Are you ready to lose ten pounds in five weeks? Then start now.
Ready to start losing weight? Then here’s your plan for week 1:
1. Figure out what you will eat for each meal and snack, every day, as far in advance as possible.
Write out a daily menu, spreading your caloric intake evenly between your meals and snacks. On this plan, you will need to knock off 500 calories daily from your normal eating habits, as detailed in your Baseline Diet Diary (if you haven’t kept a baseline diet diary, do this first). This week’s focus is to improve your diet by eating more nutritious or lower-calorie foods. Try to be strict with yourself this week since undoubtedly you’re motivated at this point.
Strategies: Reduce calories in small ways—choosing lower-fat items, substituting lower-calorie spread and dressings, cutting out the liquid calories and so on. For more ideas, read this week’s Eat Smart tips.
Keep track to stay on track: Log your meals and snacks in a Daily Diet Diary (download .pdf forms). Count the calories of each food you consume and keep a running total to ensure that you are staying within your target range.
2. Walk the fat off.
Follow a daily walking routine. No matter what, fit in some exercise every day. But if a workout feels too strenuous, back off slightly. (Download your routine: Regular Walker or Just Starting.)
3. Notice what feels easy and what’s tough.
Changing your diet and activity level may seem relatively easy this week, when you’re off to a fresh start. But to stick to a plan it’s important to recognize trouble spots early on—and find ways around them.
Say you’re hooked on sodas—as the weeks go by, your no-soda life could be difficult to maintain. Rather than just giving up sodas, you need a find a satisfying substitute that you love to drink, but contains fewer calories.
Skip-the-soda strategies:Experiment with different diet flavors to find one you like.
Taste-test various brands of bottled water to find one that appeals to you (different bottled waters do taste differently).
Bring your own unsweetened iced tea to work, so that you won’t be tempted by vending machines’ offerings.
Whatever your weakness, try to think of similar strategies that will ensure you won’t deviate from your path to weight loss.
So this week, plan your meals, start walking, and pay attention to possible pitfalls. Good luck!
Week 2: Change Course to Stay on Course
How not to succumb to diet fatigue.
How are you feeling after one week on the lose-ten-pounds-in-five-weeks plan? Let’s face it: You might be feeling sore from all the walking. Or maybe you have run out of healthy food in the pantry and haven’t had a chance to stock up yet.
Now is when you have to start changing course to stay on course. Figure out which new habits, foods or workout times are feeling too rigid to realistically keep up. And start modifying those diet and exercise behaviors so that you can stick with the program.
The plan for week 2: Step 1: Focus on high-fiber plant foods.
You might not always be able to whip up your special low-fat menus. Or you may find yourself out with friends or colleagues—and margaritas or chicken wings. This week’s focus is to improve your diet by adding more fruits and veggies to all your meals and snacks, whether at home or in a restaurant. Read this week’s Eat Smart tipsfor ideas on how to make meals more nutritious and lower in calories.
Step 2: Walk more (or figure out workout alternatives).
When you start easing off the strict calorie control, you can make up the difference by burning more calories through exercise. So it’s important to stay with the walk-the-fat-off plan and increase the length and intensity of your workouts.
Don’t make excuses: If the weather is miserable and you’re tempted to skip your walks , don’t just say “It’s raining/snowing/cold, I’ll exercise tomorrow.” Either bundle up or find indoor alternatives. Or if body aches are slowing you down, after consulting with a health professional, see if there are movement options that don’t aggravate weak areas. If walking is bothering your knees, try treading water. If your back is acting up, see if a cardio machine such as a recumbent bicycle allows you to move without pain.
Remember, the Walk-the-Fat-Off Plan provides intensity recommendations by the minute so you can follow the routine doing other aerobic activities besides walking. No matter what you end up doing, it’s always better to do something than put off exercise altogether (download this week’s exercise routines).
Step 3: Spot your successes.
Your weight loss may be minimal at this point, so don’t focus on fat or scale weight. But that doesn’t mean you’re not already achieving success. Be attentive to anything that’s cause for celebration and let it inspire you do stick to your plan:
If you find that your stamina is improving and that you have no problem increasing the length of your walks, then consider yourself a success! If you have discovered a new food that’s tasty and nutritious—a food that you could eat forever—consider yourself a success! If you feel just a wee bit firmer in your thighs or butt, consider yourself a success! If you find it easier than you thought to stop yourself from overeating at meals, consider yourself a success! If you like the energetic feeling you get from eating highly nutritious foods, or the post-exercise glow, consider yourself a success! If you find that living a healthier lifestyle so far is easier than you expected, consider yourself a success!
