More than half of Americans, about 56 percent are trying to lose weight. While there may be some comfort in numbers on the path to weight loss, the length and difficulty of that path is unique for each person. The woman who wants to lose 10 pounds for her daughter’s wedding, for example, probably doesn’t fully grasp the struggle of the diabetic whose doctor has advised him to shed half his body weight for his health, and vice versa.
If you need to lose a large amount of weight—100 pounds or more—you likely have a mix of feelings. On one hand, you’re motivated and determined to reach your goal; on the other, you’re overwhelmed and facing many perplexing and mind boggling questions such as; where should you start? How long will the process take? Do you really have the patience and staying power to stick with it for the months and years ahead?
Weight-loss always requires the right mindset, especially when one has over 100 pounds to lose. We all love quick fixes, but this journey requires a long-term approach, focusing on accomplishing daily healthy behaviors rather than an outcome like scale weight.
By adhering to some smart strategies for diet, exercise and outlook, you’ll be well on your way to losing the weight, and gaining some valuable confidence and life lessons along the way.
Talk to your doctor
There’s no magic prescription that will melt the pounds away, but that doesn’t mean your doctor shouldn’t play a role in your journey. Particularly if your plan is to achieve triple-digit weight loss, it’s always a good idea to speak with your primary care physician first. He or she can answer your questions about diet, exercise and medications, and can help you to set realistic goals and tailor your fitness regimen to your medical history and health conditions.
Start by focusing on diet.
Anyone who has lost a significant amount of weight knows it’s not possible to exercise away a bad diet. Diet should be the first focus, and getting your nutrition right will drop the body fat faster than any workout. Consuming less sugar while increasing your vegetable and fruit intake will help you get started. Next, cut out fried foods like French fries, chicken nuggets and corn dogs.
You don’t have to skip meals or deprive yourself of all the foods you love. In fact, if you consume too few calories, your body will suffer as that will slow down your metabolism.
You can make simple and easy food swaps when you want to eat healthier. For example, if you drink sugar-sweetened carbonated soda, substitute seltzer with a splash of juice. If you love fried potato chips, switch to pretzels or veggie chips (kale chips are the best!). Look for baked versions of any fried foods you normally eat. Planning ahead and planning smart is key. If you’re on the go all day, make sure to pack healthy, pre-portioned snacks, like rice cakes with nut butter, mixed nuts and dried fruit, banana or a small amount of cubed cheese and apple.
Know how much you’re eating.
Mindless eating and snacking is a key culprit in calorie over consumption. To find out how much you eat in a typical day, start logging your food in a tracking app, and once you’ve determined your ‘normal’ range, look for ways to reduce calories in your daily diet, but resist the urge to slash calories super low to drop weight faster. Doing that might work short-term, but it will also crash your energy and make the whole experience miserable.
Start with low-intensity exercise.
High-intensity workouts can be risky at the outset of a long weight-loss journey. People who have a lot of weight to lose have more force putting extra pressure on the joints. Start by setting small, attainable goals each week to build endurance and strength. Low-impact exercises—such as walking, swimming, yoga and the elliptical—put less force on the body and joints, decreasing the chance of injury.
The key is consistency. You have to plan the time and carry out your plan, every day. You can start with a 10-minute walk, and then work your way to up 20 or 30 minutes per day. This will lay the groundwork for a regular workout routine. Once you’ve made the walking a daily habit, you can start sprinkling in more activities, such as running, biking, swimming, sports or going to the gym.
Stop calling it “exercise.”
While you probably wouldn’t spend all that time sweating in spin class if it didn’t burn hundreds of calories, the experts recommend not thinking of exercise as merely a calorie burner. Instead of calling it an “exercise”, call it “activity” , and use this opportunity to do whatever activities you enjoy the most such as—biking, soccer, swing dancing— don’t ruin the fun by calling it a workout.
Stand up for weight loss.
Even for those who carve out an hour for exercise, a majority of the day is typically spent sitting. One study revealed significant weight-loss benefits for people who stood for at least three hours a day. Over the course of a year, the participants burned over 30,000 calories, or the equivalent to eight pounds of fat. To incorporate a change in your life, try to work standing into your daily activities at work or with friends and family. Swap a happy hour sitting at the bar with a walk around the park, or see if your boss will let you invest in a standing desk to break up the long hours sitting at your computer. Even just setting a reminder for yourself to stand up and walk to the break room or to talk to a coworker makes a difference.
Feeling wary about weights?
Consider finding a certified personal trainer to help you feel more comfortable in the gym, show you some basic resistance-training moves and help to prevent injury.
Not sure where to start?
Here are strength training workouts that you can do:
- 10-minute warm up (walking, jogging or cycling)
- Seated cable chest fly (8-12 reps)
- Squat-to-row exercise 8-12 reps)
- Seated leg press (8-12 reps)
- Lateral tube band walks (8-12 reps)
- Crunches with feet on the ground (8-12 reps)
- Lateral leg lifts (8-12 reps)
- Quadruped swimming (8-12 reps)
- Seated dumbbell bicep curls (8-12 reps)
- Standing tricep rope extension (8-12 reps)
- Bridges on the floor (8-12 reps)
Track your progress.
Just as the weight was gained little by little, its disappearance will be gradual, and you have to be patient with yourself, and with the process. You might not notice overnight changes, but after a week, month or year, you’ll be amazed by how far you’ve come since day one. Monitoring and celebrating small victories, such as your clothes fitting better, being able to walk a mile without getting winded or noticing some definition in your arms for the first time, will keep you motivated and inspired throughout your journey. It’s important to give yourself a round of applause every so often.
Make your new habits stick.
As you start to drop weight, the key to maintaining the momentum is adhering to your new healthy habits for the long term. It’s all about finding ways to engage: build friendships with other people who work out regularly, take cooking lessons that teach you how to make healthy food taste delicious or join a group of friends who like to hike every weekend. On the flip side, you may decide to spend less time with friends who engage in the activities that led to your weight gain in the first place. Building the right environment for success is a smart move to increase your accountability and consistency.
Shedding more than 100 pounds can seem like a daunting and losing battle, but a positive outlook, some smart strategies and a strong support system can bring even the biggest weight-loss goals within reach.