We all know the typical go-to’s for weight loss: diet and increase exercise. But what I often hear, as both a trainer and a friend that people talk to about this topic, is the urge to make drastic changes. I’m here to say – Calm. Down.

There is no one amazing diet that is the answer to all your fat-be-gone prayers. If you truly want a diet overhaul, here’s a list of the best and safest for you. The most effective, in the long term sense, is to make little changes to your current eating style that will make big changes over time. How quickly, and how much, you lose is dependent on your current weight, fitness level, and caloric intake.

Some reasonable changes you can make that don’t cause you to immediately change up your whole refrigerator and pantry that cause stress and annoy the people around you who have to hear about it, are:

  1. If you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it. If you’re the one buying the groceries, and you’re upset that you can’t stop eating the junk – stop buying the junk. It’ll save you money too.
  2. If you have children who like snacks or sweets, and you think they currently are eating healthy enough, or get enough physical activity, and thus can continue getting some snacks and sweets – buy them the snacks and sweets that they like, but you don’t have a craving for – this allows them to have their treats, without you sabotaging your own diet because you don’t like those treats.
  3. Think less portions – Drink 3 sodas a day? Start drinking 2, then eventually cut it down to 1 after you’ve gotten a handle on the decrease. Love pasta? You can keep your pasta, but measure some out onto your plate instead of scooping it and just eyeballing the amount.
  4. Have a mindless snacking problem? Don’t eat straight out of the box. Scoop or pour an amount onto a plate, and restrict yourself to only eating that much. It’s when our hands repeatedly enter that cheez-it box without a clue how much we’ve eaten that snack calories creep up on us.
  5. Add more veggies into your life. I don’t care what kind, or if they’re raw, steamed, or with cheese on top. If they replace a bad item, then it’s a positive change.
  6. If you have more than one set of dishes at your house, use the smaller dinner plate. We have a mental desire to fill our plate and it tricks us into thinking that’s what we need to feel full. If that’s you – grab a smaller plate.
  7. Fill your plate with the good stuff first, “bad” stuff after. I’m not going to tell you to stop eating pasta, or rice, or red meat. I eat those too! But, don’t add those items first. Fill your plate with the veggies or fruit first, then the big ticket item second, so you choose a smaller portion.

Over time your stomach muscle will adjust to the slightly smaller portions. The decrease in sweets or junk foods will cause your brain and hormones to say, “Ok, I can live without those.” That is when you can make lasting, effective changes you can stick to.

Exercise! My favorite, obviously.

If you don’t currently exercise at all, any addition will create changes. If you don’t know where to start, simply adding walking into your life can help. Think about what exercises you do know, and try them out. See how many you can do at home (squats, pushups, jumping jacks, etc). Then create a goal to do a certain amount each day. We’re not talking marathon training here, just a few starter exercises to get your brain intrigued to consider trying more.

If you have a problem sticking with any regular exercise routine, here are some options:

  1. Find an Accountability Partner whose fitness level and goals align with yours and make it a regular meetup goal to exercise together. Maybe you can both look up one new exercise to try together each time you meet up. After just 5 meetups, you’d have 10 exercises you can now do together!
  2. Take an exercise class. Don’t immediately assume you’ll be embarrassed or judged. That is all in your head! Most gym-goers are friendly, motivated people, who wish nothing but the best for their fellow exercisers. If they see you struggling, but trying, they will cheer you on. Go! Struggle and sweat! If it’s a wake-up call that you’re more out of shape the you realized, that’s a good thing. Better to figure it out now before you’re older and too unhealthy to make quick changes.
  3. Make a list of what exercise you think you would enjoy. There is no one precise workout that is the best. Like to dance because it’s fun and doesn’t feel like a traditional workout? Try a Zumba class. Hate working out alone because you need camaraderie and someone pushing you? Find a local bootcamp class. Walk into a gym totally at a loss of what to do? Hire a trainer. You don’t need one for years, just for awhile to figure out what to do, what’s best for your fitness goals and level, how to do it, until you feel comfortable and motivated on your own.

If you currently don’t do any exercise, I recommend adding in 30 minutes of walking on as many days of the week that you can. So long as you don’t binge eat afterwards, weight changes will occur.

If you currently do exercise, is it challenging you enough? Have you done the same thing for months or years? If so, you will maintain not lose. If it stays where it’s at, you’ll stay where you’re at.

Lose the, “I exercised so now I can eat more” mentality. Unless you do some insane workout, you don’t need a ton of extra calories. If you’re hungry, yes eat, but don’t chow down immediately after exercise. You’ll replace those calories you burned, and then some. A 30 minute walk does not warrant a fourth meal be added to your day.

You can make diet and exercise changes that align with your life in a way that is more realistic and long term effective. Small changes today, lead to changes in your thinking tomorrow. Over time, you’ll gradually make more healthy changes that lead you to your weight loss goals in a healthy, calm, way.

Good luck!

P.S. Need a motivating, realistic trainer? Give me a shout! I have online options.