Attempting a massive lifestyle overhaul – overnight – in the spirit of turning over a new leaf to lose weight can be totally intimidating. And, statistically, enormous changes made too quickly have been shown to lead more often to enormous reversions right back in the opposite direction.
Determined, committed baby steps towards change, on the other hand, are far more likely to lead to impressive results that stick in the long run. There’s nothing wrong with starting small. As long as you commit to each step, and keep flaming that inner fire that pushes you to take that next step, and then the next, and then the next.
Making simple, small adjustments to daily habits, routines and choices can have a tremendous impact on the rate and ease with which you achieve your long-term weight loss goals. Start by just choosing one of the ten commitments below. Make this one change the goal of your week, and commit to integrating it into your daily life, every day. Then, the following week, select a second commitment, and focus on making it a part of your regular choices and routines every day. Then choose a third, and so forth, pushing forward one goal at a time, one new change each week. Soon, these small commitments begin weaving themselves together into a healthier, trimmer, slimmer, happier lifestyle that you no longer have to struggle to live out.
Before you know it, you’ll start to see enormously gratifying results with just these small, calculated steps of effort, without feeling like you had to be ripped away from your comfortable world and plunged into unfamiliar and overwhelming territory.
It starts with just one step. The first step. Right now.
10 Commitments I’ll Take On in the Next 10 Weeks,
One by One…
Studies show that habitually eating before bed and eating late at night in general triggers a series of hormonal imbalances that can lead to increasing weight gain, broken sleep patterns, insomnia, and a higher vulnerability to mood disorders like chronic stress and depression.
Moreover, your body needs at least two to three hours to fully digest a meal. Eating too close to bed time can disrupt the digestion process, leading to bloating, gas, and feeling ill the next morning.
Other research has shown that people who get at least 7 hours of sleep every night tend to have lower body mass indexes, faster metabolisms and less abdominal fat. In addition, people who go to bed at around the same time every night, without television or the computer on, are more likely to experience a deeper and more restful sleep, to exhibit more regular stable sleep cycles, and to wake up feeling better rested and energized.
This week, I commit: to being in my bed with lights out by a set bedtime every night, a bed time that allows me to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. I will stop eating at least 3 hours before my set bed-time, and if I get hungry before bed, I will drink tea or a warm caffeine-free alcohol-free beverage that helps me relax and unwind.
2. Drink more between meals, but not during meals.
Your body requires powerful enzymes to break down and digest food, especially after heavy meals. Too much liquid drank during meal time can dilute these natural enzymes, preventing them from doing their job and leading to inadequate digestion and weight gain. Drinking clean water and herbal teas regularly throughout the day, on the other hand, has been scientifically shown to boost your metabolism, improve digestion, elimination and overall health. The Institute of Medicine roughly estimates that individuals need to drink at least 8 to 10 tall glasses of water a day, and more in hot weather, if exercise and activity is performed, when alcohol/caffeine/high-sodium foods/other dehydrating foods are consumed, when ill, and other circumstances.
This week, I commit: to drink no less than 8 to 10 glasses of pure clean water and herbal teas each day, before meals and between meals. I will not drink during meals.
3. Watch what I’m sipping.
The desire to cool down with an uber sweet sipper or to warm up with a mug of creamy comforts makes us suckers for beverages with high calorie price tags. Unfortunately, our bodies aren’t wired to recognize how much we’re actually paying for them. The digestion system doesn’t register the calories from liquids the same way it does from solid foods, which prevents the “I’m full” hormones from signalling the brain to stop drinking. So the first place to start budgeting calories is in drinks.
The Journal of Nutrition published a study showing that people who regularly consume soda gain, on average, an additional 2 to 3 pounds every year. As the years go by and the fizz guzzling continues, these pounds really start to add up. On the other hand, another study showed that people who drank more clean pure water exhibited faster metabolisms and less overall body fat; even a group of obese patients showed improved metabolisms when the researchers did nothing more than give them more clean water to drink every day.
Certain teas are also scientifically-proven metabolism boosters, such as green tea, white tea, ginger tea, peppermint tea and oolong tea, improving digestion and aiding with weight loss. Even hot cocoa (the kind made with pure high-quality cocoa powder, not the kind made with chocolate syrup or with added sweeteners) has shown weight loss effects. Check out this recipe for High-Protein Hot Chocolate.
Therefore, one small life tweak – cutting out soda and drinking more pure water – can yield enormous results in the long run when it comes to losing weight.
This week, I commit: to increase the amount of clean, filtered spring water and herbal teas that I drink, and to cut out drinks that include sweeteners, fat, alcohol and artificial ingredients.
4. Eat healthy soups and stews.
Studies show that eating healthy soups before meals leads to significantly less calorie consumption during that meal, and to greater feelings of satiation and fullness after that meal.
However, it’s important to avoid restaurant chowders and canned soups that are full of fat, sodium and artificial ingredients. The best soups to eat for weight loss are healthy, home-made vegetable soups, bone broths and savory stews instead. Be sure to include vegetables that are high in fiber and protein, as these will fill you up on very little calories and help you eat less at meal time. Soup broths can also be detoxifying and highly nutritious, fortifying your immune system.
Start by brewing up some of these deliciously healthy and slimming soups.
This week, I commit: to eating a home-cooked healthy soup for my lunch, or for my dinner, or as an appetizer before a light meal, three or more days a week.
