How often have you started a weight loss journey? If you are like me, you may have lost count. So, what makes weight loss stick? How do you start a program and then keep at it so you can actually achieve the goals that you set?
I’ve been on my current weight loss journey going on 7 months and I’ve had the most success I’ve ever experienced. What made the difference? For me, personally reaching a point in my life that I honestly and consciously said “Enough is enough!” was the beginning. I had to be ready to commit to a big change, not a diet but an entire lifestyle change. The phrase that you’ve probably heard over and over, “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.” is said so much for a reason. There will be a point that you finally really understand it and you will be ready to commit to something bigger than just another diet.
Once you are there, to keep going you must hold yourself accountable. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and with your support system about how you are really doing, and what you need to keep on going.
To this end, I’ve compiled a list of the 4 things that have worked for me and I hope that they will work for you too. I don’t profess to be an expert, merely someone who is on this weight loss journey and has found something that is working. Please take a few minutes to see what I do and then let me know what techniques you use. Are they similar? Do you have a foolproof tip to share? I definitely want to hear it!
1. Figure Out and Document Your “Why”
This one is so important! Why do you want to lose weight or get in shape? What is your drive? Do you have a special event coming up? Do you have health concerns? Do you just want to be able to shop for cute clothes? Whatever your reason, it is important to honestly figure it out and then write it down. Make it your own personal mission statement.
For me, I had been sick for years before I started this journey. I had been fighting battles with chronic pain and inflammation that led to months in bed at times. I missed out on important family events, I let my friends down, and I was depressed. When I got ready to get healthy I was clear on what my “why” was and I wrote it down. This is what it said,
“I will commit to changing my lifestyle to one of healthful food choices and increased activity because I want to be healthy. I want to be able to play with my son, I will fully participate in his childhood. I will start each day reminding myself that I am strong, and I can change the patterns that have led me to this place because I deserve to have a full and active life with my family and loved ones and they need me to be here and be healthy.”
So, what is your “why”? What has led you to where you are now? Write it down and be honest, brutally so, with yourself. You don’t have to share it, this can be for you alone, or you can broadcast it as publicly as you want. This is your journey and you get to decide how open you are with it.
2. Set SMART Goals
SMART goals are the darling of corporate life, I’ve been in probably 20 trainings around how to create them. There is a reason for it, they work! A SMART goal is Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant and Time-bound.
Creating a goal that is specific means that it is easy to pinpoint whether you are meeting it. If you make a goal that is too vague you can’t monitor your progress easily. For example, if the goal is “I will lose weight by the end of the year” and that is what you’ve committed to work each day for, if in 4 months you’ve lost 1 pound, you are technically meeting your goal, but you are not really working in the spirit of your intentions.
I find it much easier to set goals that are non-scale related. An example of a goal I set is “I will follow my keto macros each day this week.” Another is, “I will walk 1-2 miles at least 5 days each week.” These are specific, telling me exactly what my expectations are.
The next thing you need is a goal that is Measurable. You must be able to tell if you met it. If your goal is “I will try harder to eat right” there is no real way to measure it but if your goal is “I will stay within my 1,200-calorie allotment each day this week” you can track your calories and measure if you met the goal.
You also want to make sure that the goal is challenging but Achievable. If you haven’t been exercising regularly and are very out of shape, setting a goal to complete a marathon in 30 days is probably not going to happen. You can; however, set a goal to run each day for 30 days. That would challenge you and still be achievable.
Relevant goals mean that each one is pertinent to your overall plan. I wouldn’t include a goal for cleaning my house each day in my fitness/wellness goals. Yes, that may be an important part of my day but in the end, it has nothing to do with my weight loss journey.Finally, a goal must be time-bound. You need to give yourself a target date to have the goal met. “I will work out each day for 30 minutes for the next 2 weeks” gives us a time-frame to complete the goal 2 weeks as well as for how long we will do the activity, 30 minutes.
With this information, what are some goals that you are going to set for yourself?
3. Measure Before Starting and Weekly Thereafter
When starting a weight-loss or fitness journey, it is important to have a good data set of where you are starting so that you can accurately track your progress. I recommend not just having a starting weight, which honestly is less important that body measurements,but also measuring with a tape the following areas: waist, hips, thighs, chest, biceps, and neck. It is also helpful to have an idea of your body fat percentage. You can get this by estimating using the technique using this Body Fat Calculator.
Once you have your starting measurements, you should update them at the same day/time each week, bi-weekly, or monthly to chart your progress. Often, if the scale isn’t moving you will see changes in measurements and that helps to keep your morale high and your momentum going. You can keep track of these on a fitness app or in a regular old notebook. I do both.
You should also take before, during, and after pictures. These pictures should be taken in clothing that allows you to see your body, so you can see the changes as they happen. I recommend taking them in your underwear/bra if you are comfortable doing so, a swimsuit, or shorts and a tank top. These pictures never have to be shared with anyone, but they are seriously motivating once you start to see progress.
You should try and wear the same outfit each time and have pictures from the front, each side, and your back. If you have someone to help you with this, it’s much easier but using a mirror you can also do them yourself. I try and take progress pictures once a month and I have them saved in a folder on my phone clearly labeled with the month. I downloaded a free collage-making app, so I can compare the pics side by side.
I have not publicly shared these pictures, they are mine alone. I have let my husband see some of them but, as I felt very vulnerable, I have kept them mostly private. It’s ok to do that! These are raw pictures of your body, you don’t have to share them. If you want to share, then more power to you! There is certainly nothing wrong with sharing images of your beautiful, strong body that is allowing you to live and participate in life.
4. Use Social Media to Engage With Others on this Journey
One of the most helpful tools I have found along my journey is social media. By engaging with my friends, family, and even strangers in Facebook groups, I am motivated in some way almost daily to keep going. If I share a picture, seeing the comments about how healthy I look, make me want to work even harder. Seeing other people’s transformations in groups gives me inspiration. I have buddies who are also on the same journey and we use Snapchat specifically to share progress pics, measurements, meal ideas, and encouragement with each other.
We can connect with millions of people online and I guarantee you can find someone who is on a similar journey. Maybe they have the same health concerns, relationship issues, dietary restrictions, or whatever makes your journey a little more difficult. Getting ideas and sharing your ideas with others is incredibly empowering and makes this whole thing a little easier.
There is a plethora of information out there, recipes, exercises, support groups, motivational messages, almost anything you need to keep going can be found on social media. However, it can be easy to see someone else’s success and feel that your setbacks are amplified. It is important to remember that everyone makes mistakes, everyone has days where they don’t stay on plan, everyone has times that aren’t pretty pictures shared online. It is important that whatever supports you find online, are real and honest and include the good with the bad. It’s also important to make sure that whatever information you receive is taken with a grain of salt and that you do research on any medical/dietary info you get to make sure it’s accurate.
These are the top 4 ways that I have been able to keep myself accountable. By starting with a strong personal mission statement, my “why”, setting SMART goals and tracking them, monitoring my body measurements and progress pics, and engaging online with others on a similar journey, I am well on the path to a healthier life.
Since I started I am 76 pounds down from my highest weight, I am much more active, I have very few days where chronic pain keeps me from participating in anything, and I am fully involved with my child’s activities. I hope that you can use these tips to start the journey to living a healthy life. I also want to hear your tips. What is working for you? Let me know, engage with us on social media, I’m always looking for new partners on this journey!