I lost 20 pounds this past year. Without really trying. I didn’t change my fitness program – I don’t have one. I didn’t stop eating the things I love. I can smash a pizza… Destroy a slice of chocolate cake… Get lit on tequila… I just don’t do it as often!
I’ve tried losing weight in the past, and it didn’t stick. I’ve tried strict diets, but I’d often find myself elbow deep in a pizza because I got hungry or couldn’t stave off the craving. I tried working out, but it wasn’t fun, and tough to do so consistently while traveling… and I’d reward myself after a workout with a cupcake or something sugary and delicious that would invalidate all the work I’ve done. As you do.
But something finally clicked. I saw people around me living healthy lifestyles. I became frustrated with how unhealthy I’d become. I wanted more for myself. More for my life. So I changed a few things. And it was really damn simple. I’ll be sharing three small changes you can start making today, because developing habits doesn’t work so well if you dive off the deep end.
I’m not a nutritionist or a doctor or really anyone you should trust with your health, so take this with a grain of salt. And I’m not getting fitter or stronger, I’m just getting trim. I’ll work on the shredded part later.
Before we get started, I’d like you to answer a critical question: Why do you want to lose weight?
Is it that you want to get your bikini bod on lock? Get trim for your high school reunion? Look great on your wedding day? Is your why for other people or for yourself?
The lightest I’ve been (until recently) was on my wedding day. I wanted to fit into my dream dress. So I started watching how I ate. I was on a strict net 1,200 calorie per day diet. Tracked everything I ate on My Fitness Pal. And I lost the weight I needed to. Full disclosure… I looked amazing!
But it didn’t last. Not just the marriage – the weight loss too. Because my why wasn’t big enough. I had a short term goal that was about looking good in front of other people. It was about pride, not about health. It wasn’t enough.
Will your why still exist in 3 months? A year? In 5 years?
“Forget about willpower. It’s time for why-power. Your choices are only meaningful when you connect them to your desires and dreams. The wisest and most motivating choices are the ones aligned with that which you identify as your purpose, your core self, and your highest values. You’ve got to want something, and know why you want it, or you’ll end up giving up too easily.”
– Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect
Last year, I found a why that stuck. I want to be healthy. I want to feel healthy. I want to treat myself and my body with love and respect, because it’s the only one I have, and it’s the one that’s going to take me through the rest of my life. And I like this life… a lot! I want it to be long and full of epic moments. I want to wake up every day feeling fucking awesome.
What is your why?
Now that you’ve identified your motivations… Here’s 3 things you can start doing today that will help you lose weight.
This is the first step I took, and the easiest. One day I just stopped drinking cappuccinos and started drinking americanos. And? I noticed enough of a difference after two months of drinking differently that I got excited by the idea of making other small adjustments.
That was it. Really. No more dairy or sugar in my drinks. I learned to love the taste of black coffee, the light bubbles of plain soda water, and the sourness or bitterness of unsweetened cocktails. I clearly didn’t stop drinking alcohol, I just started drinking it differently!
And it wasn’t just me that noticed the difference. After a couple of months, my friends started noticing too. All I had done was change what I was drinking.
Now that I’ve cut the sugary drink habit, I can’t even handle the taste of sugar in my coffee. No bueno!
If you only attempt one change after reading this, cut sugar and dairy. And read the labels of drinks you’re buying at the shops… you would be surprised at what’s in canned or bottled teas or other supposedly healthy drinks.
Don’t eat the whole pizza.
Portion control, yo! Eat what you need, not what’s available. Just because someone puts a heaping plate of food in front of you doesn’t mean you have to eat it.
Do you ever get halfway through the plate and realize you’re not hungry anymore… but keep going? Finish a meal and wonder if you really needed the whole thing? We’ve all overeaten, because it’s easy to when it’s there. But you don’t have to.
Now, when I order a meal at a restaurant, I’ll often decide how much I want to eat right now, and put the rest in a takeaway container before I even start eating. If I’m lucky enough to be dining with company, I share. Between two people, an appetizer and a main shared is usually plenty of food.
If I’m flying solo and order a pizza (because it’s my fav – you may have noticed because I’ve mentioned it so many times already!!), I’ll take out a couple slices for right now and package up the rest in separate single meal sized tin foil packets to reheat later. Once it’s no longer in front of you, you won’t eat it. And you’ll save money because one meal becomes two!
Another tip? Use a smaller plate when you’re cooking at home. I eat my meals on a side plate, because I rarely need more food than that. And if I’m still hungry? I’ll put some more on the plate. No big deal. But I start with what I think I need.
Be aware of what you eat.
Find a tiny notebook – small enough to fit in your pocket or purse – and carry it around with you everywhere. Every day for at least three weeks, write down every single morsel of food or drop of liquid that goes into your mouth. Every time, without fail, no exceptions.
That’s it. Don’t try to change it, just be aware.
“The first step toward change is awareness. If you want to get from where you are to where you want to be, you have to start by becoming aware of the choices that lead you away from your desired destination.”
– Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect
You may find that your habits will naturally change. Because pulling out your notebook when your friend gives you three Skittles so you can write it down can get annoying fast. You may find yourself saying no next time. Maybe at the end of the day you’ll read over your food log and feel a rush of guilt, and wonder if you really needed all of that food? On a day when you’ve made healthy choices, you may feel a surge of happiness. Enjoy that moment to be proud that you took care of yourself that day.
All this is meant to do is make you aware of what you’re eating. Any change that may occur will be as a side effect of this new information that you have. It’s stupidly simple. Just write it all down. See how you feel. See what happens in a few weeks.
“Your biggest challenge isn’t that you’ve intentionally been making bad choices. Heck, that would be easy to fix. Your biggest challenge is that you’ve been sleepwalking through your choices.”
– Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect
I started this habit after finding it in a book a friend recommended to me – The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. It’s a quick read about small changes every day that create significant impact in your future. The chapter on habits was wildly valuable, and worth the $10 cost of the book. I would recommend picking this up for a little inspiration!
There’s not much more to it than that. Know your motivation for weight loss. Stop drinking sugar and dairy – right now. Watch your portion sizes. Write down everything you eat. These are small habits that you can start changing today, and if you do them religiously, you will notice a difference quickly.
It’s ridiculously simple.
When you’re at the beginning of making a change to your health routine and habits, trying to stop yourself from eating what you love, and punish yourself for eating things that you perceive as ‘bad’ is a harsh approach. This has never worked for me.
What worked was tiny changes, more awareness, and loving the feeling of being healthier – without sacrificing the pizza and chocolate.
Today, I find that I’m never tempted by sugary drinks. I don’t snack as much. I say no when people offer me food or drinks that don’t fit with my lifestyle choices. And I still set aside a portion of my food and eat off of little plates. Without thought. That’s all second nature now. It’s habit.
Since then, I’ve added a few other principals that I will share a little further down the road. But this is a great starting point.
I hope that you find some inspiration here to start making those little minor adjustments to your eating habits that will have you healthier and happier and absolutely stoked a few months from now!
It feels good to feel fucking great!
[Leader photo by Shaune Brien.]