Your body is in a state of change right now. Many of these changes may be imperceptible to you, but rest assured, positive changes are happening within your body!
Week 3: Bump up the Calorie Burn
How to lose weight by being more active.
This week you’re going to help your weight loss along by increasing your overall energy expenditure. The plan for week 3:
Step 1: Eat six meals or snacks every day.
There is no solid research to prove that certain foods boost your metabolism enough to lose weight. But if you are on a strict diet and/or you eat infrequently, you’re not maximizing what is known as the thermic effect of food. The process of eating, breaking down and absorbing nutrients in food accounts for about 8 percent to 10 percent of your daily energy expenditure, or about 200 to 400 calories for the average active person.
Eating too little or waiting long periods between meals can minimize the effect. Some experts speculate that eating small, frequent meals has the potential to heat up your metabolism. Recent research at Georgia State University found that athletes who ate more frequent, modest-sized meals tended to be leaner than athletes who ate more food at one sitting or went for long periods without eating.
Also, eating protein with carbohydrates seems to induce a greater thermic effect. Some high-protein diets use this to bolster their claims of effectiveness. While there's no consistent evidence that increasing protein intake alone will rev up your engines enough to induce weight loss, getting sufficient protein along with eating more “good” carbs keeps you feeling satiated—which means you’ll eat less to feel full. And the greater amounts of fiber in the less-processed carbs crowd out extra calories, which also helps your body burn more of its stored energy, helping you to lose weight.
Continue to log everything you eat this week and tally the number of times you eat. Make sure to meet a quota of six times per day. Also continue to make the most nutritious choices possible, with an eye toward consuming sufficient amounts of protein and “good” carbs.
Step 2: Be more active all day.
You can eat more if you move more. But to avoid gaining weight, you’ll have to eat less if you don’t move much. So the key to avoiding the starving-yourself deprivation that you get on many diets is to be more active. If you’re more active, you can eat and feel satisfied, but still control your weight.
Step 3: Burn more calories by walking.
The calories you burn in your walking workouts can contribute anywhere from 15 percent to 50 percent of your total daily calorie burn, depending on how long and how hard you are working. Exercising at higher intensities increases your burn rate, which is one reason why the Walk-the-Fat-Off routines include intervals when you walk faster or more vigorously.
Exercising harder provides another payoff: After a longer, high-intensity workout, your body stays revved up, burning extra calories even after you’ve gotten off the treadmill. This extra calorie burn after you’ve stopped exercising is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or afterburn. A post-cardio afterburn could mean a loss of anywhere from 15 to 50 extra calories on top of what you burned while exercising.
This week’s routines includes more high-intensity intervals. Push yourself to work as hard as you comfortably can. Remember, how hard you push is relative: Simply walking fast may be intense enough if you’re new to exercise. If you’re a seasoned walker, slipping in a few seconds of jogging or stair climbing may give you the boost you need. Whatever level you are at, aim to challenge yourself a little more this week.
So bump up your calorie burn by eating more often and increasing the amount of your daily activity and the intensity of your exercise.
Week 4: Stop From Slipping Up
Slip-ups can be an inspiration to persevere.
When you experience a slip-up in your diet and exercise plan, don’t use it as an excuse to quit. See it for what it is: a bump in your road to better health and a healthier body weight.
A little indulgence or laziness every now and then isn’t what makes you fat and out of shape. It’s the pattern of always indulging and always choosing the sofa over sweating that keeps you overweight.
A successful person learns from mistakes. Is it too hard to resist the chocolate chip cookies in your pantry? Get rid of them and make yourself walk, jog or bike to the store if you crave a cookie. This week, I’ll help you find positive ways to prevent and respond to slip–ups and stay on a healthy course.
Here’s your plan for week 4:
Step 1: Snack smart.
Look back at the past four weeks, consulting your Diet Diary. Did you snack regularly? Did the snacks satisfy you? Did you make nutritious choices? Were some snacks more convenient to prepare or obtain than others?
Keeping your snacking patterns in mind, this week focus on eating snacks that you enjoy and that are nutritious and filling. If you frequently find yourself away from home when it’s time for a snack, make sure you have good choices on hand. Some suggestions:
Canned fruit (with syrup drained)
Meal-replacement bars and shakes
Peanut butterLow-fat crackers
Snacks for the car:
Snacks in your purse:
Healthful energy bar
You’ll notice that nuts are the perfect snack for pretty much any occasion. They’re filling, nutritious, convenient—and not as fattening as you might think! See this week’s Eat Smart tipsto learn more about nuts.
Step 2: Find ways to de-stress.
