The Elements of Weight Loss

When it comes to losing weight and getting fit, there are three main areas you need to focus on: Nutrition, Exercise and Mind/Motivation. But there are so many different elements within these three areas, it's easy to get lost while trying to put all the puzzle pieces together.

You might have good eating habits but not realize that alcohol is preventing you from losing fat. You may not realize that you need to increase the intensity of your exercise after a certain period of time.

Or you may not realize that your attitudes and beliefs to weight loss are holding you back from reaching your goals.

The problem is that these basic weight loss elements are usually spread out all over the place. It's difficult to see the big picture.

How the Elements of Weight Loss Can Help You Lose Weight and Get Fit

This is a fun way to explore all the different elements of weight loss on one page. Remember the Periodic Table of Elements from school? This is the same idea. Click on a square to learn more about a particular "element". If you have that particular element under control, move on to the next one until you find one element that's missing from your weight loss plan. Once you find a missing element, you can focus on learning more about that element.

You'll build your knowledge, create new skills and set yourself up for success when reaching your goals.

Oh, and there's one KEY element that is the starting point to losing weight. With this one element, your chances of reaching your weight loss goals are higher. Can you guess which one it is?



Exercise & Fitness







Calories In

Most of the foods you eat have calories (energy). The amount of calories you eat in a day are the "calories in". (The calories you burn are your "calories out".) If you eat more calories than your body burns or uses in a day, the extra calories will be stored as fat.

Learn More: Calories In Vs. Calories Out: The Basic Formula Explained

Total Daily Calorie Needs

Your Total Daily Calorie Needs (TDCN) is the estimated total number of calories you need to maintain your current weight based on your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) and your level of activity.

Calculate your Total Daily Calorie Needs

Calorie Deficit

To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. This creates a calorie deficit. You create a calorie deficit by either eating less calories, burning more calories (through exercise) or a combination of the two.

When you create a calorie deficit, your body still needs calories (energy) -- so it uses stored fat as energy.

Your calorie deficit is the number of calories to eat in a day to lose weight. It is less than your Total Daily Calorie Needs.

Calculate Your Calorie Deficit

The quality of your calories is critical, especially if you're eating less calories. The foods you eat must be nutrient-dense: lots of fruits, vegetables and lean protein. The foods you eat need to packed with vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy.

Vitamins are essential to proper body function. You get most of these micronutrients through food -- which is why it's important to eat nutrient-dense foods, especially when trying to lose weight.

Vitamins can be grouped into water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins. Learn more about the food sources of each vitamin or calculate your Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins.


Like vitamins, minerals are another micronutrient essential for good health. Unlike vitamins, minerals can also be found in the body as well as in food.

Minerals can be grouped into macro-minerals (where you need more than 100g per day of the mineral -- calcium, for example) and microminerals (smaller amounts are needed, such as iron or iodine).

Learn more about the food sources of several minerals or calculate your Recommended Daily Allowance of minerals.

Food Groups

There are five major food groups -- fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy. Contrary to popular belief, doughnuts is NOT a food group!

Eat a variety of foods from all food groups when trying to lose weight. Don't follow any diets that severely limit a specific food group.


Your body needs water to help it perform certain functions, like regulate your body temperature, carry oxygen and nutrients to cells - and to help your heart function at its best.

While nothing beats a cold glass of water, did you know you can also get water from the foods you eat? 1 medium apple contains approximately 6 to 7 fluid ounces of water.

Best part? Water has zero calories.

Read: 7 Reasons to Drink Water


One of three main macronutrients, carbohydrates provide a quick source of energy. You should aim for 45% to 65% of your calories coming from carbs.

Good sources of carbs include whole grains such as rice, oats and barley, whole grain breads and cereals, and starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and squash.

1 gram of carbohydrates contains approximately 4 calories.

Learn More: What Percentage of Carbs, Protein and Fat Should I Eat?


Your body uses protein to help build muscle and other tissue. It also helps in the transportation of vitamins, minerals, fat and oxygen throughout the body.

You get protein from sources such as beef, poultry, fish - basically, any type of meat - and from other sources such as eggs, nuts and seeds, and tofu.

A healthy individual should aim to get about 10% to 35% of their calories from protein.

1 gram of protein contains approximately 4 calories.

