Want to lose weight? Here are 10 simple steps you’ll need to take to achieve weight loss success. These steps are loosely based on the transtheoretical model of behavior change. Follow them all and your results are nearly guaranteed.
Recognize Your Behavior is Problematic
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying – the first step to getting better is admitting you have a problem. That might sound silly, but until you realize that your eating habits and sedentary lifestyle are a problem, you will continue to rationalize your current behavior.
In this first step you begin to weigh the pros and cons of changing your lifestyle. Once the pros outweigh the cons, you start taking action. Think about why you want to lose weight. What’s your motivation? When the desire for change is strong enough, positive change happens.
Set Your Goal
Studies have shown that people who write down their goals and visualize them have a greater chance at reaching them. Be specific and make them measurable.
For example, don’t just say you want to lose weight. Have a specific goal weight in mind and a date that you want to have it accomplished by. If you’re unsure how long it should take you to reach your goal, here is a fat loss time planning calculator you can use.
After setting your main goal, it’s time to create your action goals that are going to get you there. These might resemble the following:
- This week I will only drink 2 sodas per day.
- This week I will strength train at least one day.
- I will add veggies to one of my meals each day.
- This week I will write down everything I eat.
As you can see, these action goals are very black and white. You either accomplish them or you don’t. They are specific, manageable, and measurable. String enough of them together over time, and you will see amazing changes in your body composition.
Take Progress Measurements
Progress measurements obviously aren’t necessary for weight loss. However, I feel they add piece of mind and motivation when times get tough and your mind starts playing tricks on you. When you start doubting that you’re making any progress, you can pull out these measurements to help keep you focused.
Measure your weight with a scale, body fat with calipers, body parts with a tape measure, and take pictures at specific intervals. It’s a great feeling looking back at old measurements and seeing how far you’ve come.
Determine Your Calorie Intake
Weight loss is about creating a negative energy balance, and the easiest way to influence that is by manipulating your calorie intake. The biggest mistake people make is cutting their calories too low too fast. A simple 15% reduction from maintenance calories is enough to get things going.
When weight loss stalls, simply cut 50-100 calories from your diet. That’s all you need to get your weight loss going again. Check out out my calorie calculator if you need help determining your intake.
Set Your Macronutrient Ratio
Contrary to popular belief there is no one-size-fits-all macronutrient ratio that is best for weight loss. Some people do well on higher carbs, while others do better on lower carbs. The key will be to find a fat, carbohydrate, and protein intake that you can stay consistent with, as even the best macronutrient ratio is a failure if you can’t stick with it.
I like to see people following a few guidelines when determining their ratio:
- Protein should remain fairly constant at between .7-1 gram per pound of lean body weight (about .6-.8g/lb of total body weight).
- Eat between 20-30 percent of calories from fat.
- Fill the remainder of your calories with carbs.
- Eat as many carbs as possible that still enables you to lose weight. Carbs fuel high-intensity exercise.
- Fiber intake should be at least 10 grams per 100 grams of carbohydrates, although I aim for 20g minimum/day.
Plan Your Meals
Now that you have your calories and macronutrient ratios figured out, it’s time to start filling up those calories with meals. This is when apps like LoseIt and MyFitnessPal come in handy, as they easily calculate total calories, fat, carb, and protein intake.
If you’re eating 5 meals/day, you don’t have to create 35 different meals for the week. The easier way to do that is to decide on a breakfast, lunch, and snack(s) you want to eat for the week, and only change dinner and maybe a snack each day. This way you can cook in bulk and only have to reheat when it’s mealtime.
Create Your Exercise Program
Every good weight loss program includes some form of physical activity, but the great programs include strength training. Strength training is a powerful way to transform your body. Trying to lose fat without it will make your efforts much more difficult.
Just as most people cut too many calories at the beginning of their weight loss program, they also add in too much exercise too quickly. Add in exercise in stages so your body can adapt. Going from doing nothing to working out 7 days a week is a recipe for burn out.
1-2 days of strength training is a great starting point. From there you can add in a cardio session if you’d like. Just make sure strength training remains the priority of your exercise program.
This step seems so obvious, but many people get caught up in the planning phase waiting for everything to be perfect, and then they end up never starting. Planning will only take you so far. Things don’t have to be 100% perfect for you to start.
The saying – ready, fire, aim, works well in this situation. In other words, get as ready as you can and then start. Once you get started you can adapt your program to your needs, wants, and lifestyle. It’s much easier to tighten up your program once you know how you’ll react to it.
Push Through Setbacks
Here’s a secret for you – you’re going to fail. In fact, every single successful weight loser “failed” at some point in their journey. The difference is in how they handled those failures.
Instead of seeing mistakes as failures, they chose to see them as opportunities for learning about themselves. They use this information and then create a plan to keep the same mistake from happening again. This is what creating new healthy habits and a fitness lifestyle is all about. Don’t beat yourself up. Get right back on track as a stronger person from your experiences.
Maintain New Healthy Habits
This step is what separates the dieters from the healthy lifestyle livers. Dieters tend to maybe (and I do mean maybe) reach their weight loss goal, but then they typically regain a portion or all of the weight they lose. They never learned how to change their lifestyle, so they end up trapped in the yo-yo dieting cycle.
Maintaining healthy habits and weight loss is much easier for the lifestyle changer. Slowly but surely their new healthy habits pushed out the old bad ones. They are now able to maintain their weight loss and live their new healthy lifestyle as easily as they maintained their old unhealthy one.
Mistakes are made less and less, and they get closer and closer to their ideal body composition. Fitness and healthy living become a whole new mentality and way of life. And the transition from weight loss to weight maintenance is a simple one.
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