If sustainable, long-term weight-loss is your goal, then there’s one thing that’s important to establish right off the bat: It won’t happen overnight. How much weight a person loses over time depends on several factors, including gender, age, physical activity level, and even the effects of certain medications. A good rule of thumb is to aim to lose 1–2 pounds per week, or 4–8 pounds per month. While this process can certainly be challenging, using your time wisely can help the pounds come off more efficiently.
To put this into practice, experts share their best time-management tips and tricks to help you lose weight and keep it off:
Set aside time once every week or every other week to make sure your pantry, freezer and refrigerator are stocked with nutrient-dense foods. This can mean planning what you’re going to buy at the grocery store in advance (or making an online order). “Having convenient, healthy items on hand will make eating healthier much easier,” says Susan Bowerman, RD. Keep budget-friendly pantry staples on hand like canned beans, tuna and whole grains like quinoa, so you can easily throw together a healthy last-minute meal instead of opting for takeout. “Stock the freezer with veggies and fruits and lean proteins like shrimp and chicken breasts.”
“Just like you have certain meetings on your calendar for the workday, the same should go for your meals,” says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, sports dietitian for the Kansas City Chiefs. “Scheduling approximate eating times will help you avoid skipping meals,” she adds, which helps prevent blood sugar crashes and subsequent cravings for refined carbs, which tend to be empty calories that lead to weight gain. “Plus, if you schedule in a snack time at your hungriest part of the day, you’ll be less likely to forage around for not-so-good alternatives.”
Do yourself a big favor and make meal prep a priority. Try making big batches of soups and stews you can portion out to eat all week and even freeze for later. This helps you save time when it comes to choosing your meals as the days go by, and you won’t be able to make the “I don’t have time to eat healthy,” excuse.
Also, plan to prep foods that can go into more than one dish at a time, recommends Bowerman. “If you’re grilling chicken, make extra and add it to tomorrow’s pasta,” she says. “If you’re cooking some fish, make enough to fold into some corn tortillas with salsa for fish tacos tomorrow night.” Cut up extra veggies to throw into stir-fries or smoothies and have a healthy grain on-hand for mix-and-match grain bowls.
When you’re out with friends or away from home, it’s easy to be in a situation where other people don’t share your personal weight-loss goals. While socializing is important, also be cognizant if it makes you uncomfortable. “Sometimes we might just be saying yes to be polite when it comes to eating at a certain place or being in certain situations,” says Shena Jaramillo, MS, RD. “It’s OK to make yourself a priority and remember that every time you say yes to one activity you are saying no to another. Don’t let the no be your health.”
There are tons of ways to combine healthy habits with checking things off your to-do list, says Sunny Brigham, MS, clinical and integrative nutritionist. For example, maybe you choose to wash and prep veggies for the week during laundry time or get some extra steps in by walking errands. Or, you can choose to jump on the treadmill when you want to watch your favorite TV show. “Make your schedule work for you,” says Brigham, and these small changes add up over time.
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