The hardest part about getting in shape is getting started. Yes it’s a cliche, but it also happens to be absolutely true. Unfortunately, I spent years and years of my life wishing I could somehow lose weight and get fit. Guess what. It never happened.
I learned that I never took the time to get serious about my goals and figure out how I was going to get there. Weighing in at 234 lbs, I finally decided to get serious about fitness. I created a simple plan of eating less and exercising more. In the practical application of this, I learned a lot about the “do’s” and “don’ts” of starting out with a fitness plan.
I hope these will help you on your quest.
Here is the “Do” column:
- Keep Track of What You Eat
I can’t stress enough how helpful this has been for me in losing weight. Until I began keeping track of what was going into my body on a daily basis, I was pretty much on a free-for-all. Unknowingly, I was most likely consuming upwards of 1,000 calories more than what my body type required. Needless to say, I began packing on the weight pretty fast.
- Start Making Easy Substitutions
After you have begun keeping track of your daily intake, the next step is to start making some simple dietary substitutions toward healthier and lower calorie options. For example, if you usually have a Coke with your meals, choose water instead. If you normally take your coffee with plenty of cream and sugar, start drinking it black. I could go on and on here. The point is to get your calorie consumption down in simple, easy to manage substitutions. Don’t worry about eating nothing but salads or some other super restrictive diet. The goal is to keep it simple and sustainable.
- Add Some Form of Daily Exercise
The simple math behind losing weight is to burn more calories than you take in. You burn calories every minute of everyday. Your body needs them to sustain its normal functions. Your body also burns calories through exercise. If you begin a simple routine of 30-60 minutes of extra activity everyday (or every other day if you’d like to start a little slower) you will be taking steps toward a sustainable physically active routine and burning off tons of calories.
- Tell Someone
When I was starting out, I totally neglected this piece of advice to my detriment. I was afraid that I would fail at losing any weight and didn’t want others to know about my plans if I wasn’t going to succeed. However, looking back, I could have really used the encouragement and support of others along the way. Sure, the fear of public failure is pretty motivating in and of itself, but more importantly, I would have greatly benefited from the encouragement of my friends and family. Don’t be too prideful to ask for help or support. Getting in shape is important for everyone to do and there is no need for us to go it alone.
- Set Attainable Goals
When I first started losing weight, I knew that I had a long way to go. In fact, I’ve lost about 70 pounds from where I was this time two years ago. However, my initial goal wasn’t to drop all that weight at once. I started by setting a target of 15 pounds. I had no idea how long it would take or if I would even make it. But after I lost my first 15 (using the tips above) I set my goal for another 15 pounds. I continued setting and achieving weight loss goals until I got to where I am today. If you have a lot to lose, or just a little, breaking it up into manageable chunks is much easier on you and will keep you from getting discouraged.
Now let’s look at some of the Don’ts
- Don’t Overdo Exercise
A common problem for many getting started in a regular fitness routine is overdoing their exercise too soon. You will burn yourself out and be left with little to no strength or motivation to continue. Take my advice above and begin slow by adding 30-60 minutes of moderate activity per day. This way you can build a base of physical activity that you can build on.
- Don’t Overly Restrict Your Calories
Another common mistake for newcomers is to restrict their diet in extreme ways. If you are just starting out, don’t force yourself into painful dieting habits. Start by making simple substitutions and resist the urge to eat next to nothing or skipping meals. These practices are dangerous and provide no sustainable results. If you are eating too few calories then your body will think it is starving. When your body enters this “starvation mode” it begins hoarding calories and it becomes much more difficult to lose any weight at all. As a general rule, I would never recommend anyone eat fewer than 1,500 calories a day, regardless of their body type (unless instructed by a physician).
- Don’t Criticize Yourself For Slip Ups
When you are new at something, you are going to make mistakes. This is totally normal. If you have an “off day” every once in a while this is OK too. The important thing to remember is that you are taking steps to gradually get yourself into a better place physically. If you act like a drill sergeant and beat yourself up over every little slip up, the process is going to be long and painful. Relax. Breathe. Get back on the horse. Everyday is a new beginning for making better choices.
- Don’t Expect Huge Results Immediately
Getting in shape is a process. You aren’t going to notice any results, whether it’s weight loss or muscle building, overnight. I suggest weighing yourself only once a week. Do this at the same time every week to get the most accurate results. If after a week or two, you don’t notice any positive change, increase the intensity of your regimen slightly. It took me over a year to lose my weight. If I had expected it all to come off in a month I would have been sorely disappointed. Prepare your mind for a long war, not a quick battle.
- Don’t Buy In To Fads
There is no magic bullet for getting healthy. No matter what you see on TV, getting in better shape takes work and discipline. I bought exactly zero supplements, pills, and marketed weight loss strategies. I didn’t buy a single piece of exercise equipment other than a few weights and some running shoes. The only time-tested strategy for losing weight is to consume fewer calories than you burn. For me, this took the form of eating less and exercising more. It’s simple and it just works.