How to Start the First 30 Days of Your Weight-Loss Journey

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How to Start the First 30 Days of Your Weight-Loss Journey

Eat this. Don’t eat that. Do this. Don’t do that. When you’re looking to jumpstart weight loss, sifting through online advice and narrowing a plan of attack down to several actionable steps can be the hardest part. This is especially true for those who lead busy lives. You have work, family and other obligations to worry about. A major life overhaul just isn’t in the cards.

To make it easy, we offer three simple tweaks you can make for the next 30 days to help you start your weight-loss journey.

While making several changes to your lifestyle all at once may sound overwhelming, research shows that shifting diet and exercise habits at the same time can lead to better results. One study conducted at Stanford University compared four groups of people: One that changed diet and exercise simultaneously, one that started with diet and then worked on changing exercise habits a few months later, another that changed exercise habits and then diet, and a fourth group, which was schooled in stress-management techniques with no advice on diet or exercise.

At the 12-month mark, it turned out that those who changed things about their diet and exercise at the same time had a greater likelihood of success when it came to meeting the government’s physical activity guidelines (150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity) and eating 5–9 servings of fruits and veggies a day (with saturated fat comprising less than 10% of daily calorie intake).

With that said, trying to take on too many changes at once can derail your success. Commit to the following three habits for the next 30 days to get the ball rolling on weight loss without majorly interrupting your daily life.

1. Log your intake.

It turns out that the “written word” can be powerful when it comes to shedding pounds. In a study funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health, researchers found that people who kept a food diary lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t track anything. Another study conducted by researchers in California revealed that people who wrote/logged their goals were significantly more likely to achieve them than those who didn’t. These studies hint at the fact that tracking things can help you reflect on your actions, both healthy and unhealthy.

2. Cut out soda.

It’s no secret that soda isn’t a great drink option if you’re looking to adopt healthier habits. Studies have long demonstrated a significant link between sugary drinks and weight gain. In fact, recent research discovered that even diet soda leads to weight gain, particularly abdominal fat. To be sure, the recent San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging found that over the long term, people who drank two or more diet sodas a day had their waist circumferences increase a whopping 500% more than those who didn’t drink diet soda.

Long story short: Consuming soda and other sugary drinks in any form has the potential to sabotage your weight-loss goals. Reducing or eliminating it from your diet has the potential to impact your weight significantly.

3. Strength train.

While we often think that cardiovascular exercise is the key to weight loss, it turns out that strength training might be just as important. A study published this year by researchers at Harvard University found that participants who committed to 20 minutes of strength training a day experienced a smaller increase in age-related abdominal fat than another group of participants who did 20 minutes of daily aerobic exercise. While doing both weight training and aerobic exercise on a regular basis is ideal, this study points to the fact that strength work alone can have a major influence on your waistline.

What’s more, you can’t beat the simplicity of strength or resistance training. It can be done at home in a small space with limited equipment. Even bodyweight moves, like planks and push-ups can aid weight loss. While committing to daily strength training is a lofty goal, consider adding it into your routine 2–3 days a week to help prompt the loss of belly fat.

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  • Stephanie Salas

    First day tracking food intake and realized how much fat I eat… Eye opening!

  • Hi Mackenzie,

    I definitely agree with all of these tips. Specifically – tracking and monitoring intake. How can anyone make a change without knowing exactly what is going on? Do you have a specific way of tracking that you suggest – like a particular app or anything?

    • Deb

      I use my fitness pal. Very good app.

  • Karlo Garcia

    Great advice 🙂

  • Disappointing article. Lost all my weight drinking insane amounts of diet soda. Zero calories is zero calories, and calories count. As a walker, this article makes me think that walking is rather worthless since I’m not lifting, except that I lost 110 lbs. last year walking 3x or more a week for 30 minutes minimum, so I must be doing something right.

    Most important, log your intake.

    Beyond that, this article makes it sound like if you drink diet soda and don’t lift, you’re going to fail. That’s not true.

    • Meg Carpenter

      It’s not the calories in diet soda that are the issue, it’s the effect the sweeteners have on your system. Studies show when you drink diet soda, your brain interprets it as “sweet”, and releases and insulin when you don’t actually need it. The sweeteners have been proven to mess with your gut and how you absorb nutrients. It messes with the hormone “leptin” which inhibits hunger, so that you may feel hungry more and longer. And there are so many more. Artificial sweeteners are literally poison to your system.

      • Chere L Davis

        When I first started my diet I was drinking A lot of diet pop it made me very sick I drink a lot of tea know unsweetened and green tea I have been dieting and using my fitness pal for four months know and iv lost a total of 65 pounds so far 🙂

        • Julie Graves Jackson

          Great job!

      • VilcaAmazon

        Citations. You completely lost credibility with your last sentence.

    • Citrus Fruit

      Everyone’s body is different. But these are some good tips to start off with, and they’re sound. It’s great that you had so much success, but the program you’re describing would sure as hell not work for me for example. But there’s no guarantee the program I follow would work for you. I tried a lot of different crap before I found a style of eating that worked for me and some of that crap worked great for other people. A few things are for sure though; logging your food helps keep you mindful about eating; Soda is just plain bad for you and that’s a fact. Whether or not artificial sweeteners will sabotage your diet is up in the air and there’s compelling evidence from both camps. You can still see success drinking diet soda, but that doesn’t mean it’s *good* for you; And, strength training is good for you. No, it’s not the end all be all of exercise for everyone but it damn sure helps. And resistance/strength training doesn’t have to mean lifting.It can be as simple as body weight moves and resistance bands. These are great tips, and as the article states these are ways to *start* your weight loss journey. Get on track and tweak and adjust from there but these tips help develop structure.

