You don’t have to somehow find extra hours in your day to hit your goals.
6 min read
Wish you could shed a few pounds? You’re not the only one. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all American adults surveyed said that they were trying to lose weight. (Emphasis on “trying” rather than “succeeding.”)
It seems so simple to just eat less and exercise more, right? But as all too many of us know, it ain’t that easy. We get busy, we’re exhausted, so we shove bad things in our mouths to save time, to get a quick energy boost, or, let’s face it, because a lot of bad things taste great! The planning and willpower it takes to radically change our lives in order to fit into last year’s jeans usually last as long as that Häagen-Dazs bar in our hands.
But here’s the thing: you don’t actually have to do anything radical to lose weight, says Jonathan Dugas, Ph.D., health and research consultant at Vitality Group and an endurance coach. Dugas says that we all can reap huge health benefits by making a couple of small changes in our lifestyles. Here are nine tips he offers to help you lose weight without being miserable.
1. You can’t outrun a poor diet.
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“The first important point is that you can’t out exercise a poor diet. While being active does mean you burn calories, being overweight or obesity is strictly a function of diet and not activity levels. As such, we try to help everyone be active for the health benefits, but eat healthily for the weight benefits. It is important to remember that weight loss really is a marathon and not a sprint. Individuals who are more overweight or obese can experience more rapid weight loss, but that is because they have more weight to lose. Managing expectations is key to staying the course and achieving one’s goals.”
2. Pick a diet. Any diet.
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“The key to diets is that, by design, they all create an energy deficit, and to lose weight a deficit is required. So, if one adopts a diet and follows it, then they are almost certain to lose weight, although the amount of weight they lose, and whether they lose more fat than muscle mass, will vary widely. Do not be afraid to abandon a diet and try a new one if it is not working for you. Expect to do some trial and error before you find one that you feel like is a good fit for your lifestyle.”
Related: Exercise Is One Thing Most Successful People Do Everyday
3. Skip working out for now — and skip those smoothies!
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“It’s not uncommon for an individual to have a wakeup call and get motived to take action. The tendency, however, is to be too ambitious and try to fix everything at once. This can be problematic. If weight loss is your goal, focus on weight loss. That means changing your dietary habits to achieve that daily and weekly calorie deficit, but it also means you do not increase your physical activity. Not only does adding more workouts just soak up bandwidth, but the increase in energy expenditure will actually drive appetite up. For most of us, we feel justified indulging after a workout because we feel like we earned it. However, a 16 oz. sports drink (~100 calories) and an energy bar (200-300 calories) is all it takes to match the 300-400 calories you just burned at the gym. And forget about the post-workout smoothie, those babies can run you in excess of 500 calories easy.”
4. Eat what you make and take what you make.
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“We are surrounded by very convenient and affordable, yet calorie-dense, food options. In some situations, these make sense, for example having to catch an early flight and eating breakfast at the airport. However, preparing your own food, even if you do not choose the healthiest ingredients 100 percent of the time, will almost always result in lower intake. Therefore, opting to prepare your own meals when you can is a big win. The key is understanding that few of us can do this all the time — and that’s okay. Instead, set some weekly goals like bringing your lunch to work on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Your bank account will thank you, too.”
Related: 5 Ways Switching to Plant-Based Diet Boosts Your Productivity
5. Be social.
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“Cooking for one or two can seem like a lot more effort than just eating out. Instead, leverage the power of your social network and rotate dinners with your friends. And I don’t mean extravagant dinner parties with all the trimmings. Chances are you aren’t the only one who wants to do things a little healthier, so set out some criteria with your buddies and agree to cook for the group one night a week. All it takes is two or three of you and suddenly most weeknights can be covered, plus you get to hang with your friends.”
6. Limit, but don’t eliminate, alcohol.
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“Enjoying a drink isn’t a crime, and it won’t wreck your health. Drinking in excess, however, can derail your weight loss efforts in a hurry because alcoholic beverages can be extremely high in calories. Limiting alcohol in any way will help. For some that means not drinking on certain days of the week, for others, it means simply stopping at one drink, or maybe giving up beer for wine. Find an approach that is comfortable for you.”
Related: 10 Healthy Habits for People Who Work Remotely
7. Don’t drink your calories when you can eat them.
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“When given the opportunity to eat your calories instead of drinking them, always choose the former. Water is really always the best choice, but there is a long list of zero and low-calorie beverages. At around 150 calories per can, sugary beverages like sodas, sports drinks, and juice (yes, juice), are the primary offenders here. Even just two a day is like having an extra sandwich at lunch.”
8. Get professional help.
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“Consider accessing a pro. Dieticians train specifically to help people manage their weight. If you are overweight or obese, dietician services might even be covered by your health plan, but you’ll have to investigate to be sure. But even if you aren’t, consider the professional insights, support, and accountability an investment in your health and future. A typical approach is between 3-6 months, so while being healthy is a lifelong commitment, getting help from a dietician isn’t.”
Related: 11 Strategies for Eating Healthy on a Business Trip
9. Don’t be afraid to change.
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“Don’t be afraid to change course if something is not working. Getting to the right mix of habits and behaviors that fits with you almost certainly will require trial and error. To that end, be willing to change it up if you feel like something is a dead end.”