Archive for January, 2012

Stay Motivated to Lose Weight with Rewards

It’s not easy to stay motivated to lose weight, especially when progress seems slow.  If the scale isn’t moving as quickly as you want it to and you need a little distraction to keep you on track, you may want to start rewarding yourself.

You may have heard about rewarding yourself for weight milestones as you reach them (10 pounds, 25 pounds, etc.) but that won’t make you feel better if you haven’t yet reached those milestones, or if you still have a long way to go to reach your goal.

Instead, you can easily stay motivated to lose weight by rewarding yourself for the actions you take each day.  For example, set a mini-goal to drink 10 small glasses of water today, and if you do it, you get to buy yourself a new book.  Or, set a goal to walk 2 miles after dinner, and if you do it, you will treat yourself to a manicure.

The rewards don’t always have to be things to buy either; you can create fun free rewards like an hour of alone time to soak in a bubble bath, or inviting a friend to your home for lunch, or asking your spouse to watch the kids while you relax for awhile.

If you find that you’re struggling to meet your mini-goals each day and you’re just getting more frustrated, start smaller!  Commit to avoiding sugar for the morning; or decide that you will skip your usual glass of soda with dinner and instead drink water or unsweetened iced tea.  As you achieve the mini-mini-goals, you’ll feel stronger in tackling the bigger ones eventually.

Also come up with some bigger rewards you can use for those weight milestones we mentioned earlier; perhaps buying a new outfit or taking a day trip somewhere fun.  Look forward to those events and know that you will get there soon.

In the meantime, these small rewards will help you stay motivated to lose weight and steadily move toward your bigger goals.

Many people hate counting calories to lose weight, mostly because it seems like a lot of work.  Every time you eat something you need to figure out how many calories it has, and keep adding up your total all day long.

One of the most challenging parts of counting calories to lose weight is that you often have to hunt for the calorie count.  If you use a calorie count book, not every food may be listed, so you have to look it up online, which can be challenging since so many of these resources vary.

If you want to streamline this process, set aside a few hours to create a “calorie count cheat sheet”.

Start by making a list of all of the foods you normally eat while dieting.  Include meals, snacks, desserts and treats, beverages, fruit, vegetables, grains and bread, condiments, dairy products, meat – whatever you would typically eat each day, put it on the list.  Then, find out what the calorie count would be for a serving (and how big a serving is) and jot down the calorie count next to that item.

Next, think about foods you typically eat while you are out, and add them to the list.  Include specialty coffee drinks, bagels, muffins, salads, sandwiches, soups, and other items you would eat at restaurants and delis.  Then find out the calorie counts for them.  You may need to pick up nutritional information for some of the establishments because they won’t have it available online.  Some calorie count books include restaurants, but not all of them will be included, especially those local to you.

Finally, once your list is as complete as you can make it, type and print it to keep nearby so you can reference it quickly.  This may seem like a lot of work at first – but think about all of the time you’ll save later.  Every time you eat something, you don’t have to figure out the calorie count; you simply look it up on your list and the calories are already figured out for you.

As you try new foods, you can add them to your list and keep expanding it as you go along.  An added bonus: if you ever aren’t sure what you want to eat for a snack or meal, you can simply read down this list and choose something that sounds good to you but also fits within your calorie count for the day.

Keep this cheat sheet handy.  You may want to print a few copies for easy reference.  Hang one on your refrigerator; tuck another inside your food journal; and perhaps another in your purse or wallet so you can reference it while you are out.  Having this handy reference gives you a head start in counting calories to lose weight – no more hunting for calorie counts of common foods you eat; you’ve already got it figured out!

