Starting a Weight Loss Journey

Eating well and exercising regularly is key to long-term weight management. But many of us face obstacles that make it hard to stick with healthy habits.

It’s important to set realistic weight loss goals. Rapid weight loss can be unhealthy and is often difficult to maintain. Some diseases, medications and genes can also affect weight.

Getting started

Starting a weight loss journey, especially when you’ve failed in the past, can feel overwhelming. You may want to start by focusing on the habits that contribute to healthy weight management, including eating balanced meals and getting regular physical activity. Your health care provider can tell you what a healthy weight is for you and help you set goals.

Before making a plan, think about why you want to lose weight. Write down your reasons and post them where you can see them. Then stock your pantry and refrigerator with healthy foods, buy a new cookbook or cooking magazine with recipes that focus on health, and set up an environment conducive to healthy living.

Next, get moving with aerobic or muscle-strengthening activities that are easy to fit into your schedule. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise. Also, include a few days of stress-reducing exercises, such as meditation or gentle stretching, in your routine each week.

Tracking your food

The goal of tracking is to create accountability and paint a picture of what you are eating. Whether it’s using a pen and paper or an app (like MFP), be sure to write everything down! It is helpful to include the food, portion size (measured in household measures, like cups or a baseball), and the preparation of the meal.

It’s also important to connect how you feel after meals to the foods you eat. Do you find yourself feeling bloated, gassy or running to the washroom often? Recording these feelings can help you figure out if you have an intolerance to certain foods or if they are just causing you discomfort.

However, it’s important to remember that food tracking can become obsessive and even trigger disordered eating patterns. If it starts to stress you out, if you are restricting certain food groups unnecessarily or if it begins to interfere with your daily routine, then it may be time to seek the support of a Registered Dietitian.

Getting more active

If you spend a lot of time sitting down, start by adding more activity to your day. Walking, swimming or doing an online exercise class can be a good way to get moving. You can also try activities with family or friends to motivate each other and make it fun.

If you have a long-term health condition or disability, talk to your doctor before starting a new fitness plan. You may need to build up your activity level gradually. Some people find it easier to exercise at home. If this is the case for you, use a pedometer or fitness app to help track your progress.

Doing activities that are moderate or vigorous counts as being active, as long as you are breathing hard and your heart is beating faster. Getting stronger is important, so try doing strength training exercises at least twice a week. This can include things like lifting heavy shopping, doing push ups or doing a tai chi class. Even fidgeting – or ‘non-exercise activity thermogenesis’ (NEAT) – uses energy and can help keep your muscles strong.

Getting support

If you are going to be successful at losing weight, it is important to get support. This can be in the form of friends and family, online support groups or in-person group programs. You can also find online calorie-counting and exercise apps that offer discussion forums.

Getting support can help you avoid emotional eating and other pitfalls that may sabotage your diet plans. Having a supportive community can help you stay motivated and keep your energy up. You can also find a workout buddy or someone who shares the same goal with you to help motivate you to stick to your plan and make it work.

You can also find local in-person support groups at universities and medical clinics that are led by psychologists, nutritionists, and other health professionals. You can also ask your physician for a referral or look into bariatric surgery support groups that are available through your hospital or medical center. These groups will have a clinical component to them that is more focused on behavior modification.