Calculate your protein needs.


Fat is used as an energy source for the body but it also has other important functions, such as helping you absorb certain vitamins and produce certain hormones.

A healthy individual should aim to get 20% to 35% of their calories from fat.

1 gram of fat has approximately 9 calories, more than double the calories of 1 gram of carbs or protein.

Meal Frequency

Eating small, frequent meals throughout the day can help control cravings, help keep your energy levels up and creates a pattern of eating. Creating a pattern of eating makes you more aware of your eating habits.

A typical pattern of meal frequency is three meals and two snacks (breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, supper).

Calculate how many calories each meal and snack should be for six different meal patterns with this Calories Per Meal calculator.

Ultimately, how often you eat is up to you. While regular patterns can help, don't get stressed about it either.

Meal Planning

Set yourself up for weight loss success by planning your meals ahead of time. You're less likely to make poor food choices if you know what you're going to eat ahead of time.

See: How to Put Together a Meal Plan

Serving Size & Portions

Understanding what a serving size is and controlling your portions helps you to pinpoint where you're eating extra calories.

Learn More: Six Serving Sizes You Need to Get Right

Food Labels

Reading food labels is a necessary skill when it comes to losing weight. You can't just open up a package and dig in.

Read the food label to understand the proper serving size, calorie count per serving, as well as all the nutrients the serving contains.

Learn More: How to Make Sense of Food Labels


Satiety is another word for feeling satisfied or full when it comes to eating. We've become accustomed to oversizing our meals and eating everything on our plates that we eat past the point of feeling satisfied or full.

If you frequently eat to the point where you're stuffed, you need to relearn how to listen to your body's signal that you've had enough to eat.

Learn More: Listen to Your Body's Cues That You've Had Enough Food

Exercise Nutrition
If you hit your workouts hard and they're longer than 90 minutes, it's important to pay attention to exercise nutrition. You'll want to make sure you're properly hydrated and properly fueled before, during and after your workout.

Alcohol consumption is a barrier to weight loss for a few reasons. When you drink alcohol, your body stops focusing on burning fat. It instead focuses on processing the alcohol and getting it out of your system. Eat a heavy meal with alcohol and your body may even store the extra food calories as fat instead of using them for fuel.

A recent study in published in the British Medical Journal studied years' worth of studies on the benefits of alcohol, only to find the benefits exaggerated or misleading.

1 gram of alcohol contains 7 calories and has no nutritional value.

Restaurant Meals

Eating out at a restaurant can stop your weight loss plan in its track. Chances are you'll consume more calories than you planned -- and unless the restaurant posts a calorie count, you won't know how many calories are in the meal.

Add in alcohol and you've probably just wasted a week of careful planning and workouts.

Keep eating out to a minimum. If you must eat in a restaurant, follow these tips to keep the damage to minimum: 8 Healthy Ways to Eat Out at Restaurants


Food cravings can range anywhere from a small temptation to an overpowering need for a particular food. Cravings are in your mind, whether it's a psychological or your brain desperate for a burst of feel-good dopamine.

Are you limiting your diet too much by purposely not eating foods that you love? Chances are that will backfire. You need to make changes you can live with for the rest of your life.

Managing stress is another way to stop cravings. When your brain is "balanced", you're more likely to make healthy food choices.

See: 3 Ways to Reduce Sugar Cravings

Extreme Hunger & Appetite

Extreme hunger is another barrier to healthy weight loss. Starving yourself is not the way to lose weight. When you eat too few calories you'll have lower energy levels and potentially create nutrient deficiencies. It can also trigger cravings, overeating and feelings of guilt if you overeat. While it's normal to feel hungry -- that's your body's normal cue that it's time to eat -- extreme hunger is unhealthy.

Appetite is defined as the 'desire for food.' When you go back for a second plate of pasta because it tastes so darn good, that's your appetite talking.

Fad Diets & Dieting

Repeat after me: There are NO QUICK FIXES. Fad diets and "dieting" (changing your food habits so drastically it's impossible to maintain those habits for a long period of time) are two of the biggest obstacles to weight loss.

With fad diets & dieting, you eat what others tell you to eat, when they want you to eat -- and they'll often make you cut out whole food groups.