Good Exercise Workouts For Beginners

Exercise workouts for beginners are a great way to gradually work up to physical fitness.  If you have never worked out before, or if you have been avoiding exercise for years, you’ll want to start very slowly to avoid injury.  First things first; be sure to check with your doctor to be sure exercise is safe for you.  Once that’s done, consider what kind of exercise would be best for you:

Beginner Exercise Workout – Walking

Walking is a popular beginner workout because it’s very low-impact and you can go at your own pace.  You can do it virtually anywhere, alone or with a friend.  You can even do it inside if you have a treadmill or belong to a gym.  Most beginners start by walking one mile daily, and gradually increasing their speed and distance once they get strong enough.  Be sure to warm up by walking slowly for the first 5 minutes, then increase your speed until you are walking briskly.  Stay at that pace through most of the mile, then slow your pace again for the last 5 minutes to cool down.  Afterwards, gently stretch your legs, arms, and back.

Beginner Exercise Workout – Strength Training

Walking is a great cardiovascular exercise for beginners, and strength training is a great way to tone and strengthen your muscles.  Most beginners will want to start with light dumbbell weights; 1-pound weights are good, but you can even start with 3-pound weights if you’re strong enough.  Strength training workouts are exactly what they sound like, you lift the weights in various positions to strengthen your muscles.  Here is a common strength training move:

Stand with feet shoulder width apart, and holding one dumbbell in each hand, slowly raise your arms out to the sides, coming up to shoulder height, and with the backs of your hands facing up toward the ceiling.  Then lower your arms slowly back to your sides, and repeat.  Ten repetitions of this move is a good start for beginners.

There are many more strength training exercises than I can describe in this article; your best bet is to join a class or buy a DVD that will demonstrate how to safely perform strength training exercises.

Beginner Exercise Workout – Swimming

Swimming is unique because it’s really a cardio workout and a strength training workout in one!  As you swim laps, you are using your arms and legs to move through the water, which provides resistance to strengthen your muscles and gets your heart rate up at the same time.  If you don’t have a pool of your own, you might consider joining a gym with a pool.  Another option is to find out if there is a YMCA or YWCA near you; their memberships are reasonably priced and most of them have a pool for public use.  Some of them even hold water aerobic classes you could participate in.

There are many more exercise workouts for beginners available – dance classes, aerobic classes, various exercise machines and more.  Think about the kinds of exercise that appeal to you most, and go from there.

What Are The Best Health Foods For Weight Loss

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Health food and weight loss often go hand-in-hand, but not all “health food” is low-calorie or appropriate for all diet plans.  Part of the problem is that “health food” can be a subjective term; what makes a food healthy?  Most people would agree that fresh, natural food that is free of chemicals is healthy.  When it comes to diets and weight loss, however, you also want to eat foods that are low in calories, sugar and fat (at least the unhealthy varieties of fat).

With these distinctions in mind, below are some of the best health foods for weight loss:

weight loss Health Food #1 – Water

Technically not a “food,” but fresh, clean water is vital for good health AND weight loss.  Aim for a minimum of 64 oz. per day.

weight loss Health Food #2 – Vegetables

The official recommendation for optimal health and well-being is 3 – 5 servings of vegetables per day.  Vegetables also play a powerful role in healthy weight loss.  If you find most vegetables boring, you may want to consider trying a few that you don’t typically eat, like bean sprouts (great source of protein and antioxidants), sea vegetables (many great health benefits), and sweet potatoes (great source of fiber and Vitamins A and C).

Weight Loss Health Food #3 – Lean Protein

Especially when you are cutting calories and working out, protein is essential for preventing muscle loss, as well as for building and repairing lean muscle tissue.  Protein also plays a large role in keeping appetite under control and reducing the tendency to overeat.  The best sources for lean protein are egg whites, lean poultry, fish, pork and beef.

Other important health foods include fruit, whole grains, and dairy products (low-fat).  Remember, when it comes to weight loss, it’s not just the quality of the food that matters – keep a close eye on your overall calories in, calories out to keep those numbers on the scale moving in a downward direction.

One word of warning: some pre-packaged “health foods” are anything but.  A good example is protein bars; some of these bars are loaded with fat, sugar, sodium, and chemicals and may not be as healthy as is suggested by the name.  The same thing goes for any prepared food, including crackers, cereal, soup, and frozen dinners.  There are many healthy options, but read labels carefully to be sure of what you are buying.

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