How to Achieve Your Fitness Goals

You’re on a mission to change your body. Whatever your motivation, you’ve set a goal to see something different on the scale, to feel different in your clothes, to have more energy or to prevent disease. You’re motivated; you’re committed…and for some reason you’re not seeing the results you want to see.

Tips for achieving your fitness goals

First things first: At all costs, avoid descending into a spiral of self-loathing and failure talk. It won’t help. Truly, your lack of willpower or whatever you’re bemoaning probably isn’t the thing making weight loss so tricky.

Stop focusing on the scale, focus on how you feel

There’s so much more to being healthy than a number on the scale. It can be easy to get caught up in a negative spiral in which no amount of loss is ever enough. When we’re too fixated on the number of pounds, we can often partake in behaviors that ultimately sabotage weight loss, including eating too little, over-training, missing out on key nutrients or creating for ourselves so much anxiety we produce more weight-retention hormones than we would have otherwise.

Additionally, if you have high muscle mass, that number is never going to make you happy because muscle weighs more than fat. Don’t hamper your success by being too obsessed with the scale.

Don’t exercise too much

Sorry if this is news, but over-exercising won’t cause you to lose more weight. Overdoing it puts great stress on the body and can put a damper on your goals. When the body perceives it’s expending too much energy, it goes into starvation mode. It will store more than it expends, making for less-than-productive workouts and almost certainly unsustainable weight loss.

A general rule for workouts for weight loss? No more than one moderate-to-intense workout a day with ample rest time across a 24-hour period to allow things to settle.

Ensure that you are eating enough, do not starve yourself

Particularly when combined with over-exercising, depriving your body of the food it needs to survive is a recipe for weight loss sabotage. Like overdoing it on cardio, not eating enough causes the body to go into stressed-out starvation mode, wherein it slows metabolism and actually burns calories less efficiently. Aim to eat a well-balanced meal every 4-5 hours with adequate nutrients, protein, carbs and fats to stay satiated and fueled enough for your workout.

If you’re interested in figuring out how many calories your body needs just to stay alive, check out this simple Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) calculator. This will give you a rough estimate of how much you need to eat just to maintain essential bodily functions. Dropping below this number will not help your goals. We promise.

Eat a wide variety of healthy foods

Carrots and celery sticks are delicious and nourishing, but eating only these will not cut it for weight loss. If your body senses a lack of nutrients, it will be more likely to go into the same starvation mode above, storing whatever it can in case usable, nourishing food never comes along again. It will also cook up some killer cravings to send you a message that it’s looking for variety. In addition to feeling bored and uninspired by your food choices, you’ll also be moving away from your goals. Eat a variety of colors and types of food throughout the day to keep your taste buds and mind happy and your metabolism humming along.

Ever get to the bottom of a hummus container in one sitting and think, “How did that happen? Does it matter? It’s just hummus…”

While we’re not huge proponents of calorie counting, those sneaky “healthy” foods still contain energy that your body will store if it’s not expended. While 1200 calories of hummus is better than 1200 calories of Wonder Bread, it might be worth weighing your portions or logging your food in a journal until you have a good handle on how much works for your body (and how much you can safely eat without going overboard).

Tracking your food can also provide interesting information about the variety of your diet and how often you’re eating. This data can be valuable because nutrient variety and digestion time can also impact how we feel, how we retain weight and how our metabolisms function.

Maintain a sleep schedule

Contrary to logic, sleeping more is key to maintaining a healthy metabolism and a healthy weight. While it might seem like laying in bed would burn negative calories, getting 7-9 hours of quality rest each night helps the body reset, regulates blood sugar, allows for complete digestion and can balance hormones like leptin and ghrelin that help us identify when we’re full or hungry. Prioritize sleep in service of your goals.

Work on unhealthy habits

If you find yourself hanging out in front of the fridge at the same time every night, or you’re always grabbing a Venti Frappuccino on the way to work, it might be time to assess which of your habits are serving you and which you’re doing just because they’re so deeply ingrained. Snacking, sugary coffees, nightly wine, staying seated for hours at a time — these can all add up without knowing it and ultimately hamper our goals. Individual goals need to be repeatable, accessible and (somewhat) enjoyable. Think about the positive habits you already perform without thinking and think about why they stick. How can you apply this to your weight loss goals?

Up your water intake and stay hydrated

Did you know that we often mistake thirst for hunger? Staying hydrated (that is, sipping water throughout the day from the moment you get up until you go to bed and compensating for exercise with additional fluids) will help your brain feel more satisfied and make it less likely you’ll reach for a cookie when you actually need water. Plus, a well-hydrated body is going to digest and metabolize food more efficiently.

Be flexible with yourself

For some people, there is no grey area: Weight loss and the steps to achieve it are an all-or-nothing proposition. For most, though, feeling deprived can undo all of our best intentions. One of the reasons for the failure of so many quests to lose weight is dissolution of willpower. We can only go without eating, or without eating certain things we love, for so long. Budget for treats throughout the week or month — whichever seems reasonable to you — so you can stick to your clean eating intentions without going totally crazy. You may find over time that the foods that used to taste delicious might begin to taste too sweet, too salty, etc. This is a great opportunity to explore healthy modifications to your favorite treats, which may also help with weight maintenance longer term.

Focus on your goals and write down your motivation

Doing something challenging including losing weight is 100 times easier when you have a clear “WHY” for your actions. It’s easier to stick to your intentions when the going gets tough (or the cookies get close) when you have a clear picture of what you’re looking to accomplish and what kind of benefits they will provide you. Go beyond “I want to be skinny” or “I want people to like me more.” Find the deep, personal reason underlying your desire to change your body. Chances are, dropping some pounds is actually about more than just the scale.

What will changing your weight mean for you? How will your life be different? What will become available to you if you reach your goal? Tap into this each time you’re tempted to make a choice that will take you away from your path and check in when you make food, social or activity choices: Is this serving your ultimate goal?

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