As exciting as it can be to think about slipping back into your favourite summer dress 10 kilos lighter and feeling healthier, the immediate question of “How the hell do I actually lose the weight?” can be straight-up scary.
Take a deep breath. You’ve got this. Here, we ID the seven things you need to do to reach your healthy weight—and stay there for good.
Strategise A Long-Term Plan
'Substantial weight loss is not a sprint. It’s not even a marathon. It’s the rest of your life,' says Janet Hamilton, an exercise physiologist with Running Strong in Atlanta. 'It is your new normal.'
When you're trying to lose a sizeable amount of weight, it’s extra critical to find a weight-loss approach that you can envision yourself using, well, forever. After all, a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that the best diet is one that you can stick with over the long term.
Adopting a “new normal” always feels a bit challenging at first. But it shouldn't include deprivation, ditching social events, or blacklisting entire food groups.
Master The Big Stuff
'I always look at trying to lose a large amount of weight like making a sculpture,' says Albert Matheny, a registered dietitian and trainer with SoHo Strength Lab in New York City. When you sculpt something, you have to build a base before you get into details, he says.
Translation: Start with general changes, like integrating more veggies into your meals and eating breakfast every day, as opposed to the nit-picky stuff like switching up the creamer in your coffee. You can work on the finer points after you get the big stuff down pat.
Don't Obsess Over The Scale
The 500g to 1 kg of weight loss per week rule applies whether you have 2 or 10 kilos to lose, says Matheny. (FYI: Cutting 500 calories a day by eating healthier and exercising will get the job done.)
But if you're trying to drop a substantial amount, that timeline can seriously delay your goal-weight gratification.
Instead of getting hung up on the scale, zone in on other payoffs associated with your new and improved lifestyle. Maybe it’s sleeping better, having more energy, or being able to run a mile, says Baltimore-based trainer Erica Suter. These are all signs that you’re making huge progress and getting healthier—which is the point of losing weight in the first place.
Start Weight-Loss Boosting Habits
The silver lining of having a lot to lose is that you can achieve a healthy energy deficit with relatively small changes to your overall eating habits and exercise routine.
Don’t underestimate the benefits of taking your conference calls standing, parking farther from the supermarket’s entrance, or having a refillable water bottle on you at all times. Sure, it's not the same as a solid sweat session or eating salads every day, but it will make a dent in your calorie burn.
Progressively Cut Calories
To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn per day. But as you drop kilos, your body doesn't need as many calories to subsist as it did before.
Here's why: Calories are energy. And the smaller your body is, the less energy you burn through each day. Plus, through the process of slimming down, you'll probably lose some muscle, the furnace fueling your metabolism. Finally, the more weight you lose, the harder your body works to hold onto every calorie you consume, a phenomenon known as starvation mode, says Hamilton.
'Basically, you require fewer calories to maintain your new weight than someone of the same weight who was never overweight,' she says. This last sucky side effect frequently happens to people who lose 10 percent or more of their body weight.
For that reason, staggering the amount of calories you cut as you lose weight can help your body adjust to its new energy intake. Try cutting 500 calories from your daily food intake when you first start out. If a month or two in you start plateauing for two weeks or more, you might need to cut another 100 calories, says Matheny. Still, it's important to make sure you never get below 1,200 calories per day.
Lift Something Heavy
We beat this drum a lot around here because, hey, strong is the new sexy. And when it comes to weight loss, more strength training = more fat loss. Like we said, as you lose weight, your basal metabolic rate (the number of calories you burn just breathing) drops, along with your lean muscle mass.
Strength training is your best bet to combat both issues, says Suter. Aim to hit the weight room three to five days per week, depending on your resistance training experience and how hard you plan to work out during each session.
Love Your Body
Getting down on yourself does absolutely zero to fuel your weight-loss results. On the flip side, research shows that loving your body can actually help you lose weight.
“Confidence in yourself is critical for staying motivated in your pursuit to drop pounds,” says Suter. Focus on nurturing your body and giving yourself props for all of the strong, awesome things you can do. Simply looking in the mirror and saying, “I am loving my body toward a healthier weight,” is a good place to start, she says.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health.