Another new year is here and, with it, plenty of resolutions to eat right, exercise more, and lose weight. However, getting from the “before” picture to “after” picture is a long haul that can require an incredible amount of dedication and discipline.
But does it have to be that hard? Not necessarily. The good news is that there are a number of simple steps you can take to improve your chances of meeting your weight loss goals without completely overhauling your lifestyle…
1. Work Towards a Goal
Many people set out to lose weight and get in shape by setting a weight loss goal for themselves: say, lose 30 pounds or reach a pre-determined amount of weight. That strategy may work for some people, but there is another way to put yourself on the right track.
Instead, focus on a goal that requires weight loss and fitness, but doesn’t depend on losing a set number of pounds. For example, challenge yourself to get in shape for an upcoming sporting event, such as a road race, tournament, etc. Keeping this goal in mind can help keep you motivated and will make the end reward that much sweeter.
2. Get Better at Something you Love
Rather than concentrating on how much excess weight you want to lose this new year, focus on getting even better at something you already love or excel at. For example, if you’re an experienced runner, shortstop, goalie, swimmer, or cyclist, focus on eating better and gaining strength in areas that will help you improve your ability at that position.
Imagine, for example, if you were a goalie and saw the number of goals you allowed drop significantly. Or if you’re a baseball player and realized you could round the bases without getting winded. Or if you’re a cyclist who can now climb that big hill and keep going without having to stop to catch your breath.
3. Avoid the Unhealthy Snacks you Don’t Love
Many people decide to make cutting out unhealthy snacks a New Year’s resolution. That’s a good idea but it may not be entirely realistic. After all, who could forever swear off their absolute favorite snack, be it butter popcorn, nachos, candy bars, or potato chips?
The trick is to stop eating the unhealthy snacks you don’t really love. If potato chips don’t really excite you, and you find yourself eating them simply because they’re placed in front of you at a party, make it a goal to stop consuming them altogether. And if your favorite snack in the world is chocolate, don’t be afraid to indulge yourself from time to time because, let’s face it, swearing off one of your favorite foods just isn’t going to work long-term.
4. Be Realistic
We’ve all heard about fad diets that see weight simply fly off in a relatively short amount of time—from a weekend to 30 days. But generally these kinds of diets don’t work, and in most cases, the weight comes right back on.
That’s why it’s important to be realistic when creating a resolution that involves losing weight and getting in shape. For one, set a realistic weight loss goal. Someone who’s 230 pounds shouldn’t expect to lose more than 50 pounds in six months. Instead, focus on becoming a healthier person by eating better and being more active and try to avoid beating yourself up if you don’t quite reach your weight loss goals.
5. Be Active in a Social Environment
New Year’s Day brings lots of new resolutions and, in most parts of the country, more gym memberships. But is going to the gym—which often means running on a treadmill, going for a swim, or using weight machines—the best way to get in shape and reach your weight loss goals?
The answer is maybe. Going to the gym can be an important part of reaching your health objectives. But it can get boring if this is all you do. To shake things up and, more importantly, gain the support of others, consider being active in a social setting. This could mean attending classes (i.e., yoga or cycling classes) or joining a sports team. If you enjoy the activity and the people you’re active with, you’ll lose weight, get in shape, and hardly notice yourself doing it.
6. Make Little Changes to your Routine
Making big changes to your routine, such as running everyday instead of once a week or cycling for 20 miles instead of 10 miles, can certainly help you reach your fitness goals. But making the most of your New Year’s resolutions often depends on making a lot of little changes to your routine and general lifestyle.
For example, start eating whole grain bread instead of white bread. Stop taking elevators and escalators and head for the stairs. Walk, run or bike to your destinations whenever possible. Stop eating right before bed or, at the very least, eat healthy (such as fruit, vegetables or a lean protein) instead of something that’s high in sugar, calories or fat.
7. Everything in Moderation…Even Moderation
One strategy for meeting your fitness goals could involve removing all unhealthy foods from your house and buying only the healthiest food items. And it’s true that, by keeping unhealthy foods out of your home, you’ll probably eat less of them and you may feel yourself getting closer to your fitness goals.
But here’s the problem: completely cutting off your access to unhealthy foods—and especially those foods you love—could come back to haunt you. That’s because it’s unrealistic to completely avoid unhealthy foods, meaning that you’re likely to overly indulge, or binge, when you inevitably find yourself exposed to those foods. So, remember to treat yourself from time to time and have snacks around for the occasional indulgence.
8. Try Exercising at Home
The many gyms of the nation see a major uptick in memberships following the passage of each new year. And there’s good reason for that: gyms have many of the activities and equipment necessary to get in shape and lose weight. But let’s face it: going to the gym can be a pain and not just because of the various activities you do there. It can mean leaving the house, getting in the car, and navigating traffic. For many people, that constitutes a huge hassle that may prevent them from going to the gym at all.
So, try working out at home. And no, it doesn’t have to involve buying all kinds of expensive equipment. Many of the best exercises—or those that build the most strength and burn the most calories—require nothing more than your own body weight. These exercises include push-ups, sit-ups, squats, burpees, and pull-ups. And by purchasing just a few more affordable items, such as barbells, dumb bells and some weights, you can add several other great exercises to your home routine.