A new season provides an opportunity to get back on track and accomplish your weight loss goals. A few changes to your plan and environment will refresh your attitude and give you a renewed sense of motivation.
Revamp your menus
As seasons change so does the availability of fresh, nutritious foods. Don’t stay in a rut of canned green beans and frozen pineapple when you can incorporate fresh asparagus, pea pods, strawberries, and raspberries. Take the opportunity to lighten up your menu with soups, salads, and grilled fish.
Take things outside
Whether it’s shopping, exercise, or dining with friends, take things outside and enjoy the warmer weather. Farmers markets offer some of the freshest, best tasting fruits and vegetables to add to your meals. A light and healthy lunch is more satisfying when enjoyed outdoors whether it’s a picnic or on a patio. Hiking, biking, tennis, softball, and even yard work are all ways you can blast calories while enjoying the pleasant weather.
Out with the old
Take stock of the things in your closet and get rid of clothes that no longer fit, whether they are too big or too small. Keeping your “fat pants” around means you think one day you might need them again. Eliminate that option by donating them. Rid yourself of unrealistic goals and the pressure of fitting back into the dress you wore 10 years ago. Even if your weight loss goal is similar to the weight you maintained back then, your body changes with weight gain and weight loss. You may become leaner in one area and develop larger muscles in another. Focus on a new you and avoid trying to go back to something you once were.
Grow your own
You don’t need a large garden to grow some of your own foods. A few herbs on the windowsill or a potted tomato plant on the patio is fun for the whole family. A sprinkle of herbs in your sauté and a few of your tomatoes on a salad, not only tastes delicious, it adds a nutritional boost and growing it yourself saves you money.
Renew your support system
Surrounding yourself with people who share your interests in health and support your goals makes your journey easier. Step out of your comfort zone to find new sources for this support. Find a group that meets regularly to do an activity you have always wanted to try. Leisure and training clubs for rowing, nature hiking, rock climbing, distance running, or a triathlon can introduce you to new activities and to new people to keep you accountable for your exercise.
Recognizing hunger cues is the key to controlling your appetite and reaching weight loss goals, but hunger can be deceiving. Pay attention to how these four things affect your appetite to prevent overeating.
Too many cocktails
Despite the grumbling stomach you might feel after a few drinks, most research doesn’t directly link alcohol to increased hunger. But alcoholic drinks gradually decrease your inhibitions making it much easier to order nachos instead of a salad or add dessert at the end of a meal. These extra calories, plus the calories in your drink, can result in weight gain. Pay attention to how much you snack while sipping.
Lack of sleep
Surveys show that most people get only five to six hours of sleep per night, but research suggests you need seven to nine. Skimping on sleep causes an increase in appetite stimulating hormones and a decrease in hormones that signal fullness. The increased cravings and hunger that result can lead to a higher calorie intake and weight gain.
Stress causes spikes in cortisol levels, which lead to increased hunger and emotional eating. Cravings for high-carbohydrate, high-fat, and high-sugar foods are common during times of stress because these foods trigger feel-good chemicals in the brain that help relieve tension. Without alternatives to relieve stress, like deep breathing exercises and physical activity, emotional eating becomes difficult to resist.
Refined carbohydrates like sugar, white bread, and pasta can cause a spike in blood sugar that is quickly followed by a drop, often called a crash. This crash results in hunger making you feel as if you didn’t eat an hour ago. You can help to stabilize your blood sugar and reduce spikes and crashes by eating complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, and including lean protein with your meals and snacks.
Whether it’s groceries or a goal weight, putting it down on paper helps you stay focused. Lists serve as guides and reminders, and they can be effective tools to help you reach your fitness goals.
Menus to map out your week
A weekly menu is one type of list that will help you stick to healthy eating. Planning your meals for the week keeps you on track and helps you identify gaps in nutrition. This gives you a chance to revise your plan so you don’t end your week with too few vegetables or too much added sugar.
Shop for healthy foods
If you go to the supermarket without a well thought out list, you may leave with a cart full of unhealthy foods meant to satisfy a short-term craving. Create a list of the foods you need to make healthy meals throughout the week. Take the list with you and stick to it at the store. With a kitchen full of nutritious foods, you will be prepared to eat better and resist tempting, high-calorie treats.
