For the best possible rewards from this weight loss challenge, you can’t have one (exercise) without the other (healthy diet). So, to see serious success this month, complete the fitness challenges simultaneously with our tips to get your diet it tip-top shape.
Day 1: Lose the Blame
Losing weight isn’t about blame or shame. So cast those feelings aside right away. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself—that only makes it harder.
Day 2: Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
Goal setting is crucial to any achievement, but when it comes to weight loss you want to focus on making large goals (and mini ones within that) specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-based. Start a weight loss goals list.
Day 3: Ditch Added Sugar
Sugar is lurking in unsuspecting places—think juices and dressings, and many people are already consuming way too much. All that extra sweetness adds up to an increased risk for heart disease—say goodbye! Sorry, but it wouldn’t be a weight loss challenge without a little sacrifice.
Day 4: Avoid Refined Carbs
Nutritionists suggest being a little stricter with your diet in the beginning, but the truth is, refined carbs are diet disasters you’ll be happy you ditched. These quick-digesting carbs offer none of the fiber and nutrients you’d get from their unrefined cousins and can cause blood sugar spikes and belly bloat.
Day 5: Put Down the Soft Drink
Don’t freak out! You can slowly incorporate a glass of soft drink back into your diet here and there, but if you’re serious about results, it’s important to cut out soft drinks completely for now—it can wreck your fitness goals.
Day 6: Plan One Indulgence
By planning ahead for your treat or snack of choice each week during the weight loss challenge, you’ll be less likely to overindulge or binge.
Day 7: Allow Spontaneous Indulgence
Cravings happen, and while you shouldn’t give in to everyone, you can cut yourself some slack to give in to temptation once a week (within reason of course).
Day 8: Keep Grains in Check
It can be tempting to fill up on whole grains because hey, they’re good for you, but there is something called too much of a good thing. Calories are calories no matter how you serve them. Limit whole-grains to three servings a day.
Day 9: Eat Only When Hungry
Sounds pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how often you mindlessly munch just because you’re bored, stressed, or for no reason at all. Ask yourself if you’re actually hungry next time you reach for the bag of pretzels.
Day 10: Go for a Walk
Speaking of eating out of sheer boredom—any well-intentioned diet’s worst enemy—when you start to feel antsy and temptation sets in, head outside and take a walk around the neighborhood instead.
Day 11: Never Skip Breakfast
Start your morning with a high-protein, high-fiber breakfast. Eating a substantial meal (or at least a balanced one) will set you up for more control and limit overindulging throughout the day.
Day 12: Just Say No to Junk Food
Even the strongest of willpowers are no match for the greasy junk food black hole. Studies show that junk food has an addictive quality that leaves you constantly wanting more…and more.
Day 13: Nix Processed Foods
Processed food, which is often high in saturated fat and refined starch or sugar can cause inflammation that disrupts hormones responsible for telling your brain you’re full. A.k.a., you’ll eat a lot more. (You should know, however, that not all processed food is bad, and frankly, not all bad food is processed—know the difference.)
Day 14: Shop for Whole Foods
You’re wiping your diet slate clean of junk and processed foods, so fill the void with clean whole foods. Think veggies, fruit, lean protein, and healthy fats. Spend most of your time around the periphery of the grocery store where fresh produce and dairy is shelved.
Day 15: Meal Prep
Whether it’s knowing what’s on the menu from breakfast through dinner or actual prep work like cutting, chopping, and packing meals—planning ahead is your secret to success. You’ll be much less likely to make a pit stop at the vending machine or grab a burrito for lunch.
Day 16: Reorganize Your Pantry/Fridge
Don’t “store” food on the counter—put cereal boxes away and keep bread out of immediate sight. Experts say you’ll eat what you see. On the other hand, healthy snacks and fresh fruits should be kept at eye level or in plain view so they’re convenient to grab.
Day 17: Keep a Food Journal
Jotting down exactly what you eat each day has long been known to have eye-opening effects on food decisions, and food journals are a part of almost every weight loss challenge. It’s a great way to identify nutritional holes in your diet, as well as noticing a late-night snack session that’s setting you back from reaching your goal.
Day 18: Ramp Up Protein Intake
If you’re feeling sluggish or aren’t seeing the results you’d hoped for, take a look back at your food journal. You may be falling short in the protein department. Incorporate more lean meats like turkey and chicken as well as tofu, legumes, and leafy greens.
Day 19: Put Veggies or Fruit on Every Plate
Lacking in the produce department? Make room for veggies at every single meal—in scrambled eggs, on a sandwich, as a side dish or main course. Research says the more fruits or veggies make an appearance on your plate, the fewer calories you’ll consume overall.
Day 20: Know Your Healthy Fats
It wouldn’t be called a well-balanced diet without some healthy fats, but the key word here is healthy. Fats from olive oil, avocados, and nuts will fill you up and give you the biggest bang for your nutritional buck.
Day 21: Keep Portions in Check
You know just the right size for a grilled chicken breast, but what about less obvious items? Extra calories from salad dressings, for example, can quickly add up, so instead of thoughtlessly pouring dressing on a bed of greens, portion 1-2 tbsp. in a small bowl first.
Day 22: Track Total Calories
While it’s important to know that everyone’s required calories for weight maintenance and weight loss are different, one thing that’s true across the board if you want to drop pounds: calorie expenditure should exceed calorie intake. This is the ultimate weight loss challenge. Around 1,500 calories a day is an average sweet spot for weight loss.
Day 23: Eat at the Table
Experts say you can easily underestimate daily calories due to forgotten snacks or meals you ate while standing. So even if you don’t have long, take a seat at the table and have a real meal—we promise you’ll enjoy your food so much more.
Day 24: Eliminate Distractions
According to research, eating when you’re distracted results in consuming a significant number of extra calories a day. Turn off the TV and leave the smartphones on silent in the other room.
Day 25: Slow Down
Research found that women who ate lunch more attentively consumed 30 percent less when they snacked later. Tricks to keep in mind: Smell your food. Chew it slowly. Don’t put another bite on your fork until you swallow.
Day 26: Downsize Your Dinnerware
Swap serving spoons for the regular size and research says you’ll dish out about 15 percent less. Trimming the size of your plate also helps keep portions in check—plus the same amount of food looks larger on a smaller plate.
Day 27: Bust Out the Scale
The scale doesn’t have to be scary. Weighing in every day has been shown to help people lose more weight, and keep it off long term. Aim to step on the scale at the same time each day for the most accurate results.
Day 28: Reduce Sodium
Frustrated because you still seem squished in your skinny jeans? Salt could be to blame. Sodium is bloat’s BFF, and can cause the scale to fluctuate unfairly due to water retention. Cut back, and be aware of the less obvious salt-traps like cereal and salad dressings.
Day 29: Sleep 7+ Hours
Logging less than the recommended seven hours of ZZZs can not only make you irritable and groggy, but lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your weight loss goals. Hormones that control hunger skyrocket, and those that tell the brain your full are suppressed. Double whammy!
Day 30: Cut 100 Calories
In the beginning, you felt lighter and the scale agreed, but now you’re standing stagnant—what gives? Battle the dreaded plateau by cutting an extra 100 calories or so a day—now that you’ve lost some weight, your body simply doesn’t need as much fuel.