Losing weight can be time consuming. Regular exercise, recording your food intake, searching for healthy recipes, these can really gouge your schedule. Having limited time is the number one excuse for not following through. Here are 10 strategies to improve your weight loss potential that require less than one minute each (and some may even save you time).
1. Running on Empty. A big mistake I see people making is exercising on an empty stomach. Morning exercisers often do this because they pop out of bed and immediately dive into a workout. The problem here is you are working out after a 10-12 hour fast which means your blood sugar is low and your energy levels too. You will feel more fatigued during the workout and run out of energy much sooner than if you had eaten within 30-60 minutes prior to working out. The other time of day people often exercise on an empty stomach is when they exercise in the afternoon (hours after lunch but before dinner). This leads to the same problem of fatigue, but also might increase your dinner appetite by further lowering your blood sugar prior to dinner. Fatigue and overexertion also make your workouts less enjoyable, which can negatively impact your motivation to continue. Eat something small and easily digestible (spoonful of peanut butter, wheat toast, Kashi bar, etc) at 30-60 minutes before working out and you will see your motivation come alive. Takes no time at all!
2. Only the Good Days Count. One habit of diet journalers is that their perceived “average” intake often does not represent their heaviest eating days because “bad” days are the least likely to be recorded. Many journalers routinely skip weekends, days with parties, holidays and vacations. Overeating on these occasions can significantly contribute to your pace of weight loss, stall it completely, or even cause weight gain. Skipping the worst days also misses an opportunity to improve your eating habits in these tough circumstances. If you are going to skip a journal day do it on a day that is reliably good and then channel your effort toward journaling on your “bad” days. It won’t cost you extra time, but will have a much bigger impact on your weight.
3. Be Gilligan Not the Skipper. Ahh.. the breakfast skipper. A stubborn lot because they can’t see how adding a meal will actually help with weight loss. It seems counterintuitive. The breakfast skipper is not hungry at breakfast and sees this as an opportunity to eat less. Unfortunately this is a terrible trap. Skipping breakfast is associated with greater intake later in the day. Evenly distribute your calories across the day and never go three to four waking hours without having something to eat.
4. Liquid calories. If you are drinking any calories, such as juice, sweetened tea, or soda, a great way to cut your total calories down is to switch these out for water. Avoid diet sodas because research is accumulating on how they may trigger sugar cravings and increase appetite. Get used to water slowly but surely. Other people are good with the "no liquid calories" rule until it comes to booze. For alcohol, find a drink of choice that is low in calories. There are several beers available that are very low in calories, and some hard liquors, if used in small portions and mixed with club soda, can make lower calorie drinks. Alcohol calories definitely count and can easily add up to as much or more than a meal itself.
5. Autopilot Exercise. Doing the same workout over and over and over again will actually produce fewer and fewer results over time. Your body gets used to the workout and then becomes more efficient at doing it, meaning you’ll burn fewer calories. Increasing the intensity of your workout or changing the activity are two ways to avoid lengthening the time of your workout. For example, try to shave five minutes off of your three-mile walk time. Alternatively, instead of walking every day, swim or do the elliptical trainer one day. Again, this costs you no extra time but can add to your calorie expenditure.
6. Trying to live with the Devil. I cannot emphasize this enough: You should not be living with any foods that tempt you to overeat. Identify all foods in the home that you have found yourself overindulging and cross them off the grocery list. It is ok to have these foods outside of the house occasionally, but do not to live with these foods. They are obnoxious roommates!
7. I’m Famished. Weight control requires very good appetite control. Appetite control means never getting over-hungry or over-full. Being extremely hungry makes controlling your intake very difficult. If you feel like you can go long periods of time without feeling hungry, consider that you might not be sensing your internal hunger signals. Some people do not sense hunger signals until they are intense. If this is you, put your eating on a schedule because your hunger signals may be allowing you to get over-hungry, making you vulnerable to overeating.
8. TV: Friend or Foe? Instead of feeling guilty about TV time, make it activity time. Watch TV while using exercise equipment, doing floor exercises, using dumbbells, doing yoga stretches, anything active. Don’t let 30 minutes of TV go by without doing something active, even if just a stretch routine. Another option is to alternate TV shows with active video games. Fun active games include Wii Fit, Dance Dance Revolution, Just Dance, or Wii Sports. You can do these by yourself or with family members. For you competitive types, a sneaky way to beat your family members at games is by squeezing in some practice time when nobody is home!
9. Put Down the Weights (for now). I’m ducking right now because personal trainers are about to pummel me in disagreement. If your main objective is to start dropping pounds, I recommend that you spend more time on cardio exercise than strength training. I’m not saying abolish strength training, but it shouldn’t be your mainstay if you are just getting started exercising. To lose weight you need to be burning calories and the reality is strength training burns very few calories. Yes, it builds muscle which can increase metabolism, but it will take a long time and a high level of consistent effort to achieve this. I believe the best approach for weight loss is a focus on cardio early on, and once you get comfortable and consistent with your routine, bring in the strength training. Too often I see people with 30-40 pound weight loss goals and their only form of exercise is strength training or stretching. The result is slow weight loss. You have to get your heart pounding and your brow sweating to truly achieve the active lifestyle that is key to long lasting weight loss.
10. Call Aunt Sally. Just like the TV, the phone presents a great opportunity to multi-task with exercise. Have you been avoiding that call to Aunt Sally? You know the one where she talks about her cats and how the next door neighbors have the nerve to park right in front of her house!? Or do you have a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with? Walk and talk. Get a head phone set that has a microphone so that you don’t need to hold the phone to your ear while you walk. Take the phone outside and make your calls while walking. You don’t have to power walk yourself out of breath through the conversation, just keep your feet moving. Plan to do telephone catch up with walking at least once a week. You’ll feel great you got caught up on your calls and squeezed in some physical activity along the way. And of course, Aunt Sally will be very pleased.