If you read the first three articles of this series, you should have a pretty solid foundation for a successful weight loss journey. But before you dive in head first, I wanted to leave you with some actionable tips you can use day to day.
1. Mindset - No one can decide to live a healthier life or lose weight for you, it's a decision you will have to make yourself and stay dedicated to. Like I've said, this process will not be easy, so when you want to give up, remember why you started this in the first place.
2. Find your reason - Yes, a hot body is most likely one of the motivators to lose weight, but find other reasons you want to change. This series may be titled "How to Lose Weight," but the articles are meant to be more of a guide on how to live a healthier lifestyle. As I mentioned in the last article, I started to cut dairy and gluten out of my diet because it made me feel better, cleared up my skin, and made my nasal congestion disappear. If I was cutting two of my favorite foods for looks alone, it would probably be a different story. So whether you just want to feel healthier or want to be able to play with your kids again, find something other than looks that motivate you.
3. Protein - I covered this a bit in the last article, but protein is crucial for fat loss. When you workout, tiny tears form in your muscle, and after your workout your body starts to repair these tears. This repair process is what makes your muscles grow, and your body can't do this without protein. It's also important to repair your muscles because those gains will help you burn fat and boost your metabolism. In addition, protein helps reduce appetite and hunger, curb cravings, and lower blood pressure. It's best to eat protein within 30 minutes of working out. If you are able, eat whole unprocessed foods, but if you are on the go, try to fit in a protein shake...and ladies, protein shakes aren't just for bros.
4. Choose whole foods - Whole foods are simply foods in their natural state before they are processed or refined into something else. When you eat whole foods, you get all of the fiber, vitamins, and minerals without added sugar, sodium, and chemicals that often come with processed foods.
5. Eliminate processed sugar - This is a tricky one for me because I LOVE chocolate and pretty much anything sweet. If you need something sweet, try to replace the processed sugars with fruit or other natural sugars. When my chocolate cravings get out of control, I turn to chocolate protein powder. I'll add it to oatmeal, chia seed pudding, and shakes. I'm not suggesting this as the healthiest option, as it's always best to eat whole foods, but if the chocolate craving strikes, I'll usually go the protein shake route. Read the ingredients and sugar contents on protein powders or bars before you eat them though and do your best to stay away from ingredients like sucralose, fructose, dextrose, maltose, high-fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, and cane sugar. Other ingredients that help with sweet cravings are cinnamon, nutmeg, unsweetened cacao, vanilla powder, vanilla extract, almond extract, peanut flour, and coconut milk.
6. Be mindful of natural sugar - The next time you get a smoothie, acai bowl, yogurt or fresh pressed juice, look at the nutritional information. You will be shocked to see how many grams of sugar are in these products that have "no added sugar." There are valid arguments for whether you should or shouldn't eliminate fruit from your diet, but I am on the team "Find a Balance." There is no doubt that sugar is one of the biggest enemies when it comes to successful weight loss, but I also want to live my life a little. Although I still eat fruit, I do limit the amount I eat to either a handful of berries, one apple, a grapefruit, or one banana.
7. Eat your veggies - If food groups were people, vegetables would be that person that everyone likes. They are chock full of amazing nutrients and phytochemicals that will nourish your body and help you lose weight. Veggies also have little to no calories and pack a ton of fiber, meaning you will eat fewer calories and stay fuller longer.
If you don't typically like veggies, there is hope for you. My mom is one of the greatest and most talented human beings on the planet, but let's just say cooking is not her strong suit. I used to hate vegetables because we would eat steamed vegetables a.k.a a bowl of carrots and broccoli that had been microwaved with a bit of water at the bottom. Luckily my dog Skittles was always there to happily gobble up my share of veggies that I fed her under the table. No one's trying to take credit here, but she did live until 16 :)
If you are a picky eater like I used to be, try different vegetables and play around with new recipes. Some things I've found that work are stir-frys, fajitas, omelets, and throwing spinach or kale into protein shakes or smoothies (I convince myself that I am basically having a salad when I do this).
8. Cut processed starchy foods - I can't tell you whether a low-carb diet or low-fat diet will work best for your body, but cutting simple carbs like white bread, pasta, potatoes, and white rice will help you lose weight. Refined carbs are stripped of all of their nutrients and are empty calories that are digested quickly and cause rapid spikes in your blood sugar. These spikes are bad because they release insulin into your blood stream which helps increase the storage of fat in fat cells. If you want to incorporate carbs, try complex carbs like sweet potatoes, oatmeal, quinoa, whole grains, and legumes.
