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You might think that the most important part of weight loss comes when you’re in the thick of eating healthy and working out on the regular. But you would be wrong. The key, friends, is preparation.
Follow These 9 Simple Steps To Set Yourself Up For Weight-Loss Success
Do these before you even think about starting a diet.
But with a little preparation you can combat those issues and more. Here’s your game plan.
“Look back at past dieting trials and think about what you learned from those experiences,” Batayneh says. Maybe it was your mid-afternoon snack that kept you satisfied on your way home and prevented you from downing a bag of chips while making dinner. Or maybe you learned that you can go without a little something sweet after dinner if you have something sweet earlier in the day, she says.
And don’t be afraid to think about things that flat-out didn’t work (like that extreme diet or insane gym schedule). Don’t think of the latter as failures, she says. Rather, they are important lessons on what you shouldn’t do this time around.
“Decide how much weight you would like to lose and divide it into manageable pieces,” says registered dietitian Jessica Swift, R.D. She says that getting caught up in the grand total can make even the best progress feel slow and discouraging. If you want to lose 20 pounds, five-pound increments should feel less daunting. You could also consider dividing things up into weekly goals of one to two pounds.
Remember, losing more than two pounds per week isn’t necessarily healthy—or realistic. “You didn’t gain this weight in a day and you won’t lose it overnight,” she says. (Kick-start your new, healthy routine with Women’s Health’s 12-Week Total-Body Transformation!)
We all know that skipping out on sleep makes you want to eat, like, everything. But even if you somehow manage to eek by on crappy sleep while keeping your eating habits in check, you’re still at a disadvantage. One study from the University of Chicago found that dieters who slept 8.5 hours per night lost more fat than when they slept 5.5 hours per night—even though they were following the same exact diet.
Batayneh suggests going to bed at the same time each night and waking up, sans snooze, at the same time every morning. Avoid using gadgets before bedtime and always (we mean always!), get at least seven hours of sleep per night. No excuses, people.
Find out the best way to get a better night’s sleep:
To know what you need to do to lose weight, you first have to establish your baseline. What healthy lifestyle choices are you already making? Where do you have room for improvement?
“Start keeping a food log and make notes in it about when you eat, how you feel when you eat a certain food, when you find yourself feeling super starving, and what you eat,” Batayneh says. “Don’t worry about counting calories.” You can keep a log in your phone, on a Word document, or even in a cute notebook that you can carry around with you.
Once you’ve figured out what your current eating habits are, it’s time to be honest about what unhealthy or trigger foods you can really cut down on, Swift says.
“Make sure that the foods that may have contributed to the weight gain are not readily available,” she says. Give the junk food away, donate it, just get rid of it. You don’t have to eliminate these foods from your life, but by keeping them out of your kitchen, you’ll cut down on temptations big time. For example, you’ll be a lot less likely to eat ice cream if you have to drive to the ice cream shop instead of just walking to your freezer.
As you are thinking through what less-than-healthy foods you can avoid, also consider which ones you really aren’t willing to part with for good. “I have worked with so many women who tell me they love their mocha, or wine, or a little something sweet after lunch. They shouldn’t have to give those up,” Batayneh says.
“Deprivation is depressing and sets you up for failure in the long term. Every food has a place in our diet,” she says. “It’s not about saying ‘no’ to the foods you love, it’s knowing how to incorporate those foods into your diet in a healthy way.” Think moderation, not deprivation.
If you head into clean eating without a solid reserve of healthy (and tasty) recipes, you’re screwed. Before getting started with weight loss, find at least a handful of recipes that you’ll actually want to eat and are simple enough to cook, Swift says, explaining that once you master those meals, you’ll feel empowered to slowly branch out and integrate more recipes into your repertoire.
Try making all of your meals at once and keeping your refrigerator full with a week’s worth of food at the time. If finding the time for all that is tough, consider checking out grocery- and meal-delivery boxes. Whatever strategy works best for you, the end goal is that you fill up on whole, healthy foods and cut your processed and restaurant meals to a minimum.
Losing weight can be a mental game. In fact, one University of Kentucky study found that people who learned and practiced stress-management techniques lost up to 17 pounds in seven weeks—without doing anything else to control their eating. So the earlier you can get your mind right, the better.
“If you find that you tend to overthink things and get a little anxious, then you need to find a place of calm,” Batayneh says. “You don’t have to sit down and close your eyes for this. Build a small library of podcasts that you can listen to on your way to work or even when you wake up. It doesn’t have to be super Zen. Just positive.”
While it’s crucial to have support when embarking on your weight-loss journey, resist the urge to tell everyone—especially any frenemies or otherwise toxic people in your life—about what you’re doing.
“People like to chime in sharing their experiences and opinions,” she says. “But you should know that their experience is not going to be your experience and you can’t compare yourself to others.” #DoYou
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