Eating is a common way to deal with stress or emotional ups and downs. That’s because eating favorite foods, especially those that are high in fat and sugar, produces pleasure reactions in the brain—the same responses as other coping methods like drinking alcohol or taking drugs. Of course, these behaviors can be self-destructive and even addictive.
If you are an emotional eater, when times get tough find healthier ways to deal with stress, instead of reaching for that bag of chips or pint of ice cream. Some activities that can make you feel good, have fun and relax include:
Getting a massage
Taking a nap
Doing something creative like painting, playing an instrument, or knitting
Playing soothing or uplifting music
Taking a dance lesson
Calling an old friend
Write out a list of your fallback healthy panaceas to stress, even store this list in your PDA or on your computer to keep it close on hand. Then do what it takes to have all these opportunities readily available should you need them. This might be as simple as setting aside a few CDs that make you happy. Or you might pre-pay for a few massages at the gym or buy an electric neck massager. Or create a phone list of friends and family who make you feel positive and cared for—or who make you laugh!—when you call.
Step 3: Go the extra mile.
Although it’s tough, if not impossible, to burn off all the extra calories from a binge, you can use workouts to counterbalance those days when you eat more than you should. If you know you’ll be going to a party or dinner where you’re likely overeat, make that day’s walks or other cardio workouts a little longer or a little harder. (Do more roarin’ intervals and extend the session.) Research shows that a high-intensity cardio session helps the body metabolize fat better from a high-fat meal eaten hours later.
If you couldn’t anticipate a binge, try to make up for it during the next few days by adding more minutes and higher intensity intervals to your workouts. Extra steps will help balance out excesses elsewhere.
Remember, what’s most important is that you are consistent with your new, healthier lifestyle. So, look for ways to prevent overeating and to stick to your workouts. When you do slip up, make up for it if you can, but don’t let it be a reason to revert back to old habits. Refocus and keep making smart eating choices and exercising regularly.
Week 5: Lose More Long Term
Now that you've lost some weight, how do you keep it off, and lose some more?
To lose weight—or keep it off—long term, continue to write down what you eat, make good food choices and stay active every day. But you also need to start planning how you’ll continue this healthier lifestyle into your future.
Step One. Assess your before and after.
Go back and review your original Baseline Diet Diary—where you tracked your previous eating and activity patterns. Ask yourself the following questions:
Has your new lifestyle dramatically changed? If so, will it be impossible to keep it up?Does this new lifestyle look similar to your previous lifestyle, with tweaks that improve eating habits and raise activity level? If so, have these lifestyle changes produced satisfactory results?When you look back on what you used to eat, does it entice you back? Or do you feel a little repulsed by all the fried foods and the enormous portions?Is exercise becoming a regular part of your day?Is it easier for you to make time for fitness sessions?
It’s still early in your new lifestyle, so you may still feel like it’s an uphill battle.
And be aware that emotional struggles may surface, since overeating often is a coping mechanism. If you’ve had a fight with your spouse, a hard day at work or are simply down because you don’t feel like you’re getting the results that you expect, it will be easier to allow yourself to give up. But you’ve got to stick to it.
Noticing and assessing the changes you’ve made—and determining how easy (or not) it will be to maintain them—will help you shape your lifestyle going forward. You’ll be able to know which approaches to better eatingand regular exercise are effective for you.
Step Two. Keep on tracking.
Don’t expect to eat perfectly and exercise intensely every day for the rest of your life. You’ll have some days where you slack off on workouts, or eat or drink too much. Just don’t allow a slip-up to mess you up for good. Be consistent. Continue to monitor your progress two, six and 18 months from now and write it in your Diet Diary. Devise a system for your hand-held organizer or calendar and continue to schedule workouts and eat at regular intervals.
Step 3. Move everyday and try new forms of exercise.
Keep moving. For the majority of people, the only way to keep the weight off is to exercise almost every day of the week. Make sure to devise strategies so you enjoy it—and can stick with it! For example, you may walk a lot for the next year or two, but then try a fitness class and decide that you love the group exercise format. You may discover that if you read fiction thrillers on the cardio machines, you start to look forward to these workouts. You may discover that you’re stronger now than ever before. Perhaps you’ll take up tennis or join a softball league.
The point is, it’s natural for your motivation to wax and wane over time. So go with the flow. If walking or a gym routine suddenly feels tedious, find something else to do. You may surprise yourself and discover a new obsession—like biking or a climbing gym.
The past weeks have been the kickoff to the rest of your life. You know what it takes to feel better and look better. The challenge is not only doing it, but staying motivated. So find ways to stay inspired and on track—even if an obstacle stalls you along the way. It happens to all of us. You can do it!!