This article isn't here for people who just want to lose a few pounds. This is for people who need to lose a few stone, and are overthinking the idea of weightloss. I'm going to go over basic things that can really help you get on the horse, and can really help you stay on it. I've also explained what a plateau is - because you will hit them - and how to overcome it. It's really very simple, but the main things to remember are that you need to let this stuff work, that you can't expect immediate results, and that there are no quick fixes - supplements and pills, they don't work, and in most cases they're proven to cause severe personality disorders and sometimes minor states of insanity. Yes, insanity. The only true way to lose weight is to eat right (note: that does not mean 'totally cut out everything you like for good') and keep active (and that does not mean 'workout 2 hours every single day).
Beginning: Frame of Mind
First of all, don't think of weightloss as a way to slim down, think of it as a way to get healthier. If you think of it as a way to slim down, you're far more likely to trick yourself into thinking that you're fine as you are, and the truth is, if you weigh 16 stone or 225 pounds, you're not healthy. And I can't imagine that you can sleep comfortably knowing that your weight could very easily affect your lifespan.
The very first thing you have to have is motivation. Now I'll say this from the start: don't look to other people for motivation. Don't try to get theme excited for you, and don't rely on their support. If they start to lose interest, and they will if that's all you focus your attention on for even just a week, you'll find it hard to keep going because no one will want to listen to you. Instead, look to yourself for motivation. Look at yourself shirtless in front of the mirror. This will drive some people crazy but it will force you to look at yourself, and I mean really look. Now take a picture. This is where you start. There's no need to hang it up anywhere or anything like that, hide it on a memory stick or somewhere on your computer. This is just for you.
Start Off: Food, Not Exercise
Now you need to work on your diet, and by diet, I don't mean non-fat, non-carb, 0 calories. I simply mean what you're eating. Forget exercise for now. The reason for this is because you simply won't have the energy or the motivation to start working out if you're not eating right. So cut down on the yummy things that are harming your waistline and substitute them for healthier things. Eat less red meat and more white meat. Chicken is delicious - just don't deep fry it. Keep away from anything that comes in a bucket. Drink some green tea - it tasted foul to me at first but I came to love it after a week - but keep away from energy drinks. These things are completely useless unless you're already running a marathon, and technically, water is still a better choice in situations like that.
Drink lots of water. If you aren't hydrated your body will turn to your liver for water and it just can't do it. This will also keep you from losing weight.
You don't have to completely cut out the things you love, but you should have them in moderation. For example, I'd eat a full 150g chocolate bar in 5 minutes without thinking about it. Nowadays a 150g bar will last me a couple of days because I eat something like two rows of chocolate in a sitting and then put it away. Don't cut out what you love, just cut down on it, because otherwise, if you have a 'small taste' of it in a few weeks as a reward, there's a very good chance you'll eat a lot of it. If you eat small amounts, but every few days, you're less likely to binge.
What I've also found helps is keeping yummy things like biscuits, chocolate bars, crisps and so on out of sight. I am more likely to eat this stuff while playing a game or watching TV, so I keep the stuff away from any television set. If it's not in reach, I'm not likely to eat it. I hide it in my wardrobe and a chocolate bar tends to stay in there for a week - once I ended up with one in there for a month - before I touch it.
To sum up: cut down on the good stuff, eat more of the sensible stuff, keep away from buckets of food, and keep hydrated. Buy some smaller plates, too - this can help smaller portions look just as big as they used to, or make the same portions look too much. This psychology also helps people lose weight, so swap out your plates! And take smaller bites, chew really well and slow yourself down.
Make a note: it's possible that just this will help you to lose the first few pounds, but be aware: everyone is different. You will find some people lose loads of weight from dieting and barely exercising, while others, like myself, see very little results from dieting, but lose far more from exercise. Don't expect to see results right away.
Second: Start Working Out Without Leaving Home
Don't be put off by this. Start small, and start at home. A lot of people make new year's resolutions to do an hour of exercise every day. And do you know something? A very high percentage of these people fail within the first two weeks. Why? Because going from nothing to an hour a day is ridiculous.
Here are some facts: your body needs to rest. You shouldn't exercise every day. If you do, your body will hold onto weight and you won't perform as well the next day either. Instead, you should exercise every other day, resting the days in between. I'll tell you a story. My boyfriend bought me a Wii for my birthday a few years ago because I wanted it to help me lose weight. We go Wii Fit Plus, and it told me to weigh myself with it every day. Big mistake. I never saw any difference because it would keep going up and down. Weight can fluctuate by up to 5lbs in a single day. Yikes. So instead I started weighing myself every Monday and Friday, and exercising those days and all between, except Saturday and Sunday. My thought was that I would be able to see the pounds drop off on Friday's weighing. Um, wrong. I was heavier by two pounds on Friday. This really did a number on my confidence in my exercise, but I managed to pick myself up and work up the courage to weigh myself on Monday, after two days of no exercise - I'd lost 4 pounds? What? Amazing! I worked out the rest of the week and weighed myself Friday. I gained 2 pounds again?! Rested over the weekend, came back monday, and 4 pounds had dropped off. I kept an eye on this and over the course of two months found that, after a week of exercise, I gained 2 pounds at the end of each week, but after resting and coming back Monday morning, I'd lost 4. So, over the course of a week's exercise I had lost 2 pounds each week, which adds up. I learned then that it's a bad idea to weigh yourself if you've exercised recently, and so I only do it after a full rest day.