Fad diets are hard to keep up because they're unrealistic. A better strategy is to cut back on unhealthy foods, incorporate healthy foods, eat foods in moderation and be aware of how many calories you're eating in a day.


Calories Burned

As part of the basic calories in/calories out formula, you need to know the amount of calories you burn in a day.

You burn calories in three ways:
  1. your basal metabolism (the calories your body burns to keep itself alive and functioning);
  2. thermogenesis (the calories your body uses to digest food);
  3. physical activity.

Learn more: How Many Calories Do You Burn in a Day


Exercise is any formal workout. It can be as simple as a brisk walk or as complex as a full body weight training session. Exercising burns extra calories. When your body uses more calories than it takes in, you will lose weight.

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends:

  • 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and weight training muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.
  • 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week and icon of a person lifting weights muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.
  • An equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity and icon of a person lifting weights muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.

Check out more Exercise elements of weight loss to learn more about exercise.

Lifestyle Activities

Lifestyle activities is different from exercising or working out. It includes all the other activities you do. Every little bit adds up, so move whenever you can.

Walking the dog, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, gardening, cleaning the house. walking while talking on the phone -- all kinds of lifestyle activities can help you burn more calories, lose weight and get fit.

See: 8 Little Things that Burn More Calories


When you exercise, you change your body. Not only do muscles get stronger and larger, but your tendons and ligaments get thicker/stronger. Your heart beats more efficiently and your resting heart rate decreases. And those are only some of the changes!

The key concept to understand is that your body adapts to these changes. To a beginner, a 5lb dumbbell might seem heavy. But lift that dumbbell consistently over a period of time and the body will change and adapt to the weight. At a certain point, the 5lb dumbbell will be too light to exercise with.

As you exercise on a regular basis, you need to increase weights, intensity, frequency and duration. Otherwise, you'll just be spinning your wheels.

Exercise Frequency
Exercise frequency refers to how often you exercise, usually on a weekly basis. The ACSM guidelines on exercise frequency are:
  • Two to three strength training sessions per week, lifting weights heavy enough to fatigue the muscles (or a few reps before).
  • Cardio workouts get your heart pumping and can be done 3 to 5 times a week, for 20 to 60 minute sessions.
  • Stretch at least 2 to 3 times a week minimum and up to 5 to 7 times a week, ideally.

Learn more: How Often Should I Exercise?

Exercise duration is simply the amount of time spent doing a particular exercise or activity.

Exercise intensity is how hard you exercise. Beginners should start off at a lower intensity and work their way up. Intermediate and advanced exercisers can mix things up, exercising with a combination of low, moderate and vigorous intensities.

According to the ACSM:

Moderate Exercise: Exercising at 64 to 76% of your maximum heart rate (or at 12-13 on the Borg RPE scale).

Vigorous/Hard Exercise: Exercising at 77 to 93% of your maximum heart rate (or 14 to 16 on the Borg RPE scale).

Rate of Perceived Exertion

Related to exercise intensity, the rate of perceived exertion is how you feel when you're exercising. Someone who isn't used to exercise might find walking at 3 mph hour tough, while an athlete would find it pretty easy.

RPE was first introduced by Gunnar Borg. There are two scales you can use rate the intensity of your exercise.

The original scale ranges from 6 to 20 -- which seems odd, at first glance. But the thinking behind it is that you multiply the number by 10 to get an estimate of your heart rate. So, if an exercise is 13/somewhat hard, your corresponding heart rate is likely 130 bpm.

Borg Scale

RPE Exertion
6 No exertion at all
7 Extremely light
9 Very light
11 Light
13 Somewhat hard
15 Hard (heavy)
17 Very hard
19 Extremely hard
20 Maximal exertion
© Gunnar Borg, 1970, 1985, 1998

But the original scale may isn't quite as easy to remember as the modified scale, which uses a scale of 0 to 10, with 5 being a strong/heavy rate of exertion.

Borg CR10 Scale

RPE Exertion
0 Nothing at all
0.5 Extremely weak
1 Very Weak
2 Weak
3 Moderate
5 Strong
7 Very Strong
10 Extremely Strong
++ Absolute maximum
© Gunnar Borg, 1982, 1998

Source: A Comparison between Two Rating Scales for Perceived Exertion

Also known as cardiorespiratory training or cardiorespiratory exercise, cardio exercises focus on getting your heart rate up from its normal resting state. This not only strengthens the function of the heart and its ability to deliver oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, but it burns extra calories you wouldn't normally burn if you were at rest.

