It’s frustrating, emotional, and comes with a slew of ups and downs! When you make progress, it’s easy to get discouraged, and when you have a long way to go, it can sound a lot easier just to give up and return to your old ways.
But what if we were to reevaluate the way we approach dieting and weight loss in general? Instead of going from zero to 100 (and immediately cutting out everything we once knew and loved) how about enacting a “pre” weight loss strategy?
Having formerly spent two years as a weight loss consultant, I watched hundreds of women meet their goal weight, and hundreds more give up halfway there. But what I learned most from the experience, is that when it comes to weight loss: awareness and understanding are the true keys to success. Meaning: being AWARE of our cravings, habits and triggers and UNDERSTANDING our personal relationship with food.
So before actually getting started on a weight loss program, I urge you to set aside 2-3 weeks (consider it a “personal research project”) and incorporate the following three practices into your life.
#1. Keep a Food Diary via MyFitnessPal
This is the most important habit to establish before attempting to lose weight. It will feel tedious at first, but I promise it will become second nature after a couple weeks of use.
Instead of writing everything you’ve eaten on paper, it’s much more accurate to use an app such as “My FitnessPal,” which has a database you can use to find the nutritional content in the foods that you eat. Utilize the “notes” section of the app to record your daily emotions, specifically: instances in which you over ate, had cravings and experienced feelings of shame or guilt. What we eat is closely tied to our emotions (especially when we overeat), so it’s very important that we learn when and why we make specific food choices.
Remember: you’re not on a diet —this is all purely observational. Be very honest with yourself and record every little thing that you eat. I know it’s annoying, but if you have weight to lose, you’ve got to figure out where it’s coming from!
#2: Weigh and measure your foods
Although not all weight loss programs will ask you to weigh and measure your foods, this is the best way to control your portions and get clear about your daily intake. When we pour oils and sauces over our foods willy-nilly, we tend to take in excessive amounts of sugars, fats and calories without thinking twice (this is where weight gain can really creep up).
Purchase a food scale like this one, and get in the habit of weighing and measuring (with cups, teaspoons, tablespoons , etc.) everything you’re eating when preparing your meals.
You should also become familiar with reading nutrition labels, and be clear about the serving sizes in your favorite foods so that you understand what you’re actually consuming, and keep your diary accurate as well.
#3: Invest in a good probiotic & drink plenty of water
Oftentimes, weight fluctuations can be caused by digestive issues, such as food getting backed up in your gastrointestinal track, leading to constipation, gas and bloating.
If you start a weight loss program having irregular bowel movements or slowed digestion, your weight loss experience will be much more frustrating as it will be more difficult to assess your progress.
Probiotics are one way to improve bowel function and restore bacterial balance. I use Ultraflora Spectrum (1 capsule has 30 billion cultures) which was recommended by my dietician, but I also saw great results using Now: 8 billion acidophilus & Bifidus.
Make sure you’re also drinking at least 9 cups (8oz) of water per day, and an additional 2-4 cups if you exercise! Aside from the plethora of digestive benefits, water keeps you feeling full and is an essential key to losing weight.
Remember: this period of time is not about losing weight—it’s about analyzing your habits, revealing your triggers, and pinpointing the reasons that you’ve gained weight in the first place!
And as you move to action and begin trying to lose weight, make sure to allow just as much time and research to finding the right plan (or creating your own) -- one that will speak to your unique needs (as revealed during this 2-3 observational period!) and set you up for true long-term success!