If you're like most of the millions of Americans that resolve to lose weight in the 365 days that follow the dropping of the ball every year, you've likely already given up. But just because New Year's Day has come and gone once again, it's not too late to start exercising, shedding excess pounds and feeling better. The key is believing that you can do it, and then talking to your health care professional about designing an exercise and weight-loss program tailored for your personal needs.
Even the best-laid plans, however, are often not enough to get most of us to stick to any kind of routine—we're all programmed to seek and expect instant gratification and results based on the promises proffered by everyone from “fitness celebrity” John Basedow to Chuck Norris and Christy Brinkley to that doctor who claims it's not your fault you're overweight. The truth is, losing weight is as much a mental and emotional battle as it is one of lifestyle change. Following are 10 sure-fire tips to help you succeed in the weight loss game regardless of what you think of fad diets, fad diet pills or fad equipment.
1. Set Reasonable Goals
Setting unattainable goals for yourself will lead to failure and discouragement. Losing 30 pounds per month is ridiculously unsafe and, unless you're planning on a hunger strike or an all-Ephedra diet, highly unlikely. Lose a couple of pounds per week and you're doing great!
2. Keep Your Mind on All the Benefits
The most common reason for losing weight is simply to look better. That's fine, but don't forget to factor in the other benefits that come from exercise and dietary consciousness: stress relief, reducing the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and a host of other health problems and increased energy. Healthy diet and exercise also go a long way toward relieving depression and anxiety.
3. Start Small
Not everyone has the time or money to spend hours per week at the gym. Thankfully, all you need to do to begin your new life is walk a little before or after work or during your breaks. Once you begin feeling a little more energetic, consider going to the gym once or twice a week. As your energy level increases, so will your motivation.
4. Reward Yourself
A healthier you is its own reward, but it sometimes helps to get something tangible in return for your hard work. When you reach a goal, reward yourself with a massage, a new outfit, a movie or something else you enjoy that fits reasonably into your new healthy regimen.
5. Hit the Weights
Weight lifting, if done correctly, will not make you stiff or give women big “bulky” muscles. In fact, weight training with dumbbells or a resistance machine helps burn fat, build lean muscle tissue, and can even help fight osteoporosis and heart disease.
6. Sound Too Good to be True? It Is.
There's not a pill on Earth that burns fat. Companies that hire celebrities to get you to buy absurd gadgets that promise weight loss care about one thing, and it isn't whether their products actually work. They want your money. Don't give it to them. Instead, spend the dough on a gym membership or an old-fashioned weight bench.
7. Remember: It's Diet and Exercise
You can exercise all you want while on your chicken-fried steak diet and not enjoy any success whatsoever. Diet and exercise are not mutually exclusive. Both ingredients are necessary for creating a new you.
8. Choose Carefully
Choose foods wisely. Go lean. Avoid foods high in fat, high in carbohydrates and low in nutritional value. You don't have to starve yourself or give up foods you love entirely. The key is to balance your diet, eat smaller portions and refuel on a regular schedule. Do not skip meals and don't take any dietary supplements unless approved by your healthcare professional.
9. Pretend This is Fun
For many of us, exercise sucks. So do something you like, whether it's riding a bike, taking a dance or aerobics class, walking your dog or pumping iron.
10. Build it and They Will Come
Help yourself while helping others in your household and those around you. Prepare healthy meals for the entire family or friends, and encourage them to exercise. A little taste of your success will whet their appetites for success themselves.