Walking, biking, running are good examples of cardio exercises. Cardio usually involves moving the large muscle groups, such as the legs. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week.

Muscular Strength

Strength training -- also known as resistance training -- focuses on building and strengthening your muscles by using resistance.

Aim for 2 to 3 strength training sessions per week, lifting weights heavy enough to fatigue the muscles (or a few reps before). Beginners can start with one set of 8 to 10 exercises that covers all the muscle groups: legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms.


While cardio training will make your heart/lungs stronger and more efficient and weight/strength training will make your muscles stronger, endurance is another component to fitness. Simply put, it's how many times or how long you can do a particular exercise at a low intensity (cardio) or with little to no weight.


Stretching exercises helps elongate the muscle and connective tissues and can help relax muscles after exercising.

When your body is flexible, you're able to have complete range of motion, making it easier to move your body, whether you're exercising or performing everyday tasks, like reaching up to a high shelf.

Keep your body flexible by performing stretching exercises before and after exercise. You can also stretch at other times by doing yoga or stretching on your own (make sure you warm up first). It's a key element that people forget. Strength without flexibility can lead to injuries.

Stretch at least 2 to 3 times a week minimum and up to 5 to 7 times a week, ideally. Stretch all muscle groups for 15 to 30 seconds per rep. The ideal time to stretch is right after a cardio workout.

Warmup & Cool Down

Warming up before exercising prepares your body exercise. It signals the body that more intense activity may be coming and increases the blood flow to active muscles. A simple cardio warm up can be walking around for five to ten minutes.

When strength training, you can also warm up by walking or by performing the weight training exercises you're about to do but at a lower intensity (no weights). You can also warm up by doing dynamic stretches or calisthenics.

The idea is to get your body moving at a lower intensity than the upcoming workout.

Cooling down after a workout allows your heart rate to come down gradually. You wouldn't want to just stop exercising, especially if your heart rate was elevated. Again, a simple cool down is walking at a low intensity for approximately 5 to 10 minutes.


The more intense your exercise, the more important it is to keep your body well hydrated. If you're going for a short, leisurely stroll in pleasant weather, you don't need to bring a water bottle along.

But you plan an intense exercise session or a session lasting more than 60 minutes, you'll need to hydrate before, during and after your exercise session. Learn more about the guidelines for exercise hydration and about exercising in the heat.
Heart Rate

Your heart rate is the amount of times your heart beats in a minute -- also known as beats per minute or BPM.

When it comes to exercise, it helps to know your resting heart rate and then work at increasing your heart rate during cardio exercise. This helps strengthen the heart and make it more efficient at pumping oxygenated blood to your working muscles.

You can use a heart rate monitor to know your exact heart rate while working out or you can use RPE (rate of perceived exertion) for an estimate.

Maximal Heart Rate

Your maximal heart rate (MHR) is the maximum number of heartbeats per minute when working at your absolute hardest.

You can calculate it a two ways:

  1. Use this simple formula: 200 - your age. This has some drawbacks because it does not take into account your resting heart rate.
  2. A better formula is the Karvonen formula that takes into account your resting heart rate (RHR). Calculate your maximal heart rate with this calculator: Target Heart Rate Zone.
Target Heart Rate Zone
Your target heart rate zone is simply a series of percentage calculations to help you work out at the correct intensity.

You'll sometimes hear you need to work out at 50% to 55% of your maximal heart rate, for example. By knowing how many beats per minute the percentage is, and using a heart rate monitor, you can work out more effectively.

But how do you know how many beats per minute that is? Use this Target Heart Rate Zone Calculator to see a variety of target heart rate zones.

