I have a really bad sweet tooth. So even when I know I’ll regret that ice cream cone or second cookie, it’s always been really hard to say no. And although I’ve never been fat by any means, I’ve wanted to be a little thinner for a while now, but I could never quite get my will power and determination together to actually commit to it.
This summer, however, I decided I was going to change that. I’m helped by the fact that I’m not eating in a dining hall, where temptations are everywhere, every meal, and by the fact that my house has plenty of fruits and vegetables, which a college campus doesn’t. And I’m lucky in that I like healthy foods and I’m already a fitness junkie, so working out is no problem (part of what perpetuated my dessert cavings was that classic justification, “I worked out today, so it’s okay”)
Still, resisting cravings, sticking to a plan and seeing results are easier said than done. The plethora of fad diets, weight-loss programs and body supplements out there prove that most of us can’t seem to lose weight the simple way – as my sister once put it, “Just eat less and work out more.” But that’s what I determined to do, since we all know the trends don’t work, and I’m happy to say that in five weeks, I have seen results. I’m thinner, my clothes fit better and I am confident that by the end of the summer, I will – maybe for the first time ever – be able to say that I am happy with my body. And that will be sweeter than any dessert.
So, to add my two cents to the contributions of all the weight-loss gurus out there, here are my tips for diet success:
1. Remember that losing weight is 30% exercise and 70% what you eat. It wasn’t until I got this through my head that I realized working out doesn’t make ice cream okay.
2. Don’t just do cardio. Cardio is important for burning fat and calories, but strength training is critical. Building muscle increases your tone and metabolism, helping you to burn more calories all day, every day and look thinner along the way
3. Don’t eat after 8:30 or 9 p.m. Besides the fact that you’re more likely to eat worse foods and more of them late at night, eating late means you have no time to burn the calories and they sit on you all night.
4. Tell yourself that every bite counts. Calories add up quickly, so little snacks do make a difference.
5. Think long-term. Just because you were really good at breakfast and lunch doesn’t mean you can have a big dinner because you’re not just focused on today. You’re trying to hold a calorie debt over a series of weeks.
6. Also, be aware of the calories you take in and know that your calorie intake should be 10 times your goal weight in pounds. I don’t count calories, but when I see that one Oreo is 70 calories, it tells me just how much that tiny cookie might set me back.
7. Still, give in to cravings sometimes; just know it’s a special occasion. We’d all go crazy if we weren’t ever allowed to eat our favorite things, and eventually we would pig out. So let yourself have whatever it is you love once in a while, but remember it can’t be the norm.
7. Eat only when you are truly hungry. If this means skipping meals or merely snacking at meal time, do it.
8. Be sure to get dairy and protein every day, but make sure they’re the healthy kind. For me, this means yogurt with breakfast and nuts with lunch; it can’t mean fatty cheese and red meat.
9. Recruit a buddy. Besides sharing encouragement and ideas, knowing someone else is working this hard too is reassuring and motivating. You can root each other on and let your competitive spirit push you further. You can’t let them lose more than you!
10. Cut yourself some slack. Everyone has their setbacks and bad days, but get a good night’s sleep (also an important tip!) and start again the next morning. One meal, or even one day, is really not going to cause much damage in the long run.