Most people can agree that weight loss success stories are so inspiring. Reading about how someone just like you started a fitness program, figured out how to eat clean, or stick to their diet and workout regularly makes reaching your fitness and weight loss goals feel more attainable.
But when you’re ready to start your own weight loss journey, doubt and fear creep in. You might know how to eat well and be active in theory, but when it comes time to put it into practice, theory just doesn’t cut it. Perhaps it’s all the information (or misinformation) that’s confusing and overwhelming you. You may have tried and failed before or you may have even succeeded…only to gain all the weight back.
So, what now?
As you stand at the start of a road that you may have been down before, what can you do to change your habits and change your life? Where and how do you start? And how can you stay motivated along the way?
Well, get ready because whether it feels like it or not, you’ve got this, and we’ve got you. Let’s break it down step-by-step so you can get started becoming your own weight loss success story.
- Start With Your Fitness Why
The very first steps to losing weight and keeping it off for good are to understand yourself, where you’re starting from, and where you want to go. Now, this next question may sound obvious but hear us out: Do you know specifically why you want to lose weight? It’s not as surface level as you might think.
Start by asking and answering the first why. For example, if your first question is, ‘why do I want to lose weight?’ Your initial answer may be, ‘I want to lose weight so I can fit into my favorite jeans.’ You’d then ask yourself, ‘why do I want to fit into my favorite jeans?’ Keep asking “why” for at least five answers in order to push yourself to understand what’s at the heart of your weight loss goals.
Next, think about your implicit motivators – the powerful, but subconscious, impulses or influences that drive your attitude and actions – to determine what will keep you going when you want to give up. Keep your fundamental why and your motivators in mind as you map out and execute a realistic plan for diet and exercise.Losing weight and getting fit are highly personal endeavors despite what a lot of “this-works-for-everybody” fitness and nutrition resources will have you believe. Genetics, energy levels, nutrient absorption capabilities, even personal preferences vary widely from person to person and affect weight loss efforts. That’s why it’s important to develop a plan that will work specifically for you.
- Establish SMART Fitness Goals
Determining your fitness goals should be done thoughtfully. Yes, you’re aiming to lose weight; but ultimately, you want to be healthy and create a sustainable lifestyle that keeps you fit long term. That means the first step is assessing your current overall health and fitness. This includes knowing things like your resting heart rate and body fat percentage. Testing your current fitness level is important, too. Knowing where you’re starting from will help you set measurable fitness goals and give you benchmarks that allow you to track your progress. You can do this by repeating the tests every few weeks during your weight loss journey.You also need to really evaluate your calorie intake and what your body needs to function, to perform, and to thrive. As you undertake a new exercise regimen, it’s important to think about more than just how many calories you’re taking in. Cutting back on empty calories – those calories that provide little nutritional value, get stored as fat, or don’t fuel your body enough to support your cardio training or muscle gain – will be key to your long-term success.Once you know your baseline starting points and metrics, you can use the information to set SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Accountable/Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based. For example, a goal to lose 20 pounds of fat and gain three pounds of muscle in six months is SMART because it’s specific, measurable, and has a timeframe attached to it. It’s also easier to evaluate your progress and make necessary changes versus, say, a general goal to “get healthier”.
- Create a Fitness Plan
It’s important to make your fitness process SMART, too. This means creating a regimen, fall back plans, and get-back-on-the-wagon contingencies. Yes, you’re going to have slip-ups; acknowledging this before you even get started will save you a lot of grief later on.
Your focus should be centered around the steps you’re going to take to lose weight, as much as (or more than) the weight loss outcome. Your actions are the one thing you not only have the most control over but also the thing that will give you the results you want if you’re consistent. So, making a plan to increase your activity level from one 15-minute workout a week, to three 30-minute workouts a week, to four 60-minute workouts a week within the next six months allows you to focus on the habit and work at something you know you can achieve.
- Measure What Matters
Keep in mind the scale isn’t the only – or, arguably, even the most optimal – way to measure progress. Water retention or differences in waste elimination can affect your weight day to day. Plus, depending on your exercise program, there’s a likelihood you’re building muscle. These muscle gains, which help raise your metabolism and burn fat, may not directly reflect in weight loss changes on the scale. Instead of getting discouraged, look for improvements in other areas that truly matter, like strength, endurance, muscle tone, body measurements, how your clothes fit, increases in your energy levels, and improved quality of sleep.
- Simply Work It
Bottom line, the key component in becoming your own weight loss success story is getting rid of fat. So, how do you do this efficiently and effectively – meaning, how do you ensure the fat stays gone?
