Progressively implementing small modifications over a period of time can lead to significant results. And the most important part of approaching your goals with small, gradual steps is that it will help you adopt new habits that you’ll be more likely to maintain in the long run. In other words, by taking it slow you can lose weight and keep it off, which is a much better and healthier option than watching your weight fluctuate and turning to crash diets or crazy workout regimens every few months. Gradually incorporating these small but important changes into your daily routine will not only help you lose weight, but also build a healthy lifestyle habits that will stick with you for life.
“Every day take a few minutes to do something that brings you pleasure,” says Cindy Santa Ana, a board certified health coach specializing in weight loss, clean eating and thyroid disease and author of "Unprocessed Living: 3 Easy Steps to Transition into Healthy Eating." “Maybe it's listening to your favorite music, getting a pedicure or reading a good book. Take that time to disconnect from the world and take a few really deep breaths.” Santa Ana explained that by taking a few moments to relax and de-stress you can help lower your body’s cortisol levels, a hormone that increases appetite and promotes fat storage. See also: How Exercise Can Reduce Stress.
“I lost 50 pounds over the period of one year and the only exercise I did was a two-mile walk every day,” Santa Ana said. “On inclement weather days, I would ride a stationary bike for 30 minutes—no expensive gym membership required.” And evidence to support the weight loss benefits of walking is more than just anecdotal. One study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that in combination with a low-fat diet, obese subjects who walked 30 minutes a day, five days a week saw a significant decline in bodyweight. Of course, gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts by progressively adding small bouts of running will likely help your cause even more, as one of the largest studies to examine the topic did find that running contributes to greater weight loss and weight management.
“Read every food ingredient label and avoid hidden sugars that can be found in such foods as peanut butter, bread, spaghetti sauce and even OTC medicine,” says Santa Ana. She even suggests avoiding artificial sweeteners, noting that they can potentially increase your cravings for sweets. When aiming to cut back on any part of your diet, the key is to start small instead of going cold turkey (unless you feel you’re really prepared to say goodbye for good). For example, if you currently drink two cans of soda each day, sub in a glass of water or unsweetened tea for one ever day for two weeks, then try cutting out the second can during week three.
Not only are vegetables filled with important nutrients that help to keep your body healthy and energized, but they also contain fiber, which keeps you feeling full and satiated. Again, start small. Try adding a veggie to at least one meal per day for week and then gradually increase the amount from there. A few examples Santa Ana shared: spinach in your morning smoothie or omelet, a big salad with tons of cut veggies for lunch, or a snack of sliced cucumbers with hummus.
Amanda Shapin, Premier Protein trainer ambassador and blogger at ShapinUp.com says that sharing your goals with close friends or family members will help keep you accountable for your actions and choices. “Don’t keep your goals a secret, tell your close friends and family about your fitness and health goals and they can keep you honest and on track,” she explains. “Allow people to support you—you aren’t in this alone.”
In need of some workout motivation? Some new, uplifting tunes might be able to help. Not only can your favorite upbeat songs help get you amped-up for exercise, but they could also encourage you to push a little bit harder. A recent study that examined music’s effect on running found that songs with a “prominent and consistent beat” helped to increase participants’ performance. "Changing up your playlist is a great way to amp up the intensity of your workout,” says Dempsey Marks a fitness trainer, yoga instructor and founder of DempseyFit.com “Studies show the beat and tempo of a song can increase your pace, energy and more. And treating yourself to new tunes when you get your sweat on gives you something to look forward to, increasing motivation and helping beat any risk of boredom.”
Staying hydrated is important. It can help stave off false hunger cues and keeps all of your metabolic functions running properly. One easy way to increase your water intake without giving it much thought: keep a fun, bright water bottle on hand at all times. Research shows that when a healthy option is convenient and attractive, you’ll be more likely to follow through with it. See also: Hydrate Right: How to Make Sure You're Drinking Enough Water
This tip also falls into the realm of making healthier choices more attractive and convenient. “Store all undesirable consumables in harder-to-reach places, and move the more desirable and healthier foods into locations that are easy for you to access,” says Barbara Dershowitz C.A.G.S., C.C.M.P., a certified change management professional. "For example, put high-fat and high-calorie snacks and baked goods on a high shelf that would require standing on something to reach, and move the natural goodies to shelves and counters where you can see and get to them easily.”
By keeping a few healthy snacks on hand, like at your desk or while you’re traveling, not only will you easily be able to squash midday hunger (which can be key for preventing overeating at meals later on), but you can also help yourself avoid less nutritious options that often pop up, like bagel buffets at meetings, celebratory sweets at the office and fast food pit stops on the road.
Be honest, how often do you eat lunch at your desk or sit in front of the TV while eating dinner? By paying more attention to the actual act of eating, you could build a better relationship with food, which, in the long run, will help support your weight loss goals.