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How to Start Losing Weight in 6 Steps

Stop making resolutions and start setting boundaries that actually work.

How to Start Losing Weight in 6 Steps

By Jaclyn London, Good Housekeeping

Vegan buddha bowl. Bowl with fresh raw vegetables - cabbage, carrot, zucchini, lettuce, watercress salad, tomatoes cherry and avocado, nuts and pomegranate

If losing weight is your 2019 resolution, you may be priming yourself to fail just by labeling it as such. That's because almost 80% of resolutions are kaput by February. A big part of why they’re unsuccessful is due to mental whiplash. In December, everyone is saying, "Gorge on cookies and cheese plates and eggnog!" But come January 1st, all of a sudden it's "DIET! DETOX! CLEANSE!"

This binge-and-restrict pattern is fundamentally detrimental to better health and long-term weight loss, and sets you up for a week, month, or even year of shaming yourself into no-good yo-yo dieting.

I propose we rebrand this whole "resolution" thing by honing in on your own clearly defined personal health goals, and the boundaries you can create to keep them in place. What does that mean for you? No eliminating, no cleanses, and no counting calories. New habits will establish a foundation for lasting health, well-being, and weight management.

There are a few key behaviors that may trip you up when it comes to healthier eating habits. So, begin by aiming to do the following:

Eat breakfast every day and make it an energy-sustaining combo of protein, fiber, and good-for-you fat versus restricting to "save up calories for later."
Eat regularly every 3-4 hours, instead of trying so hard not to eat anything until dinner (that's how you wind up in a vending machine-induced food coma).
Schedule regular meals and opportunities to stay active, like going for a walk at a designated "walking" time of day.

Doing those three things consistently may sound simple, but sometimes it can be more challenging to apply in real life. Stick with them by following the basic steps ahead as a guide, and make adjustments based on the foods you love and the activities you enjoy doing:



Step 1: Prioritize personal health by assessing your routine.

How to Start Losing Weight in 6 Steps
Considering where you are when you're eating throughout the day is crucial, because your environment determines what types of foods are available to you. Ask yourself:

  • Do I eat when I'm at home? At work? On my way home from work?
  • Where do I "lose" time I’d otherwise use for physical activity?
  • Where am I when I typically say, "Whatever, I’m getting cheese fries!"?

Assess your schedule, and use it as your guideline for how to put a healthier habit into action. Let’s say you’ve been struggling because your current job requires dining out at lunches at least four times per week. Your first healthier eating habit to prioritize is adding more vegetables to your meals. After looking your calendar, you can:

  • Make a plan to add more vegetables at this specific meal, three days per week.
  • Check your calendar to see where you're due to eat lunch, or suggest to your lunchmates where you’d like to go.
  • Wherever you are, you add a veggie-based salad, soup, side, or sauté. If that sounds too hard, scale back: Make it once per week, or decide not to make that change at lunch and add more veggies to your dinner instead.

If that sounds too simple, decide that you’re going to add more produce at all meals this week, and plan from there.



Step 2: Set boundaries that will help you stick with a schedule.

If you only like the pancakes at your local diner, but your priority is to make healthier habits, then is breakfast at said diner every single day of the week really your best bet? Establish a boundary with yourself to put this into action, like only going to this diner on Sunday and committing to making more breakfasts at home during the week.

Honoring what’s important to you for the sake of your mental, physical, and emotional health does not require restriction of a specific food or nutrient for life, but it may mean restriction from a scenario that you associate with that food. So plan on eating those pancakes at a specific time, and invite people you enjoy spending time with.



Step 3: Identify your boundary bullies.

Boundary bullies are the people, places, and activities that pop out of nowhere and suck the time and energy out of your day. Figure out where they are, who they are, where they’re "hiding" and what it is that makes you the victim of said "bullying." Is it happy hour at the local bar where the buffalo wings become dinner? (Pack a snack before you go.) Is it a colleague who always gets coffee at the same time as you and talks you into donuts? (Make this mid-morning run a part of your breakfast by eating half of your breakfast sandwich before the break, and the other half during coffee.) Is it friends who order items "for the table" when you’re at a restaurant, only to leave you grazing on a bucket of fried dumplings you didn’t even want in the first place? (Tell Jane, "No thanks, I’m having the shrimp and broccoli instead.")



Step 4: Design your own Ulysses contract.

How to Start Losing Weight in 6 Steps
In psychology, this term from Greek mythology describes a plan you make for yourself before you get into a tougher situation in which you’ll have little to no control. For example, your workout "hour" is scheduled for post-work, which means you miss it about 80% of the time thanks to impromptu meetings, conference calls, and general exhaustion. What can you do for yourself right now that sets you up for success at 5 p.m. to actually make it to a 6 p.m. class? If you know it’s a meeting that always runs late but is unavoidable, you may have to adjust.

But if it's a person who always seems to find you at 4:58 p.m., your level of comfort telling Bob what’s what will determine your self-care promoting action. Put this in your calendar so that you know — even if you’re exhausted/hangry/busier than ever and have Bob clamoring at your office door — that this is a priority for you. Then, follow your Ulysses contract for tonight and tomorrow by saying, "See you tomorrow, Bob!"



Step 5: Identify your needs before taking action.

Take a second to evaluate what's really going on before diving into your pantry:

  • Are you thirsty? Drink 16 ounces of water or an unsweetened beverage before hitting the snacks.
  • Are you full, but not satisfied? If yes, have a treat that's individually wrapped (like a few mini chocolate pieces). If you’re actually hungry versus "I just want a little something sweet," it’s probably time for a snack. Enjoy!
  • Are you tired? Time for a little caffeine. Use the guideline of 400 milligrams of caffeine per day as your max, which is the equivalent of Venti at Starbucks, and time this accordingly. But if your schedule allows: Start counting sheep!



Step 6: Decide when “good” is better than “best.”

How to Start Losing Weight in 6 Steps
The best tip I can give you on how to reroute yourself when you’re on your way to the bag of chips is to pause and think a little bit more about what you’re actually in the mood to eat — and what you’d really want if you could have absolutely ANYTHING. Do some strategic thinking and consider if it's the meal that you want, or if it's a specific spice or flavor. (Burritos? Maybe you just wanted some guac!)

Every time you eat is a chance to make more nutritious choices that support your overall health goals, and a big part of that is giving yourself permission to indulge and move on (rather than indulging and kicking yourself for it hours later). Consciously choosing to indulge is the ultimate way to take care of yourself, mind, body, and spirit.
How to Start Losing Weight in 6 Steps

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