The internet is full of weight loss advice. If you search for weight loss plans, you’ll find websites that tell you the key is diet. Some will say cardio is necessary, others preach weight lifting, and still others swear by a specific ratio of fats, carbs, and protein.
If you try to integrate all of this information into your daily routine, you may be overwhelmed. When people decide they want to make a permanent lifestyle change, they often aim to do everything. They cut out sugar and limit calories while they begin to run and lift weights. This is very taxing on the mind, body, and willpower. More often than not, extremism will lead to disappointment.
The question is, how do you approach weight loss in a sustainable manner? How do you make changes and stick to them for the rest of your life?
We’ve put together a 4-step weight loss program to guide you through the process. It will help you understand how to approach diet and exercise and how to find a routine that works for you. We have recommendations for how long each step should take. Everyone is different and you should progress to the next step whenever you feel that you have accomplished the previous task.
1. Find a workout that’s doable and one that you enjoy.
Some people like lifting heavy weights, some like running, and others like fitness classes such as yoga or zumba. The first step is to find the exercise that works for you. Try different kinds of workouts and test which one you enjoy the most. We have workout plans to introduce you to different styles of training, including running, yoga, Crossfit, and Tabata.
Once you find an exercise you enjoy, your job is to make it a habit to go to the gym. The challenge this week is to exercise 5-6 days of the week for at least 45 minutes. You decide where, when, and what to do, but you must work out.
Step one should last for one to two weeks, but you should continue to work out 5-6 days per week for the duration of the six-week period. During these first weeks, exercise should be your priority. Reducing your calorie intake when you’re starting a new exercise regime can put undue stress on the body. For now, focus on adding exercise without worrying about your diet. Try to keep your caloric intake about the same.
Recommended Time Frame: 1-2 weeks
Check out our arsenal of Easy Beginner Workouts to get you started.
2. Cut back on added sugars and fried food.
Take our 30-Day No Sugar Challenge, you’ll be glad you did.
Nutrition is complicated. There are macronutrients (fats, carbs, and protein) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). You need to consider your fiber intake, how much sugar you eat, if the sugar you’re eating has a low or high glycemic index – let’s just say it’s overwhelming. But don’t worry. You don’t need to understand all of these nutrition concepts to begin a healthy diet. For step two, we’ll keep things simple. Your job is to cut back on the amount of added sugar and fried food you consume. This doesn’t mean that you should eliminate it from your diet altogether. Instead, try eating a little bit less each day. Stock stevia to sweeten your food. Whenever possible, replace white sugar with natural sweeteners like honey. Good ways of cutting back on sugar include:
1. Replace cereals with stevia-sweetened oatmeal.
2. Reduce the amount of soda you consume. If you drink a bottle every day, limit sodas to every other day. If you only order it at restaurants, ask for sparkling water instead.
3. If you buy almond or soy milk, try the unsweetened version. It’s an easy way to cut 100 calories from your day.
4. Choose fresh fruit over dried fruit.
5. Choose a light salad dressing or make your own. Check out these recipes for homemade healthy and delicious salad dressings.
6. Limit desserts to once a week. If you crave something sweet at other times, have fresh fruit.
7. If you’re craving a rich dessert such as ice cream, evade the craving by drinking a tall glass of milk. You can also eat some stevia-sweetened Greek yogurt or a creamy smoothie. For smoothie ideas, check out our skinny banana split smoothie, or this chocolate peanut butter protein smoothie.
For step 2, you should also reduce fried food. This includes fried chicken, french fries, and potato chips. The good news is that you can get all of these foods baked instead of fried. Baking your food will save you hundreds of calories and will help you avoid trans fats that are linked to weight gain and cardiac disease.
Recommended Time Frame: 2-3 weeks.
3. Step up your clean-eating lifestyle.
After 2 to 3 weeks of cutting back on added sugars and fried food, work on cleaning up the rest of your diet. Learn how many calories you should be eating and divide them between meals and snacks. Remember that perfection is not necessary for progress.
You can lose weight while allowing yourself an occasional treat. Schedule a cheat meal that allows you to eat your favorite foods once a week or once every two weeks. Use the following guidelines for the rest of your meals:
1. Start your mornings with fiber and protein. Meal ideas include vegetable omelets made with egg whites, oatmeal sweetened with stevia, or yogurt topped with nuts, seeds, and fresh berries.
2. Keep your stomach full by eating large servings of vegetables at every lunch and dinner. The fiber in the vegetables will keep you full longer.
3. Have lean protein every day. This includes chicken breast, turkey, soy, and fat-free plain Greek yogurt.
Recommended Time Frame: 2 weeks.
Check out these 21 Habits that Will Help You Eat Clean.
4. Form habits.
The final step is the hardest, but if you’ve committed to the first three steps, the fourth should be a breeze. To wrap up our 4-step program, we challenge you to create healthy habits all around. It’s easy to make it to the gym every day when it’s part of your routine. Resisting junk food gets easier the more you do it. Once a healthy lifestyle becomes a habit, you’ll find you maintain it easily. You’ll continue to slim down and grow stronger.
Have questions? Let us know! We’re happy to help.