It’s possible for fitness goals to be too specific. When you select an exact goal weight or a specific time for completing a race, you put emphasis on perfection. If you slightly miss your goal weight or if you don’t meet your target race time, you feel like a failure. This way of viewing fitness undervalues the progress you have made, because you are striving for what you picture as an ideal result.
Take your focus off of a golden number. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds in 6 months and you lose 19, you have accomplished a lot. But you may be so focused on not reaching 20 that you fail to see your progress. Use ranges for all of your goals. Lose 18 to 20 pounds, or reach a goal weight of 145 to 150 pounds. Eat 3 to 5 servings of vegetables, or finish the 5K in 30 to 33 minutes. Goals that include a range are specific enough to motivate you, but they put less pressure on perfection, allowing you to celebrate your progress.
Select supporting goals
While your main goal may be weight loss, other health indicators may help you stay motivated too. By tracking your blood pressure, heart rate and body fat, the positive changes in these areas can serve as motivation when you hit a plateau on the scale. Exercise goals work in a similar way. Maybe you can’t run 6 miles yet without walking, but your upper body strength or lower body flexibility may have increased beyond your expectations.
Set up a schedule to measure your progress regularly. Weigh yourself weekly, measure your blood pressure every month, or assess your body fat every three months. This allows you to adjust your program if you aren’t seeing the changes you want while allowing enough time for your new habits to have a positive impact on your health.
The summer heat can derail your best intentions for an afternoon workout, so exercise in the morning. It’s best to avoid outdoor exercise between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm when the sun is at its strongest. Heat and humidity during this time forces you to decrease the intensity or length of your workout and can put you at risk for overheating. The cooler temperatures and less intense sun make a morning workout more enjoyable.
Summer is the best time to take advantage of the vitamins, minerals and plant nutrients in fresh produce. Using fruits and vegetables to fill up with fewer calories will help you reach your summer weight loss goals. Lighten up side dishes with fresh salads and grilled vegetables, and satisfy your sweet tooth with seasonal fruit.
Step 4: Plan ahead for treats
Summer isn’t quite the same without an occasional popsicle or scoop of ice cream. Plan for these treats by adjusting your food intake and your workouts to compensate for the extra calories. Skip a second helping at dinner so you can have dessert, or save treats for the days you can commit to a more intense workout.
Step 5: Create a restful evening routine
The change in daylight hours during the summer may influence your bedtime. When it’s still bright out at 8:00 pm, it can be more difficult to wind down from the day in preparation for a good night of rest. Create a routine that signals your body that it’s time for sleep. Close the blinds and end screen time 1 to 2 hours before you are ready to go to sleep.
Meal delivery services that bring recipes and ingredients to your door are a growing trend for those who want to cook more. If your goal is weight loss, your priorities may be different than the average consumer. Below are a few things to investigate as you choose a meal delivery service that is right for you.
Are there options that meet your weight loss needs?
Many of these services provide healthier options, but that doesn’t always mean they will fit your calorie and nutrient needs for weight loss. Some recipes can look deceivingly healthy, only to have upwards of 900 calories and over 1,000 milligrams of sodium in a serving. It’s important that the nutrition information for the recipes be available to you before you make the commitment to sign up for the service.
Do the meals contain enough vegetables?
The goal of these services is to make cooking easier, which means many recipes turn to simple ingredients like pasta and rice. Others may contain only a piece of fish and a starch like mashed potatoes. Be sure the recipes offered use plenty of vegetables for balanced nutrition. If you find yourself constantly adding your own salad to every meal, the delivery service may not be a good investment.
Does the amount of prep fit your needs?
New recipes can help prevent boredom and help you discover new foods you enjoy. It’s important to be realistic about how adventurous you want to be in the the kitchen. If the recipes you order are filled with unfamiliar ingredients and require more skill than you expect, at the end of the week you might find your shipment still sitting in the refrigerator with other untouched ingredients. If you are new to cooking, choose a service that provides simple, healthy foods and plenty of instruction to keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
Is there a local service available?