Stages of Exercise

Set yourself up for exercise success by understanding that becoming fit takes time. In fact, there are three stages to follow when you start exercising:

  • Stage I - Initial Conditioning Phase: This stage lasts anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks. In this stage, you work at the lower end of the exercise guidelines, learn new exercises and focus on working out consistently. You many not perform the exercises perfectly but that's okay. You're learning how to do things properly.
  • Stage II - Improvement Condition Stage: This stages last from 8 to 20 weeks -- or however long you need to reach your main fitness goals. At this stage, you're working out more towards the middle of the guidelines. You're increasing weights, frequency, duration and intensity. You're getting better at doing the exercises and can see real improvements.
  • Stage III - Maintenance Conditioning Phase: By this point, you've reached your main fitness goals and can work towards increasing your exercise intensity, explore different ways to exercise and watching out for any lapses. You want to focus on either maintaining or increasing your current fitness levels, and to avoid any lapses or regression.
Rest & Recovery

You wouldn't think "rest" would be part of "exercise". But if you don't give your body time to recover from your workouts, you'll end up overtraining. This can lead to serious health problems (see Overtraining down below for more details).

Rest allows time for your body to recuperate and recover from all the stress exercise puts on the muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments. It also replenishes depleted energy stores.

The ACSM recommends at least one or two rest days per week. Don't schedule two hard-hitting workouts one after another.


Sitting for long periods of time is detrimental to weight loss and to your health. The human body isn't made for sitting at a desk or on a couch for hours on end.

Not only are you burning less calories than if you were active, but you're shortening and tightening the muscles that make your hip bend -- and this in turn, make it difficult for the muscles that make your hips straighten to work properly.

See: Tips to Get Up Off Your Butt


While exercise is good for you, too much exercise can hurt you. Overtraining -- pushing your body way beyond its limits and not allowing for proper recovery time -- can be harmful to your health.

According the American Council on Exercise, symptoms of overtraining include:

  • fatigue that won't go away despite rest;
  • plateau/decrease in exercise performance;
  • problems sleeping;
  • moodiness;
  • loss of appetite and weight (and not in a good way);
  • muscle soreness;
  • increased resting heart rate.

Make sure you incorporate rest days into your exercise program and alternate hard workouts with lighter workouts.

Body Weight

Your weight is just a number on the scale. It doesn't take into account your lean body mass or your fat mass. It's how much all of you weighs, including any clothes you might be wearing.

You can check standard body weight charts to see where you fall within the "norm" but remember that your ideal body weight is unique to you.

To understand your body's fitness, it's important to look at other factors -- such as your body fat percentage, your waist/hip ratio, your BMI and your waist circumference -- in addition to your body weight.

Body Mass Index

BMI is a formula that uses weight and height to estimate body fat and gauge health risks due to carrying too much weight. Use the BMI as only one factor in calculating your health risk.

BMI does not take into account lean body mass or body frame. A muscular, large-framed person's BMI could indicate obesity, but other indicators would show that this is not the case.

Calculate your BMI.

Basal Metabolic Rate

Your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) is the estimated minimum level of energy required to sustain the body's vital functions when at rest. Your body burns calories while it's sleeping, digesting and doing all the things that keep you alive.

By knowing your BMR, you can make sure you're not eating too few calories. Your BMR is also used when calculating your total daily calorie needs or when creating a calorie deficit.

Calculate your BMR.

Body Fat Percentage

Your body fat percentage will tell you the percentage of fat on your body versus the percentage of lean body mass (everything else but fat). A body fat percentage of over 32% for women and over 25% for men can indicate a problem with obesity.

See: What is a Normal Body Fat Percentage?

When tracking your body fat percentage, aim for a .5 to 1% drop in body fat percentage per week.

Calculate your body fat percentage.

Lean Body Mass

Your lean body mass (or fat free mass [FFM]) is the weight of your whole body except for the fat weight.

When you calculate your body fat percentage with FitWatch's BF% calculator, you'll see your lean body mass weight.

You want this number to either stay the same or increase (if your goal is to gain muscle).

You can also see how much you will weigh when you lower your body fat percentage with this calculator: Estimate Weight at a Certain Body Fat %.

Fat Mass

Your fat mass is the weight of all the fat on your body. When it comes to weight loss, you want to see this number drop while your lean body mass (LBM) either stays the same or increase (if you'd like to gain a bit of muscle).

Calculate your body fat percentage with FitWatch's BF% calculator, to see your fat mass.


One way to gauge your health risk is to measure the circumference of your abdomen. Measure your waist circumference at the belly button without pulling too tightly on the measuring tape.

A circumference greater than 35 inches (89 cm) is considered at risk.

