help keep you on the right path. I hope you reach your fitness goals!