5. Flavor with spices instead of fat.
Humans are wired to crave fatty foods, due to brain programming that hails back from ancient days of food scavenging, food scarcity and harsh climate conditions. However, while fatty foods stimulate your taste buds and warm your bones, certain spices can have a similar effect, minus the calories. In fact, many of these warming spices are scientifically proven to boost your metabolism, balance your blood sugar and help you shed fat. Look for low-fat flavorful recipes that feature spices like cayenne pepper, chili, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, curry, cumin and saffron.
This week, I commit: to replace recipes with sauces and unhealthy oils and flavorings with recipes that use herbs, spices, seasonings and healthy natural fats to flavor food instead.
Research has shown that healthy levels of vitamin D – a compound that our skin produces when exposed to sunshine – is important for good health and weight management. People in northern climates tend to be deficient in this essential vitamin. Try to get outside as often as you can, making sure to expose some skin. In the colder months or if unavoidably stuck in doors, be sure to regularly take a vitamin D3 supplement.
Find out if your vitamin D levels are linked to your weight gain & other health problems.
This week, I commit: to spend at least 20 minutes outside, every day. I will start taking vitamin D3 supplements daily, according to the package directions or my doctor.
7. Be proactive with probiotics.
The right gut bacteria are crucial for proper digestion, healthy elimination, weight management and a strong immune system. Fatty, sugary foods can throw this beneficial bacterial community off balance, while medications and antibiotics can completely wipe them out. Keep these important intestinal critters strong and plentiful by regularly eating fermented foods, like kefir, kombucha, probiotic yogurt, sauerkraut, lacto-fermented pickles, etc. It’s also vital to eat prebiotic foods – the foods that contain the type of fiber that feeds and sustains your friendly gut flora – every single day (find out which regular every-day foods are prebiotic foods, here. If you have recently taken antibiotics, are on medication, have a high stress lifestyle or are recently stepping way from an unhealthy diet, than you may want to consider starting by taking a probiotic supplement with a high-quality formula that contains a wide range of gut flora, such as bifidobacterium bifidus and lactobacillus acidophilus.
This week, I commit: to eating prebiotic foods every single day. I will also choose two or three fermented foods to eat every week, or take a probiotic supplement, as directed by the package instructions or my doctor.
8. Be more Green
Leafy greens are your digestive system’s best friend when it comes to digestion, detoxification and weight loss. They are prebiotic, high in fiber, nutrients and phytochemicals, low in calories, fill you up quickly, boost your immune system, have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-tumor properties…you can’t go wrong with greens! At all times of year, there are various types of nutritious, high-fiber leafy greens that are in season and can be incorporated into daily meals. Including greens in your diet ever day will help you boost your digestion and wilt down your waist-line in no time. Seek out greens like kale, spinach, dandelion greens, boy choy, cabbage, mustard greens, Swiss chard, collard greens, beet greens, Chinese broccoli, arugula, parsley, cilantro and others, all of which stimulate detoxification and are chalk full of fat-blasting fiber. They also armor up your immune system against illnesses with nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, iron and calcium.
Get creative, think beyond salad and try making some of these other delicious recipes that feature slimming leafy greens.
This week, I commit: to eating leafy greens every single day.
9. Eat Small Meals More Often.
Skipping meals may seem like a good way to cut daily calorie intake. But more often than not, a day of meal skipping usually concludes with a maniacal, calorie-crazed food binge session right before bed. Eating a lot in one meal overburdens your digestive system’s capabilities. Improperly and incompletely digested food leads to indigestion, constipation or diarrhea, food sensitivities, allergic responses, a weakened immune system and escalating weight gain. On the other hand, eating smaller meals allows your body to completely break down and utilize the nutrients in your food, helping to prevent calories from being stored as fat.
This week, I commit: to breaking up my eating schedule into five small meals (about 300 calories each) throughout the day, eaten about 3 hours apart. I will ensure that each meal includes lean protein, high-fiber whole veggies or fruit, and a healthy fat source.
10. Re-Discover My Body & What It’s Capable Of.
Even though you know that being more physically active throughout the day will help you lose weight, it’s difficult to find the right time and the right opportunity for that.
And yet it’s not. Because your entire life is full of these times and opportunities. We’ve just gotten so accustomed to allowing technology to do all the moving and physical activity for us that we no longer realize the opportunities are there, right in front of us. We take elevators and escalators instead of stairs. We drive short distances that can easily be walked or biked. We park right in front of entrances instead of at the back. We let automated doors and windows open for us instead of opening them for ourselves. We use buttons to do what our bodies could be doing. All of these missed opportunities for movement, for muscular exertion, for physical activity, no matter how small, are missed opportunities to burn calories, all of which steadily add up throughout the day and contribute to improved weight loss and muscle tone.
Exercise isn’t something that you have to re-arrange your entire life schedule for. It can easily be fit into all of the nooks and crannies of the life schedule you’ve already got. Opportunities to be more active in your day don’t have to be made, they just have to be uncovered, and taken full advantage off.
This week, I commit: to taking notice of all the times I can insert more movements throughout my regular day, and fighting off the temptation to allow technology to do the physical work for me. For example: I will locate all the stairwells in all the buildings I frequent and use them instead of the elevator and escalator; I will park at the back of parking lots to maximize the walking I must do towards the front entrance; I will open doors manually rather than pressing a button or selecting an automated door; I will use work breaks and lunch hours to go for walks, jogs, or to do some other form of physical activity; I will leave earlier to give myself more time to walk or bike to destinations rather than driving my car; etc.