Losing weight is something most people have struggled with. Whether you’re looking to drop a few pounds from the holiday dinners, or perhaps looking to lose a larger amount of weight, it’s hard to know what is good and what is bad to do. J.D. Roth, producer of The Biggest Loser and Extreme Weight Loss, shared some of the tips he’s noticed from the successful contestants on his show.
1. Find a buddy.
It could be a spouse, a friend, a co-worker, or maybe a neighbor you’re looking to get to know better. Getting a buddy to work out and eat healthier with is always a good idea.
“You’ll get out and move because there is someone there to hold you accountable (just as you are there to hold the other person accountable),” Roth noted.
Set a schedule with your buddy for walks, grocery shopping, or just a quick coffee to catch each other up on how your progress is going. Having someone to share the journey with will help you feel less alone in the process.
2. Use smaller plates.
Tricking your stomach is a lot easier than you may think. Piling up a dinner plate full of yummy food is our instinct, and if your family was anything like mine, you were taught to clean your plate before leaving the table. The thing is, we often eat more than we need just because it’s in front of us. Instead of eating your meals on dinner plates, try using the salad plate. You’ll still get the satisfaction of “emptying your plate,” but it won’t be as much food.
“If you’re using smaller plates and bowls, you’ll still eat what’s there, but it will be less—though your brain won’t register that,” Roth explained. “It’s all about perception.”
3. Change “can’t” to “can.”
How many times a day do you say “I can’t” to yourself? Even if it’s not about food? I know that I say it a lot. “I can’t handle this much work,” “I can’t get all of this done today,” “I can’t do these dishes I’m too tired.” We stop ourselves every day from doing things, all because we don’t think we’re capable.
Try changing up the “can’ts” to “cans.” Start by just acknowledging how often you say you can’t do things – keep a list if you have to. Then, slowly start training your brain to saying you “can.” Start with the small things, like “I can wait until I’m home before eating dinner, instead of stopping for a snack.” Reduce the number of things you CAN’T do each day, and you’ll be amazed by the things you CAN do.
4. Take the “top of the hour” workout challenge.
Anyone who works a desk job knows that it’s hard to get moving when you’re sitting all day. While you may not be able to get a full workout in during the day, try taking the “top of the hour” workout challenge. From 9 to 5, at the top of every hour, pick a small exercise to do. Five pushups, 10 sit ups, walking around the office three times (depending on how big your space is), going up a flight of stairs…just get moving. It may not seem like a lot at the time, but by the time you’re done for the day you’ll have done 80 sit ups, 40 pushups, 8 flights of stairs, or whatever your exercise of choice was.
5. Meal prep and pack your food.
A lot of the time, we eat out or order food because we don’t have anything ready to eat. Buy your food at the beginning of the week, portion it out, and have healthy snacks on hand for when those hunger cravings hit. Chopping up your fruits and veggies at the beginning of the week also helps, because it’s a lot easier to grab a handful of cut up carrots in a pinch than having to pull out the peeler, cutting board, and knife to do it when you’re hungry.
6. Do daily affirmations.
Each morning when you’re getting ready, have a list of daily affirmations to explain to yourself why you’re a wonderful person. We focus on the negative all the time, and taking time out of your day to focus on the positive it’s worth it.
So today it’s not, “I can’t believe I’m so fat” or “I hate myself because I have no willpower”; instead it’s “I am a strong person who can overcome adversity” and “I am a good person who has done good for others,”” Roth suggested. “Give yourself the love, forgiveness, and encouragement that you give other people, and amazing things will start to happen in your life and with your health.”
7. Skip the commercials.
We can all agree there are more commercials on TV than there used to be, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Instead of sitting around watching the commercials, get up and move.
“Every one-hour show has 18 minutes of commercials; if you watch two hours of TV without moving, that’s 36 minutes of exercise that you’re losing out on,” Roth explained. “Make it heart-pumping and nonstop for the whole break—jumping jacks and squats are always good.”
If you’re someone who watches TV on a streaming network or through your DVR, make a rule that for every show you watch, you stop and do some type of exercise before the next one.
