Let’s face it – weight loss is hard. Despite all the books, diets, formulas, gadgets and more that promise quick results, the reality is that there is no quick fix or magic solution. Losing weight and keeping it off requires commitment and diligence over time.
To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take in. Each pound of fat is equal to 3500 calories, so to lose one pound, you must create a deficit of 3500 calories. The most effective way to do this is to reduce caloric intake through diet and increase caloric expenditure through exercise. But this can take time, especially if you aren’t consistent or have a lot of weight to lose.
Although it sounds simple enough, many people struggle to lose weight and keep it off. Here we examine some of the most common issues that can hinder weight loss progress and share recommendations for success. Sometimes a better understanding of what’s impacting you, along with a few changes to your plan, can make a powerful difference.
Of course, every person is different in terms of their weight loss journey, but some common issues exist that tend to trip up many of us when trying to shed pounds. Recognizing these issues in yourself is the first step toward combatting them so that you can maximize your weight loss efforts – and results.
- No time for exercise – Everyone can fit in what they deem a priority, and the busiest people typically make time to exercise. You may have to get up a bit earlier, skip some meals out with your co-workers, cut back on social media, or hit the treadmill versus the couch at night. Reprioritizing and making changes can be difficult, but are not impossible. You must schedule in the time and then stick to it. Think of it as an investment in your health that pays off the other 23 hours of the day.
- No time to cook – Today’s busy lifestyles make it a challenge to have a healthy, homemade meal each day. If your weeknights are busy, shop on the weekend and cook some chicken breasts, cut up veggies and prepare one meal you can freeze and use later. Use slow cookers and select nutritious frozen foods that you can cook in the microwave. And keep staples on hand, such as pasta, rice, beans, chicken and turkey, eggs, fruits and vegetables. Take advantage of simple recipes for quick, healthy meals.
- Too tired – Most of us don’t get enough sleep, which makes a weight loss plan feel like an overwhelming undertaking. The key here is to aim for more sleep, as studies have shown that those who skimp on sleep feel more stressed and store more body fat. Furthermore, when you’re tired, it’s more tempting to give up or make poor food choices. Pick a bedtime and do your best to stick to it. Also, note that exercise does give you more energy, so a regular routine can add some pep in your step and make you feel better throughout the day.
- Don’t know what to do – A lot of confusing information exists about the best way to lose weight, with some of it contradictory, which makes it tough to know where to begin. Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Successful diet and exercise plans aren’t based on extremes; moderation is important so you can sustain your efforts. For guidance, consult reliable Web sites, like gethealtyu.com, acefitness.org, eatright.org and weightwatchers.com, along with apps. These can help track your progress. Or work with a dietitian or personal trainer, or check with a local recreation center or the library for more resources.
- Nothing seems to work – In our instant gratification society, it can be tough to put in efforts for a few weeks without experiencing immediate results. But healthy weight loss requires consistent dieting and exercise over time. In fact, experts recommend that you only lose 1-2 pounds per week. If you’ve been on your plan for a while, you may be struggling with a plateau or need to change your workouts or diet to kick-start results. Work with a trainer or nutritionist for recommendations on where you can vary your efforts for greater results.
Despite common challenges, lots of people lose weight and maintain the loss over years. So, success is definitely possible. Consider the following tips that can keep you on the right track and enjoying the results you want.
- Set goals – Goals are important when your motivation is waning; they remind you why you are doing this and what you really want. You can have an overall goal, monthly or weekly goals, or even daily goals. Accomplishing goals feels productive and satisfying.
- Create a support system – Tell your family or friends what you are doing and enlist their encouragement so that they can keep you accountable, exercise with you or simply listen. A weight loss group or exercise class can fill this role as well. Weight Watchers and groups on Facebook provide valuable support and community.
- Shop smart – Don’t buy tempting treats that will be tough to resist at home. Eat before you go to the store, and use a list to pick healthy choices like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low fat dairy products. Limit processed foods.
- Drink water – Water prevents dehydration, which is often mistaken for hunger. Drink water all day to keep up your energy and help fill you up. Plus, you save calories when you replace water for soda, juice, beer and wine and specialty coffee drinks. Flavor it with lemon if you like.
- Do cardio AND strength training – It’s not one OR the other, but you need cardio to help burn calories and strength training to tone muscles and boost your metabolism. Get a balance of both.
- Cross train – Vary your workouts to keep your body challenged and getting results. Try jogging, group exercise classes, swimming, cycling and more.
- Move more – Stand more, walk to do errands or plan walking meetings at work, play at the park with your kids, do calisthenics when you watch TV, take the stairs, etc. Don’t just move during workouts, but incorporate activity all day.
- Plan for meals out and parties – Don’t starve yourself before a restaurant meal or party, or you undoubtedly will overeat. Check out the restaurant menu online in advance and determine what you will order. For entrees, take ½ home for a second meal. And limit yourself at parties to one or two treats – move away from the buffet or table and mingle, dance or play games instead.
- Don’t quit – Everyone messes up, so don’t beat yourself up and give up. Acknowledge what happened and resolve to keep going, making a better decision the next time. If you indulge on a Friday, don’t throw in the towel and binge all weekend; but get back on your plan on Saturday. It’s never too late to start over – persistence pays off!
- Celebrate success – Treat yourself to new workout gear, a movie, a massage or whatever non-food reward you will enjoy to commemorate milestone achievements.