Weight gain has an interesting way of sneaking up on you. If you recently stepped on a scale and were met with an unpleasant surprise, you know how disheartening it can be, especially when you're used to seeing a much lower number. If your scale has issued you a wake-up call, below are some steps you can take to get started on a path to reverse this trend.
1. Overhaul your eating habits a little bit at a time.
One of the main keys to losing weight and getting into shape is to change your eating habits, but beware of taking drastic measures right off the bat. Throwing out all of your snack foods or swearing off items that you've been eating every day for the past year is probably not going to go over very well in terms of cravings and withdrawals.
Instead, try to overhaul your eating habits little by little. Start by substituting certain unhealthy sides with fruits or veggies--for example, if you normally have potato chips with your turkey sandwich at lunch, try substituting baby carrots and a healthy low-fat dip instead. Or, if you normally eat fries with your cheeseburger at dinner, try some sauteed broccoli instead. Taking slow, incremental steps in the right direction is better than trying to overhaul your entire diet in a day, only to have it backfire on you later.
2. Honestly examine your portion sizes.
While making changes in the types of foods you eat is a critical step to losing weight, you're still going to fall short of your goal if your portions are out of control. The truth is that you can gain weight on practically any type of food--including healthy food--if you eat too much of it.
For example, let's say that you decided to switch from having Chips Ahoy cookies to an all-organic, gluten-free chocolate chip cookie for your snack food. That's a great first step, but if you eat 10 of those all-natural cookies in one sitting, you're still overdoing it in the calorie department. It all boils down to portion control, because portion control ultimately means calorie control, which is the true culprit behind most weight gain problems.
3. Get moving.
There's really no way around this--you're going to have to get some kind of regular exercise. If there's any physical activity that you actually enjoy doing (e.g., hiking, playing tennis, swimming, etc.), try starting there. If you're not quite sure what to do, 20 minutes on an elliptical trainer four times a week can definitely serve as a good starting point.
The important thing is for you to pick exercises that can elevate your heart rate, get the blood pumping, and use those muscles; this will raise your metabolic rate and keep those calories from being stored as fat.
4. Examine potential contributing factors outside of calories or exercise.
Poor sleep habits can negatively impact your metabolism, so do your best to get enough sleep at night (most experts recommend between 6 to 8 hours). In addition, try to go to bed at the same time every night; if your bedtimes are sporadic or inconsistent, you will throw off your body's circadian rhythm, which can wreak havoc on your metabolism.
Keep an eye on your stress levels as well; if you're under more stress than usual, your metabolism can lag as a result. And finally, consider the effects of dehydration, which can significantly slow down your metabolism. Make sure to drink between six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day to maintain adequate hydration.
5. Consider setting "today-only" goals.
Commit to doing something for today only, such as dashing out for a quick 15-minute run, or putting down that bag of chips for just one day. Small victories such as these can add up over time, giving you an ever-increasing sense of accomplishment and empowerment.
Use the tips above to help you begin a new journey toward better health and fitness. If it seems insurmountable at first, just remember to do your best and take it day-by-day. The only way you can lose is if you quit, so always remember: Just keep going!