I’m thrilled to receive so many emails from my readers, and I noticed that one topic kept coming up: “How do I start a weight loss plan?” It can truly be a daunting task, especially if you need to lose a substantial amount of weight and you are starting from ground zero. I have found that in the past, I would become paralyzed with inertia just at the thought of starting. The truth is, the more difficult you make it, the less your chances are of succeeding. The only way to finish something is to start it! Keep it simple. You need to start somewhere. And most importantly, you must have a plan.
1) Get real. Be honest with yourself – and commit to it. I can still remember the moment I knew I needed to make a change. Not those dozens of moments when you are talking to your girlfriends and complaining, “I really have to do something about my weight!” or when you’re struggling to find an outfit for the night and squeeze into your jeans, barely zipping them while cursing and muttering, “I really need to go on a diet!” I am talking about that sobering moment in the cold light of day when you can feel in your gut the need to do something. The moment when the usual strong temptation to stay where you are is nothing compared to the fire you feel rising within you, that desire to make a change. It’s usually a quiet realization, but it’s a real moment and you don’t forget it.
2) Figure out your food. This one point can be so very involved and crucial that people have written books on it. My advice? Don’t make it too complicated. There are 2 things you absolutely need to do regarding food especially in the beginning phase of your journey. First, reframe food as fuel. Sorry if I offend you, but in order to get results you can’t be romanticizing pizza, french fries, or chicken cordon bleu. You need to look at it scientifically. Food fuels your body, period. You need protein, a little bit of good fats, and some healthy greens and fiber. You need to change the way you look at and feel about food. Food is going to help you survive your workouts and aid in your recovery. Food is not your lover or your friend. Food is there to assist you. Don’t let it derail you.
Next, always be prepared. If you’re a mother, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. Remember those days when you carried around Cheerios, string cheese, or Goldfish for your toddlers, just in case they needed a snack? Well, that’s exactly what you need to do for youself. You never want to be in the position where you’re out and about and starving, which leads you to make a bad choice out of desperation. We have all been there. Take almonds and apples with you. Find a good protein bar, and always make sure you have a couple in your bag. I’m a big fan of choosing real food over a bar if I can, but nowadays there are some terrific healthy options you can have and they sure beat breaking down and grabbing chips or fast food.
3) Sweat it out. There is no substitute for sweat. However, people have very different likes and dislikes when it comes to fitness. I’ve said this before but it’s truly important. Whatever exercise or program you enjoy doing and you can stick to is the best one. Is it group fitness? Is it working solo in a gym, or with a friend, or with a trainer? What is it that will motivate you on those days you just can’t imagine putting on a sports bra? I do have some very strong opinions (big surprise!) on what you absolutely must do in terms of sweat – whatever path you choose to take.
Start slowly. The absolute worst and most disheartening thing that can happen in the beginning of this amazing journey is that you injure yourself. Too many people launch themselves headfirst into a rigorous program when just yesterday they were couch potatoes, and after a couple of weeks they are sidelined for a month or more with an injury. I’m even guilty of this myself. So, if I’ve taken time away from my program, I like to follow a simple pattern of 2-1-3-1. So 2 days of exercise, one day of rest, 3 days of exercise, another day of rest. If you find this is too much, workout every other day and rest two days after the third day; workout on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with rest days on Tuesday, Thursday, and all weekend. You will not regret this, and it’s always easier to ramp up than it is to sit out when you’re just getting started.
Get help! If you don’t know what you’re doing, or even if you think you know, you need to get a professional involved. A lot of gyms and studios offer complimentary first time sessions. I firmly adhere to and believe that H.I.I.T. (High Intensity Interval Training) which utilizes both cardio & strength training is the best and most efficient form of getting leaner and fitter. Whatever you choose, it’s so important to learn proper form and proper technique. These things will serve you well for a lifetime.
Invest. There really is no way around this. Whether it’s buying a ten pack of Barry’s Bootcamp classes, joining your local YMCA, or investing in a jumprope, resistance band, and a couple of free weights, you must have something which you have spent your hard earned resources on to call your own when you need to workout. Be smart about this step, and do it after you’ve decided which sweat path you’re going to take.
I could write a book when it comes to beginning a weight loss journey. But truthfully, these three steps are the cornerstone of it all. Your heart, your food, and your sweat. That’s it. Everything else stems from these three things. The simpler you make this, the higher your chances of success. You got this!