You could go to a gym - they have equipment, trainers and so on, but they also have other people, and if your motivation is thin to start with, you're not going to want people watching you and judging you. It's important to note that it's not likely that people will - you're not as important to starngers as you think when you're being paranoid, and even if they did make fun of you, you're at a gym doing something about it, so there really is no need to make fun or judge. If anything, you deserve a pat on the back.
But either way, I'd say start at home with something simple. Try a 10 Minute Solutions DVD, or simply pick up some weights. You never have to go to a gym if you don't want to. 10 Minute Solutions DVDs are made up of 5 different 10 minute workouts and come in loads of different types of workouts. I usually buy the dance ones, but I did pick up the kickbox bootcamp and I love it. They only cost about £5, ad £5 for that much interchangable workouts is great.
Pick up some weights and look at some fitness magazine websites. They usually give loads and loads of different and actually 100% effective workouts to do using weights - and don't be put off just because there may be women performing the moves. Men and women have very similar bodies - we're all human afterall - and they'll be just as effective for men. Similarly, there are magazines that come out each month with similar routines - in the UK these are Women's Fitness and Men's Fitness, each magazine tailored to their readers and all of which feature about 9 pages per issue of different workouts that can be done with minimal equipment, usually exclusively dumbells.
Start by aiming for about 25 minutes a day, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or whichever three days a week you have time, while being able to rest for a day in between. Also be sure to weigh yourself first thing in the morning on whatever day you wish to weigh yourself, but don't rely exclusively on the scales. On whatever day you weigh yourself, also measure your waist. If you're using weights rather than doing cardio, the inches will fall off faster than the pounds, so it's important to keep an eye on both readings.
Continuing: What's a Plateau and How To Beat It
A plateau is a stage in workouts that happens every 4-6 weeks where weightloss will slow down or stop altogether. It is a real pain and it can really knock you off the horse when progress slows down or just stops showing. There is, however, an easy way to beat this: change.
Try changing your diet, perhaps a bigger breakfast and smaller lunch, perhaps a few more calories in a day, or a few less. Eat things that are good for losing weight like seeds, almonds and brown rice. Add more veg or get rid of red meat for a while.
Alternative, or just the same, change your workout. For example if you usually do three sets of bicep curls, three sets of jumping jacks, three sets of kettlebell lifts and three sets of pushups, try rearranging that routine, and perhaps add or replace one of the sections with a different workout. Or if you're using a DVD, it might be time to get a new one - don't be daunted by this, there are loads out there.
Plateaus are caused by your body falling into a routine, and being able to predict the movements you're about to make, making them less effective. Even if you keep the same exercises but rearrange them, it'll help bust through plateaus. This is the very reason I subscribed to Women's Fitness: because it gives 9 pages (with about 3 workouts on each page) of new workouts every month - ie every 4.5 weeks - and by adopting them into my routine and swapping older movements out, I constantly keep my workout fresh and my body doesn't get the chance to get used to it.
Time Goes By...
Time does go by, and as long as you can keep your motivation you will be fine. But I'll also say this: I've been trying to get fit for about 8 years, and it never worked for me because I never had the motivation. It wasn't until I got the Wii (and subsequently £300 had been spent to help me get into working out frequently) and decided that I finally couldn't stand my body any more than I decided I needed to change it. It was hard to begin with, and I'd think of any excuse I could to skip exercising, but I knew deep down that if I did that I'd never get anywhere. So I kept at it. I've lost a lot of weight now, and 3 years on from getting that Wii, I've exercised almost every week since, and now it just feels plain wrong not to workout. Sure I slip up sometimes and end up having a whole week off at certain points in the year, but I plow through even illnesses because it's important to me. It's more about health to me now than looks, and 35 minutes of dance and spinning every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, 35 minutes of interval training (run 1 minute, walk/jog 2 minutes, run 1 minute, walk/jog 2 minutes etc) every Tuesday and Thursday morning, and 30 minutes of weights every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening (all of which takes place at home with just some DVDs, a random TV channel - usually Dave - and some 2-3kg dumbells) is part of my weekly routine and doesn't even get thought about anymore, it just gets done. I take Saturdays and Sundays off to fully rest and weigh and measure myself each Monday morning, and I keep note of those measurements, and each day's exercise duration in a weekly planner so I can see my progress, where I've made mistakes, and where I've evidently struck gold.
It seems like it's difficult to start all this stuff off, and when you begin it and start thinking you'll have to do it for a long time it seems really daunting, but before too long, even within 2 weeks trust me, you will:
- See some results
- Feel far more confident
- Feel very good about yourself
- Feel more motivated to do other things
- Feel happier
- Get so used to it that you won't consider it a chore anymore.
Admittedly that last one might take more like a month or so, but the rest really will happen quickly, you just have to stick with it and let it happen, because it will.