Because of the dramatic changes my body has undergone since I lost weight, I get asked quite a lot how I did it, so here is my own condensed guide to getting into great shape. Let’s call it the Cliff Notes version of everything I’ve learned along my weight loss journey.
1. As a general rule, unless it’s cauliflower or a White Chocolate Luna bar, if it’s white, don’t eat it.
2. Think of food as a choice, and not as a reward or a punishment. You don’t “deserve” a decadent dessert, nor are you “depriving” yourself if you don’t have it.
3. Don’t get comfortable with some success. There’s no finish line or touchdown dance. As I was losing weight, and every time I went down a size, I would only buy one pair of jeans, one pair of tan pants, and one pair of black pants. I wouldn’t spend a lot, and I would tell myself, “Don’t invest in this size, as you’re not going to be staying here for long.”
4. BLT’s count: Bites, Licks and Tastes add up… and Sips too (so try your best not to drink your calories!)
5. Eat foods in their lowest common denominator: Think orange, not orange juice, and shop the outside aisles of the supermarket. It’s where the least processed foods are.
6. Avoid any food that has a television commercial.
7. Do, don’t watch.
8. Make rules for yourself. I have a rule that, unless it’s a family movie or sporting event that we are watching as a group, I DVR my favorite programs and hop on my exercise bike when I want to watch. Do you have a pedometer? Make a minimum step commitment for each day. I also have a rule of not taking the elevator unless it’s going up or down more than 20 flights.
9. Never walk by a source of clean water. Drink up!
10. Make your workouts like brushing your teeth, just something you do without question.
11. You get to workout, you don’t have to workout. (This one is a biggie!)
12. Meals should be a balance of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.
13. A stumble doesn’t have to be a free fall. Having a row of Oreos doesn’t have to be a full out surrender.
14. Nix the excuses. You’re no busier than a fit person. They’re all busy too.
15. And now, to quote Vezzini from my favorite film, The Princess Bride: “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The first is, never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well known is this…”
16. Never order a grilled chicken Caesar salad and think you ordered a fit and clean meal. There’s as much fat and calories in this standard restaurant salad staple as a cheeseburger and French fries. Still want the salad? Get it without the cheese and croutons, and skip the Caesar dressing for a lighter dressing on the side and drizzle, not drown, your greens. Plenty of times people go off track as they ate something they “thought” was a good choice.
17. Never avoid lifting weights thinking that they will make you bulky. If it was that easy to bulk up, there would be a lot more men walking around looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his heyday. Speaking of lifting weights, nix the weenie weights too, unless that’s really your starting point. If you can breeze through twelve repetitions of a move, it’s time to increase that weight! Heavy weights do great things for your body. Resistance training boosts your metabolism, burns more calories, even after you’ve stopped working out, and builds muscle, which burns even more calories at rest.
18. It’s very tempting to let food be a stress reliever. There’s a reason why there’s the term “comfort food.” My suggestion is just to try to be accountable for what you decide to do or not do. Ultimately, you’re captain of your own ship, and you shouldn’t put the wheel in other people’s hands. Caught up in some drama? Figure out if it’s really your problem. I find myself breaking out the “Not my circus, not my monkeys,” idiom a lot. Even when it is my circus and my monkeys, I tell myself that working out will give me the strength to handle it. If I decide I’d rather trade my dinner for martinis and tortilla chips, I do my best to take responsibility for my choice.
19. Never solely rely on your workout buddy or diet challenge friends when weight loss is on the line. While it can be fun to workout with a friend, or as part of a group, ultimately your weight loss and fitness goals are an individual achievement. If your friend needs to skip the gym one day, that’s not a license for you to do the same.
20. Likewise, if you’re out on the town and a challenge mate suggests splitting the fried Blooming Onion, you’ll need to be the one throwing a fork at them, I mean, politely declining. Did you ever hear that expression, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future?” If you’re trying to develop healthier eating habits and a solid fitness routine, you may be surprised by how those people closest to you respond. I’ve said it a hundred times, saboteurs are everywhere with their very tempting catchphrases: “We’ll start tomorrow.” “Just this once.” “You’re no fun anymore.” “Don’t deprive yourself.” You’re going to need to be the captain of your own fitness ship. As captain, you should also be aware that your crew is not always going to be supportive or encouraging. There may be for a million reasons why, and you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to figure it out.
Charlene Bazarian is a fitness and weight loss success story after losing 96 pounds. She mixes her no-nonsense style of fitness advice with humor on her blog at Fbjfit.com and on Facebook at FBJ Fit.