1. Ask the experts
Your first stop is your GP, who can help you design a weight-loss program incorporating any medications that you may be taking. A dietitian can help, too. They can identify what you need to change and take into account factors such as your access to food, income level, age, commitments and cooking skills. Ask your GP for a recommendation or visit the Dietitians Association of Australia to find one near you. It’s also a good idea to see an exercise physiologist, especially if you have mobility issues or injuries, or haven’t exercised in a long time.
2. Find long-lasting motivation
Losing weight can be tough. You’re not always going to feel like exercising or eating healthily, and you may experience setbacks such as illness or weight-loss plateaus along the way. So there are lots of benefits in finding a strong motivation to keep you feeling focused. ‘It’s important that motivation comes from within and is linked to your individual values and what really matters to you,’ says counsellor and exercise scientist Fiona Cosgrove. Whether it’s the desire to play with your children or grandkids without getting breathless, wanting to have a healthier and more active lifestyle, or simply wishing to take fewer medications, if you can identify a personal motivation, Cosgrove says ‘you’re more likely to behave with interest, excitement and a sense of choice’.
3. Think realistically
Once you’ve decided on a motivation that will work for you, the next step is to embrace new, realistic behaviours and mindsets that will form the basis of your weight-loss and weight-maintenance plan. The key word here is ‘realistic’ – that means habits that suit your life and are sustainable. When it comes to losing a large amount of weight, the best approach is to think slow and steady. Instead of anticipating that you will lose 5kg each week, focus on shedding perhaps 500g, with the overall expectation of losing 20 kilos over a year, if that is your personal goal. Although 500g a week may not sound like much, experts agree that losing small amounts of weight over time is more sustainable and better for your health than shedding larger amounts in a shorter period.
4. Alter your eating habits
Reset your fridge, pantry, shopping list and portion sizes to suit your weight-loss plan. This doesn’t necessarily mean a total overhaul of what you eat – sometimes making small but consistent healthy changes, such as adding more vegies to your shopping basket, ordering fewer takeaway meals or replacing dessert with fresh fruit a few times a week can make a big difference. Aim to eat nutritionally balanced, home-cooked meals most nights of the week, using fresh produce, grains, legumes, wholegrain bread, low-fat dairy foods, eggs and some lean protein or canned fish.
5. Move it to lose it!
Become more active, starting now! Take a walk around your living room during the ad breaks on TV. Bring in the laundry in several smaller loads. Get off the bus one or two stops earlier than usual and stroll home through your neighbourhood. Every little bit, no matter how small, counts towards getting those scales moving. And aim to get outside for at least half an hour every day, whatever the weather, because being active outdoors is a proven mood booster. As you become more confident and pick up the pace, exercise will improve your cardiovascular health, says exercise physiologist John Felton. The key is to build up your fitness safely in stages, and to make movement a part of your everyday routine. And that brings us to…
6. Track your progress
Record your weight-loss journey in a diary, via a tracking device like a Fitbit, or with an app such as MyFitnessPal, advises accredited practicing dietitian Sonia Middleton.Tracking your weight loss or gains, food intake, exercise habits and even your feelings about slimming down not only helps keep you accountable and honest, it can also give you a boost when you’re feeling less than motivated. Make sure you share your results with your GP, diabetes educator or dietitian to give your care team a more detailed picture of your progress and overall health – remember, they’re there to help, not to judge.
7. Put everything in perspective
Achieving a personal goal, whether it’s reaching the halfway point of your weight-loss journey, mastering a new healthy recipe that the family loves or successfully completing your first gym session, is always something to be celebrated! Take pride in your successes and reward them by doing something you enjoy, whether it’s a night out at the cinema or buying a new top. On the flip side, it’s important to remember to be kind to yourself if you’ve had a setback, such as falling off the ‘good-eating wagon’ or gaining a few extra kilos. Put these moments into perspective by reminding yourself of how far you’ve come and how worth it the journey is. If you’re finding that you’re struggling to get back on track, don’t be afraid to call on a trusted friend, family member or your care team for extra motivation or advice.
By Natalie Filatoff