How does she do it? That woman in the gym – she must have dropped two dress sizes since you first saw her in spin class. That mom who’s always in front of you in the pickup line at your daughter’s school – she’s barely recognizable from the open house at the beginning of the year. What are they doing – that you’re clearly not – to lose all that weight, and to keep it off?
The formula for shedding pounds seems simple enough: eat less, exercise more and the weight will melt away. But really, as most of us know, there’s a lot more to it than that. Those who achieve diet success don’t just pile less food on their plates or squeeze in an extra workout once or twice week. They change their lifestyles, and they develop healthier habits.
Want to be like them? Here are a few adjustments to make to your diet strategy so that you, too, can start looking and feeling your best.
Healthy habit #1: Set specific, short-term goals
You’re going to lose 50 pounds. You’re going to run a marathon. You’re going to be vegetarian. Great, great and great. The only problem is that these goals are too general, making it more likely you’ll start off strong but fizzle out after a while. Setting shorter-term, more realistic goals (i.e. you’ll lose one to two pounds a week for the next four weeks, you’ll drop one pants size in six weeks, you’ll add five minutes a day to your cardio exercise to reach a 40-minute session) will help you stay on track and achieve real results. Once you’ve reached a goal, set another short-term goal and keep moving forward.
Healthy habit #2: Allow yourself to have cheat meals
Notice that I said cheat meals, not cheat days. Ever notice how the minute you designate something as off limits, you immediately want it? The best defense against this mind game is to let yourself indulge in something that you wouldn’t normally eat. Actually schedule these splurges and do your best to get at least some nutritional value (protein, carbs) from them. For example, if you’re craving pizza, skip the extra cheese and load your slice with veggies. Want chocolate? Go for a dark chocolate bar instead of milk chocolate.
Healthy habit #3: Stay optimistic and flexible
Successful dieters never give up—they know it isn’t easy and challenges will arise, but it can be done. Start every day visualizing yourself reaching the short-term goals you set. Don’t compare yourself to others and be proud of every accomplishment you achieve. If you have a small setback, don’t be discouraged. Just get back on track, keep going and don’t look back. Consistency and a good attitude will keep you focused on your goals and your transformation to a healthy lifestyle. Remember that you are changing your life for a healthier you, not just to lose a few pounds!
Healthy habit #4: Learn portion control
Learning how to correctly gauge portion size is a valuable tool for both weight loss and weight management. Until you measure and observe quantities, it’s hard to know how much you’re really eating. For the first few weeks (at least), use measuring cups, spoons and a food scale so you can actually see what a ½ cup of rice, 4 ounces of chicken or 1 ounce of nuts looks like. Even measure your snacks–it will help you to control mindless eating. And never ever eat directly from a bag or box!
Healthy habit #5: Avoid fad diets
Anything that sounds too good to be true (cookie diets, miracle cleanses) probably is. Successful dieters know that extreme weight loss plans simply don’t work, are usually hard to follow and have high failure rates. Plus, any weight lost is likely to come back, sometimes with a few extra pounds. A good diet focuses on balance, with lean protein (27%), whole grains and complex carbs (55%) and healthy fats (18%) filling your plate. Adopting a healthier lifestyle and getting yourself in better shape takes work—and that’s OK! You’re worth it. (Tip: Skip the lemon juice/cayenne pepper cleanse and instead check out Almased, a healthy lifestyle that centers around a drink made from protein-packed, non-GMO fermented soy, satisfying yogurt and a touch of sweet honey.)