How to Enjoy Weight Loss (Yes, Really!)

February 5, 2012

This is a guest post by Stephanie Murray.

When was the last time you got excited about losing weight? Do you usually wake up in the morning just raring to go and exercise ’til your heart’s content? How much do you genuinely look forward to lightening up and shifting some pounds?

If you are like most people (and let’s face it, most of us are) losing weight can seem like a difficult feat. The words ‘weight loss’ and ‘enjoy’ don’t usually go together in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence. We have been taught to believe that weight loss should be a struggle, something to be overcome, put up with and suffered through.

However, it does not have to be this way!

In fact, weight loss can actually be fun. I’m serious. You really can go from dreading any semblance of weight loss to genuinely looking forward to becoming lighter, healthier and happier. And this can happen much quicker than you think!

Here are four simple ways to inject some excitement into your weight loss journey, so much so that you will actually look forward to taking each step (I promise!).

1. Focus on Your Health.

This may sound crazy, but the way you think about food, eating and your own health will heavily dictate your behavior – particularly your eating habits. And let me be clear: unhealthy eating is simply a habit, not a character trait, and it is one that can be easily changed.

Staying motivated in your healthy lifestyle may seem difficult at first, but it really can be simple. Break down each day into small chunks, and understand that every little decision you encounter can be a source of positive action.

For example, saying no to mid-afternoon biscuits can single-handedly prompt weight loss. How so? One chocolate-chip cookie contains approximately 78 calories. Doesn’t sound like much? Cutting these out every day for a week saves you 546 calories, and a 500-calorie deficit is all that is needed for a 1lb weight loss. So, forgoing on a 3pm sugar hit that you don’t really need can have a real effect on your weight and your health.

Pretty easy!

When it comes to losing weight, focusing on your reasons for taking action can keep you on the right track. For instance, if you find yourself questioning why you have to sacrifice what you love ‘just to be healthy’, try to re-frame your question. Why would you settle for prepackaged, essentially life-threatening foods (a little dramatic but ultimately true) when you can instead indulge in healthy, vibrant fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, beans, fish, lean meat and low-fat dairy products instead? Why would you let yourself settle for something mediocre when you can give your body tons of nutrients so that you feel full of energy?

All you have to do is stay focused on what you want and keep your health in the front of your mind. Be clear on your goals and your direction and your behavior will naturally follow suit. Before long, you will be craving fresh, delicious foods that help you to look and feel great!

2. Get Enough Sleep.

When it comes to weight loss, I find that the basic steps are often the most effective – and the easiest. And who doesn’t love sleep? Believe it or not, many of us are chronically tired and amass what is known as a ‘sleep debt’. Apart from making us drowsy throughout the day, this lack of sleep can affect our appetites – and our waistlines.

The physiological affects of sleep deprivation can unfortunately wreak havoc with your internal system and make it much harder to commit to healthy living. How often do you feel fatigued and under-rested? When you lack sleep, your body produces decreased levels of the hormone leptin and increased levels of the hormone ghrelin. In short, leptin affects your ability to feel satiated after meals, leading you to eat more than you usually would – or actually need. Meanwhile, ghrelin stimulates your appetite, causing you to desire more food. Together, they can form a disastrous combination for your health!

For the statistic-minded individual, approximately 50-70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep loss or sleep disorders, according to the National Institutes of Health. Furthermore, a 2011 study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that while sleep-deprived individuals burned off the same amount of calories well-rested subjects, they tended to eat 300 more calories per day. The researchers also concluded that sleep deprivation affects the quality of our decisions, leading us to choose unhealthy foods more easily. The researchers were hesitant to label sleep as a direct cause of weight loss; however, it does appear to play an influential role in weight management.

Instead, make your sleep a priority. Aim for 7-9 hours of shut eye each night, and try to be in bed before midnight for better-quality sleep. Our bodies’ circadian rhythms or ‘body clocks’ naturally synchronize with the rising and setting of the sun, so early nights will leave you feeling far more refreshed and committed to your healthy lifestyle. Losing weight was never so much fun!

3. Enjoy Your Food.

Eating healthily is a crucial part of weight loss and can change your life. But what exactly does this entail, and how much do you have to sacrifice to do it? Contrary to what you may have heard, Healthy eating has received a bad rap over the years and many can find this concept in itself off-putting. Know that this is completely changeable and you can learn to enjoy eating well. It is all about finding what you like and working with these preferences.

So where should you start?

Break down your day into meal breaks. What would you usually have for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks? Ask yourself how nutritious these meals are – and be honest with yourself. If you’re genuinely not sure, assess how much fresh food (as opposed to processed, canned, packaged and preserved foods) constitutes each meal. If the results aren’t so optimistic, do not despair.

Instead, have fun with nutrition! Make a list of all the vegetables you enjoy (and I’m sure there are at least one or two… or many more!) and make the effort to always have these stocked in your fridge. Do the same with fruits, lean protein, low-fat dairy and wholegrains. View nutritious foods as an investment in your health. Discover fun ways to enjoy them, such as in natural muesli with natural yoghurt, fresh berries and a dash of honey, a simple garden salad with a lemon dressing or grilled salmon with a dukkah crust. With the expansion of cooking shows and blogs, there is no shortage of quick, easy and healthy recipes to try out. Start with something basic requiring few ingredients and a shorter cooking time and work your way up to more ambitious (and time-consuming) feats!

4. Have Faith in Yourself.

A wise man once told me: ‘The only thing stopping you is yourself’. This is so true for many of us, and it can be the key to your weight loss success. As I mentioned earlier, your mindset will clearly dictate your results in healthy living, and this can be for better or worse. Apart from understanding that your eating habits and behaviors can be easily changed, you need to be 100% sure that you are able to reach your goals. Without faith in yourself, you will not be able to reach your true potential.

Now, this may be what you have always struggled with in your quest for weight loss, and it can seem hard initially. We are all human and we find it much easier to sacrifice long-term gain (or loss in this case!) for short-term rewards. This means that we are programmed to binge on the chocolate in front of us instead of holding off for fruit and healthy living instead. It is human nature! However, there are ways to use your brain and desires to your advantage.

There is no way you can fully commit to something unless you can really see the potential rewards. No one can force you to take responsibility of your health and wellbeing if you don’t genuinely care about it yourself. Similarly, if you think that losing weight is going to be difficult or impossible, then you will act in accordance with this belief. No one can help you if you don’t believe in yourself.

Understand that you hold the key to your weight loss success. There is no ‘secret’ or ‘magic bullet’ that will be able to help you if you are not completely on board. At the same time, nothing can stop you from succeeding if you truly believe you can. By sticking to your guns and knowing that every step is getting you closer to your goal, you can’t help but to succeed. Your own weight loss is achievable and within your grasp. All you have to do is believe and your goals will find their way to you!

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