Regardless of the reasons for wanting to lose weight, deciding to go on a diet is often the first step most people take to help them achieve their goals.
Most people begin a new diet with a strong dose of enthusiasm. They find a diet book they think they can manage, use the recommended meal plan and dietary guidelines, and then set off to the grocery store to purchase their sure ticket to success.
A few weeks in and their enthusiasm wanes. The struggle is real and they wonder why it’s so hard.
When it really gets tough they tend to give up too quickly, especially if they aren’t seeing the results they want right away. Exhaustion from the side effects of starting a new diet or exercise program leads to emotional eating and giving in to cravings. Eventually this throws a well-intentioned diet plan off course.
To make it feel less daunting, people often turn to the latest fad diet that promises fast results with little to no exercise and fewer hunger pangs.
But I have a secret to share with you. They all work! Almost every diet book you can think of will work for you. However, you have to be able to actually stick to them! And therein lies the problem.
Some of these diets may seem wonderful at first, promising that it will be easy if you just cut out (insert food group) from your diet.
Eat all the fat you want, but avoid all carbs. Eat all the carbs you want, but avoid all fat. Cut out any and all fruit and that will do the trick. Cut grains, baked goods, bread, dairy, and legumes and you’ll be well on your way!
But how long is this actually sustainable?
These diets that offer fast results all have one thing in common, as soon as you resume your normal eating habits you are sure to gain back all the weight you lost, and often times more.
Instead of teaching you how to eat well for life long health and success, they are teaching you how to lose weight quickly. And that equates to a life time of yo-yo dieting and undue misery in the long run.
But I’m not here to preach on why you should ignore most diet books and follow your own intuition about food, I’m here to share with you what worked for me and continues to help keep my weight under control.
I am in better shape now at the age of 41, than I have been my whole adult life. Not to say I wasn’t thin in my 20’s, but I certainly wasn’t “in shape” meaning I didn’t work out regularly and I fluctuated a lot with my weight. It was never consistent.
By the time we started having kids I was 29 and my weight quickly and easily skyrocketed with each of my three pregnancies. I didn’t know how to lose it without being miserable and I rationalized that I was “too busy” being a mom to make it a priority. I felt terrible about my body and completely unattractive.
Fast forward to now. I have a whole new love for my body. Not just in the way it looks, but in what it can do.
It took me through 3 pregnancies, survived 3 c-sections, and has consistently surpassed my health and fitness goals. It is by no means perfect, but I’ve put in the work and the results show.
So what’s my secret?
Well I can tell you what it is not. It is not the latest fad diet book, and it is not putting in hours at the gym every single day.
It is not living feeling deprived and starving every minute of my life, and it is not avoiding any particular type of food or food group. I don’t count calories, macros, carbs, or any other type of tracking.
In fact, I indulge in dark chocolate almost every day, and often have a glass or two of wine a few nights per week! Plus, I’ve managed to maintain my weight and quickly lose any extra weight I gain from an overindulgent weekend or vacation.
The secret to my success is much simpler than you might imagine and it doesn’t entail a huge diet overhaul.
I still eat basically what I want, although what I want has changed a bit over time. I went from a size 11, to a size 2. This was after having 3 babies and without feeling deprived of my favorite foods.
Unfortunately the secret to life long weight loss is not so glamorous, but it is highly effective and in my opinion the ONLY way to attain results that last!
Here I’ll share with you five key factors that helped me lose weight and keep it off. These are tried and true and actually will guarantee a life of freedom from the endless loop of gaining and dieting.
1. It starts with time and patience.
Unfortunately I don’t offer a magical solution that will make you fit in 8 weeks or less. If you want life long weight loss results that will stick, it actually does take time, persistence, and patience. Slow and steady really does win the race!
And it is the best method for finding the balance between eating to lose, and eating to enjoy.
Like I said, I went from a size 11 to a size 2. This wasn’t over night. In fact, I’d say it took about two years to achieve that. But I did achieve it. And I didn’t suffer through it. I still enjoyed my life, holidays, and times with friends and family. I was mindful of what I was eating, but not obsessive.
If this is something you truly want for the long haul (that means the rest of your life), you first have to learn how to continue to enjoy food, but in a healthier manner and mindset.
You have to learn that you can still go out on Saturday night and have a few cocktails with friends, but there will have to be balance throughout the rest of the week. You can still lose weight and eat pizza, but you will have to be okay with your results taking longer to show up.
One promise I can make is that they will show up. Once you find the formula that works best for your body. But you have to be okay with it taking time and realize, this is for life.
This is for health, and freedom from ever having to worry about it again. This is for you!
2. You must have an exercise routine.
Trust me, I know. It’s hard to hear. Exercise is not always fun, and some days are more difficult to find time and motivation than others. However, if you were guaranteed that in a year you’d be lighter, have more energy, and feel a thousand times better, wouldn’t it be worth it to find at least 30 to 45 min a day to dedicate to it?
I was one of those people that absolutely despised exercise. I would try any and every diet in order to avoid having to exercise in order to lose weight. I believed truly it was all about diet and I could easily lose without a workout routine.
And I did, on and off over the years. But I am here to say, it never lasted. I was still miserable. I couldn’t eat anything without gaining back some, and I felt like food was no longer fun. I tracked everything I ate. That was all fine and well but as soon as I got bored of tracking, or life got crazy and I was forced to pay less attention to my food, I gained.
