Lose weight: How to get started
How small changes help you lose weight
Learn how to spark big changes and lose weight
Chronic dieters vs. People who lose weight and keep it off
A diet helps you lose weight short term. Habits help you lose weight long term.
So, how do you build habits?
I focused on building habits rather than (trying to) summon willpower.
Lose weight by making small changes
Many people think they have to change everything they’re doing in order to lose weight. This belief makes it hard to get started.
The thought of stopping what we usually do and beginning new eating and exercise routines can be daunting. So we say we’ll start tomorrow.
All those tomorrow’s add up. Before you know it weeks, months and years have passed. But it doesn’t have to happen this way. Instead, try making one small change TODAY!
Do something today your future self will thank you for.
A few years ago I was out with friends who were discussing how to lose weight. Both were eating hamburgers with cheese and bacon and a side of French fries and gravy. They were discussing brown rice and why it’s better than white. And how they’d eat brown rice as soon as they started their diets.
By then I was starting to pay attention to how complicated we make trying to lose weight. Like how we think we have to give up things we love to lose weight. I was beginning to see the old me in other people. As I recognized the barriers the diet industry puts in place that make us believe we have to revamp our lives to lose weight (by following their strict programs) frustration began building inside me.
I wanted to write this post to say: Don’t focus on your diet tomorrow! Put your energy into one small change you can make TODAY. Eat your fries, gravy and hamburger with cheese, but hold the bacon. A surprising thing will happen…
Lose weight by making small changes to what you’re already doing
When you try to lose weight by overhauling all your existing routines, you’re just guessing what you need to do. You’re taking a stab in the dark. When you take a giant leap from what you normally do, it’s easy to make unnecessary changes that set you up to fail.
For example, when I was trying to lose weight I immediately cut out anything that had a trace of fat. But only eating low-fat foods always left me feeling hungry. After days of over-exercising and being preoccupied by hunger, I always ended up binging. And the destructive domino-effect continued from there; all stemming from my decision to make a dramatic change, rather than a small change.
Fat is part of a balanced meal. Balanced meals meet our bodies needs. When we don’t meet our bodies needs, say by over-exercising and/or under-eating, our bodies go into survival mode and slow down our metabolism. Then it’s hard to lose weight.
10 years after I completely cut fat out of my diet, I discovered I didn’t have to go to such extremes to lose weight. Had I just made small changes a decade earlier, I would have reached a healthy weight with only a few adjustments to what I was already doing.
For instance, consider adapting what you normally do by:
- ordering a medium drink instead of large
- getting off at one bus stop earlier and walking the rest of the way
- adding a missing food group to your snack to make it more balanced
- taking one flight of stairs and then catching the elevator
- putting a quick, homemade, full-fat dressing on your salad (oil and vinegar!) instead of the no-fat, artificially-flavoured and chemical-packed dressing from a store
Don’t make a lot of small changes all at once. Just think of one modification you can make to your eating routine and one small adjustment you can make to your exercise routine. When a change feels normal, build on it!
It could take a few days, weeks or longer before you get used to the change. When it feels second nature, make another healthy tweak.
- eat dessert
- drink 2% milk
- put butter on my toast instead of eating it dry
- eat the egg yolk (whether it’s boiled, scrambled or fried)
- not blot my pizza with a paper towel before eating it
- eat avocado
- use mayonnaise when I make a tuna sandwich
- include a cookie with my regular snack (an apple)
Including fat back into my food choices helped me break a self-destructive cycle and keeps me full so I can focus on life beyond food.
When you make small changes to what you’re already doing, the next change becomes obvious.
Let’s say you want to start exercising. Begin by taking a five minute walk a couple times a week. Once you get used to that, develop it. Adding a few more minutes to your walk makes sense. Additionally, while little improvements make your next choice clear (rather than a random guess that could set you up to fail), they also build momentum.
When you start experiencing the amazing benefits of exercise, such as sleeping better, having more energy and enjoying the time alone with your thoughts, it’s easier to get motivated. You start looking forward to moving your body.
Whether a problem is big or small, it doesn’t need a big solution. Small changes spark big changes.
Small changes to what you regularly do:
- feel natural
- make the next step obvious
- build momentum
As you work toward healthy eating and exercise goals by modifying what you’re already doing — whether it’s eating more fat or less, or exercising more or less — you’ll find you lose weight. And if something you adapt doesn’t work, don’t worry! Small changes allow you to learn through trial and error so you keep moving in the right direction.
Lose weight with small changes, then it’s easier to create lasting change
Big changes are guesses and often unnecessary. And they’re a shock your system and hard to keep up long term. That’s why most people who go on a diet gain the weight back (and often more). Then they diet again and the cycle continues. Don’t be a chronic dieter!
Losing weight and keeping it off isn’t about being disciplined. Imagine if you had to walk around denying yourself what you want for your entire life. Losing weight for the long term is about building habits. Then healthy choices are easy. Once I understood this truth, it was a lot easier to stop focusing on starting my perfect diet tomorrow and start making one small change today.
Habits are a big deal because about 40% to 45% of what we do every day sort of feels like a decision, but it’s actually habit.
-Charles Duhigg, Journalist
People who are a healthy weight don’t have more willpower than you. They’ve simply built healthy habits.
Find your new normal
Modify what you’re doing.
Give yourself the chance to get used to the change.
Then make another small adjustment.
Slowly adapting what you’re already doing makes change natural.
Then healthy choices become easy.
Soon you’ll lose weight and have a routine you can stick to.
Instead of being preoccupied by hunger, guilt and uncertainty,
You can focus on life and everything you care about.
After 10 years of planning a dramatic change tomorrow, I started making little adjustments to what I was already doing. I went from thinking about hunger and weight loss 100% of the time (including having terrible nightmares about over-eating, after days of eating very little) to not thinking about food or weight at all. Set your mind free. Lose weight by making tiny modifications to your present choices.
Small changes make it easier to get started, lose weight and keep it off.
Work towards healthy eating and exercise goals. A healthy weight will follow.
Last week I wrote about diet pop and how it’s packed with chemicals that confuse your body and mind. I explained how artificial sweeteners make you store fat, burn fewer calories and eat more. Rather than waiting for the perfect day to quit drinking diet soda, try substituting just one of your diet pops TODAY with a healthier beverage. When this choice feels normal, substitute another zero calorie cola. Transition unhealthy habits into healthy habits. Then the change feels second nature. Soon you’ll cut down your consumption and not miss it at all!
Lose weight without shocking your system. Then the change you make will be long term.
Shock to your System, by Tegan and Sara
Dont’ try to lose weight by shocking your system!
Click here for a great article that explains why dieting (big changes to the lifestyle you’re accustomed to) doesn’t work. And why focusing on sustainable choices through tiny adjustments helps you lose weight long term.
Sharing what I learned makes those 10 years worth it
What is one thing you can do today that will bring your closer to your goal?