I've been on a weight loss journey for about six months now. My weight had really gotten out of control these last few years and I was starting to experience some health problems as a result. For me, that's been a pretty good motivator - just wanting to look good or wear pretty clothes doesn't really get my attention as much as the idea of having to take medications I don't want, or put up with unpleasant health issues from my weight.
The nice thing is that I have lots of information on exactly HOW to accomplish my weight loss goals. I am a huge reader and one of my favorite kind of books are what I call "brainy books". Examples of this are Freakonomics, The Tipping Point, Predictably Irrational, Mindless Eating, and Change Anything. Yes - I've read ALL of these and probably about 10 more. In fact, right now I'm reading a book called Drunk Tank Pink. All of these books deal with research studies, motivation, and ways our brains react to stimuli. I think I must have been a brain researcher in a previous lifetime!
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From these books I've gathered my five best tips for losing weight and here they are:
Tip #1: Select a few vital behaviors and focus on them.
Rather than making huge changes, and sweeping statements that you know you can't follow-through on, such as "I am going to go to the gym four times a week" and "I am NEVER eating sugar, white flour, processed foods, fill in the blank, EVER again". Those just don't work. Instead, focus on small, specific behaviors like - I will weigh myself every day, I will track my points for every meal, and I will drink water instead of soda (more on that later). Research has proven that these small goals are easier to achieve and have a longer lasting impact, though progress may be a bit slower with them.
Tip #2: Find a support system.
I did do some poking around trying to find a good support system because I didn't really want to "do" Weight Watchers again. I've been on it probably seven or eight times and while I have had some success with it - (I lost 25 pounds on WW just before my mother died, which I promptly gained back and more due to emotional eating). I just never really stuck with it after the first few weeks. But I just couldn't find a better alternative, although this time, I supplemented with some weight loss coaching provided free of charge by my insurance program - that helped. So yes, my support system is Weight Watchers. I knew that I needed some structure and accountability to keep me on track. However, there was one important difference this time and that brings me to tip #3.
3. Use your tools!
The big difference with the most recent version of Weight Watchers is that they practically force you to sign up for their Monthly Pass. I mean, they don't FORCE you, but they skew the pricing heavily in favor of it. The good part is that it comes with some online tools that have made a huge difference for me. They have a tracking app with automatic look-up, plus a bar code scanner for brand name foods. That makes it so much easier for me to track my foods and makes it almost impossible to cheat.
I never stuck with the paper planners for more than a few weeks, and I was always "discounting" my points by deliberately guessing low on things. Now I know exactly how many points I am eating in a day - BIG difference.
I have also employed a couple of other apps that I've found helpful. I have an app that I use daily to chart my weight. I have another one that pops up an hourly reminder to get up and move. That's really helpful in a sedentary job like mine. I will make extra trips to the mail room, choose restrooms on different floors, or just take an extra stroll around the floor. It's not a lot of movement, but it helps.
I've also picked up a new app just this weekend called MindBloom. It has reminders for little things like exercising, or reading, or whatever you choose and they are accompanied by gorgeous photography and music to create a little one minute inspirational "Bloom". And it is tied to a visual in the shape of a tree. Each leaf represents a different area of your life - relationships, health, finances, lifestyle, and as you do different Blooms, it grows your leaves.
4. Give up the darn soda!
I have to admit, this one was hard for me. My husband is a hard-core soda drinker and my kids will drink as much of it as they can get their hands on. Even though I wasn't as bad about it as some of my soda-addicted friends, I did enjoy a Sprite or a Fresca with lunch and sometimes with dinner. But I had an eye opener. One of the ladies at church is a pharmacist and she told me that she has seen over and over again a link between soda drinkers and Type II Diabetes. And you've got to figure that all these delicious sodas are made from nothing but mysterious chemicals - nothing that nature ever intended for us to consume plus something like 17 teaspoons of sugar. That's just GOT to be bad for you, no matter how good it tastes!
I haven't managed to give it up 100% of the time (I had a small 7-Up yesterday and it tasted SO good), but I've got it down to maybe one soda every two weeks or so - small changes add up to big improvements.
So I made the switch to water, tea, and lemonade for my beverages of choice. It wasn't easy because I don't really like those things, but I just made it a non-negotiable option. I didn't keep any soda in the house - much to the sorrow of my family, and I made it a point to stop ordering combo meals at fast food places, since sodas are usually bundled into them. A bonus side-effect was that it gave me a nice cost savings - just ordering just the sandwich and a cup of water is about 30% less than getting a combo meal. And I wasn't tempted to eat the french fries either!
Side note: I bought a water bottle called a Citrifuse. It has a little chamber in it where you can put cut up fruit, herbs, tea bags, or whatever you like to flavor your water. It gives you some nice variety. But I still hate the darn water!
Tip #5 - The dreaded E-word: Exercise.
I will admit that I have struggled a lot with this one and it has slowed my weight loss accordingly. I detest exercise with every fiber of my being. I won't even go up and down stairs unless I absolutely have to. And I detest sweating, but I have found some simple ways to add in at least a little exercise to my week. As I mentioned, there is my office exercise routine, but I've also been trying to come home early to walk around the block with my husband. We aren't going to be doing any marathons or even a 5K, but it helps.
Also, surprisingly I've been doing a Zumba class with a friend for about the last six months or so. Even though I am heavier and quite a bit older than most of the ladies in the class, I can get through a whole 90-minute Zumba class without stopping once. That's a nice feeling. And it really helps to have my friend text me and ask if I am going on a particular day.
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