8. Be conscious of your movement.
Sometimes an entire day can go by and you’re not really paying attention, you just kind of go through the motions. This means you probably forget to get up and move around. A lot of fitness trackers have a reminder set that alerts you to move every hour, but if you don’t have an Apple Watch or a FitBit, then just set a reminder on your phone! This is especially important for when you get home from work. We all have a tendency to sit down on the couch until it’s time for bed, but that’s a lot of time you could be moving around.
9. Don’t weigh yourself every day.
Pick a single day to weigh yourself each week and stick to that plan. Weighing yourself every day is a recipe for disaster. Things fluctuate all the time, so picking one day to track is the best way to approach it. It’s also important that as you weigh yourself, you keep things positive.
Step on the scale and look at the number. Then say to yourself, “great week,” “good week,” or “needs work,”” Roth suggested. “Then step off the scale, look at it, and say, “great week.” The last thing your brain hears is going to be overwhelmingly positive.”
Weighing yourself is obviously a part of losing weight, but you shouldn’t be dreading stepping on the scale. Keep things positive and you’ll do fine.
10. Go for a walk.
Yes, it’s that simple. Go for a walk in the morning, go for a walk on your lunch break, go for a walk after dinner…whatever works for you. Walking just 30 minutes a day is a great form of exercise, and it’s a good way to segue into more intense forms of exercise. Don’t worry about your speed or distance, just go for the walk. Build the habit into part of your routine. It’s best to add the walk into your schedule before you usually shower. If you like to shower in the morning before work, head for a walk first thing in the morning and then continue on with your day. If you like to shower before bed, head for a walk after dinner and then come home and wind down.
11. Do the “must dos” first.
Before you do the things you want to do, make sure you do the things you must do. This includes working out, eating right, and taking care of yourself before indulging or relaxing. Even if the “must dos” aren’t related to weight loss (cleaning, paying bills, running errands), get them done before anything else. You’ll find that you feel more structured and accomplished, and you’ll be more motivated to stay on track with everything.
12. Be conscious of hidden sugars.
You might think you’re making a healthy choice, but the hidden sugars in certain foods could be tricking you. This is especially true for things like smoothies or protein shakes. They’re marketed as ‘healthy’ options, but the reality is they’re pumped full of artificial sugars. If you really want a smoothie, try making your own using frozen fruit.
“Look for less obvious sugary foods, things like ketchup, BBQ sauce, salad dressings, Chinese sauces, pasta sauces, fruit yogurt, energy drinks, and even seemingly healthy things like dried fruit,” Roth warned. “Check labels for dead-giveaway ingredients: honey, brown sugar, turbinado, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, other syrups, raw sugar, agave and glucose (including other sweeteners ending in “ose”).”
13. Find a mantra that works for you.
You need a reason to keep going, whether it’s something you tell yourself when you’re doing the last 5 minutes on the treadmill or debating between toaster pastries and frozen veggies at the grocery store. It needs to be something that you can repeat to yourself that motivates you to keep going. A good one I like to use is “nothing changes if nothing changes.” If you don’t change your bad habits, then you won’t get the results that you want.
14. Make promises to yourself.
Would you break a promise to your best friend? No. So don’t break promises to yourself.
“If you say you’re going to eat a healthy lunch, don’t grab a bag of potato chips at the register,” Roth suggested. “As with everything, go for reasonable, not radical. Don’t promise to do an hour of cardio if you haven’t exercised in a year. Make a list of your promises for the day.”
The promise could be “I promise to get out of bed when my alarm goes off and make a proper breakfast.” It could also be “I promise to drink 8 glasses of water today.” Whatever you promise yourself, make sure you keep it.
15. Stand, don’t sit.
If you have the option, use a standing desk at your office instead of sitting in your chair all day. If that’s not possible, make an effort to stand in meetings or even just get up and walk over to a coworkers desk to talk through a work issue rather than sending an email. Even thought standing won’t technically help you lose weight, it will help you live longer. Plus, new studies show that exercising for more than an hour a day doesn’t undo the bad effects you experience from sitting all day.
16. Don’t give into “hunger.”
Obviously if your stomach is growling, you’re hungry. But sometimes what we THINK is hunger is actually just thirst, boredom, or a desire to emotionally eat. When you find yourself reaching for a snack or a meal, ask yourself three things:
- Am I just thirsty?
- Am I eating because I have nothing else to do?
