I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of weight-loss ads. They pop up in newspapers, on television, and all over the internet. Typically, they’ll promise amazingly fast weight loss for very little work.
Feeling skeptical? You’re right to be – companies get up to all sorts of tricks (like fake before and after pictures, exaggerated results and falsified testimonials) just to get you to part with your money. Some products are staggeringly expensive – and potentially harmful to your health.
But the good news is … you really can lose weight fast, with just a few minutes extra effort each day. It doesn’t cost you anything, either.
- Write Down Everything You Eat
Studies have shown that you can lose twice as much weight just by keeping a record of what you eat – a food diary. That means writing down everything, including the quantity (not "chips" but "30g chips" or "multipack bag of chips", for instance).
You can create a simple chart in Word or Excel that you can fill in each day, or use online programs to track your food intake. There are dozens of apps for iPhones or other devices that will do just this.
It doesn’t sound like such a little thing could make such a big difference – after all, it only takes a few minutes each day to write down what you’re eating. But people typically lose weight just from recording their food intake … without even being "on a diet".
Why does it work? Because you become instantly more conscious of what you’re consuming. Instead of dipping into the cookie jar as you walk past, you ask yourself "do I really want that?" Instead of succumbing to that impulse purchase of a candy bar, you think "do I want to record that?"
A food diary alone will speed your weight loss, helping you lose a safe and sustainable 1-2lbs per week. But the humble pen and paper can be used in other ways, too…
- Record Your Exercise Sessions
How often have you skipped exercising, telling yourself that you’ll work out tomorrow? It’s easy to let one missed gym session turn into a week and then a month of inactivity.
To keep yourself motivated and on track, record the exercise that you do (you could write it alongside your food diary, or jot down details in your calendar). Again, this might not sound like much of a change to your usual habits – but seeing your activity in black-and-white will encourage you to do more.
Your exercise log can be as simple as a tick for each day that you exercise. Ideally, though, you’ll want to record a few details – like how far you jogged and for how long, or what weights you lifted. This lets you look back over past weeks to see the evidence that you’re progressing.
- Keep a Journal
Some people end up overweight just because they have poor eating habits, or love large portions. But for many dieters, food has become tangled up with emotions – they comfort-eat, or snack when bored, or turn to chocolate to combat stress.
Keeping a journal lets you spot patterns. For instance, you might realize that your snacking tends to happen after dinner, because you’re bored and don’t have much to do. Some dieters like to write down how they were feeling in their food diary, every time they record eating – hungry? Bored? Upset?
You can also use a journal to work through difficult feelings. Perhaps you’re stressed at work, or sleeping badly, or struggling with a particular relationship. Getting your thoughts out on paper is a really effective way to tackle them – the writing process helps you to work through your emotions, and get some objectivity about them.
Grab a blank notebook, or set up a document on your computer or online. Try keeping a food diary, exercise log and journal for just one week – and see what a difference it makes.
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