Many delivery services operate nationally and regionally, but more and more local services are popping up in larger cities. While either can be a good option, local services are worth exploring. Recipe kits shipped from far away may contain ingredients that have wilted or spoiled during transit. If a local company is sourcing from farms and stores nearby, your ingredients may be fresher than what national companies can provide.
Once you commit to your weight loss goals, you may want see changes fast. It can be discouraging to learn you should lose weight at a slow and steady pace, but stick with it. There is good reason for this approach to fitness.
A safe rate of weight loss
Health experts recommend a weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week. This rate requires a deficit of 500 to 1000 calories per day that can be achieved by eating fewer calories and increasing physical activity.
Benefits of a slow and steady loss
Permanent weight loss requires incorporating healthier habits you can live with. This involves satisfying hunger and cravings in a healthy way by eating more fruits and vegetables, smart snacking and reduced portion sizes. It also means finding an exercise routine you enjoy. The result is a gradual pace of weight loss that you can stick with to reach your goals. It takes time to create these habits. But once they become a part of your lifestyle, losing weight and maintaining that loss becomes easier.
With a slower rate of weight loss, your body metabolizes fat to provide energy and offset your calorie deficit. You will maintain lean muscle mass and you will feel more toned and fit. By eating a healthy diet and maintaining a balanced exercise program, you avoid the risk of feeling fatigued, irritable and unable to concentrate.
Dangers of rapid weight loss
When first starting a weight loss program, you may see a rapid drop of up to 10 pounds in the first couple of weeks. This can be due to changes in your eating habits and water weight loss. After that, weight loss should slow. By continuing to lose weight rapidly, you risk losing muscle, something that can lower your metabolic rate over time.
Rapid weight loss can also require unhealthy habits that are difficult to maintain long term, such as eating too few calories and exercising at intensity levels higher than what is appropriate for your fitness level. Unhealthy pills, supplements and food restriction can also be a part of a rapid weight loss program.
These practices can put you at risk for nutrient deficiencies and overuse injuries. Once the diet ends, the chances are greater that you will return to old habits and gain back any weight you lost. Avoid these dangers, aim for gradual weight loss, and keep healthy, permanent change the goal of your fitness program.
You may have increased your activity level with the expectation of blasting calories and dropping pounds, but the scale hasn’t budged. Exercise is important for health, but many factors play a role in permanent weight loss. There are a few reasons you may not be losing weight with exercise.
You’re not tracking all of your food intake
Exercise can reduce appetite, especially right after an intense session, but exercise often increases appetite. This stems from a need to replenish the extra calories you burned. The extra calories consumed are easily overlooked. Your portions increase, you might talk yourself into a second helping, or add a snack in the late afternoon. Even minor changes in your eating patterns can increase calories enough to offset the calories you burned during exercise, which prevents weight loss. To control your calorie intake, track your food carefully as your exercise increases, and make notes about how exercise is influencing your hunger and cravings.
You’re getting less sleep
Beyond simply helping you feel rested and energized, sleep plays an important role in weight loss. A lack of sleep can upset the balance of hormones that control feelings of hunger and fullness. These changes can quickly lead to increased calorie intake and weight gain. If you are skimping on sleep to squeeze in more exercise, explore options for finding a better balance between the two. This might mean giving up habits like watching late-night television or increasing exercise intensity so you get the results you want with shorter sessions.
While exercise helps reduce stress, sometimes activity can’t fully control your level of stress. During times of excess stress, your cortisol levels can remain elevated. This hormone has been found to increase hunger and elevate calorie intake. These extra calories can undo your hard work and cancel out the calories burned during exercise. If you continue to feel stressed despite staying active, explore additional ways to control the source of the stress and your response to it. A balanced eating plan, meditation, time off from work, limiting screen time and adequate sleep can all help control stress.