Simple: Use more energy (aka calories) than you consume.
Fat is expelled mainly through sweat and respiration (crazy right!?). To improve your body composition and overall health, the ideal exercise program includes both cardiovascular, meaning good for heart and lung health, and resistance training, meaning good for muscle and bone health.Since sweating and breathing are key components in getting rid of unwanted fat, exercises that elevate your heart rate to 60 or 70 percent of your max get you into the fat-burning zone.
WANT: A quick and dirty way to determine your max heart rate – simply subtract your age from 220.
When creating a workout routine specifically for weight loss, don’t hesitate to bump up your cardio. And no, running isn’t your only alternative. You can incorporate moves like jumping rope, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, burpees, bear crawls, or high knees. These aerobic moves boost your heart rate and force your body to look for energy reserves in order to sustain these heart-pumping activities. Your body burns three main fuels: carbohydrates, fat, and muscle. Carbohydrates, or “carbs”, are typically a mix of glucose and glycogen, or in layman’s terms, ‘sugars’. After carbs, fat is the body’s next best energy source.
If you want to really dip into and burn up your stored fat, aim for a minimum weekly target of at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, or two and a half hours of moderate physical activity. Just remember, the more active you are, the more calories you will burn.
- Resist So Muscles Exist
Be sure to get in resistance or strength training too. Compared to fat, muscle is more metabolically active, which simply means building and strengthening your muscles will actually help you lose weight from excess fat. This is because even when you’re resting, muscle burns more calories than fat. In fact, research shows you continue burning more calories in the hours after weight training compared to a cardio workout. Even better, you’ll also start to see improvements in your strength, stability, and general functional fitness, e.g. your ability to do everyday activities.
- Mix It Up
To maximize your workouts and lose weight more effectively, don’t do the exact same workouts repeatedly. Mix it up with some resistance work, high intensity interval training (HIIT), and intentional instability. Need some workout ideas? From strength and cardio to flexibility, yoga, and Pilates, there are enough Sworkouts to give you the variety that’ll keep your body from getting too used to one workout.
- Get Personal
If you want to dramatically increase your weight loss success odds, personalize your fitness. Not into weights? Do body weight or resistance band workouts. Hate the gym? Try a fitness app or a boutique class like barre, Zumba, or hip hop cardio. Need nature like a fish needs water? An outdoor bootcamp, beach workouts, or hikes may be your thing. At the end of the day, a workout plan you actually stick to is what’s going to give you incredible, long-term results.
- Make Fitness a Habit
This one’s a biggie. We get it, you want to make a change and you want that change to happen NOW! However, no one wants to revert back to their pre-change body and behaviors after reaching their goal. That’s why one of the most important things you can do is make fitness a consistent habit. If the thought of this makes you groan, let us show you how simple it can be:
- Make it Small
While it may be tempting to go all in on a workout plan, ease into fitness [link to blog 2] instead. Taking realistic, incremental “baby steps” makes these life-improvement changes easier to stick with long-term, and it helps prevent you from getting discouraged and falling back into old patterns. To start small, keep your changes nice and simple. Eat the same few meals. Do the same few workouts. Make your first few changes so ridiculously easy to achieve you can’t help but complete them. Keep reminding yourself that some activity is better than no activity at all.
- Make it Memorable
To help you fight the urge to go back to behaviors that led to you feeling sluggish, unhealthy, and overweight in the first place, write down (or type out) the negative results and feelings you experience from your unhealthy behaviors and the positive results and feelings you experience from your healthier behaviors and changes.It also helps to consistently track your efforts. After all, what gets measured gets managed, and what gets managed improves. By logging your meals and workouts, you’ll see your progress, what’s working, and what isn’t, so that you can make changes as needed. These notes, along with your why, your goals, and your tracking can be motivational weight-loss-journey-saving reminders when you’re tempted or lacking in willpower.
- Make it consistent
Believe it or not, the biggest challenge to a healthy lifestyle is your status quo. Creating new habits requires commitment — and a little discomfort — in the short-term. This flies in the face of our basic human nature which seeks comfort and complacency. Fortunately, research shows that working out on a consistent schedule four times per week can help you establish your healthier habits after just six weeks.
- Make it convenient
To get started with your new fitness habit, don’t feel like you have to sign up for a gym membership or hire a personal trainer. Make it easier on yourself to establish a routine by working out at home. Think about it:
- You can work out at home any day, at any time, for any length of time you have.
- You can break your fitness activities into shorter bursts of exercise and rev up your metabolism throughout the day.
