Loving and accepting your body is such an on-trend topic right now, but it’s hard thing to do when you are not happy or comfortable in your own skin. If you are not making healthy choices, you are not respecting your body the way you deserve to be respected. And you do deserve respect, no matter your size.
In researching this topic, I realized that everyone has their own ideas about weight loss, and quite honestly, most of them probably work as long as they resonate with you. Healthy living and weight loss are lifestyle changes, so you need to find a plan that fits in with your life. And you need to commit. Too many times, I have half-heartedly said that I wanted to lose weight, changed for a day or two, but then fell right back into bad habits.
So I started to think about the best way to customise a weight loss plan to my life, and, being a writer, everything kept coming back to writing down my experiences, both good and bad. I decided I wanted a Weight Loss Journal. I wanted a place where I could keep track of my motivations, goals, measurements, logs, letters of encouragement or forgiveness, frustrations, and achievements. And then I started to map out how I would use my journal to implement my plan.
But, first note about the journal, As I said, this is a personal journey, so if journaling isn’t your thing, these steps can still assist you in moving forward with your weight loss journey. And if you’d like to work through things in a journal, then pick a journal that best suits your style. For some people, that will be whatever notebook you have lying around your house. For others, it may be a binder with pages that you can organize and reorganize by using tabs and pockets. I always enjoy a pretty notebook that motivates me to write in its pages.
Now back to my steps.
Step One: Figure out your motivations
Open your journal and brainstorm all of the things that motivate you to lose weight and be healthy. And that means write it all down. Do you just want to feel better in your own skin? Look great for your significant other? Model a healthy lifestyle for your children? There are no wrong answers during this exercise, but you do have to be truthful with yourself. You can’t have things on your list that are weak motivators or you won’t stick to your plan. And remember, you have to commit to making it work. Your motivators have to be more important to you than the things you plan to cut out or drastically reduce in your life.
After your brainstorming session, clean up and condense your list so it contains your most important motivators. Then put that list in places that will remind you of your commitment. Put it in a pretty frame on your desk if you tend to snack there. Or put it on your refrigerator or taped to the inside of your cabinet. Put it in places where you will be forced to confront your list when you reach for food. Once your motivations are clear, you will find it easier to make healthier choices.
Step Two: Set goals
Keep your list of motivations close to you; these may come in handy when determining your goals. Again, brainstorm before narrowing down your final list. Consider what is important to you. Do you want to track your weight loss by pounds or inches lost? Or just by the way you feel? Set both short-term and long-term goals. Break down your long-term goals into manageable steps so you don’t feel overwhelmed. I’d recommend that you don’t make your goal to lose 10, 25, or 50 pounds. Make that your end goal if that’s what you choose, but break it down and celebrate each milestone along the way.
And make sure to keep your goals realistic and safe. One pound is the equivalent of 3500 calories. So to lose one pound per week (a generally accepted safe weight loss strategy), you need to cut out approximately 500 calories from your diet per day.
Step Three: Make a plan
This is a big one, and there are many steps in the planning process.
First, analyze your reasons for weight gain and think about what the biggest hurdles will be in your weight loss journey. For me, I am an emotional and stress eater, both very common problems for those with unhealthy relationships with food. Again, get out your journal and write down these hurdles. Now plan ahead for ways to overcome them. Maybe if you are stressed you could exercise, write, do yoga, or meditate. If you are bored, read a book, take a walk, listen to music, or go somewhere fun. If you have ideas before you face your stressors, you won’t feel panicked in the moment and fall back into unhealthy habits.
Plan healthy meals in advance and shop for those items so you have the right kinds of foods and snacks in the house. Focus on meals that integrate foods that are good for you: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and proteins like nuts. Try to eliminate or reduce things like sugar, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and low-fat products. Keep portion control in mind as well. You can eat basically as much as you want of things like vegetables, but foods like grains and proteins should be kept to standard portion sizes.
My favorite way to meal plan is to choose 4-5 meals per week before I go grocery shopping. I plan the entrée and the side dishes and make sure I have or buy all of the ingredients for those meals. Then during the week, I’ll make whatever sounds good from my list on that particular day. It’s not a strict menu, but it reduces the stressing about meals and the trips to the drive-through. The other 2 to 3 days of the week we usually eat with the family, eat leftovers, or go out for dinner.
Plan out some snacks the same way you do meals. Keep things like fruit, nuts, or hummus with veggies on hand so you can easily grab them. If they are as easy as chips or a candy bar, you will be more likely to grab them rather than the unhealthy alternative.
Also, plan out an exercise regimen. Choose things that make you feel good and that you enjoy doing. If you look forward to your activities, you will be more likely to keep up with them. Think about what motivates you to be active. Do you need something structured? Maybe you could get a personal trainer at a gym or go to a class with friends. For me, being a stay at home mom, I need ways to incorporate exercising while being with my son. DVD workouts or running around the backyard playing with my little boy are usually my go-to’s.
Step Four: Forgive yourself for mistakes
One of the hardest lessons for me to learn was that I had to forgive myself when I made mistakes and move on while continuing to make healthy choices. Overeating and choosing unhealthy food options can become a vicious circle. Once a bad decision is made, it becomes easier to keep making them. Each bad decision is justified by the previous one because what difference is one more cookie or fast food meal going to make when you have got a slew of poor choices behind you? I have always fallen into the trap of feeling so frustrated with how I look and feel that I turn to food for comfort.
It is important though to look toward tomorrow instead of remembering yesterday. Forgive yourself for your past choices and try to make the best choices you can in the moment. Eventually, you will be making more good choices than bad ones and those good ones will add up. This is also another place where your journal can come in handy. Sometimes it’s easier to write something down to get it off your chest. you can move on once whatever you are worried about is committed to paper. You should also practice self-compassion. Write yourself a letter of forgiveness. If it was your child who’d slipped, you’d gently guide them, but ultimately you’d forgive them and keep on loving them. You should treat yourself the same way.
It is also critical to realize that it is not a mistake to indulge once in a while. If you tell yourself that you are never allowed chocolate, that’s not a lifestyle you can maintain (at least it’s not one I can maintain!). So treat yourself, because if you don’t, you are more likely to renege on your commitment.
Step Five: Celebrate your successes
In your journal you can do things like writing yourself letters of encouragement when you hit a milestone toward reaching a long-term goal. Keep a page of inspirational quotes handy that you can refer to. Buy yourself a small gift for completing a goal, like a new shirt, a fancy pen, or a book you have been wanting to read. Most importantly, personalize your celebration so it is something you are excited about. Something you look forward to. Be proud of what you are accomplishing.
There is so much more you can integrate into your own weight loss journey. You can pull in friends for support or work alone. You could use other tools to help track your progress. But as long as you focus on eating right, exercising, and personalizing your journey so that it resonates with you, you will be on the right track.