I recently celebrated my 10th “Fitiversary” – the anniversary of starting my weight loss and fitness transformation. What a milestone!
Today, I’m a Certified Personal Trainer, helping others in their own journeys. People always seem shocked when they find out I used to weigh nearly 100 pounds more than I do now, or that I ever had a hard time sticking with exercise.
But 10 years ago, I left behind decades of yo-yo dieting for a healthier lifestyle. The result was a whole new me, inside and out.
I’ve learned so much in this process, both through personal experience and professional education. And now it’s my mission to encourage and empower others. Here I’m sharing 10 things that led me to success. I believe these simple strategies can help you, too.
Check with your health care provider before beginning an exercise or diet program to be sure it’s an appropriate one for you.
Discover your “why”
In the past, for me, diet and exercise was solely about the scale – and I failed every time. This time around, I was motivated because I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. That’s what made me want to start exercising and taking better care of myself. And because I started feeling so much better, I didn’t want to give it up.
What is your true motivation? You may want to lose weight, but why? To head off diabetes? To no longer need medication for high blood pressure? To have more energy? To feel more confident and comfortable in your body?
Your true “why” will help you keep going. Write it down and post it where you can see it.
Forget the quick fixes – and adopt a long-term mindset
The truth is there are no quick fixes for obesity. If you want a strong, healthy, leaner body you’re going to have to put in the time and effort to exercise and improve your diet. There are no shortcuts.
I certainly learned this the hard way. We’ve all seen the women’s magazine covers that say things like, “Lose 40 pounds this month!” For years I’d believe that and try the crash diet of the month…and of course, fail. The outrageous claims are only there for one reason: To sell magazines.
Naturally, we’d like to lose the weight yesterday…or at least soon after we’ve started a diet and exercise program. But healthy, lasting weight loss and body transformation is not a fast process.
To succeed, you’ll need to be in it for the long haul.
Begin with small, doable changes
This time around, instead of going on a drastic diet and fitness regimen, I began making one small change a week in both my diet and physical fitness routine. I then built upon that over time. What a difference this made for me! Finally, something I could actually stick with.
If you aren’t accustomed to exercising, it’s difficult to stay committed to an hour a day if you aren’t yet conditioned for that. For example, you might start small like I did — walking for 15 minutes a day — and gradually work your way up to more.
The same idea applies to your diet. The secret to transformation is to be able to keep up the changes you’re making. When you start small and keep it doable, you can.
Make a plan and keep it simple
Rather than winging it day to day, create a training plan and follow it. Increase your workout time and/or intensity each week so that you progress. Take advantage of tech tools to help you keep track of your workouts, such as an app or a wearable fitness tracker.
Apply this concept to your healthy eating plan of action as well.
Forgo the long lists though, and make it just one or two action items. Keep it simple, because simple gets done.
Schedule your workouts
This is my #1 tip for workout success: Schedule it!
I get up early to exercise before work. This is different than in the past when I’d intend to work out after dinner but then I’d usually be too tired or busy with the kids. One of the biggest benefits of doing it in the morning is that your workout is already done, no matter what the rest of your day brings.
Set an exercise time that works for you, and whether that’s morning, noon or night – be consistent with it. Stick to it. Schedule it, like it’s an important meeting. It needs to have that kind of priority in your day so that you will get it done.
Nourish, don’t starve yourself
While we want to be aware of the calories we’re consuming, too little food isn’t good either.
Focus on nutrition and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. To see how many daily calories you should have to achieve your recommended weight, see the Dietary Guidelines for Americans on health.gov.
Rather than following a strict diet or giving up foods that I loved, what worked for me is moderation and portion control. Over time, I also moved toward eating a mostly “clean” diet — eliminating many processed foods, especially those with artificial ingredients. This made a huge difference in how I felt.
Log all food and activity
Food logging worked like magic in helping me lose weight and eat more healthfully – and still does!
The only way to accurately track calories and to become aware of what you’re actually consuming is to log all of your meals, snacks, beverages and physical activity. This is easy with a calorie tracking app, which has a built-in database.
Log throughout the day, rather than waiting until night to try to remember what you ate. Logging as you go helps you be mindful of what, when and why you’re eating, and it gives you a running total of what you’ve consumed so far so that you can adjust if needed. Be sure to focus on nutrition as well as the calories.
Here are some useful apps to help you track your food and activity:
Blue Cross NC members can contact a nutrition counselor for tips and dietary recommendations.
Stay the course. No excuses! If your day is busy, you work out anyway. Do less that day if you have to, but do it and get it done. Something is better than nothing.
Of course, rest days are important, too, and sick days happen. Listen to your body. Here I’m talking about staying on plan and the importance of a scheduled routine in general.
Don’t overthink it, don’t make all of this harder than it is, just do it and get it done. Many of us spend more time procrastinating than it would take to actually get it done!
Get right back on track after slip-ups
Slip-ups will happen and this is normal. You just need to hit “reset” and get right back on plan.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned on my fitness and health journey is the importance of immediately getting back on track after an over-indulgence, trip, or anything else that sets me back. These things don’t have to derail your efforts, as long as you are diligent about getting yourself back on track right away.
Go with a pro for accountability and support
If you have been struggling on your own, consider seeking the help of a qualified health and fitness professional. A certified personal trainer can create a personalized plan and work with you one-on-one to help you reach your fitness goals and avoid injury. A registered dietitian can develop a nutrition program that uniquely fits you. Working with a professional is one of the best investments you can make in your overall health and wellbeing.
Also, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina offers health coaching with certain plans. Log on to Blue Connect to find out if your plan offers health coaching.
Access nutrition counseling services by calling the number on the back of your member ID card or use Find A Doctor to locate a provider.
You can do this
The bottom line is you should focus on sustainable, healthy lifestyle changes. Do things that you can actually stay with.
If you’ll keep at it, be patient, and don’t give up just because things aren’t happening as fast as you’d like, you will get to where you want to be.
For more on this topic, grab a copy of my free eBook, “6 Secrets to Winning at Exercise (Even if You’ve Always Failed!).