- There’s no weird equipment to figure out.
- You don’t have to worry about how you look or what you wear at home. Wear your pajamas, make weird faces — no one will know!
- You’ll save money on gym membership fees.
- Make it Small
Just be sure to think about small but practical details like clearing out enough space to jump, lie down, or stretch comfortably.
Download the Sworkit Fitness app for at-home workout routines created by experts that you can tailor to your needs
Eat Clean to Lose Weight
You knew it was coming…the “nutrition talk”. Fitness – whether that’s a full on workout or simply being active and getting your body moving – has so many health benefits. It’s also crucial to your long-term weight loss and strength efforts. But exercise alone doesn’t complete the weight loss equation. Along with making fitness a recurring habit, your nutrition has to (has to, HAS to) be addressed also.
The simplest and fastest nutrition changes you can make to lose unwanted weight and keep it off for good are cutting out processed foods and making eating clean a lifestyle. Here’s what makes clean eating so simple and effective.
[CALLOUT: Learn exactly what clean eating is [link to blog 5]
Clean eating helps reduce unnecessary calories while still fueling your body with the energy it needs. Because extra sugars, saturated fats, and weird chemicals are calorically dense or sometimes hard to properly digest and utilize, they can cause your body to store extra calories in case you need them later. These stored calories are what we know of as fat.
Eating clean means heavily reducing or eliminating ultra processed foods and refined sugars that are associated with weight gain [link to blog 7]. While the basic equation for losing weight doesn’t change – if you burn more calories than you consume, barring any medical issues, you will lose weight – there are some foods that speed your weight loss journey along [link to blog 6].
For example, eating foods that force your metabolism to work harder helps burn more calories. And foods that are mostly water, like celery and watermelon, are good low-calorie snacks (bonus, they also help with hydration).
Get (and Give) Support
Because humans are social creatures, a lot of people stay motivated to lose weight by making themselves accountable to others. A support system that helps you get started, helps keep you going when you need a boost, and allows you to support and motivate others in turn has shown to be 37% more beneficial in helping people stay committed to their weight loss journey as opposed to going at it alone.
As you form or join a support community, keep in mind that everyone is an individual with different bodies and different goals. What works for others may not work for you and vice versa. Try to tap into a support system that best mirrors your goals and values and includes people who are down to hold you and each other accountable.
The journey will get tough and defaulting back into old habits will be tempting; know that upfront. If you acknowledge and inoculate yourself against those obstacles at the start of your journey, it will be easier to recover from them if and when they happen.
Use Your Imagination
Stimulating your mental imagery and changing your mindset may sound unimportant but they’re the catalyst of most of your behaviors. To capitalize on these powerful elements try three things:
Embrace your weight loss journey – the clean eating, the workouts, the exercising…of patience – as something you get to do, not something you have to do.
At the same time, start thinking of yourself as a fit person now, not someone who’s lazy or out-of-shape and trying to get fit.
Finally, mentally imagine exactly how you’ll look and feel when you reach your fitness and weight loss goals. A study of the Functional Imagery Training technique or FIT (how apropos is that?) showed people lost 8 times more weight when imagining how good losing weight will feel than people given another form of therapy.
Find Your Fitness ‘Why’: Get clear on how truly important your weight loss journey is.
Establish SMART Goals: Turn your ‘wants’ into specific and measurable ‘objectives’.
Create a Fitness Plan: This is your ‘in advance’ roadmap and backup plan to keep you on track.
Measure What Matters: Look at more than the scale to help you realistically measure your progress.
Simply Work It: Get active and get that heart rate up to burn calories.
Resist So Muscles Exist: Strength training builds muscle, muscle burns calories.
Mix It Up: Don’t do the same workouts repeatedly, surprise your muscles to keep them engaged.
Get Personal: Do workouts that excite you.
Make Fitness a Habit: If you’re consistent it will yield long-term results.
Eat Clean: Nix the processed foods and refined sugars.
Get (and Give) Support: Find people you can be accountable to and with.
Use Your Imagination: Your mindset determines your behaviors, which determine your results. Get your mind right!
As you start to see results, continually assess your progress and adjust your goals, nutrition and workouts. Remember, you’re looking to establish a routine you can do for life…literally.
If you have specific weight loss or nutrition questions, use the ‘Ask a Trainer’ feature in your Sworkit app. No matter where you’re starting from, Sworkit’s team of experts and supportive community can dramatically help you improve your fitness level and crush your weight loss goals in as little as 6 weeks. Let us help you get (and stay) in the best shape your life.