I realized something that took me a long time to figure out. I actually prefer working out over logging in every calorie I take in. I like the feeling of being able to have pizza and wine on a Friday night, not worrying about my calories and still being able to maintain (or even lose) weight.
If I didn’t work out, I could not enjoy my more carefree lifestyle when it comes to food. My metabolism would be slower, I’d feel more sluggish, and I would have guilt about everything I consumed.
I know you can find something you enjoy when it comes to fitness. I found yoga and pilates to be enjoyable in my 20s, but it was nothing I stuck to long term. It wasn’t until I found the Tracy Anderson Method a few years ago that I really began to enjoy my workouts.
I have created a separate post linked here if you’d like to learn more about why I highly encourage women to give her workouts a try. I began with 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week and I lost all my weight slowly. I now do an hour a day 5-6 days per week.
This may sound extreme but remember, I was consistent with my 30 minutes a day for the first year when I lost the bulk of the extra weight I was carrying around. I didn’t actually need any more than that, but I began to crave it, and it allowed me even more freedom with my food choices.
3. Portion control and balance are necessary.
As I already said, I don’t track my calories, carbohydrates, or any other type of food logging. It isn’t necessary for me to write everything down because I know what I am eating is healthy, and I know how big my portions should be.
Don’t get me wrong, its taken time to find my stride in this weight loss game (and I’ve had many resets along the way), but after a bit of practice you start to figure out what your body needs and how much of it.
The great thing about starting slow and not looking for a quick fix is you are able to decrease your portion sizes slowly until you are used to getting full off less.
Instead of a major diet overhaul, you gradually decrease your intake. You could start by skipping having seconds at dinnertime, for example. Skip dessert or have something less indulgent than usual for dessert, like dark chocolate. It really doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it out to be.
There’s a reason so many diet books are being sold to the public every day. We almost take an all or nothing approach when it comes to weight management.
If we are dedicated and all in, we feel like we mustn’t partake in snacks or dessert. Or pizza or french fries. We think in terms of elimination of all the things we love. Going on a diet is a punishment for not being “good” throughout the rest of the year.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can still live and eat the things you love. Portion control along with balance are key!
4. Don’t allow life to get in the way.
Setbacks are a part of life. Anything we put intention toward is bound to go through periods of setbacks or hardships. That’s just life. It’s how we handle these that are really the deciding factor on our success.
I went through a major cross country move during my weight loss journey. The stress was real and we spent a week on the road in a popup camper as our accommodations. Eating perfect and exercising wasn’t part of the equation.
I gained a few pounds back, but I didn’t allow it to send me into a tailspin to the point of giving up all I had accomplished. I was still strong and had really come a long way.
When we made it to our new house and I had to unpack everything I owned, I didn’t have time to work out every day. I unpacked and that was enough to keep me active for that first week. I began adding workouts when I could. I started to try and eat better again (we had been eating out, a LOT). I made it a priority for my health and well being that this move was not going to be a permanent setback by undoing months of intention.
Stress, grief, heartbreak, financial hardship, health issues, parenting/being a caretaker, holidays, birthdays, vacations, long weekends…these are all things that can turn into major setbacks if we allow them to.
The main thing to remember is that they don’t have to be. We can continue on our journey by remaining diligent.
It’s easy to use these situations as an excuse to not put ourselves and our health needs first. I have three children, trust me I know! Life gets crazy, you feel stressed and need a donut. It’s understandable. Have that donut. But don’t allow these things to put a halt toward your ultimate goal. A life of freedom knowing you are healthy, no longer struggle with weight management, and look and feel great all the time!
Be free on vacation, but get back on track when you go home. Have what you want on a holiday, but remember a holiday is one day. Not an entire week. Always jump back into intentional eating and exercise when you have a setback. This will ensure you will be successful no matter what comes next. Don’t allow life to derail your effort!
5. Find your motivation.
We all have reasons for wanting to feel and look our best. Find what motivates you and focus your attention on that. Remember that this is not a race, this is a lifestyle that will require small changes that will add up to big results in the end.
Close your eyes every day and imagine you have already attained your goal. What does that look like for you? What does it feel like? Really visualize what that feels like and remind yourself every day that today you are beautiful and healthy. Today you are grateful for who you are and how great you look and feel. Know you’ve already achieved your goal just by making small, simple lifestyle changes.
Find your workout motivation. Try new things to help you figure out what moves you. It might feel challenging at first, but over time as your body adjusts it will get easier and eventually become a habit.
Make a really upbeat playlist with songs that motivate you. If you follow a workout video at home, turn down the volume and listen to your playlist instead. Ever notice how great you feel after a workout? Use that to help motivate you on days you just aren’t feeling up for it. Close your eyes and imagine having just finished your workout, and how that makes you feel.
If you still need motivation, change it up that day. Try something new. The main objective is to find a program you love and look forward to.
I remember whenever I’d start exercising again in the past, I eventually grew to despise some of the workout videos I used to do. It took some time, but I finally realized if I didn’t look forward to my work out, there was no way I’d stick to it every day. My current program changes weekly so I never get bored with the content or stop making progress.
Here’s the bottom line, if you really want to experience life long healthy changes and STOP struggling with impossible diets that offer empty promises, implementing these 5 things will get you moving in the right direction. It won’t happen over night, but it will happen. Consistency and not giving up will get you there!