When you’re trying to lose weight and keep it off for good, experts agree: The slow-and-steady route is your best bet. “It’s normal to feel less-than-patient with your weight-loss journey, but, remember that consistency is key,” says Dr. Elizabeth Lowden, medical director of the Northwestern Medicine Metabolic Health and Surgical Weight Loss Center at Delnor Hospital. “A pound a week over a year is still 52 pounds. Losing weight slowly, but maintaining that weight loss, is better than losing and regaining it due to eating and exercise habits you can’t maintain.”
If you’re committed to losing weight, you know you need to adjust your eating plan to include more whole foods, increase your daily movement, find healthy ways to deal with stress and get enough sleep. With all of these changes on your plate, “a steadfast commitment and patient mindset are essential for you to stick with it for the long haul,” says Liz Wyosnick, a Seattle-based registered dietitian.
In this spirit, here are five ways to become more patient and learn to enjoy your weight-loss journey:
SET REALISTIC GOALS
Make sure you’re starting with healthy weight-loss expectations that are fair to you and your body (Think: 1/2–2 pounds per week or about 2–8 pounds per month), says Dr. Lowden. Setting your goal weight in an app like MyFitnessPal and logging your food helps keep you motivated as you watch your weight trend downward long-term, even if day-to-day ups and downs pop up on the scale.
“Instead of focusing on how far you have to go in your weight loss, focus on what you can do today, and then what you can do tomorrow and so on,” says Wyosnick. Because the way you eat to lose weight should be sustainable, aim to make simple, consistent tweaks rather than eliminating or avoiding certain foods entirely. For example, try halving the cream you add to your coffee, swapping sparkling water for soda or following the 80/20 rule.
If you’re stuck in a weight-loss plateau (a normal part of the process as your metabolism adjusts to new energy levels), “take the opportunity to figure out what might be stalling your progress and what changes could help better support your efforts,” says Wyosnick.
Track your meals and movement, experiment with new healthy recipes and try upping the intensity or frequency of your workouts. Consider switching things up with a group fitness class, adding more strength-training or exercising outside.
THINK BEYOND THE SCALE
If you’re feeling impatient with the number on the scale, make it a point to regularly list non-scale victories you can celebrate. For example, “consider the way your clothes fit differently, the ease with which you can hurry up the stairs or how much energy you have,” suggests Dr. Lowden.
You can also find other ways to measure your weight loss that motivates you beyond the scale, like regular progress photos or measurements of your waist and hips, which are especially helpful when you’re exercising more and building muscle.
Travel, social gatherings and unforeseen setbacks can lead to lapses in your weight loss. In these situations, “remember that your body is resilient, all of your work is not lost, and you will get back to the healthy habits that suit you as soon as you can,” says Wyosnick.
For example, rather than letting one dinner out with friends (and more calories than you expected) lead to a wave of guilt and bad decisions, enjoy yourself. Then, commit to making a healthy breakfast in the morning.