Health and fitness have always been main interests of mine. Nonetheless, I can’t say that I’ve always had the healthiest relationship with these interests. I’ve taken drastic measures to lose weight, and at my thinnest, I was still unhappy with my body. It takes a lot of introspection and self love to get to a place where you’re ready to approach weight loss in a mentally healthy way. Before I jump into this post, I want to stress that the end of goal of living a healthy lifestyle does not always have to be weight loss. At this point in my life, my reason for exercising and staying healthy is NOT weight loss, but maintenance of my lean body mass. I know a lot of people who want to gain weight, as well as people who want to stay just the way they are. Whatever your goal is, that’s great! Three years ago, though, my goal was to lose weight. Over the span of a year or two, I lost about 10-15 pounds, and I’ve maintained my weight (give or take a few pounds) since then with non-restrictive intuitive eating and exercising. So, how did I create this sustainable change? Below I’ve listed a few guidelines for starting a sustainable weight loss journey.
Slow and steady. Sustainable weight loss is a slow paced process. Crash diets and cardio binges are not going to create change that will last a lifetime. If you want to get to a healthy goal weight and stay there, you have to do it slowly. A good weight loss goal should not exceed a pound a week. If anything, I would suggest not exceeding .5 pound a week. Taking it slow allows you to feel energized enough to enjoy your healthy lifestyle instead of draining the joy out of your life.
Find an exercise routine that you enjoy. Getting into the habit of exercising starts with the realization that movement is not a punishment for your body but a privilege. I’ve been lucky enough to maintain a healthy body and to find an exercise routine that I enjoy. I love to lift weights and fit in cardio of whatever type I’m feeling. Let your routine be fueled by your favorite type of movement. I have a whole separate post on this, which can be found here.
Don’t buy into fad diets. Taking a pill or cutting out carbs will never get you anywhere if your goal is to maintain a healthy weight. If you restrict yourself to an extreme level and then reintroduce your body to your previous baseline, you’ll quickly re-gain weight. This can start a very dangerous cycle for your body and mind. Crash diets and diet pills are your quickest ticket into a self-loathing cycle. I learned that the hard way, and hope that you can take this advice and stay away.
Track with caution. I have a love hate relationship with food trackers. I‘ve gone back and forth with tracking my food on My Fitness Pal (MFP). Using a tool like MFP can be really helpful because it gives you guidelines to maintain a healthy diet and macronutrient ratio. On the other hand, it can quickly turn into an obsession. If you’re interested in tracking, I would recommend using a food tracker loosely just to make sure you’re eating enough and not losing weight too quickly. Once you’ve learned what kind of nutrition works out for you, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to ditch the apps. Because honestly, are you going to track every bite of food for the rest of your life? Once you know what feels right for you, the most sustainable eating pattern would be one that’s intuitive and based on what your gut tells you… no pun intended.
Love your freakin self! Remember that your whole reason for having a healthy lifestyle is because you love yourself. If you ever feel like you’re hating the way you look or getting into a cycle of negativity, you may need to step back and re-evaluate your goals and priorities. Your number one priority should always be your health (mental and physical) and no weight loss goal should ever interfere with that. I’ve now been through enough to know that sustainable weight loss and creation of healthy habits only happens when your mind is in a good place. So, be nice to yourself. A whole lot of self love will get you a lot further than the negative voice inside your head ever could.
I hope that these tips allow you to reach your goals in a healthy way. If you don’t feel as if your relationship with food and exercise is a positive one, please seek professional help from your PCP, therapist, or diet specialist. As always, thank you for reading, and feel free to join in the conversation with your favorite tips in the comments below!