It's overwhelming to have a big weight loss goal, but you can meet it if you tackle it the right way -- and still feel good in the process. Slow down, take a deep breath and set yourself up for success with a few simple steps.
Set Reasonable Goals
What's your goal, and more important, when do you want to accomplish it? If you want to lose 15 pounds, you might just need two months or so to reach that goal. If you're looking to lose significant weight, you might have a long road ahead of you. To stay on track, set milestones that you can work toward, as opposed to only setting a grand end goal. Record your goals in a journal and include dates. Your goals could be a target weight, minutes spent walking, miles run in a week or limiting the amount of junk food you consume.
Know What Your Calorie Intake Should Be
Losing weight is all about creating a calorie deficit, which means burning more calories than you consume. You can create a deficit by eating lower-calorie foods and/or less food, and by increasing your activity level. Aim for a steady rate of about two pounds per week. People losing weight at this rate are more likely to keep it off in the long term versus people who lose an extreme amount of weight rapidly.
Plan Your Meals for the Week
Planning your meals and shopping for everything you need ahead of time removes the stress of throwing together a meal at the last minute, or grabbing fast food from the drive-thru. Plus, when you prepare your own food you have control over the quantity of oil, butter and other high-fat ingredients. If diving into a weekly plan is too much at first, start by just planning your meals through Wednesday, then gradually increase the number of days you cook. Don't forget to take your leftovers from these healthy meals as lunches throughout the week.
Keep a Food Diary
Knowing what you eat -- and how much you eat -- reveals your habits, good and bad. You may see ways you can improve your calorie control, such as choosing a healthier afternoon snack or not ordering french fries with your lunch. Forcing yourself to admit everything you're eating will hold you accountable to your goals. Keep a separate notebook for recording what you eat each day, or download an app to your iPhone to log it right away, such as MyPlate by LIVESTRONG.COM.
Maintain Portion Control
One of the most straightforward ways to cut calories is to cut quantity. After all, half the portion equals half the amount of calories. When you're eating at a restaurant, divide your food in half and take a 10-minute break from eating. You may find that you're not hungry any longer, and you can take the remaining half home for another satisfying meal.
Remove the Obstacles
We often make unhealthy decisions based on convenience. Set yourself up for success by planning ahead and preparing. Think about what's holding you back. Proper shoes? Bring an extra pair to work to walk at lunch. Craving snacks? Keep a fresh fruit bowl on your desk instead of a candy dish. Don't let availability or convenience be what holds you back.
Like a well-oiled machine, your body just operates more efficiently when you're well hydrated. Drinking water can also help ward off nervous snacking because you're actively consuming. Keep a water bottle with you at work so you can reach for it easily, and set goals for how many bottles you want to drink during the day. Walking to the water cooler more often adds more active movement to your day than just sitting at your desk for hours uninterrupted.
Set Aside Time to Walk
Exercise doesn't have to mean spending an hour at the gym trying the latest fitness craze. The best thing you can do to undertake an exercise routine is just to walk. Walk around your neighborhood, walk to work, walk in the park, and if the weather is bad, walk around in your local mall. If the recommended 30 minutes a day of walking time is too much for you, start with just five minutes or one block, and gradually work your way up.
Reward Yourself at Milestones
The best thing about setting reasonable goals for yourself is that you can meet them. As you reach the milestones in your weight loss plan, take the opportunity to pat yourself on the back. Your reward can be as simple as bragging about it on Facebook or drawing a big star in your journal, or as big as buying yourself a new outfit or going on a weekend getaway with a friend or partner. You've worked hard to get where you are and you deserve to enjoy the moment.