A circumference greater than 39 inches (99 cm) is considered at risk.

Waist/Hip Ratio

Your waist hip ratio (WHR) is one way of assessing your risk of certain diseases such as coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

People who carry their weight in the abdominal area are more at risk for certain diseases when compared to people who carry their fat in the hip area.

Calculate your waist/hip ratio.

Resting Heart Rate

Your resting heart rate (RHR) is exactly what it sounds like: the number of times your heart beats upon waking up or after lying down, resting for at least 10 minutes.

You can use your resting heart rate as a way to track your fitness. The more fit you become, the lower your resting heart rate will be.

The average RHR is 72 bpm. An athlete's RHR will likely be much lower, down into 50s or even less.

To calculate your RHR, take your pulse after having been at rest for at least 10 minutes.

According to the National Library of Medicine:

"To measure the pulse at the wrist, place the index and middle finger over the underside of the opposite wrist, below the base of the thumb. Press firmly with flat fingers until you feel the pulse.

To measure the pulse on the neck, place the index and middle finger just to the side of the Adam's apple, in the soft hollow area. Press firmly until the pulse is located.

Once you find the pulse, count the beats for 1 full minute, or for 30 seconds and multiply by 2. This will give the beats per minute."



This is the key element. It's the starting point to losing weight: Are you ready for a change?

There are five stages to change:
  1. Precontemplation:
    Haven't even thought about losing weight and/or unaware that there's an health-related issue with weight.
  2. Contemplation:
    Aware of a weight issue but not sure of the next step or even how to lose fat weight.
  3. Preparation:
    At this stage, you're aware of what you need to do but have trouble being consistent with eating and exercise habits.
  4. Action:
    With the Action stage, you're actively seeking ways to change your behaviours, you have a good understanding of the health risks of being overweight and a good understanding of the benefits of good eating habits and regular exercise. At risk of returning to old habits.
  5. Maintenance:
    Strong habits coupled with a strong support system. You're better able to deal with obstacles and lapses.

Which stage are you in? If you're in the precontemplation or contemplation stage, you may not be ready to lose weight yet.

Attitude & Beliefs

Your attitude and beliefs about nutrition and exercise can affect how successful you'll be when changing your habits.

If you don't belive you can change, then most likely you won't. Think exercising sucks? You likely won't stick to a program.

The good news? You can change your attitude and beliefs.

Learn More: 7 Limiting Beliefs That Can Stall Your Weight Loss and How to Keep a Positive Attitude About Weight Loss

Commitment - Lifelong

Losing weight and getting fit is a lifelong commitment. You can't eat well and exercise for a period a few weeks or months and then suddenly go back to your old habits. The weight will come back and you'll lose your anything gained from exericsing.

Recognize you're on a lifelong journey. Recognize you need to make changes you can live with the rest of your life.


Whether you're setting goals or thinking of which habits you want to change, you need to be realistic. Losing 20lbs in 10 days is not realistic. Never eating chocolate for the rest of your life is not realistic if you enjoy chocolate.

When you're not being "real", you set yourself up to fail because you're not in tune with what's reasonable nor with yourself.

Be realistic about your goals and how much work it will take to reach those goals.

Realize that change is not easy. Realize that change takes time. But also realize you CAN change your habits and behaviors.


Your environment can shape the outcome of your weight loss efforts. Anything from an invite out to dinner, an unwelcome "You're going to eat that?" from your mother or a co-worker offering up donuts can get you off plan.

Control your environment where you can:
  • Keep negative people out of your life;
  • don't bring sweets and junk food into the house;
  • learn to say, "No, thank you!" to offers of food that don't fit within your daily total calories.
Your environment doesn't always have to have a negative affect. You can create a positive environment by:
  • putting your workout clothes out in plain view the night before a planned morning workout ;
  • surrounding yourself with like-minded people who have the same weight loss goals;

    setting up a reward system for reaching small and big goals.

What other things can you do to make your environment weight loss-friendly?

See: Strategies to Deal with Weight Loss Saboteurs

While you can you lose weight on your own, studies show that a social support system can help increase your chances of reaching your goals.

When you get together with people who have similar goals and similar struggles, it creates a sense of belonging. You realize you're not alone in the struggle you're going through.

