Overweight/obesity is associated with poorer quality of life and linked to many chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. The American Heart Association recommends being at your ideal body weight to reduce risk for serious health problems, allow your body to work more efficiently, and improve energy while feeling better to continue to make positive health changes! If you are not in a healthy weight range (always check with a health professional, such as a Registered Dietitian, if you are unsure of your ideal weight range) then gradual weight loss and weight maintenance may be key in your continued health. Read on for an 8-week plan to get you started on your weight loss journey to a healthier you.
Before you start:
Set a SMART goal. What is a SMART goal? It is Specific, Measurable, Action-orientated, Realistic, and Timely goal. This goal is going to tell you where you want to be and how you are going to get there. It needs to be realistic and attainable to your current fitness levels, motivation, and mind-set. It is recommended to set both short term goals (1-3) and a long-term or “reach” goal.
For example, if after checking with my healthcare provider I find out my Body Mass Index (BMI) puts me into the overweight or obese category and that losing an initial 10% of by body weight will reduce my risk of chronic disease (true!) that 10% may be my overall goal. But how am I going to get there? That is what my SMART goals are for. For this example, I recognize that I need to increase my physical activity, so my first SMART goal is: I will walk on the treadmill or outside for 15 minutes every morning starting this Monday and increase my time as I am able. My second SMART goal may be food related such as: I will pack one fruit and one serving of vegetables to take with me to work to replace my mid-day vending machine raid.
These SMART goals should be written down and placed somewhere I see them everyday. If you are still unsure of how to start, the American Diabetes Association has a great step-by-step example of setting a realistic weight loss goal here.
Now that we have our goals set, let’s get warmed up! It is important to stretch not only before and after exercise, but also daily to help prevent injury, keep muscles toned, and help with stability and balance. Your challenge this week is to start each day with a stretch and build upon this, adding one additional stretch until you are stretching 3-5 minutes each morning. If you are new to stretching, then a resistance band or strap, even a belt, may be a great way to help you get started. Reference this handout on stretching with exercise bands to see!
Beat the blues. Have you heard that exercise creates endorphins, and endorphins keep us happy? Well, that is true! While nothing is that simple, the fact that exercise boosts mood and confidence has been supported over and over. Therefore, the best way to get pumped-up for your weight loss journey is to add exercise and physical activity daily. It is also important to remember to mix things up, especially for weight loss goals. Once your body gets used to a new routine, it is no longer novel and you are no longer getting the same benefits you initially were.
If you are normally a cardio person, try to add in some new strength exercises here and there. Or vise-versa, if you are all about the weights try adding new cardio into your routine. Even better, get both with rowing! If you have never tried a rower, we highly recommend giving it a go. With all this in mind your challenge to focus on this week is to take the stairs everywhere you go and/or add 15 minutes of cardio or strength exercises to your routine. If you are just getting started with your exercise routine, reference this handout for suggestions on setting the right intensity for you.
Think fiber. Fiber is key to maintaining fullness after a meal or snack as well as helping with regularity of our GI! Fiber in your diet may also help improve blood cholesterol levels. This nutrient is found in abundant sources in 100% whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. So, not only will you be able to fill up on less calories with these foods, but you will be able to reap the many benefits associated with the other vitamins and minerals in these food choices. For weight loss, it is not simply adding these foods to your normal meals, as that still adds calories, but replace refined grains and other low nutrient choices with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
With this in mind, the challenge this week is to replace one refined grain (white bread, white rice, white pasta) with a 100% whole grain alternative and/or replace one sugary treat (soda, chocolate, pastry) with a serving of whole fruit.
Your halfway through your initial weight loss challenge! Keep momentum going with the 4 elements of exercise: strength, cardio, flexibility, and stability. If you are missing one of these elements in your current exercise plan, work on mixing things up to add it in. Remember, variety is key and both strength and cardio are important for weight loss goals. If you have the opportunity to use a functional trainer for your exercise routine, these machines are a multi-tasker’s dream. Functional trainers provide the opportunity to get all 4 elements of exercise in one single machine. Get some ideas from this post about the BODYCRAFT T3.
With the theme of momentum and movement, the challenge this week is to mix up both your workout and meal prep routines, especially if you are starting to see your weight loss plateau. And if you are getting bored with your food, or not finding the time to eat healthy, meal prep can make a huge difference! But that’s a topic for another post.
Be mindful. You do not have to be an expert in meditation to practice mindfulness. It is something we can do, and should do, with daily activities. Mindfulness plays a large role in our food choices, portions, and hunger and fullness cues. A simple aspect of this is watching portions and food consumed in front of the TV. This is mindless eating, as you are not focused in the moment on the taste, smell, and experience of the food you are consuming.
If you are an avid TV ‘snacker’, you do not have to stop cold turkey if you do not think that is realistic for you. The challenge this week is to find a healthier alternative. Instead of grabbing the box or bag, try pouring your snack into a small bowl and bring that to the couch instead. Maybe even replace your usual snack with a lower-calorie option, such as un-buttered popcorn, rice cakes, or sliced vegetables or fruit.
Not a ‘snacker’? Then your challenge is to take 60 seconds every day this week to close your eyes and just breath.
Eat your victory veggies! Yes, I know, no one likes feeling like they are 5 again and being told to eat their veggies. However, vegetables are a superhero when it comes to weight loss, especially the non-starchy veggies. These vegetables are nutrient-dense, meaning they are packed with nutrients to help keep us at peak health, and are also low in calories. This makes them a great snack choice and should also cover most of (at least half your plate) during meal times.
Therefore, your challenge this week is to add one an additional serving of vegetables to your daily intake (replacing servings of protein or starches that may be too big). Check out these tips from the USDA to add more vegetables to your day. Reminder: 1 serving of vegetables=1 cup raw or cooked veggies or 2 cups raw leafy greens.
Water, water, water! Staying hydrated aids in weight loss goals as dehydration can mask itself as hunger – not good! Drinking a full glass of water before each meal (especially first thing in the morning) can help keep your portions in check and aid in your overall health goals. It is also important to maintain hydration before, during, and after exercise. Increase your water intake particularly if you have added additional physical activity during this challenge.
Your challenge this week is to aim for 8 cups (64 oz.) of water a day; but, if you have been sweating or are a male, you likely need more than this. Always have a refillable water bottle with you to assist in accomplishing this goal, and fill it up often! Get more tips on staying hydrated here.
Finish strong and keep moving! Week 8 may be the end of this challenge, but health is ongoing and we challenge you to continue with your goals and maintain your progress. If you do this your body will continue to reward you for years to come. And if you started an exercise program this challenge, awesome! Keep up your progress and motivation with a home gym, and let BODYCRAFT help in your healthy living goals.
To wrap up, your challenge this week is to pick at least one of the challenges you completed these last 8 weeks and make it a habit.