The common catch-cry for people wanting to lose weight but not yet willing to make change is “I’m not ready yet”, or “My head is not in the right space.” In the words of actor Hugh Laurie: “There’s almost no such thing as ready. There’s only now. And you may as well do it now.”
Prepare yourself and take the plunge. Here are 10 steps to ease the transition from ‘making excuses’ to ‘ready’:
Step 1. Take ‘before’ photos
Take photos of yourself: front, side and rear views. Wear a bikini or underwear. “It’s amazing what a dress can hide that a bikini can’t.”
This can act as motivation now and during your weight loss journey. Then every 4 weeks, take the same series of photos: same outfit, same camera, same camera angle, same location, and same lighting. For as long as possible, take the photos in the same bikini/underwear.
Also take face shots from front and side – with no make-up. This allows you to monitor changes to your skin and hair, both of which are affected by your state of health.
While this may be a painful exercise at the start, you are the only one who ever needs to see these photos. There are many people who have lost weight and not taken ‘before’ photos, only to regret that they can’t look back to see how much progress they’ve really made.
Step 2. Record your measurements and weight
Get a tape measure and record your girth measurements at bust, waist, hips, thighs and arms. Use scales and record your start weight. It’s best to do all these measurements first thing in the morning, and then at the same time every 4 weeks. Do it the same day you take your photos.
Step 3. Write your goal or affirmation
If you just ‘want’ to lose weight, you’ll keep on ‘wanting’ it for a very long time. Instead, program your mind to believe it has already happened.
- Decide on a realistic weight loss goal and time frame. If you’re not sure, start with your best adult weight. Allow for two weeks per kilo eg 8 kilos is 16 weeks.
- Write your own affirmation like a ‘present tense’ movie script where you are celebrating having achieved your goal, wearing a specific item of clothing (eg skinny jeans or little black dress), in a place and with people that are important to you, hearing something that one of them says, and noting how achieving this important goal makes you feel. Specify the date and time. Read this out loud with emotion twice a day.
Step 4. Manage your environment
Surround yourself (at home, work and travel) with the foods and drinks that are good for you to eat, so you never go hungry.
Remove (from home, work and travel) all foods and drinks that will stop you from reaching your goal.
Step 5. Tell others
Telling those close to you allows them to help in whatever way they can. This is great if they are supporters. Ask for help. Let them know what you wish to achieve.
If you have people in your life where having fun together always means over-indulging in food and drink, you may wish to consider either asking them to become supporters (see above) or avoiding them for the short-term.
Step 6. Eliminate alcohol
Alcohol has many negative effects on weight loss efforts:
- It lessens your dietary resolve.
- It stops your body from fat burning.
- It worsens sleep quality. Poor sleep disrupts hormonal balance and stimulates appetite for the wrong foods.
- It attacks your protein/muscle stores which has a negative impact on your metabolism.
The reality is that you will get easier and faster results if you do not drink any alcohol at all. Picture yourself walking along a ridge at the top of a sand dune. Not too hard to get to your destination. But now and then you think it would be fun to run down the sand dune, knowing that it will take quite a while and some effort to get back to your original spot. This is what alcohol will do to your weight loss.
St Augustine said “I find total abstinence far easier than perfect moderation.”
Stock up with mineral water, and limes or lemons. If you are out and someone gives you a glass of wine, leave it full. Nobody can refill a full glass.
Step 7. Do some exercise
Your fat loss will come from your diet, not your exercise. If you think exercise gives you license to eat or drink whatever you want, you’re unlikely to reach your goals. People vastly overestimate the effect exercise can have on weight loss, thinking it burns a lot more calories than it really does. A half hour walk might burn 150 calories: that slice of mud cake might add 800 calories. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that because you exercise you can eat whatever you like.
On the plus side, exercise helps to create a positive mindset. Feeling pleased with your efforts, getting a rush of feel-good hormones, and knowing you’ve done something positive for your health are all good reasons to exercise, and they all help you to make good dietary choices. If you’re currently exercising, keep doing it. If you’re not exercising, consider gradually adding some movement to your daily routine. To start, it may be as simple as walking to the letter box.
Do not rapidly ramp up your exercise volume. Have a daily exercise ritual: a morning walk before breakfast is a good place to start. Some type of whole body workout 2-3 times a week is great for strength and toning. Going from no exercise to hours each day is a recipe for burn-out and injury: you’re better off aiming to become a life-long exerciser and building up gradually.
Step 8. Implement Good Sleep Hygiene
Going to bed early is one of the best weight management tips. For many people, staying up late has three negative impacts on weight:
- You are more inclined to eat sweet stuff late at night.
- If you have to get up early, you’ll be tired and that will stimulate your appetite.
- If you don’t get a good night sleep, it disrupts your fat burning hormonal orchestra.
Here are some good sleep rules to implement:
- Sleep in a cool, fully darkened room. If light does get in, wear an eye mask.
- Do NOT watch TV or use a computer or digital devices in bed at night. Switch off (at the power point) or get rid of any device with little glowing lights.
- Power off your mobile device or at least switch off night-time alerts.
- Make sure you have an ‘out of your brain’ to-do list journal that your brain trusts. Get things that stress you or that you have to remember out of your brain. If you carry your to-do list and diary in your head, you won’t get a good night’s sleep.
Step 9. Prepare in Advance for Obstacles
It’s going to happen. The question is if you address them and keep moving forward. An obstacle or a mistake is not a sign of failure, and it certainly does not mean that you should give up. We all make mistakes, but we don’t need to give up on achieving important things as a result.
Step 10. Discuss Effects on Medications with your Doctor
If you’re taking medications, these may impact your weight loss success. Before changing your diet, discuss with your doctor the impact it might have on your medications.
A word of caution: don’t be tempted to take dietary advice from your doctor unless he/she has specific nutrition training and can evaluate your specific needs. In 6+ years at university, doctors get about 1 day of nutrition lectures, so many are no more qualified than you to make recommendations. Check the source of information and evaluate for yourself if it feels right. There is not one diet for all, so you need a strategy that helps you work out what is right for you.