6 Checkpoints for Weight-Loss Success

Want to slim down without a dumb diet? Check yourself with these much more sensible guidelines from fitness pro Rachel Cosgrove.

April 27, 2015
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Being "on a diet" is a restrictive, stressful way to live, which is why it's no surprise that most of them failA better way to stay on track with your weight-loss or shape-up goals? Adhere to a set of more flexible guidelines, says Rachel Cosgrove, CSCS, author of Women's Health's Drop Two Sizes. You're much more likely to stick with a set of loose rules that keep you focused on your objectives than you are to follow a depressing diet where you're obsessed with food and exercise.

More: 7 Dieting Myths Busted

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Ready to loosen the reigns (and your belt)? Here, Cosgrove offers a list of 6 weight-loss checkpoints, adapted from Drop Two Sizes, that'll help you slim down and stay sane:

Splurge Check
You can get away with enjoying a splurge 10 percent of the time. If you're eating four to five meals a day, this is equal to three meals a week. Make it a goal to plan out your splurges and indulge a maximum of three times a week. If you're following a healthy eating plan 90 percent of the time, you’ll see results. But it's easy to lose track of your splurges, so logging your indulgences in a journal (or on your phone) is a smart move to stay on track.

Water Check
Throughout your weight-loss journey (and beyond), make it a priority to drink lots of water. Replace all beverages with water if you can, and make it a goal to get a minimum of 64 ounces -- or 8 glasses -- each day. Research shows that if you are not hydrated, your body will not perform optimally and you will not get the same results. Keep in mind that all fluids count, outside of alcohol, so if plain water isn’t your thing, you can count green tea, seltzer, or any other beverage toward that 8-glass total. Keep in mind these drinks should be calorie free and not artificially sweetened. If you get bored with plain water, add sliced fruit or veggies (cucumber is refreshing) to keep it fun and flavorful.

More: 6 Ways to Drink Alcohol and Still Lose Weight

Stress Check
De-stressing is crucial in order to lower the levels of your stress hormone cortisol and let your body decompress. High cortisol levels have been linked to high belly fat, and can keep you from your goals. Try to take at least 10 minutes every day to do one of the following (or come up with your own relaxing ritual):

• Close your eyes in silence and practice deep breathing.
• Take a hot bath or sit in the steam room at your gym.
• Stretch or do yoga poses on your own, in silence.
• Get a pedicure, massage, or facial -- you deserve it!
• Take a leisurely walk outside, or sit peacefully in a place that relaxes you.

Veggie Check
One of the biggest challenges for most people is to eat enough vegetables -- and a variety of vegetables. You should eat a fruit or vegetable at each meal, with a goal of including at least three servings of vegetables every day. Produce provides fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients essential to staying slim and healthy. Remember that a serving size is only about the size of your fist, so a large salad can easily count as three or even four servings. Veggies fill you up and provide valuable nutrients, helping you stay satisfied while slimming down.

Brake Check
When you stick to a healthy eating and exercise you’ll start to improve other aspects of your life -- maybe you’ll gain more energy, have deeper sleep, experience reduced joint pain, or even enjoy a more fulfilling sex life! But as you step on the accelerator toward these goals, you may feel your progress suddenly halted by one of three main areas I call the brakes: nutrition, exercise, or your attitude. It’s extremely personal, and only you will know which one you’ll struggle with the most.

More: 7 Reasons Your New Diet Won't Work

Be aware of which one (or combination) puts the brakes on your progress. For example, are you constantly missing workouts? Are you slipping on your nutrition? Or do you continually put yourself down no matter how well you’ve followed the plan? Figuring out what holds you back will make you more aware of your speed bumps, so you can push past them.

Sleep Check
Getting enough sleep seems to be the biggest challenge for many people. The common recommendation of 8 hours per night holds true, although some people will need slightly more or less. Without enough sleep, your energy levels will plummet, so you’ll tend to crave fattening sugar (which further affects your energy levels and mood), and you won’t be able to optimally perform during your workouts or recover from them properly.