Family members, friends coworkers and even social groups online (forums, Facebook, Twitter) can lift you up when your struggling or share in your success.

See: Do You Have a Support System?


You'll never reach your destination if you don't know where you're going. It's the same thing with losing weight and getting fit. Setting weight loss goals is like setting the destination in your GPS. You'll get there on time if you have clear goals.

But don't set just any old goals: SMART goals. Your goals need to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound
Learn how to set SMART weight loss goals.
Problem Solving

You will come across many obstacles and barriers on your weight loss journey. The ability to take a step back, figure out what the problem is and come up with different solutions can push you through these barriers.

Not only will you become more experienced, but problems will become easier to spot and to solve.

See: 3 Steps to Conquer the Obstacles Between You and Your Goals

We are creatures of habit and routine. Unfortunately, sometimes those habits have a negative impact on our lives. We eat too much. We choose watching TV over going for a walk.

When it comes to changing nutrition and exercise habits, the trick is to replace bad habits with good ones.

But be realistic about the changes. Start small if you need to. Learn more about getting rid of bad habits.


Adherence is "stick to it" all dressed up. When changing your food and exercise habits, you want to stick to (or adhere) to your plan. The problem is, you can't force yourself to stick to your weight loss plan. And if you do find you're forcing yourself, you need to back up and rethink your plan.

What you need to do is create an environment where you want to adhere/stick to the plan.

You do this by first making sure you're ready to make a change to your eating and exercise habits. Then, come up with a couple of changes you can make for the rest of your life. If you love chocolate, you can't tell yourself you'll never eat chocolate again. It won't work.

Aiming for 100% adherence right from the start might be unrealistic.You're going to hit bumps in the road; you'll encounter situations you're not prepared for. While you're trying to be consistent with your habits, you might lapse into old behaviors. Be proud of your accomplishments and keep working towards at least a 90% adherence.


Your past can help you in a few different ways. You can look back at what worked for you in the past. If you found you lost weight when counting calories, you know you can try that again.

What didn't work for you in the past can help shape your future plans, too. If drastically reducing carbs didn't work in the past, you know not to try that strategy again.

Past exercise history can even indicate how successful you'll be when you try exercising again. But don't worry if you had problems exercising in the past! Armed with this knowledge, build up your self-efficacy (your belief you can do it) by starting off with small, attainable goals. Even a small goal -- say, walking for 10 minutes three times a week-- can start you off on the right track.

Style of Learning
Help yourself to succeed with your weight loss and fitness goals by understanding your style of learning. When you know how you like to learn, you can choose the right strategies to help you reach your goals.
  1. Visual:
    Prefers reading information, looking at charts and diagrams, and visual strategies.
  2. Aural/Auditory
    Prefers learning by listening. Listening to lectures or video demonstrations that involve talking about weight loss stratgies, talking with a supportive friend, participating in group or one-on-one coaching. Writes yourself notes -- as if you're talking to yourself.
  3. Kinesthetic:
    Prefers a more hands-on approach. Learns while doing or while watching others demonstrate. Will look to people who are successful in weight loss to model their behaviors
  4. .

Or you might be multimodal and enjoy learning in a variety of ways. Bottom line, if you find yourself bored learning about weight loss and getting fit, try to find a different style of learning to see if that gets you going.


Have you heared expression, "Whether you think you can or you can't -- you're right."

Self-efficacy is the belief in your ability to succeed.

It's not always an all or nothing situation. You might believe in your ability to eat healthy foods but think you'll never get into the exercise habit.

You can increase your level of self-efficacy by making small changes to your behavior. When you see that you can accomplish these small goals, you'll feel more confident in setting slightly more challenging goals.


Self-monitoring is simply keeping track of your food intake and exercise. Studies show tracking your food and exercise is key to losing weight. You become aware of your habits and can then make an informed decision about what needs changing, what's working, or what needs just a bit of tweaking.

  • When you self-monitor by counting calories, reading food labels or meausring out serving sizes, you become aware of how much you're eating.
  • When you track the frequency and intensity of your exercise, you understand your exercise habits and how to improve them. You'll also know when it's time to increae the intensity.

You can be either your own worst critic or your greatest cheerleader. Your self-talk -- ow you "talk" to yourself -- can influence whether you will succeed in your weight loss goals.

