How to Lose Weight and Stick to Your Diet This Year
By: Courtney Sperlazza, MPH
- Even if you know how to lose weight, it’s hard to change your habits. Your brain likes to take the easy route, and at some point will start clamoring for you to go back to your old ways.
- Removing obstacles can make weight loss, or any goal, easier to achieve.
- Strategies like finding a diet buddy, being armed with recipes, and even something as simple as knowing why you want to lose weight keep you focused on the endgame.
Figuring out how to lose weight can feel daunting. But the toughest part of a new diet, like any lifestyle change, is making the decision to start. If you’ve landed here, you’ve done that much. You’re over a huge hurdle already!
That’s not to say you won’t run into tough times in your weight-loss efforts. Any new eating plan is hard to adjust to, and your brain resists change, which doesn’t help matters. Still, the most successful diet is one that you can stick with long-term. Read on for weight-loss tips and tricks to help you get past the hard times and keep your new diet plan on track.
Know why you’re trying to lose weight
You know that you want to lose weight, but do you know why? When you start a new eating plan or practice, it helps to know why you’re doing it. If you’re not clear on why you’re changing your habits in the first place, how can you dig deep when temptation hits?
So, your goal is to lose weight. But that’s not a “why.” Why do you want to lose weight? Keep asking yourself why until you get to the heart of why you want to get healthier. Once you know why you’re starting your diet, print out this out form, fill it out, and keep it in your pocket or on your fridge. Remind yourself several times per day why you’re changing your eating habits.
Take a look at your friends
Chances are, you’ve heard that you’re the average of the five people with whom you spend most of your time. That advice is everywhere, because it’s true. It’s human nature to conform to a degree.
To predict what you’ll do in a tricky food situation, look at what your friends are doing. If the bulk of your social life comes with pizza and beer, you might have a lot to work against.
The key to achieving your weight-loss goals is removing obstacles. You don’t have to ditch your friends to make your diet work, but if your Sundays involve watching the college games while mindlessly stuffing your face, you might want to re-think how you spend your Sundays.
Then if you feel that you need to skip the game, you can still have social time. See if your crew is up for a hike, or an afternoon on the kayaks.
An even better way would be to put yourself in a situation that helps you make new friends with people who also want to lose weight or get healthy. You can join a weekend biking group or a keto cooking class to make friends who do what you’re trying to do, in a fun way. Facebook and Meetup both have plenty of groups for those looking to make nearby friends with similar interests.
Choose a diet that helps you feel full
Chances are, if you’ve tried to lose weight before, you’ve fallen for the decades-old, low-fat, high-carb dieting advice, which means you know all too well about yo-yo dieting, too. You may also be skeptical about the fact that fat is good for you — especially when you’re trying to lose weight.
When you eat carby, sugary foods and snacks, you end up with the all-too-familiar sugar spikes and energy crashes. That’s all due to insulin, which skyrockets when you eat carbs. Insulin also tells the body to store calories as fat — and most people trying to lose weight aren’t looking for extra padding in the belly or thighs. Since dietary fat has less impact on insulin levels than carbohydrates or even protein does, you don’t have to worry about sugar crashes, cravings or storing rolls of body fat.
Fat also slows the absorption of the carbs and sugars that you eat along with it, keeping blood glucose level so your pancreas doesn’t produce as much insulin as it would if you ate just the carbs or sugar.
Without your insulin levels all over the place, you don’t need to eat as much or as often. Fat keeps you full and your insulin stable — meaning, you won’t obsess over food all the time if you eat more quality fats and fewer carbs.
In addition to fat, you need to eat nourishing foods so you’re not hungry. When certain nutrient levels like iron, zinc, or B12 drop, your brain signals you to eat everything under the sun until you get it. (Really, look up pica. People with iron deficiency have turned to chewing on toilet paper to get it. Your brain doesn’t know that TP doesn’t have iron. It just tells you to keep eating until you run into iron.)
And don’t even think about cutting calories to lose weight
It may sound like “not starving” is the same as “feeling full,” but it’s totally different.
Making sure not to starve yourself is making sure you’re eating enough. Outdated recommendations to restrict calories leaves you hungry and on the dieting roller-coaster. Cutting calories isn’t sustainable for several reasons. When your body senses you’re eating less, your metabolism slows down to preserve the calories you’re getting. This makes losing weight even harder — and is a big reason why your weight-loss efforts often plateau.
When you cut calories, it signals to your body that you’re in a famine. Especially for women, if your body thinks there’s not enough food to grow a baby (yes, even if you’re not pregnant), it will make you less attractive to potential mates in order to help the species thrive. It’s wacky but true. Here’s what that looks like:
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- Excess body hair
- Pale skin
- Loss of libido
- Lack of energy
So if you’re not supposed to cut calories, how to lose weight? Research shows that you can lose a significant amount of weight with intermittent fasting,where you eat all the food you need in a shorter window of time. Though there are different intermittent fasting methods, the Bulletproof Diet recommends skipping breakfast and replacing it with buttery coffee instead. (You can read more about it here.) If you do it right, you won’t even be hungry.
Find tasty versions of your favorite foods
Taking on a new lifestyle isn’t about denying yourself. You might have to experiment with some new and unfamiliar ingredients, but you can find ways to enjoy all the food you love and still lose weight.
Here are some favorite Bulletproof-friendly recipes to whip up when you want something indulgent:
Berries, ice cream, and doughnuts…you don’t feel deprived now, do you?
Get a diet buddy
Peer pressure is crappy when you’re a tween, but it’s awesome when you’re an adult. Let’s face it, sometimes you do better when someone else is watching. You’ll do even better still if that someone else is also working towards losing weight.
Whether it’s an encouraging partnership or a bit of a competition, recruiting a buddy to take on your new diet plan with you makes it more fun, and it keeps you focused. You can chat about strategy, struggle, make friendly wagers, whatever it takes to make it work.
Don’t take on too much too soon
If you want to learn how to lose weight, know this: Your brain is the busiest lazy bum there is.
Meaning, your brain is so incredibly active that it has a super-high energy requirement. Because of this high energy requirement, it’s going to take the path of least resistance whenever possible.
When you take on too many changes at once, your brain will panic and start clamoring to go back to the way things were. It needs to learn that each individual change is benefitting the body system it’s regulating.
If you do one small thing every day, or a few baby steps at a time, you’re less likely to get overwhelmed. When your brain can take time to get used to change, it will determine that you’re not going to die because of it, and it signals that everything’s okay. Then, it’s easy to keep going.
Taking on a little at a time is part of working with your biology.
Keep a food journal
If you’re the journaling type, it’s incredibly motivating to look back at where you started, even after a few weeks. Journaling is also a way to pinpoint what’s working and what’s not. After you’ve tracked your eating habits and mood for a while, you’ll start to see patterns.
You can use a plain old notebook and pen, or you can use fancy fitness tracking apps. Whatever you choose, you’ll want to track:
- What you ate
- How you worked out
- How you felt after eating or working out
- Changes in mood, skin, hair, sleep, digestive issues
- Any other stats that are important to you
- Random thoughts that day
Changes are hard, but they’re easier if you have some tools at your side to help you. And hey, if you mess up one day, it’s not over. Pick up the next day where you left off. If you fall off for three weeks, it’s still not over. Again, pick up right where you left off. Be kind to yourself and practice forgiveness. Instead of harping on what you haven’t done, look at what you have accomplished.
People tend to want these official start dates, like the first of a week, month, or year. Truth is, you can start now, and tripping up doesn’t mean it’s the end date. It’s just a stumble, and you can get right back to it whenever you want. That’s power.
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