How to Jumpstart Your Weight Loss
Key nutrition and fitness tips for your first week
Define your motivation + set a goal
Holly Herrington, a registered dietician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, suggests identifying the reasons you want to lose weight and making them as specific as possible. “You may want to improve your health, you may want to look better or you may want to live a longer, healthier life so you can see your grandchildren,” says Herrington. “Or you may find that in a world that seems so out of control, it’s the one thing you actually can control.” Research shows that a solid motivation that you’ve committed to will help you stay on track when temptation arises.
From there, identify what might be a meaningful short-term goal — whether it’s losing 5 pounds over two months or finally getting in the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly. Barbara Rolls, professor of nutritional science at the Penn State College of Health and Human Development, and the author of Volumetrics, suggests choosing manageable or ambitious. “Ask yourself what you think you can manage without feeling deprived, because your plan doesn’t have to be all or nothing,” she says.
Cut carbs + add protein
While everyone knows that losing weight involves eating healthier foods and cutting empty calories, focusing on a couple of specific food swaps can help the task seem less overwhelming.
To accommodate the slower metabolism that comes with age, Zhaoping Li, M.D., codirector of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, suggests cutting out all starchy food and carbs like bread and pasta. “Carbs will make you feel sluggish.” Replace them with “protein and vegetables that will not only give you all the vitamins and minerals you need, but will speed up your metabolism.”
Rolls suggests swapping in water-rich snacks like fruits, vegetables and yogurt for dry snacks like chips and crackers, which, she notes, pack a lot of calories into each bite and are easy to overeat. Or, she suggests, try eliminating sugary drinks and adding a snack in their place. “Cut down on sodas and fruit juices that are high in sugar content and add extra calories. Instead of a glass of apple juice, eat an apple that will fill you up more and add fiber to your meal,” she says.
Add an hour of sleep at night + eat breakfast
Not getting enough sleep and feeling exhausted during the day? That can slow down weight loss, since sleep regulates hormones that balance your appetite. Falling short on shut-eye increases levels of hormones that make you hungry, explains Liz Weinandy, lead outpatient dietitian at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Which means that moving back your nighttime routine can be a great first step to any weight-loss plan. And while you’re at it, stock some healthy breakfast items that you’ll look forward to when you wake up. “Eating breakfast in the morning is important because your cortisol level that regulates blood sugar is at its peak,” Weinandy says.