10 Steps That Will Help You to Reach Your Weight Loss Goals
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
Change IS hard. Otherwise, we all would be able to stick to our New Year’s Resolutions, meet each and every deadline, or learn that new skill we always wanted to master.
Successful change requires planning, prioritization, dedication, sacrifice, and consistency.
On the other hand, change projects can be jeopardized by low self-confidence, perfectionism, or the wish to stay in our comfort zone.
Respecting the nature of change and anticipating that it will require effort is the first step to reach your goals. Here’re 10 more tips that will help you to reach your goals:
#1 Identify your goals
The first step of successful behavior change is to create a vision of what you want to achieve. If you don’t have a vision, it’s tough to know where you’re going and why you’re going there.
So, before committing to anything, visualize what you want to do or who you want to be. Paint a mental picture — the more detailed, the better.
Take your time to create your vision. Don’t be vague when defining your goals. And — most importantly — make sure that you know WHY these goals are important to you.
There is a difference between: “I want to lose weight” and “I want to look trim and fit at my high school reunion in May, and that’s why I’m committed to workout at least 3 times per week while sticking to a healthy diet. Being fit will also make me feel comfortable in my own skin, confident, and energetic. I might have to work hard for this goal, but I know it’s worth it.”
It can help to do this exercise with somebody that can challenge you on your vision or your motivation on why you want to achieve certain things.
Finding your TRUE motivation isn’t easy because we’re so often influenced by the opinions of others or the things we see on Instagram. If your goals are not in line with your values, you will have a tough time to achieve them or — even worse — meet them and still be unhappy with yourself.
#2 Define your game plan
After you have identified your vision, write it down. Ideally, in a notebook or diary. You can also add inspirational images or quotes. Anything that makes you excited to reach your goal.
Once you have done that, you need a game plan:
Step 1: Define short-term targets (milestones) that keep you engaged in reaching your long-term vision.
It’s crucial to keep your milestones realistic. An overly ambitious target will only lead to frustration or prevent you from starting your project at all. Ideally, you should be able to reach your first milestone within the next month.
Step 2: Define your process goals, i.e., the things that you will do each month, week, or day to achieve your milestones.
For example, you will workout 3 times per week, you will drink a gallon of water per day, or that you will replace one meal per day with a salad, etc.
Step 3: Write your targets and your process goals in your diary or your calendar and cross them off once you achieved them.
Be religious about this. There is nothing more motivating than tracking your efforts!
#3 Use the power of self-efficacy
Every time you achieve a milestone on that’s on your list, you feel more confident that you can reach the next one. The more you believe that you can do something, the higher the likelihood that you will. This concept is called self-efficacy and refers to a person’s belief in his or her confidence to execute behaviors that lead to successful outcomes (Bandura, 1986).
The best way to grow your self-efficacy is to set goals that are challenging yet realistic. Goals that are too easy, on the other hand, will not help you to grow your confidence.
#4 Prioritize & sacrifice
Focusing on ONE change project at a time makes it easier to succeed than trying to do everything at once. Start with whatever is most important to you, but then commit to it and make it a priority. For example, if you want to run a half-marathon this summer, you might not be able to go out with your friends on weeknights, as you might need the time use the time to run, cross-train, or recover instead.
Please make sure that you don’t feel guilty when making your health a priority. You only have one body, and it’s your job to keep it functional and healthy.
How often do you skip brushing your teeth? Once a week? Every other day? I’m sure you don’t. But why would you treat your workouts differently? Exercise and eating healthy meals is as crucial to your physical and mental health as brushing your teeth is to your dental health. Your body needs as much respect and priority as everything else in your life.
Having a plan and a weekly schedule will help you to define the resources that are necessary to achieve your goals. Once you’ve figured out how much time you need for your workouts, meal preparation, active recovery, etc. you can make a list of the things that you’re willing to delegate, simplify or sacrifice.
Make sure you communicate your choices and your schedule with the people that might be affected by them. This will allow you to manage expectations and help them to understand why you have different priorities now.
#5 Be kind and gentle to yourself
Behavior change is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Setbacks will be part of the process. It’s crucial to understand that a setback isn’t a failure. If you slip, don’t hate yourself. Self-hatred only compromises your change process. Forgive yourself and focus on the next step in the right direction.
It’s also crucial to listen to your body: trying too hard or not resting enough can lead to overtraining and injuries. Three 30-minute workouts per week might be better than one workout that lasts 90 minutes.
The same applies to diet: severe calorie restriction or the elimination of food groups can backfire. Small, long-term adjustments are often more successful than drastic changes that you cannot sustain in the long run.
When I work with clients, I usually asked them to do a food diary for 3–7 days. After that, I come up with suggestions on how to change meal timing or ingredients instead of trying to change their entire eating habits.
#6 Consistency is key
One reason why we’re so resistant to change is that most change processes take time AND regular work. This applies especially for health- and wellness-focused change projects. There are no quick fixes when it comes to fitness, weight loss, or health. No 7-day cleanse will make up for years of unhealthy eating.
That’s why it’s essential to give your body time to adjust. Some people will see the first results within a few weeks, others take more time to feel a difference. Stay patient.
Your game plan is one of your most important tools to stick to your new lifestyle. Focusing on the next milestone at a time will help you to stay on track.
#7 Focus on the long-term benefits
Whenever you feel like skipping a workout or making unhealthy food choices, try to imagine how this will hurt you in the long-run. Exercise can help you to avoid injuries and stay active. Inactivity, on the other hand, can lead to muscle atrophy or loss of bone mass.
A poor diet will increase your risk for many health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases or diabetes. Gathering information and understanding the pros- and cons of lifestyle choices will help you to make better decisions and stick to your program.
#8 Team up
Working out with a friend, or your spouse is an excellent motivation to exercise. The same holds true for healthy eating: committing to better food choices as a group or family creates a supportive environment and limits the exposure to junk food.
Also, working with a healthcare- or fitness professional can increase accountability while helping you to find adjustments in your daily routines that allow you to reach your goals.
#9 Avoid black-or-white-thinking
Treat every small step in the right direction as a small win. Working out for 10 minutes is better than not working out at all. Replacing one meal a day with healthy, nutritious food is better than eating rubbish all day long.
Stressing about your diet or exercise program too much will stop you from enjoying it, which increases the risk of dropping out.
#10 Find solutions that fit in YOUR life
Not everybody has the time and energy to follow a workout program that requires visiting a gym or studio 5 days per week. Yes: you will have to sacrifice if you want to see results, but these “sacrifices” should not interfere with your life. It’s okay to swap having lunch with going for a walk, but it’s not okay to stop socializing entirely because you go for a run each and every night.
Our health is closely related to our happiness, so make sure your new choices will make you feel better, not worse.
In good health,
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