I have followed the WW/Weight Watchers program for years, from "exchanges" up to the most recent Wellness Wins program.
The snow melts, the sun comes out, and you find that you can come out from under massive sweaters, oversize jackets, and long pants. As the weather warms, you will be exposing more and more skin, for better or worse. For some, it’s a relief to be free from all that bulk. For others, it’s time to face the fact that you’ve piled on a few pounds since the last swimsuit season.
Everyone wants to look the best they can at the expected summer gatherings, whether it’s volleyball at the beach, or an afternoon at the neighbor’s pool. And since it seems everyone has a camera at the ready, your shape (or lack thereof) will be immortalized on social media for all to see. The first thing you need to do is take stock of where you are now, and plan realistically what you might achieve before the next pool party.
DO - Start With an Assessment
If you want your plan to be realistic, you’ll need to take stock of where you are today. As I see it, there are basically four levels of make-over:
The Light Tune-Up
You just need to firm and tone, and take off somewhere between zero and 10 pounds. The good news here is that you can probably be ready in a month or less if this all you need to do. Just step up the weight-bearing exercises, and modify your diet. More on that later.
The Moderate Remodel
You need to take off some pounds – say 10 or more, but less than 25. You’ll want to reclaim muscles that have become flabby, and recondition skin that hasn’t seen the light of day in a while. You’ll need more than a month to do this, but probably less than five months. You’ll need a more serious diet and exercise plan to accomplish this.
The Major Overhaul
You’ve let yourself go. So what. You’re still breathing, right? If you need to take of more than 25 pounds, it’s going to take some major planning, and quite a bit of effort, but it definitely can be done. Just not in the wink of an eye. So plan accordingly. The best thing here is to set small, intermediate objectives rather than focusing on the whole amount.
The New Body
In this category, admitting you have an issue is key, and probably seeking outside help will be in order. This is the 100 pounds and over crowd. You won’t be ready for the upcoming summer, but if you start now, you might be ready by next summer. The alternative is to continue ignoring the situation, and settle for the status quo. Quite frankly, you deserve better than that. Even if you set your sights for 100 pounds, and only take off 10, you’ve turned the ship around. Give yourself credit for any improvement.
DON'T - Be Overly Restrictive
I get it. You have a time crunch. The High School Reunion is only six weeks away, and you want to look like you did when you were eighteen. And starving yourself seems like the only way to achieve your goal.
Here is the bad news. There is such a thing as putting yourself into “starvation” mode. If you consume less than your BMR (basal metabolic rate) for very long, your body will meet the challenge by losing weight more slowly. Which sucks, right?
The good news is that as long as you meet your BMR, and increase the demand for fuel (i.e., more activity), you will drop those pounds in a consistent and reasonable manner. Which leads me to my next point.
DO - Be More Active
It’s doesn’t matter if you haven’t set foot in a gym since college. Everyone is going to start somewhere. I like to remember this little piece of advice:
- Don’t lie down if you can sit
- Don’t sit if you can stand
- Don’t stand if you can walk
- Don’t walk if you can run
There may be some intermediate steps that I’ve left out, but you get the idea. Start with wherever you are, and add to it. If you’re walking 15 minutes a day, make it 20. If you’re swimming 20 laps, make it 25. And so forth, and so on. An extra set of reps here, taking the stairs rather than the elevator there, and soon you’re on your way to a more active lifestyle.
DON'T - Just Rely on Exercise for Weight Loss
In a Forbes article on Pharma and Healthcare, author Alice Walton addresses the myth that exercise is the only key to weight loss. According to the most recent research, diet matters more than exercise when it comes to taking off pounds. You simply must reduce your overall calorie intake. And reducing sugar, carbs, and fat is the most important thing you can do. Protein is your friend.
That’s not to say that exercise isn’t important to health. Exercise is known to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and some cancers. But exercise alone will not promote healthy weight loss. For that, you must reduce calorie intake.
DO - Shop Around for the Right Plan
There are dozens (dare I say hundreds) of weight loss methods, products, routines, plans, etc. on the market today. There is also the tried and true calorie counting plan. I actually did this during the summer between my Junior and Senior year of High School. I just wrote down everything I ate or drank, looked up the calories, and limited myself to around 1,500 calories a day. Over the summer, I took off about 10 pounds.
Perhaps all that math is daunting to you. Not to worry. There is a plan out there that will fit your style. Whether it’s Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, or something else, there is a plan for everyone.
DON'T - Stick With a Plan That Isn't Working
Perhaps you’ve started down the Nutrisystem path, and one month into it you find yourself falling off the wagon. With all the other plans available, there is no reason to stick with something that isn’t working for you. Give yourself permission to move on, and pick another approach.
On the flip side, don’t give up too easily. Just because you have one bad day doesn’t mean you should abandon your diet program. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back on program. No guilt. Everyone has slip ups.
Just Do It!
Whatever you decide, the first step is usually the most difficult. Make an assessment, create a plan, and just dive in. There’s no time like the present. That goes for pretty much everything in life, and weight loss is no exception.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
John Hansen from Queensland Australia on August 14, 2018:
Good advice Carolyn, and I need it. My wife and I are going on a Pacific Island cruise in October and I find I have put on a few too many pounds. I need to try and lose a few before then. Thanks.