      • Ed

        Any comments on the benefits of rebounding .

    • Bobeo

      I agree Robb. Those studies are horrible. No mention of drinks like Crystal Light and similar “non-soda” drinks that contain the same sweetners and dyes less the carbonation. Yet studies have shown “club soda” is good for you because of the added O2 (so you can’t blame the carbonation in soda either). My experience has been fat people drink diet soda – and eat a lot of food.

    • Rachel

      Congrats on your weight loss! Now to speak to your points: if you switched from drinking regular soda to diet, then yes, you would see a drop in weight due to cutting the calories instantly. In the long run, drinking natural beverages (water, unsweetened tea, coffee) is far healthier and better for your healthy lifestyle goals. If you also were not doing any exercise and then started walking 3x or more a week for 30 minutes minimum, obviously you will see changes as your body was used to being dormant. Adding some sort of weight training now would help with toning and maintaining your weight loss, and aid in preventing the weight from coming back as you age.

      The most important thing to remember when critiquing is that each person is different and their bodies will respond uniquely to diet and exercise. Example, not everyone has 110 pounds to lose; someone with say 10 pounds to lose might struggle more than you did while needing to lose far less.

      I did not interpret anything in this article as “do this or you are doomed”. It is more so a suggestion for people who may not know where to start.

    • Lina

      It’s so much more than just calorie count, even a Diet Coke with zero calories has a large amount of sugar. Being healthy and loosing weight it’s not the same. Yes you lost weight bravo congrats… But when was the last time you did a physical and or check your glucose? If you think drinking Diet Coke and walking is healthy you’re wrong and I don’t think you understand the article you just read.

  • Meg c

    I would also add, you should take your measurements when you start so you can see success in different ways, not just the scale.

    • Ariel Paz

      All I do is check my skinny jeans. That’s enough to motivate me 🙂

  • Nahid Yazdi

    All great tips. I gained 25 pounds when I started my second job that made me increase the sitting time. I then started diet with a help of a registered dietitian and also exercised a bit. I lost 18 pounds and got encouraged and joined the gym. Unfortunately after working out more my appetite has increased dramatically and although I am gaining muscle mass I am also gaining fat weight and my size is increasing.
    Very frustrated

    • Selena Patterson

      I have found logging everything I eat the most helpful. I not only pay attention to the calories and fat but all nutrition information. I too went through a period where I was always hungry. I started eating more fruit and dry cereal to munch on instead of chip type snacks (which is my weakness) I finally overcame the hunger. Remember muscle weighs more, keep exercising and log your food intake.You can do this, keep the faith and believe in yourself.

  • sjhollar

    I’m doing nothing more than using the app to keep track of my calorie intake. I’m not changing anything in my life. I’m not excluding eating anything that I like. I’m just adding in the calories and keeping it below the weight lose goal. This usually just means limiting the quantity of high calorie foods, not eliminating them.

    In my life I found if you try to cut out foods you like and drastically change your lifestyle, more than likely it will only work for a short time, but, you can’t maintain it so the weight comes right back. I do not feel deprived and have lost 15 pounds so far in the first two weeks. Using the app is making all the difference. It is easy to use, I always have the phone with me, and it’s actually kind of fun.

    So don’t feel you have to make gigantic changes in your life or give up the foods you like.

    • Trish

      I am in total agreement with you. I am more mindful of my eating since I’ve been using my fitness. .love it,

  • Rio

    “… participants who committed to 20 minutes of strength training a day experienced a smaller increase in age-related abdominal fat than another group of participants who did 20 minutes of daily aerobic exercise.” INCREASE?!!!! No one noticed the mistake!!!

    • Vw

      No you just understood the comment..read again

    • Tom

      They said “smaller increase”, so no, it’s not a mistake.

  • VilcaAmazon

    Number one briefly and only for some. Too rigid, tremendous potential for developing eating disorders. Seek professional, science-based help if you need to lose more than 20 lbs. Do NOT read articles like this one.

  • Ariel Paz

    Yeah, food logging is eye opening. Awareness is the first step to change. Walking is a great way to exercise. But we need to strength train as well to build muscle which burns more calories. Soda is empty calories and artificial sweeteners. I agree. Ditch the soda and drink more water.

  • Carol Mittler Feiste

    This is a great article! I have lost 38 pounds in 6 six months by following these guidelines. I gave up all soda, started walking 3/4 mile and got up to 2 miles 5-6 times a week. We have eliminated most fast food and rarely eat out. I was amazed how much I was eating when I started logging my food. We have joined a gym and are now doing cardio and strength training 5-6 times per week. We started small, took baby steps to make changes and it has worked for both my husband and I. I couldn’t have done it without My Fitness Pal to log food and the blogs have been a great inspiration! Having a Fitbit to track exercise has also helped me get moving.

  • Cara

    I have diabetic gastroparesis. It is really hard for me to diet. Any advise?

  • Joseph G.

    That’s it?! To start a 30-day diet simply cut out soda and exercise? Not as in-depth as I was expecting.

  • Mary

    I am 68 years old, so far I am in excellent health. But I have notice a weight gain most likely due to my slowing metabolism. I eat healthy for the most part, no soda, might have a glass of wine occasionally. Walk at least 6000 steps a day. Do you have any suggestions to control the weight gain?

  • Amanda Roberts

    Today is day 1 for me. I’d like to know going forward where I begin in strength training in terms of where to start, equipment (hand held weights?) how much weight to start should I be using?

  • Quite impressive and motivating blog it is. It is helpful for those who are looking for weight loss.