Make exercise a priority
When you put your to-do list in writing, those tasks become a priority. Whether you jot down a 5-minute break to walk the stairs or block out 30 minutes to go for a run, write down your workouts on the same list you use to record errands and tasks.
Work with your schedule
A to-do list is a revealing indicator of your eating and exercise patterns for the week. As you make a list of tasks for the week, complement it with a list of where and what you plan to eat and when you will workout. You will be prepared to pack a healthy lunch on the day with back-to-back meetings, and you can plan to wake up early for exercise when you have a nighttime obligation.
Visualize your goals
What would you like to accomplish in one month? What about in six? Goals like losing inches or running more miles are accomplishments you build up to. You go down one pant size and then two, and you run two miles before you can run six. Writing down your short term goals helps you visualize your long term goals. Making a list of what you want to accomplish is the first step in creating a plan to get there.
Healthy snacks that are rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fat curb hunger and cravings. Keeping these snacks to fewer than 200 calories helps you avoid exceeding your daily calorie budget for weight loss. Try one of these ideas for smart snacking.
Hummus pita pizzas.
Top a warm whole wheat pita bread with two tablespoons of hummus. Shred one medium carrot and sprinkle it over the top. Cut into wedges before serving. 160 calories
Bean dips with fresh veggies.
Combine one can of beans with your favorite herbs and spices in a food processor to create a dip for vegetables. Try four tablespoons of this Spinach Bean Dip with Smoked Paprika with one cup of sliced cucumber. 104 calories
Fresh fruit with ricotta and honey.
Top one cup of mixed berries with two tablespoons of part-skim ricotta cheese. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons of honey. 135 calories
Chopped tomatoes with feta and basil.
Chop one cup of cherry tomatoes. Stir in two tablespoons of feta cheese, one teaspoon of olive oil and two chopped basil leaves. 133 calories
Jerky and a piece of fruit.
Choose turkey or buffalo jerkies made with natural flavorings that are low in sodium and sugar. Pair one ounce with one cup of pineapple. 134 calories
Nut butter on whole grain toast.
Spread one tablespoon of cashew butter on a slice of your favorite whole grain toast. Top with one tablespoon of fresh blueberries. 178 calories
Combine one cup of your favorite frozen fruit with one cup of low-fat milk and one teaspoon of honey for quick smoothie. Try one half cup of raspberries with one half cup of peaches. 175 calories
Research shows that a walking program can result in successful weight loss. You can boost the calories burned and the likelihood that you will stick with your plan when you incorporate a few simple guidelines.
Put in the time.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, 150 to 250 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise (walking) can result in modest weight loss, but more significant weight loss requires more than 250 minutes. This means that if you truly want to initiate changes in your weight you should commit to at least a 50 minute walk, five days per week. If you are a beginner, do what you can now and work up to this goal. If you put in the time, you will get the results.
Step up the intensity.
Boosting the intensity of your walk will help you burn more calories. Try speed intervals by walking quickly for 60 seconds and recovering at a slower pace for 30 seconds throughout the workout. Take an outdoor route with hills or stairs, or increase the incline on your treadmill. Break up your routine by hiking on the weekends. The hills, elevation, and rough terrain will challenge you to work harder.
It takes time to build your fitness level and to burn the necessary calories for weight loss. With consistent exercise, your body will be able to push harder and longer to boost calorie burn. Going out for a leisurely walk once a week may provide health benefits, but it likely won’t be enough to initiate weight loss. Pick the number of days that you can commit to exercising and stick with it to see results.
Give it purpose.
Use your walk to run errands. A 25-minute brisk walk to and from the post office counts as a workout. Once you get to the mall, walk the halls for 30 minutes before you start shopping. Invite your co-worker to a walking meeting. One study showed that people who walked the dog for just 20 minutes, five days per week lost an average of 14 pounds in a year. When your workout helps you accomplish a task, it is much easier to squeeze it into your day.
Make it fun.
A walk doesn’t have to be a boring stroll from one point to the next. Mix things up by adding strength training circuits. Walk 10 minutes, stop and do 15 squats. Walk 10 more minutes, stop and do 20 calf raises.
Ask friends to join you or reserve your walk for special time with a loved one. The more enjoyable your exercise the more likely your workout will be something you want to do, not something you have to do.