We’re sure you’ll agree: diets suck! Not only are they super frustrating and demotivating, but we also recently uncovered that short-term, drastic weight-loss plans can also do damage to your body. Time to boycott the yo-yo diets! Follow these 7 tips and develop your own healthy and enjoyable way of reaching your dream weight, and keeping it.
Identify Your Motivations
This one is fundamental, because staying motivated is key to reaching your body goals but can also be pretty damn hard sometimes. First, figure out why you want to change your body. Is it to feel stronger? Look better? Fight aging? Have more energy? Whatever the reasons, record them. You are going to need to refer to those when moments of weakness set in. And, trust us, they will.
Learn to De-Stress without Food
Who doesn’t get stressed…daily? It’s one of the main reasons people eat unhealthy and skip training, no matter how committed they are to getting in shape. The next time you feel tension mounting, instead of giving in to the knee-jerk reaction to reach for comfort food or a beer, stop. Try other strategies to relax, like taking a quick walk while doing some deep-breathing exercises, roll on your blackroll to your favorite playlist, drop for 10 pushups, text a friend. In other words, find a calming distraction that does not involve eating.
This is also a good time to mention the importance of sleep to lowering stress. A well-rested body is one of the best defenses against stress-induced weight gain.
Celebrate Victories in a Healthy Way
Related to de-stressing is rewarding. Many people reward themselves for reaching a diet milestone with food. As in, “Lost 2 pounds last week, now I can have a doughnut!” Celebrating hitting a goal is awesome, and it motivates you to keep going on those rough days. But in order to reach and maintain a healthy weight for the long term, you need to change the way you look at food, and using it as a prize is a big mistake. Instead, find something else that will make you feel great. For instance, if you stop eating out for a month in favor of cooking healthy meals at home, calculate how much money you saved on restaurants and buy yourself something - workout clothes, concert tickets, new headphones - anything that doesn’t have calories in it.
Focus on Your Health, Not Calories
One of the biggest problems with fad diets is that they encourage short-term thinking with tasks like counting calories at each meal, daily weigh-ins, weekly weight-loss goals, etc. That may work for a month, but the majority of people who crash diet gain the weight right back because they are not focused on developing sustainable habits for the long haul. So, forget about measuring calories think about how eating right and exercising are changing your body for the better. Do you feel lighter? Is your posture better? Do you have more energy after work than you did before? Are your sugar cravings leveling off? If you focus on noticing the changes in your body and the positive effects of your new, healthy habits, you are more likely to stick to them.
Put a Positive Cycle in Motion, Slowly
Rome was not built in a day, and neither is a strong, healthy body. Many make the mistake of jumping off the deep end with huge lifestyle changes, like throwing away all the food in their fridge and restocking with only healthy alternatives, or sketching out a super-ambitious 6 a.m. workout schedule. Most of the time, this only leads to frustration, a feeling of failure and the urge to quit. Starting with small steps is important because it will set a positive health cycle in motion that grows over time until it becomes routine. Examples: switch out fruit instead of dessert after a meal, take a 15-minute walk at lunch, replace some carbs (e.g. bagel, toast) with nutritious proteins (e.g. eggs, Greek yogurt) at breakfast. Even small changes will make you feel healthier, and that will motivate you to make more positive changes, and pretty soon, the results will be noticeable.
Make Easy Meals
Making your own meals and snacks is one of the best ways to get to a healthy weight and stay there because you control the quality and quantity of the ingredients, especially bad fats, sugar, salt, chemical additives and other things commercial food tends to be loaded with. Can’t cook? We understand. The thought of food prep scares a lot of people, but it does not have to be stressful or complicated. Fact: fast food french fries have at least 10 ingredients, but you can make them easily at home with 3 (potatoes, oil, salt) and much healthier, too, by baking instead of frying. Cooking at home can also be a timesaver if you plan ahead or make extra portions for leftovers. The Freeletics Nutrition Coach makes this easy with amazingly simple recipes and a built-in shopping list.
Move It to Maintain It
It is possible to lose pounds through diet alone, but it is very hard to maintain a healthy weight without exercising regularly. Again, starting small is key to moving if you haven’t been. Free Athletes know there are countless benefits to working out, but one of them is that you will build muscle, and muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, even at rest. Combine that with the calories you burn working out, and you will be able to enjoy eating 3 (healthy) meals and even a snack or two every day and still maintain your weight. No diet starving!
Know that you are in control of your body – how it looks and how it changes. You can jump on the next fad diet bandwagon and fall off it, or blame other factors (vacation, a busy schedule, the weather) for weight gain. In the end, you decide what to feed and how to move your body. Choose wisely and keep a long-term view, and you will not regret it.