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8 Totally Do-Able Tips For Actually Losing Weight This Year

From two experts whose whole job is to help people do it.

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Hey, there, hey. We're Wendy and Jess.

Toni Zernik / Via Courtesy Jessica Jones and Wendy Lopez

We are BFFs and co-creators of Food Heaven Made Easy, an online resource for nutritious and delicious living. We’re both Registered Dietitians, hosts of the podcast Food Heaven, and authors of 28-Day Plant-Powered Health Reboot (available next week!). We love to cook, eat, travel, and geek out about all things nutrition and health.

And as outpatient dietitians with extensive training in adult weight management, we counsel hundreds of people on how to lose weight and keep it off.

We’re here to share our weight loss ~secrets.~

And we have good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad news.

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Those infamous New Year’s resolutions that we all love to create and put into effect come Jan. 1 (“I will lose 50 pounds this year!” – yep, those), they usually don’t work.

Seriously: In 2014 almost half of the people who made a resolution didn’t keep it.

The problem is that most people want to overhaul too much at once, especially at the start of a new year.

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They're too focused on the outcome (losing 50 pounds) instead of the process (what, specifically, does it actually take to get there?).

Plus, all change isn’t necessarily good change. For example, completely cutting out all carbs may work for two weeks, but can you do that for a lifetime? We hope not. (Seriously, who wants to live a life without carbs?) The goal is to focus on changes that are actually sustainable. No diets or quick fixes here. Think about what you would be able to do…foevaaa.

That brings us to the good news: By setting the right baby steps, you can lose weight and keep it off.

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With thoughtful planning, you can set incremental process goals that will help you achieve your overall weight loss goal.

As experts who spend all day every day helping clients lose weight, we see time and again that the difference between a successful weight loss effort and an unsuccessful one is actual legit behavior change. You have to hone in on those behaviors that promote weight loss, and drop the habits that prevent it.

Here's how to do it:


1. Come up with a few process goals that you actually know how to achieve.

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A process goal is something that's going to help you achieve that overall goal. These goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and tied to a specific time frame (i.e. “I’ll do this for one month, two weeks, for the month of January, etc.). The thing that makes sustainable process goals so successful is that they help you break things all the way down, and focus on one achievable thing at a time.

Here are examples of two different kinds of goals:

Goal A: “I wanna start kickboxing this year and burn a load of calories while kicking arse. Yasss!”

Goal B: I will go to the 7 a.m. kickboxing class at [insert kickboxing studio] on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for two weeks, starting Monday, January 2nd.

See the difference? Goal B is specific, measurable, and achievable; while Goal A is vague, nonspecific, and probably too ambitious.

(The technical term for goal B, btw, is a S.M.A.R.T. goal, which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely.)

2. Now, pick just one or two of those goals to start.

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Remember that when it comes to behavior change, less is more. Honing in on one or two things means you have a higher chance of success.

The goals you set are totally up to you. Think about what you want to improve or change, and go from there (this is where your overall goal comes back in). For example, if you are already a fitness all-star (meaning you are doing some sort of physical activity at least 30 minutes a day, five days per week), then maybe you pick two diet-related goals (like cutting back on sugary drinks or bringing a healthy snack to work every day). Or if you want to focus on both diet and fitness, consider setting one process goal for each.

Here are some recent examples of specific process goals that worked well for our clients:

• I will eat two cups of vegetables with dinner five days per week (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) for two weeks.

• I will walk for 15 minutes after dinner on weeknights for two weeks.

• I will eat breakfast everyday for one week before leaving for work in the morning. I will rotate between a smoothie, overnight oats, and eggs.

• I will spend two hours on Sunday meal prepping for the upcoming week for two weeks.

3. Before starting each goal, ask yourself what you need to do to prepare for it. Or, what exactly has to happen for you to be successful?

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For example, if starting kickboxing, you may ask yourself:

• Do you need to write down the days you'll go in your calendar?

• Do you need to go to bed earlier on the nights before kickboxing class? What time? How will you make sure this happens? Will you set a bedtime alarm?

• Do you need to have your workout clothes ready to go in the morning?

• Would it be helpful if you went with a buddy to make yourself more accountable?

• What will you do if you really aren’t feeling like working out one day?

4. Ask yourself: On a scale from 1–10, how likely is it that I will achieve this goal?

Twitter: @DLin71

One being a “hell no, not happening” and 10 being “100% confident this is going down.” If the answer is less than 7, let’s talk. We know that people who pick a 7 or above are a LOT more likely to stick with their goal because they feel confident that they can actually do it.

If you pick less than 7, that’s okay, we just have to dig deeper. Ask yourself: What made you pick a 6 and not an 8, for example, and what would it take to get you to an 8? Maybe it’s scaling back and starting with just one day per week of exercise, then increasing as the weeks go by. Or maybe kickboxing is too expensive, which ultimately would prevent you from going. In this case you may want to choose a class at the local gym.

Seriously, I (Jess) don’t like to spend more than two hours a week cooking and I hate cardio. So, I never set a goal that would require me to run or spend a long time cooking.


5. Make a plan for checking in on your progress.

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When we're working with clients, we typically like to touch base with them every week or every other week to see how they're doing and potentially make tweaks to whatever isn't working and offer encouragement.

So, plan out when you will check in with yourself to honestly take inventory of how it's all going and what changes (if any) you might need to make going forward. Set a calendar alert or ask a friend or family member to check in with you every week or so and help you think through how it's going. And of course you can always work with a registered dietitian for extra help, too.

6. When you reach the end of a goal's time frame, evaluate and adjust as needed.

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You might find that the goal was too ambitious (it happens!) and that you need set this goal again but scale back to two days per week of kickboxing, because that’s just more realistic. Or maybe you nailed it, and want to add an additional day or two of kickboxing.

Or perhaps you hated kickboxing (totally fine, too) and you want to try a different class, four times per week this time. Remember, making a bit of progress consistently is what leads to sustainable habits that will help you lose weight.

7. As you work toward these goals, try not to let a slip become a fall.

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Okay, so maybe you had a week where you just couldn't or didn't take that walk or have those vegetables. Figure out why that happened and resolve to start fresh the next week. Relapse is part of the process. It happens to everyone, and it’s okay. What’s important is that you realize when you’ve fallen off and you get back on.

8. And finally, try to focus less on the scale and more about how you feel.

Someone famous once said (actually, it may have been an instagram meme…), “your best weight is whatever weight you reach when you’re living the healthiest life you actually enjoy living.” #realtalk.