1. Make a formal commitment! Write a BODY CHALLENGE contract to yourself. I ______ will commit to try to the best of my ability to get in 30 minutes of walking every day that I can, and to focus on eating healthy and nutritious foods.
2. Get real and be specific! Write down three to four goals, keeping them to one sentence each, and be realistic. Here's an example: "I will try to shed 1/2 to 1 pound of extra body fat each week. I will walk for 30 minutes at least five days a week, although I'm aiming for every day. And, I'll try to chill out and stop letting stress get to me." Avoid what I call fantasy-land goals (i.e., "I will lose 60 pounds in a month and still eat all the foods I love!). They will only frustrate you and send you back to self-destructive behaviors.
3. Get prepared! I always say: "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." De-junk your house right now! Give away or throw out any "bingeable" foods, as well as all processed foods. Fill your fridge and pantry with fresh, whole foods (that means lots of fruits and veggies!). Buy that new pair of walking shoes and put out your comfortable walking clothes. Buy that relaxing CD to listen to during the day. You can't shed weight and get fit if you're not prepared.
4. Get support! No man or woman is an island out there. Whether it's your best friend, spouse or pet armadillo, it helps to have some nonjudgmental and nurturing support when you're trying to lose weight, especially during challenging times.
5. Become a master regrouper! Don't let life's obstacles derail you. You're supposed to stumble around and make mistakes. It's all part of the learning process. Expect mistakes and learn to refine your "regrouping" skills. Flexibility is key. Be willing to switch from Plan A to Plan B. Above all, keep a healthy lifestyle despite life's tough times. I know that can be tough, but healthy habits will yield far better dividends than stress-induced ones!
6. Measure your progress! It's not just about the scale. Get out your tape measure and check out your progress. Use a clothes-o-meter (belt, jeans), which is my concept — a piece of clothing that within five pounds or so will fit better. Try your clothes-o-meter on once a week. The best reward is FIT — not WEIGHT. The ultimate prize is fitness and health.
7. Make a note! Research has shown that keeping track of your daily exercise and food intake — even on a simple spiral bound notebook — will increase the likelihood of your success. Keep it simple or, if you're so inclined, write a novel. Just hold yourself accountable!
8. Create a food-free reward system. How about a hot new workout outfit, a new pair of jeans, or what the heck — a whole shopping spree, a spa treatment or a weekend getaway? You deserve this kind of treat when you achieve your goals.
9. Buy a pedometer! Wear it on your waist every day. At the end of the day, scope out how many steps you took. Your BODY CHALLENGE goal at the end of 12 weeks is to increase your daily step total to 10,000 steps (or more!). You'll burn roughly 100 to 125 calories by taking 2,500 steps (about 1 mile). This means that during the Challenge, you'll ultimately plan on burning 300 extra calories a day and eating roughly 200 fewer calories a day. This 500-calorie daily deficit will translate to 1 solid pound of fat off per week and a healthy boost in your self esteem!
10. Don't skip breakfast! Research shows that the most successful "losers" never skip it. Make sure to include protein, some fat and a healthy carb. Here's a good sample breakfast: An egg white omelet with fresh berries and a piece of whole wheat toast. Or how about a skim milk shake with fruit and yogurt?
11. Nix the late night eating! Hey, I have a poem I made up (my one stab at poetry): If you eat after 8 (p.m.) you gain a lot of weight! If you eat a lot of excess calories after 8 (p.m.), you wear them the next morning! Put a stop to this by making sure to eat a healthy dinner of lean protein, veggies and fruit. If you have to eat dinner later, eat lighter veggies and protein and control the portion sizes!
12. Eliminate the processed sugars! Processed sugars are carbs that have been stripped of their valuable nutrients. How do you identify processed sugars? They are all white: table sugar, pasta, rice and bread, and they're nothing but trouble since they kick up your appetite for more of the same. Steer clear of these.
13. Have a mid-afternoon snack. This will help curb your appetite and fuel you up for your after-work walk or workout at the gym (a snack is especially important for women). The key is to eat protein with healthy carbs and a little fat. This combo will really sustain you until dinner. Here are some great options: Try reduced fat peanut butter on a thick multigrain cracker, or try a couple of pieces of low-fat string cheese and an apple, or cottage cheese with pineapple, or low-fat cheese microwaved in a whole-wheat pita.
You're bound to enjoy success in the NATIONAL BODY CHALLENGE if you incorporate my 13 weight-loss steps into your life. And even if you try just a few of them, you'll be ahead of the game. Just remember that your patience and persistence will always pay off in the end.
I look forward to interacting with many of you on the Discovery Health Web Site when the BODY CHALLENGE begins. Until then, here's to your health and longevity!