9. Eat enough - This one may sound counterintuitive, but when some people attempt to lose weight, they might make the mistake of cutting their calories too drastically. Part of weight loss is consuming less calories than you burn, but if you aren't eating enough to sustain your body then you will go into starvation mode. Our bodies are still wired like our hunter-gatherer ancestors who had to adapt to conditions when they couldn't catch or kill anything for days or weeks. To adapt to these food shortages our metabolisms would slow down and our bodies would start burning muscle to hold onto those valuable fat stores. Although food shortages aren't as common now, our bodies still adapt the same way, so if you aren't eating enough your body will go into starvation mode. Keep yourself full and nourished by sticking with veggies, protein, and healthy fats.
10. Move every day - Anything is better than nothing. If you can't fit a workout in, do your best to fit in a walk at lunch or bike to work. People might look at me like I'm crazy, but I get up from my desk every 90 minutes and do at least 20-30 squats.
11. Find workouts you enjoy - Discover new workouts on the 38plank app or check out fun fitness classes around you.
12. Lift weights - I can't stress the importance of lifting weights enough. If you read the three prior articles, there are mentions of lifting in each one, but simply put: lifting helps build muscle and muscle burns fat :)
13. Do your workouts in the right order - If you do weights and cardio in one workout, try to do weights first. You will have more energy, be more explosive, and sustain better form than if you had done cardio first.
13. Incorporate HIIT and SIT - High-intensity Interval Training and Sprint Interval Training are some of the fastest and most efficient calorie burners!
14. Get enough sleep - Sleep plays a crucial role in your health; it is involved in the healing and repair of your muscles, heart, and blood vessels, helps reduce cravings and control hunger, effects how your body reacts to insulin, and supports your immune system.
15. Drink enough water - Besides being necessary to sustain life, water can be your best weight-loss friend. Studies have shown that participants who drink water 30 minutes before a meal lose weight faster than those who did not. Also, some people mistake thirst for hunger so next time you're feeling fatigued or sluggish, try drinking some water ahead of grabbing a snack.
16. Plan ahead of time - Prioritize your workouts and meals and get them on your calendar.
17. Have your biggest meal in the morning - Eating a larger, healthy breakfast can jump start your metabolism, stop you feeling hungry during the day, and give you more time to burn off the calories.
18. Cook your own meals - Cooking your own meals allows you to be in control of what's going into your body. It also helps you avoid sugar, sodium, artificial sweeteners, sulfates, and other unnecessary ingredients in addition to portion control portion.
19 Avoid distractions while you're eating - Have you ever gone to a movie and finished half of your popcorn before the movie even started? We tend to eat in auto-pilot when we are distracted, so it's best to slow down, enjoy your food, and realize when you are starting to get full.
20. Analyze your cravings - Similar to how many people mistake hunger for dehydration, there are other triggers that can make us believe we are hungry. When you get a craving, try and decipher whether your feelings further. It may be that you are truthfully hungry, but it may also actually be that you are just bored, emotional, or thirsty.
21. Drink tea - Tea is an amazing addition to any diet. Try rooibos, white, mint, oolong, or green teas to help boost your metabolism, curb hunger, break down fat, and block the formation of fat cells.
22. Don't keep bad food at home - If you don't buy foods that will tempt you, it is much easier to make healthier decision and stick to your diet. I've recently started cutting out processed sugar every few weeks, and when I do, it's usually the thing I crave the most. My will power can be weak at times so if I know there is chocolate in the back of my pantry, it is much more likely that I will give in. If I don't have any processed sugar within arms reach or available to me at home, I usually become too lazy to find a store, and the craving eventually subsides.
23. Don't grocery shop when you're hungry - I'm sure we have all experienced grocery shopping hungry and how dangerous it can be. My cravings tend to get out of control when I'm hungry and I usually end up with random treats I would normally not pick out. If you can, have a small snack before you grocery shop so that you don't go crazy.
24. Go for smaller portions and eat slowly - When we eat off of big plates or straight out of the container, it's hard to assess how much you've eaten, so we tend to eat more. Use small plates, bowls, and cups to make your portions appear larger, and be sure to eat slowly so you realize when you're getting full.
25. Download the 38Plank app - Ok we had to throw this one in there, but our mission is to help people lead healthier lives and reach their fitness goals, so if you are looking to lose weight, I truly believe our app can help you get there.
I hope that this blog series has helped to motivate and inspire you to get started on your journey. Make sure to comment below if you have any questions or insights. Stay tuned for new fitness tips, workouts, and recipes. And of course, make sure to check out our free app :)
Drinking water is associated with weight loss in overweight dieting women independent of diet and activity. Stookey, J.D., Constant, F., Popkin, B.M., et al. Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Oakland, California. Obesity, 2008 Nov;16(11):2481-8.