Here are some ways to silence that inner critic: Empower Yourself with Postive Self-Talk

There's also an experiment you can try in "How Mood Can Influence Your Weight Loss".


Who doesn't like a reward for a job well done? As you set your SMART goals, don't forget to add in rewards for different milestones.

The bigger the milestone, the bigger the reward. When you give yourself (non-food) rewards, you reinforce your good habits.

See: Don't Forget to Reward Yourself for a Job Well Done

Body Image

Your body image is how you feel about your body, and how you think others feel about your body.

Many things can affect how you feel about your body, whether it's through the media (like advertisments) or things people have said to you throughout your life.

A healthy body image can keep you focused on making healthy changes. Appreciate your body as it is now, surround yourself with positive people, stop comparing yourself to others are a few tips to turn a negative body image into a positive one.

And remember this: You are so much more than a number on the scale.

See: I Don't Feel Attractive at this Weight


Triggers are anything that will "trigger" a behaviour, taking you either closer to or away from your weight loss goals.

A negative trigger might be eyeballing a row of chocolate bars while waiting in line at the grocery store. (Why do you think stores place all these little items right where you're waiting? Impulse buys!)

A positive trigger might be packing your gym bag and placing it at your front door the night before a planned morning work out.

Take some time to write down your negative triggers. What sets off that negative impulse? Use your problem solving skills to figure out ways to overcome or remove the negative trigger.

And look at areas in your life where you can add positive triggers. The more positive triggers around you, the easier it will be for you to make the right choices.


While a little bit of stress is normal, chronic stress is a barrier to weight loss. Stress can make you reach out for unhealthy foods. Stress can make you skip your workouts. Stress can keep you up at night. And all those things will interfere with your weight loss and fitness goals.

Your life becomes a vicious cycle as the stress triggers unhealthy behaviors and negative emotions, causing even more stress.

If you are severley stressed, it's not a good time to focus on losing weight. This will only add on to the stress. But working out and eating healthy foods will go a long way to help alleviate the stress while you're dealing with any current problems in your life.

You know how the airlines always tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others with their mask? That's because you can't help others if you don't take care of yourself first.

Same thing with stress. Focus on your health while you manage the stressful events in your life. You'll be better able to deal with the stress.

See: 12 Signs of Being Stressed and You Should Never Start a Diet When...
Emotional Eating

You're sad, you eat.

You're happy, you eat.

You're stressed, you eat.

The trick here is to remind yourself that food is fuel for the body and not a band-aid for the mind.

If you're using food as a coping mechanism, you need to figure out your triggers and come up with a postived coping mechanism. If you're feeling sad, reach for a pen and a journal to write down your feelings, instead of reaching for food.

See: Emotional Overeating: Get to the Rood Cause and Eating When Upset


You'd think "self-control" is a postive when it comes to your weight loss and fitness goals. But relying on self-control isn't necessarily a good thing. Some people are good at it, but most of us aren't.

Ever wonder why you seem to do well with your "diet" in the morning but want to give in to cravings at the end of the day? Studies show that self-control is a limited resource. You only have so much of it on a daily basis.

A better strategy is to work on creating healthy habits you can live with for the rest of your life. When something becomes a habit, you don't need to control yourself.


Inevitably, something is going to cause you to stumble on your weight loss journey. You might have a small lapse, like skipping a planned workout or overindulging in food and alcohol at a social event. You might lose 20lbs but then have a relapse and gain 10lbs back when you stop working on actively monitoring your eating and exercise habits.

The key to overcoming this obstacle is:

  1. Realize these lapses happen to everyone;
  2. Don't come down hard on yourself if you have a lapse;
  3. Come up with solutions for the lapse when you feel one coming on.

If you know you're going out to eat, plan your meal ahead of time. You can even visualizing yourself ordering a healthy meal -- and visualize how great you'll feel afterwards when you know you didn't overeat.

For a major relapse, again, don't come down hard on yourself. You know what steps you took to succeed in the first place, so go back to what worked.

Analyze where you went astray. See the word I used in that sentence? Analyze. Take out all emotions when you look back. Don't think of yourself as a screw up. Simply understand where you went off track and what you can do to get back on track.

See: Five Clues that a Binge is Imminent and 4 Simple Ways to Get Back on Track


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