Many of us make elaborate plans to lose weight. These can involve swearing to stop eating our favourite tasty treats, and spending a couple of hours each day at the gym lifting weights and pounding the streets. Forty-eight hours later, you're elbow deep in pizza and your gym kit is still sitting unwashed and unused in the boot of your car. Sound familiar? Don't despair.
Keeping the motivation required to lose weight can be one of the biggest hurdles for anybody trying to lose a few pounds. It's very easy to plan a marathon one day, only to have a set-back 24 hours later which sees you reaching for the ice cream in the freezer. If your goals are not realistic, you're condemning yourself to failure and crushing your motivation to exercise and lose weight too. You should then be considering three areas when setting your weight loss regime. These are:
- Your routine
- Diet and exercise
Setting a routine
Your first job is to set a realistic weight loss target, and consider your lifestyle as you do so. Do you have the time to run 10 miles a day, seven days a week, while working full-time and looking after your kids? Highly unlikely, so setting yourself a target of losing 50 pounds in eight weeks is only going to set yourself up to fail. You'll feel much better about yourself and your chances of losing weight if your target is set to losing a pound or two a week over a longer period of time.
You might also want to find a friend who is trying to lose weight and tackle the challenge together, which could be easier if you both have similar lifestyles and live close by. It is easier to go for a brisk walk or jog before work on a regular basis with a friendly neighbour, rather than arrange to meet a friend from the other side of town, for example.
You don't have to make big changes to your daily routine either. Getting up 20 minutes earlier to add a little extra distance to your walk with the dog or morning jog will help, as will getting off the bus to work a stop or two earlier.
Diet and exercise
Starting things slowly is particularly important if you aren't used to exercising regularly. Your body will need time to recover between work outs, so pace yourself and the activities you take part in. Pushing yourself too hard will likely lead to injury, which may stop you exercising for a while which in turn could be detrimental to your weight loss plans.
You'll also help your motivation if you refrain from doing the same thing every time you exercise. Keep things fresh by not always running the same route, or go for a swim instead of a jog one day a week. You'll also find you should lose more weight if you take part in both cardiovascular exercise and use weights, rather than just doing one or the other.
When it comes to food, monitor what you eat with a food diary, and rather than completely stopping eating your favourite snacks, look to simply reduce them instead. Saying you'll never eat another slice of pizza when it is your favourite food will just make you feel deprived. This in turn will weigh on your powers of motivation, so only allowing yourself one or two slices instead of the whole pizza is a far more achievable target.
You can reinforce your weight loss regime by setting smaller goals along the way to the big target. If you'd like to lose two stone for example, then try rewarding yourself at the end of each month if you've managed to lose half a stone.
Take regular photos along your journey so you can see the difference as time passes. If you are struggling to see the point, comparing a photo from when you started to where you are now will help you visualise the difference you have already made to your health - and inspire you to continue.
And remember, if you have a bad day and hit a bump in the road to losing weight, you can always go again tomorrow. Ask your family and friends for help, and lean on those around you. There's a fair chance some of them will want to join in with you, too.