Weight loss – we’re all talking and thinking about it and trying to figure out the next best diet to finally achieve our goals. Gosh, there are so many diets out there, it’s hard to pick which one to choose. From Keto, to Paleo, to Atkins (and many many more!) you could spend years testing out new ones, trying to find the perfect solution that you’ve been waiting for. I know I’ve been there. I feel like I have spent my whole life trying different diets, just waiting to see the results that many before me have spoken about. And I have news for you- none of them have had long-term, sustainable effects, until now.
And ironically, the method that has worked for me isn’t actually a diet at all. I’m no longer going to bed hungry or feeling weak at the end of the day. I’m also no longer skimping on good tasting food and eating what I love.
So how did I do it? Simple – a lifestyle change.
Here’s the thing, as people who want to be more fit, feel better, or lose weight, we have to work harder on our environment than we do ourselves. I believe that our environment is the biggest predictor of our success. We were designed for an environment of scarcity and so we are genetically hardwired to always prefer the most concentrated form of calories in the environment. SO, we are really fighting this ancient biology in today’s era when all the food out there is calorically dense and unfortunately generally void of nutrition.
Have you ever had that battle in your head- the one where you’re watching Netflix and the little voice inside says, “hmmm, I remember I have that chocolate left over from the other day. A couple of squares would really compliment this episode of OITNB quite nicely!”. Okay, if you haven’t, then I swear you are a more evolved, superhuman who I want to be like. But if you have had that voice, then you need to create an environment where that little voice can’t lead you astray.
So, here is my list of 7 easy steps to losing weight, feeling good, and most importantly – sustaining your weight loss over time.
- CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT THAT SETS YOU UP FOR SUCCESS
Will power is a short lived commodity and it’s only required when you have to make a decision. If something is not there, then you never have to decide not to eat it. The first thing you need to do in order to create an environment that sets you up for success is THROW AWAY or donate all the processed, unhealthy food in your house. Now, everyone’s definition of “healthy’ is different, but for me, I try to make sure that everything that comes into the house is organic (and ideally a fruit or vegetable- and meat and fish if that is your thing). Anything processed stays outside of our home. Fill your fridge and cabinets with foods that are vitamin and nutrient dense- with the nutritional value that will fuel your body properly. Vegetables are the most nutrient and vitamin dense, so make sure to keep a few extra of those around.
- RECOGNIZE YOUR ADDICTION AND TREAT IT
Food is a huge motivator for me. Prior to this year, the first thing I thought of when I woke up was coffee. Come 5pm, I had wine on the brain. Come the end of dinner, Chocolate froyo was all I could think about. If you find that you are thinking about a certain food nonstop, and that you can almost (or completely) not function throughout your day without it, then it’s likely that you are addicted. I would venture to say that the most common addictions are coffee and sugar (both highly addictive substances). FYI- I’m not saying coffee and sugar are bad in moderation, but I am saying that if we need a certain food to function, then we are self-medicating, instead of getting to the root of our problems.
I challenge you to find your vice and wean yourself off of it. The key to a balanced diet is having control over what you put in your body and not letting food have control over you.
- MEAL PLAN
You see it everywhere I’m sure. Fitness and health addicts are posting pictures of their perfectly planned meals for the week, stacked nicely in their fridge like a container store advertisement. But you don’t need to be like that to have a healthy diet. I use Pinterest (but you can use whatever resource works for you) to meal plan 5 easy dinner dishes for the week that use similar ingredients. I am now into a routine where I know what ingredients to buy by heart and I use the same grocery list every time, but that takes time. Add on a couple of breakfast and lunch staples, and get your list good to go. I make sure to buy extra veggies, fruits, and nuts for snacks so I don’t relapse in between meals (my cardio days have me snacking all the time!).
- GO TO THE GROCERY STORE
You’re all thinking- duh, I go to the grocery store every week. Well if you do, great! If you don’t, it’s a fun new habit to get into. Take your planned list with you and get it done. Because most nutrient dense foods live in your fridge, I recommend going to the grocery store once a week to make sure you have fresh produce at home. I would say it takes about 1-2 months to get a good idea of what meals you need to be cooking that use similar ingredients so that you can get that list super simplified and consistent.
Top tip: make sure to get to the grocery store before you run out of fresh food, because when we go just one day without fresh food, we find ourselves resorting to “easy options”, like picking up something to go, and those options usually don’t offer the caliber of food that we should be eating.
It really is as simple as making a concerted effort to pick up the right foods at the grocery store and making sure they are readily available in your home.
- EVERY BODY IS DIFFERENT- LISTEN TO YOURS!
If you’re eating the right food, and enough of a variety, you just will be full and look slim. You need to shift your mindset from “how do I look?” to “how do I feel”. I mentioned this before, but remember food is to our bodies as gas is to a car. If you put crap inside of you, there will be many more consequences than weight gain. And there’s isn’t a single fad diet on the face of this planet that will give you sustainable weight loss if you are putting crap in your body. So start becoming conscious of how you feel after a meal. When I first started doing this, I would literally write down what I ate and how I felt afterwards. That is just a manifestation of my super detailed, perfectionist side coming out, and I’m not saying that you have to do that to succeed, but do whatever you need to do to be conscious of how you feel after you eat.
How should you feel? After the right meal, you should feel lean, energized, full, and satisfied. You guys, it’s really SO SIMPLE. If you don’t feel like that after a meal, then something is wrong. That is how you listen to your body.
I am telling you, and I promise you this, if you start listening to your body after eating the right foods, you are going to lose weight and feel better. Resist the urge to leave yourself hungry or eat the processed food with a label and a low calorie count and fuel yourself with healthy fats, proteins, and VEGGIES VEGGIES VEGGIES. Your body is going to thank you.
Remember, every body is different, so what works for me might not work for you, that’s why listening to yours and recognizing your body’s reaction to your meals is so important. (And it’s also why fad diets don’t work- we are all genetically hardwired so differently!)
- GET MOVING
Losing weight is significantly more about what you eat than how much you move, BUT getting active still plays an important role and should not be overlooked. One pound of muscle burns an extra 50 calories a day, versus a pound of fat that burns only 2 calories a day. Cardio not only burns fat, but releases those endorphins that help you feel better and make better decisions. At the end of the day, my theory is: if you put in the effort to work out, you will be much more self-controlled with what you eat that day. However you do it, get moving, switch it up, and build muscle.
- SIMPLIFY IT – THIS IS THE KEY TO LONG-TERM SUCCESS
Like with anything else in life, if you over-complicate, you aren’t going to be able to sustain, and you certainly won’t feel like you’re really living life. You might have read what I wrote above and thought, “oh gosh, this is going to be a huge change”, or you might think, “actually I’m not too far off from this already”. No matter where you are, you need to simplify the process at every step of the way. A lifestyle change takes time, and it’s easier to do when each step in the process can fit into your busy lifestyle.
- Throw out all your unhealthy food in one go.
- Treat your food addiction by weaning yourself off, instead of cutting yourself off cold turkey.
- Meal plan about 15 super simple recipes that use the SAME ingredients to simplify your grocery list and play with those meals throughout the week.
- Go to the grocery store on a day when you have time and a clear head and make it a routine in your life.
- Get moving. Start slow and take breaks, but make physical activity a part of your routine over time.
In life, the simplest solutions tend to be the most effective. Don’t over complicate your life with diets that aren’t balanced. You can’t sustain a diet forever. You can however, make small changes to your environment that can last forever. Fuel yourself with organic (if you can), clean and unprocessed foods. Just try it for 30 days, your body and your mind will thank you.