- Is there something that’s bothering me that’s causing me to eat?
If the answer to any of those is yes, maybe find something else to do than grabbing a snack. If you’re bored or emotional, going for a quick walk can help clear your head.
17. Make time for yourself.
Yes, exercise is important, but so is rest. Make sure you give yourself time to relax, unwind, and enjoy some down time. Every day, take 15 minutes to unplug, be with yourself, and just focus on your breathing and self-reflection. There are a lot of apps and websites that can help with calming breathing techniques or meditation, and these can help your mind stay focused on the bigger picture.
18. Use social media to your advantage.
Oversharing is often frowned upon when it comes to social media, but you can use social media to your advantage when you want to lose weight. There are communities on platforms like Instagram that are dedicated to weight loss and wellness. Create a new account where you post about your journey, and you’ll quickly find that others are sharing the same experiences. Your new account will hold you accountable as you post pictures of your meals, your workouts, and even just explain cravings you might be having. Let social media keep you motivated.
19. Compliment yourself.
Much like keeping promises to yourself like you would a friend, it’s important to give yourself compliments and motivation. It’s a sign of low self-esteem when you can’t compliment yourself, but once you learn to do that you’ll notice a change in how you present yourself. Allow yourself to acknowledge when you’ve done a great job or are having a good hair day – whatever you think you’ve done well!
20. Track your grocery cart.
Walking through the grocery store can become a bad habit. You have your go-tos and you rarely go outside of your comfort zone. When you’re trying to change your life, though, you need to change up the foods you’re buying. Next time you go grocery shopping, keep track of how many packaged goods you’ve got vs fresh food (veggies, protein, fruits, etc.). Keep count of your packaged goods, and try to lower that number each time you go shopping. Swap it out for fresh food. You’ll notice your habits will change as time goes on.
21. Find a challenge or goal to work towards.
Goal weights are good, but events or challenges to work towards are also great. Sign up for a charity walk or run a few months from now and train towards that. It could also be a holiday or milestone birthday that you want to feel your best for. Goals don’t always have to be around a number, they can also be around how you feel or things you’re able to do, like climb the stairs at work without being totally winded.
22. Keep reminders around the house.
It’s not great to use shame to remind yourself of your goals, but gentle reminders are okay! Maybe it’s a picture of an outfit you want to wear in three months that you keep near the cupboard, or maybe it’s a picture of you at your lowest point next to the mirror in the morning to remind yourself of how far you’ve come. It could even be inspirational quotes that you keep in every room – things that will keep you motivated towards your goal even when you feel like you’re starting to slip.
23. Try interval training.
Interval training means going very hard for a short period of time, slowing down, then speeding up again. It increases and decreases your heart rate quickly, and will help you burn more fat in a shorter amount of time.
“In 2008, researchers at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, had a group of women ride stationary bikes at intervals of 8 seconds sprinting and 12 seconds slow riding for 20 minutes (60 repeats in all),” Roth wrote. “The researchers then compared them to the second group of women who rode for 40 minutes straight at the same speed only to find that, at the end of 15 weeks, the interval trainers lost more weight and more body fat than the steady riders.”
24. Stay honest.
When you start asking yourself why you’re not meeting your goals…be honest with your answers. Did you really stay on track this week, or did you snack at night? When you were at the gym did you go as hard as you could? Or did you do the bare minimum. To be clear: there’s nothing wrong with making mistakes, but people will often get discouraged because they lie to themselves saying “well I’ve done everything I could and nothing is changing.” But, if you really sit down and be honest with yourself, you’ll be able to find places you can improve.
25. Jot down the small victories.
Every day you accomplish something good, you just don’t always notice it. Take the time to write down all the little victories you have in a gratitude journal. Some days it might be as simple as “only had half a donut that was in the lunch room instead of whole one.” Other days you might find that it’s even more exciting, like “walked an extra mile on the treadmill at the gym.” Whatever the victory is, it’s still a victory. As you write them all down, you’ll be able to reflect on them when things don’t seem to be going your way.
In the end, weight loss journeys are all about patience and persistence. With a little of both, you’ll find that things end up changing quicker than you thought.
What is a weight loss tip that has helped you the most?
[H/T: Reader’s Digest]