1. Set a small, specific goal. Stick it somewhere you will see it every day
Creating a measurable vision you can take steps towards works. A Harvard study from the 70s found that those who had a specific goal earned, on average, twice as much as those that didn’t have a goal. Those that wrote down their goals earned even more. The point is when we’re clear about what we want we are far more likely to achieve it.
2. Focus only on losing the next kilo
Whether you want to lose two or twenty kilograms, keeping the attention on the immediate goals helps to keep you from feeling overwhelmed. It also means you have more regular reasons to celebrate.
3. Have exercise ‘dates’ with your family, friends or partner
When time is of the essence, this is a way to kill two birds with one stone. If jogging on treadmills side-by-side isn’t your thing (and thank God really that it’s not), but you might train at the club, go paddle boarding, swim or squash. Research shows that exercise with others releases more endorphins (the happiness hormones) than when you exercise alone and also helps us to bond with others.
4. Know what works for you
Everyone is different, so get clear on the strategies that help you to succeed. For some people it’s working out as soon as you wake up, for others it’s doing exercise that you find fun. It might be eating healthily and having a ‘cheat’ day or it might mean having one small treat each day.
5. Schedule exercise
Making the time official is making a commitment to yourself, your body and your health. Planning also helps you to create consistency and integrate exercise into your everyday life. It means you can slot in some high intensity exercise if you only have 20 minutes on one day and book into a longer class when you’ve a little more time the next. New sites, like Fitness Calendar, can help you to plan your week ahead.
6. Work up a sweat from exercise at least a few times a week
It’s good to get moving every day, but amping up the intensity at least a few times a week will also amp up your results (assuming you’re healthy and do not have a heart condition). Working yourself into a sweat gives a natural boost to human growth hormone (HGH) production – which is essential for optimal health – and research shows, it improves insulin sensitivity, boosts fat loss, and increases muscle growth.
7. Shake up your exercise to keep your body guessing and your mind fresh.
Our muscles adjust when we do the same exercises repeatedly and as we plateau, we stop seeing results. The easiest way to counter this is to remember that variety is the spice of exercise, as it is life. Play around with the intensity and switch up aerobic exercise with strength training, flexibility, core exercise, and balance training.
8. Try on your jeans once a week to keep track of how you’re going
Arguably a better approach than scales – which do not show weight gain from muscle mass, trying on your jeans will show that your waist and hips are cinching in while your butt, like a little sunflower, perks up.
9. Take before and after pictures
Hard evidence that the slog is paying off. This is a simple, but invaluable method demonstrating you have the power to transform yourself.
10. Sign up to a challenge and join a group to train for it
In the spirit of one step at a time, a fitness challenge gives us a short-term goal to work towards, tangible results (which are essential for motivation and our sense of progress) and the support and camaraderie from training towards that goal in a group makes it fun and helps to spur you along.
11. Incorporate greens into your day. Every day.
Blend ’em, juice ’em, fry ’em, eat ’em. Greens are a no brainer and pretty much the one thing every health professional agrees we need more of – to be healthy and if we want our bodies to look their best. Low in calories but high in nutrients, they help keep us full and give our bodies the fuel they need to be lean, mean efficient machines they’re meant to be.
12. Keep a food journal and be utterly honest in it
I know, it can seem like a waste of precious time and surely you already know what and how much you eat, don’t you? In fact many of us would be surprised to see the unconscious extra calories we consume. A diary – which is easiest if we write (or type it) as we go – is a simple (and free) way to create awareness about what we’re really eating. Research also shows that they can be a key component in losing extra weight.
13. Enjoy healthy monounsaturated fats like avocado, nuts, olive oil and tuna
It’s about time the “fat makes you fat” myth has been debunked. An abundance of research shows that “good” fats help reduce heart disease, lower cholesterol levels and have other health benefits when they replace saturated fats in the diet. Increasing your fat intake can actually help weight loss.
14. Remember that there can be too much of a good thing and keep an eye on your portion sizes
Dietitian Susie Burrell says she sees many healthy, fit individuals doing their very best to eat well. “But such an intense focus on including as many ‘healthy’ foods in the diet as possible has resulted in … a calorie overload”. She says we’re looking for a couple of serves a day of healthy fats. One serve translates into 100-150g of oily fish, ¼ of an avocado, a handful of nuts or seeds and a couple of teaspoons of oil.
15. Have occasions when you indulge in your favourite foods and enjoy them without guilt
Simply, if we have a little flexibility with food and can include our favourite things then we will have more staying power. Some research even suggests indulging once a week can aid your weight loss efforts.
16. Prioritise sleep
Getting enough sleep (and this will vary from person to person, but tends to be at least 7 to 8 hours a night) impacts metabolism, weight, mood and cardiovascular health among other things. So for your health, fitness and sanity, it’s worth making time to save time.
17. Up the ante on your water intake and have a jug or flask with you wherever you go
Most adults lose about 2.5 to 3 litres of water a day. Most of us also don’t drink enough to replenish what we lose and not only is it vital, it keeps our skin in spanking condition, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, and can also even help us lose weight. So bottoms up.
18. See a doctor and get the support you need if you have health concerns
There are various medical reasons why those who are eating right and acting right may not be losing weight. So, if you feel like something is not right don’t shut up and put up.
19. Take time out to rest, recover and spend in nature
“Nature is fuel for the soul.” While standing in the grass and “earthing” might sound a little hippy, being in nature also energises us, improves our immunity and gives us a heightened sense of wellbeing.
20. Practise self-compassion
We don’t get it right every step of the way and sometimes we slip and fall into the tub of ice cream, miss a workout or get screamingly drunk. If we can be gentle with ourselves and resolve to keep guiding ourselves back on track this will help us stay the course. Research shows self-compassion may just be the most important life skill and helps us develop resilience, courage and energy.